Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

How Does it Feel?

Scorsese Contemplates Art Through Music and Sound in Life Lessons

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2017), 11, (2), 187–210.

Abstract

Life Lessons, Martin Scorsese’s contribution to 1989’s New York Stories, tells the story of painter Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte), and his young ingénue, Paulette (Rosanna Arquette). In the film, Scorsese ruminates on the life of the genius artist, whose personal relationships suffer for the sake of his art. He does this primarily through the film’s soundtrack, relying on pre-recorded rock music, and to a lesser degree, sound effects, to convey the chaos that surrounds and fuels Dobie’s art. Scorsese uses works from Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (‘Nessun Dorma’ from Turandot), British rock band Procol Harum (‘Conquistador’ and ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’), and, most importantly, a live version of iconic American songwriter Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ to speak for, and through, his characters. In doing so, the director provides viewers with his most personal work on the life of the artist and the connection between personal suffering and artistic creation. Overlooked and autobiographical, Life Lessons predicts Scorsese’s use of sound and music in his masterpiece, GoodFellas.

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Leone, Ron

Jaques, Gabrielle R.