Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Artless Singing

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2011), 5, (2), 157–171.

Abstract

In realist fiction films, characters frequently sing or hum, singly or with other characters. Such moments are not presented as 'musical numbers' with the production values this term implies; they are emphatically not perceived as 'departures from reality'. Such 'artless singing' falls through the cracks of film criticism, as it is not quite film music, nor dialogue, nor performance as usually considered. Examination of a number of examples shows that having characters sing in a realistic mode has a surprising variety of narrative, dramatic, and structural functions. Finally, an auteur approach to instances of artless singing shows consistent uses of the trope by directors as diverse as Kubrick, Hawks, and Hitchcock.

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Author details

Gorbman, Claudia