19th October, 2021 -
8th October, 2019
What do we mean when we talk about original music? According to the philosopher Theodore Gracyck all music is, in some way, derivative of other music and the degree of ‘originality’ is as much a matter of aesthetic as historical judgment. Equally though, certain historical perceptions of originality have particularly dogged screen music.
The symbiotic relationship between music and visuals has often suffered at the expense of a false notion of intrinsic originality embedded purely within musical material. In this presentation I argue that we will not have engaged with the ontology of screen music until we fully understand where its originality can be found. I also challenge some of the perceptual frameworks that characterize the creation of something from nothing as innately more valuable and original than the rearrangement of existing parts.
A focus on scores that have been nominated for or disqualified from the Academy Awards will show how the conflicted idea of originality has reflected changing professional and socio-historical values and has flowed through a series of different naming conventions. Recent film examples—such as The Artist (2011), Birdman (2014), The Hateful Eight (2015), and There Will be Blood (2007)—will also illustrate some of the complex territories in which screen music’s disputed notions of originality operate. Ultimately, this presentation aims to consider ways in which the thorny concept of originality is perceived within screen music and to reflect on the implications of this problematization for wider cultural production.