[This post is #9 in the Western Classical Music Series]
Movies have used classical music since forever, and they help keep it alive in our culture. Here are a few of my favorite scenes in movies featuring Western Classical Music.
Do study the long note on the video at YouTube, it is an entire blog post in itself.
Also in Godfather III?
The great Charles Chaplin, a composer of note himself, once said in an interview:
“Film music must never sound as if it were concert music. While it actually may convey more to the beholder-listener than the camera conveys at a given moment, still it must be never more than the voice of that camera”.
Chaplin is almost wielding a conductor’s baton! Most audiences would assume this music was composed specifically for this scene.
Woody used it in the opening of Manhattan as “pulsating to the great tunes of George Gershwin”:
To aficionados of WCM, its use in movies and advertisements can be tiresome as expressed here:
Purists ridicule the use of classical music in films, complaining that the same pieces are used over and over again…Yet the truth is, classical music, an art form that has been on life support for at least one generation, would have completely faded out of the public’s consciousness by now were it not for films and television commercials.
Films also help classical music from expiring. Classical music, used in hundreds of films, including movies where it is least expected, keeps the lofty art form in the public ear, even when the public does not know what it is listening to, or can barely hear the music in the background. It also helps that hundreds of movie scores are ripped-off versions of the classics.
Can you imagine The Seven Year Itch or Brief Encounter without Rachmaninoff’s 2nd? Will it remain relegated in our mass cultural memory to a film by David Lean or one starring Marilyn Monroe? We now live in a world where if you are attending a performance of this work, it needs a prelude of this kind.
I cannot end this post without a brief mention of the influence of WCM in Hindi movies, and especially Salil Chowdhury.
We have already discussed in detail the use of Counterpoint in Hindi film music.
Salilda was a great student of WCM since childhood and incorporated it in unique ways in his compositions, blending it with folk tunes. We discussed WCM’s polyphony before, as well as chromaticism, see how Salilda uses it in Rimjhim Ke Ye Pyaare Pyaare to create texture:
Read this excellent post for a deep dive into this song.
I hope this selection of movie clips helps highlight some unforgettable music in movies.