Sound, Music and Cinema - FI603

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Spring 5 30 (15) checkmark-circle


Cinema has typically been conceived of as an essentially visual phenomenon – films, it is often said, are essentially moving pictures. Sound has, nevertheless, played an important role from the beginnings of cinema, a fact which has been acknowledged in the detailed historical, theoretical and critical work on film music, and film sound more generally. Sound, Music and Cinema will provide an overview of this field of research, and aim to provide students with a clearer understanding of and greater sensitivity to the soundtrack. The course will begin by setting up an introductory framework for the understanding of sound, which considers the relationship between music and other aspects of film sound (speech, ambient sound, sound effects), as well as the nature of the relationship between sound and image. Subsequent sessions will consider the evolution of sound technology and its impact on the aural aesthetics of film; the use of classical and popular music in film scores; the emergence of sound designers, in contemporary cinema; and the distinctive and innovative use of sound and music by a number of 'sound stylists'.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Project (40%)
Essay (3000 words) (60%)

Indicative reading

Buhler, J., and Neumeyer, D. (2015). Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chion, M. (2019). Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. 2nd edn. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hanson, H. (2017). Hollywood Soundscapes: Film Sound Style, Craft & Production in the Classical Era. London: BFI.
Kalinak, K. (1992). Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Smith, J. (1998). The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music. New York: Columbia University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- develop far greater sensitivity to the soundtrack, actively listening to sounds which previously they would have paid little attention to;
- develop a more varied and precise vocabulary for the analysis of film sound and music;
- have a more balanced sense of the relative contribution of sound and image to the experience of film viewing;
- have a deeper understanding of the functions played by film sound;
- have a basic, non-technical ability to analyse and discuss musical form and musical qualities, as these inform the film soundtrack (the course will not assume a detailed theoretical understanding of music or an ability to read music).


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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