Sound and Music in Cinema

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2FS2074

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Vebhuti Duggal

Email of course coordinator: vebhuti[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

This course attempts to provide an alternative history of cinema through the role of sound and music in cinema by analyzing various historical contexts which lead to its emergence. It explores the way through which the introduction of sound and music has changed the sensorial landscape of cinema and the technological mediations involved in these processes. This primarily is an attempt to inculcate a greater level of sensitivity among students regarding the role of sound and music in cinema in order to enable them to better understand the multiple role these factors play in sensorial politics.

Course Outcomes:

  • This course works towards a theoretically, historically, and politically informed understanding of sound and music as related to cinema as a critical and creative practice, thus, inculcating (a) disciplinary knowledge in film studies, music studies and sound studies, (b) a greater appreciation of sonic aesthetic values, (c) critical thinking and (d) analytical reasoning.
  • Given that this course engages with sound and music in cinema also in relationship to everyday lived experience, it allows for reflective thinking.
  • Module III and the assessment of this course allows for the emergence of research-related skills and also improves communication skills in the verbal and written expression through presentations and term papers.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module I: Hollywood’s history of music and sound

The module introduces the presence of sound and music in cinema, beginning with the need to study cinema historically with an ear to sound. It also focuses on the genre of the musical and takes us through historical debates on the coming-of-sound in cinema.

Module II: Sound and music in Indian cinema

The second module turns its attention to Hindi cinema and through Hindi cinema looks at Indian practices of sound and music, including issues of sonic stardom and industrial practices.

Module III: Methods to study film sound and music

Finally, the course moves towards looking at emergent fields of inquiry such as sound studies to see how they may function as guides towards researching questions on sound, music, and cinema.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class participation and attendance: 25%
  • Presentation (close study of a film score and/or a song sequence): 25%
  • Mid-term exam: 25%
  • End-term paper: 25%

Reading List:

Week 1/Introduction I/ Hearing film: putting the audio back in audio-visual


Claudia Gorbman. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington/Indianapolis and London: Indiana University Press and BFI Publishing. 1987. pp. 1 – 7.

Kathyrn Kalinak. Film Music: A very short introduction. Oxford/ New York: OUP. 2010. pp. 1 – 21.

Clips: Casablanca (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942), Cleo de 5 a 7 (dir. Agnes Varda, 1962), The Sound of Music (dir. Robert Wise, 1965), Pakeezah (dir. Kamal Amrohi, 1972), The Making of Johnny Gaddar (2007)

Screening: Silly Symphony (dir. Walt Disney, 1929/1930)

Week 2/ Early cinema: the not-so-silent film


Rick Altman, “Cinema and the Popular Song: The Lost Tradition” in Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Artur Knight (Eds.) Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music. Durham/ London: Duke University Press. 2001. pp. 19 – 30.

*Martin Miller Marks, Music and the Silent Film Contexts and Case Studies, 1895 – 1924. New York: Oxford University Press. 1997. pp. 26 – 34.

Tom Gunning, “Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear” in Richard Abel and Rick Altman (Eds.) The Sounds of Early Cinema. Bloomington/ Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 2001. pp. 13 – 31.

Clips: TBA

Screening: TBA

Week 3/The coming of sound


Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press. 1994. pp. 3 – 24.

____. The Voice in Cinema. Trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press. 1999. pp. 1 – 13.

* Douglas Gomery, The Coming of Sound: A History. London/ New York. 2005. pp. 7 – 22, 151 – 154.

Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Alexandrov, Vertov “A Statement on Sound”, 1928.

Clips: TBA

Screening: The Testament of Dr Mabuse (dir. Fritz Lang, 1933, 124 min)

Week 4/ Classic Hollywood practices


Anahid Kassabian, Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music. New York/ London: Routledge. 2001. pp. 1 – 36.

Giorgio Biancorosso. “Beginning Credits and Beyond: Music and the Cinematic Imagination” in ECHO: a music-centred journal. Vol 3, issue 1 Spring 2001.

Clips: Aar Paar (dir. Guru Dutt, 1954), Jaws (dir. Steven Spielberg)

Screening: TBA

Week 5/ The musical


Katherine Spring. ““To Sustain Illusion is All That is Necessary””: The Authenticity of Song Performance in Early American Sound Cinema” in Film History. Vol 23, issue 3, Beyond Vitaphone: The Early Sound Short. 2011. pp. 285 – 299.

Rick Altman, “The American Film Musical as Dual-Focus Narrative” in Steven Cohan (Ed) Hollywood Musicals, The Film Reader. London/ New York: Routledge. 2002. pp. 41 – 52.

Clips: TBA

Screening: Singin’ in the Rain (Dir. Stanley Donen, 1952, 103 min)

Week 6/ Intermediality, film music and cinema


Steve J. Wurtzler. “Sound and Domestic Screens” in Cinema Journal. Vol 51, issue 2, Winter 2012, pp. 153 – 157.

*Steve Putnam Hughes. “The ‘Music Boom’ in Tamil South India: Gramophone, radio and the making of mass culture” in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 22, No. (2002), pp. 445 – 473.

Steve Putnam Hughes, “Music in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Drama, Gramophone, and the Beginnings of Tamil Cinema” in The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 66, No. 1 (February 2007), pp. 3 – 24.

Clips: TBA

Screening: TBA

Week 7/ Sound and music in Hindi cinema I


Madhuja Mukherjee. Aural films, oral cultures: Essays on cinema from the early sound era. Kolkata: Jadavpur University Press, 2012. Introduction. **

Jayson Beaster-Jones. Bollywood sounds: The cosmopolitan mediations of Hindi film song. Oxford/ New York: OUP. 2015. Chapters 1 – 3. **

*Budhaditya Chattopadhyay. “The cinematic soundscape: conceptualising the use of sound in Indian films” in Sound Effects. Vol 2, issue 2, 2012.

*Joppan George, “The Many Passages of Sound: Indian Talkies in the 1930s” in Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2011) pp. 83 – 98

Clips: Achut Kanya (dir. Franz Osten, 1936), Anmol Ghadi (dir. Mehboob Khan, 1946), Neecha Nagar (dir. Chetan Anand, 1946)

Screening: Devdas (dir. P.C. Barua, 1935, 139 min)

Week 8/ Sound and music in Hindi cinema II


Neepa Majumdar, “The Embodied Voice: Song Sequences and Stardom in Popular Hindi Cinema” in Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Artur Knight (eds) Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music. Durham/ London: Duke University Press. 2001. pp. 161 – 184.

Shikha Jhingan. “Lata Mangeshkar’s Voice in the Age of Cassette Reproduction” in Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, Vol 4, issue 2, 2013, pp. 97-114

* Shikha Jhingan, “The Singer, the Star and the Chorus” in Seminar 598. 2009. Accessed at

Clips: TBA

Screening: Abhimaan (dir. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1973, 130 min)

Week 9/ Sound and music in Hindi cinema III


Alison Arnold, “Aspects of Production and Consumption in the Popular Hindi film Song Industry” in Asian Music, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Autumn, 1992 – Winter 1993), pp. 122 – 136.

Peter Manuel, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India. Delhi: OUP. 2001 (1993). Chapters 3-4**

Clips: TBA

Screening: TBA

Week 10/ Adopting techniques for film I (sound studies)


Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham: Duke University Press. 2003. Introduction**

Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: Columbia University Press. 2006. pp. 67 – 104.

Clips: TBA

Screening: No screening

Week 11/ Adopting techniques for film II (sound studies II)


Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis/

London: University of Minnesota Press. 2009 (1985). pp. 3 – 20

Theodore Adorno, “On the festish-character in music and the regression of listening.” In Essays on Music. Trans. Susan H Gillespie. Berkley/ LA/ London: University of California Press. 2002, pp. 288 – 317.

Clips: TBA

Screening: No screening

Week 12/ The movement of film music, globally


Brian Larkin, “Bandiri Music, Globalization and Urban Experience in Nigeria” in Cahiers d’Études Africaines, Vol. 42, Cahier 168 (2002), pp. 739 – 762

Tejaswini Niranjana, Mobilizing India: Women, Music and Migration between India and Trinidad. Durham/ London: Duke University Press. 2006. Introduction**

Clips: Jahaji Music: India in the Caribbean (dir. Surabhi Sharma, 2007)

Screening: TBA