Photograph of a dimly lit movie theater with patrons sitting watching a white screen

Photo by Bence Szemerey

Apr. 1, 2024

The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center Spring 2024 lectures will focus on American cinema music. The guests are prominent scholars in the field of the history and interpretation of film sound. They will discuss the music of John Williams's Star Wars series, the western, and more. 

Both events take place in the Harmon Auxiliary Building, Room 110 (1325 E. Harmon Avenue). They are free and open to the public (paid parking available through UNLV's PayByPhone system).

Event 1

April 16, 5:00 p.m.
Robynn Stilwell (Georgetown University),
“Scoring America’s Sense of Self: Music, Ideology, and the Cinematic Western”

About the talk
Robynn Stilwell offers a lecture on music and the cinematic western.

Items to be discussed include Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) and The Native Americans (1994). Stilwell will focus on the role of the songs of Sebastian Robertson in these productions.

About the speaker
Robynn J. Stilwell is Associate Professor at Georgetown University. Her research focuses on the interaction of music and movement in film, video, television, dance, and sport. Publications include work on Beethoven and cinematic violence, musical form and drama in Jane Austen, psychoanalytic film theory and its implications for music and for female subjects, the boundaries between sound and music in the cinematic soundscape, whiteness and rockabilly, French film musicals, television sitcoms, and exoticism and sound design in The X-Files.

Event 2

April 23, 5:00 p.m.
Frank Lehman (Tufts University),
“Space Operas and Skywalker Symphonies: Listening to Film Music with Open Ears”

About the talk
Frank Lehman offers a lecture on the music to Star Wars and other cinematic blockbusters.

A long-standing attitude in film theory and criticism is that movie music should remain in the background, that it should be felt but unheard. But with more than a century's worth of great music written for cinema, this bias is worth reevaluating. Movie soundtracks, film nights at the Hollywood Bowl, and especially the recent popularity of live-to-picture performances--what musicologist Brooke McCorkle tellingly calls "concert movies"--all suggest one thing: audiences are hungry to hear film music not as some suppressed adjunct to a movie, but on its own terms, as music. In this talk, Professor Lehman will walk through his own experience in consuming film music in this unusual way, and sketch a new model for film music appreciation: cine-symphonic listening. With the grand space opera cycle of Star Wars as his focus, he explores some of the benefits and challenges of this music-first mode of hearing. I look at some of John Williams's scoring from both the best of the saga (the "Battle of Hoth" from Empire Strikes Back) and the worst (the love story from Attack of the Clones). But while his argument will involve attending closely to musical form and thematic development, one does not need any musicological training to have a rich and satisfying experience of a film score: all you need to do is listen to the movies with open ears.

About the lecturer:
Frank Lehman is an Associate Professor of Music at Tufts University, and holds degrees from Brown University and Harvard University. His research has explored a range of styles and repertoires, from Schubert to ambient music, with a special emphasis on music and the moving image. Lehman's work has been featured in a number of media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The New Yorker, The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR, and too many podcasts to count. His books include Hollywood Harmony: Musical Wonder and the Sound of Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2018) and (as editor) Studying the Score: Music Analysis and Film (Routledge, 2024).