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IMPORTANT NOTE: You can find updated materials for the second edition hereThe materials on this page and its sub-pages were designed for the first edition of Hearing the Movies. We will not remove anything from this page but we will also not maintain or update it in future.





(Different emphases)   Hearing the Movies adapts readily to course designs that favor different emphases, thanks to the distinct priorities of each of its sections: in Part I the development of basic listening and viewing skills, in Part II music's conventional treatment in relation to film form and style, and in Part III an historical account of music and film sound in light of technological innovations and their role in film production and exhibition. In developing a course, any of these could be expanded at the expense of the others, allowing the instructor to introduce additional films and readings as desired, while not losing the benefit of the book's materials and accounts overall. Naturally, some of the pedagogical continuity will be lost, but students should be able to retrieve information from other parts of the book as needed.

David Neumeyer, for example, once taught a section of a film music course for music majors in which five weeks were spent on the materials of Part I, seven weeks on Part II, and three weeks on Part III. This allowed much more detailed discussion of film music styles and time for more examples of historical symphonic underscoring practices (though at the expense of the narrative of technological history). The design also opened up time for additional analysis exercises focused on music in film scenes.

Basic syllabus for this course:

Unit 1 (weeks 1-5): Analysis of the sound track; music within the sound track
2 assignments, 1 quiz, unit exam
Unit 2 (weeks 6-12): Musical practices in sound film, from early sound film to the present
4 assignments, unit exam
Unit 3 (weeks 13-15): History of film sound, technology, and compositional style
final project, 0 assignments, no unit exam

James Buhler, on the other hand, might easily have reversed the time devoted to Parts II & III in order to introduce more historical documents and examples, as well as readings in the scholarly literature on the history of sound culture and technology. (Also see under "Quarter system" below.)

Basic syllabus for a course on those terms:

Unit 1 (weeks 1-5): Analysis of the sound track; music within the sound track
2 assignments, 1 quiz, unit exam
Unit 2 (weeks 6-8): Music and film style (scene types with music, style topics, leitmotif)
0 assignments, unit exam
Unit 3 (weeks 9-15): Film in the context of a history of sound technology
final project, 0 assignments, unit exam


(Quarter-system course options)   Ten-week terms are more of a challenge than the fifteen-week semester, but Hearing the Movies can be used successfully in institutions with quarter systems, as well. The instructor might decide to forgo lectures in the material of Part II or Part III in order to build a single ten-week course with a focus on sound track analysis and the history of sound technology (Parts I & III) or a focus on sound track analysis and music's characteristic formal and stylistic treatments (Parts I & II). Readings in the "missing" Part could still be assigned as background, or those Parts could be used by students for reference.

James Buhler offers this plan for a ten-week course particularly suitable for students in a liberal arts college environment (or, alternatively, students taking honors or writing intensive courses in other institutional settings).

Unit 1 (weeks 1-4): Terminology; analysis of the sound track

Week 1: HtM, chs. 1-2

Week 2: chs. 3-4

Week 3: ch. 5

Week 4: ch. 8. Midterm exam I

Unit 2 (weeks 5-10): Film in the context of a history of sound technology

Week 5: HtM, ch. 10

Week 6: ch. 11. Analysis project using chs 6, 7 and/or 9)

Week 7: ch. 12

Week 8: ch. 13. Midterm exam II (beginning of week)

Week 9: ch. 14

Week 10: ch. 15 & Afterword

              Final exam

A variant of this plan deletes the exams and substitutes quizzes and writing projects.

Unit 1 (weeks 1-4): Terminology; analysis of the sound track
Week 1: HtM, chs. 1-2. Quiz 1
Week 2: chs. 3-4. Quiz 2
Week 3: ch. 5. Quiz 3
Week 4: ch. 8 
Unit 2 (weeks 5-10): Film in the context of a history of sound technology
Week 5: HtM, ch. 10 + source readings.  Short paper
Week 6: ch. 11 + source readings
Week 7: ch. 12 + source readings
Week 8: ch. 13 + source readings
Week 9: ch. 14 + source readings
Week 10: ch. 15 & Afterword + source readings
          Final paper on historical or interpretative issues

In the unlikely event that an instructor has a two-term sequence available, the first two parts might be covered in one term and Part III's history in the second term, an arrangement that would easily permit additional readings in sound history and would also facilitate the assignment of a substantial research paper. Alternatively, one might put Parts I & III in the first term and then focus on music in the second term, an arrangement that would easily permit additional readings on music in film genres (an increasing number of essay anthologies focus on music in horror films, in Westerns, in comedy, etc.) or readings in composer-oriented film music histories.


(Five- or six-week summer courses)   David Neumeyer writes: During summer 2009, I taught a five-week summer course for general undergraduate students using HtM as the textbook. Follow this link to see the syllabus: Summer 2009 syllabus. The book worked remarkably well in this context (the actual number of instructional minutes nominally equalled a 15-week semester but we met every day), although it was impossible to assign any additional readings outside the textbook, as we were reading nearly a chapter a day. The course grade was based on eight short (20-minute) quizzes and an exam. In the quiz bank included on the Classroom Resources page, the number of quizzes is seven rather than eight. I decided ad hoc to convert Quiz 6 (in the original sequence of eight) into an assignment based on the HtM blog.

In a previous year, I had used an earlier draft of Hearing the Movies as the textbook for a five-week summer course. Follow this link for a syllabus: older summer syllabus. In this case, I effectively flipped the sequence of materials by spending 2 1/2 weeks on history and then 2 1/2 weeks on sound track analysis and scene descriptions with music. Each unit included one quiz on terms and ended with a unit exam.


(Supplementary text)  Again thanks to the distinct priorities of each of its sections, Hearing the Movies may also serve effectively as a substantial supplementary or reference text in film introductory courses, courses on sound design and aesthetics, courses on film music composition, courses on twentieth-century and contemporary music, courses on music and media, or even seminar courses on specific repertoires -- for example, science fiction films after 1970, composers (Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, etc.), or periods (such as Hollywood in the 1930s; film and rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s). For either a period or genre course, one might, for example, have students read Part III as part of establishing historical background and contexts in an initial unit, then have them use Parts I & II as a reference resource as they undertake their own analyses of films or film segments in a later unit. 

(c) All original materials on this website copyright by the authors.
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