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.

Fifteen-week semester course

Large-section courses

Writing intensive courses

Different emphases; Quarter-system course options; and Five- or six-week summer courses

(Fifteen-week semester course)   David Neumeyer writes: During spring semester 2009, I am teaching from the proofs for Hearing the Movies. The course is for general undergraduates and was elected by forty juniors and seniors from across the university. Three units each end with a unit exam (there is no comprehensive final). We are reading all fifteen chapters but ignoring the interludes. A public copy of the syllabus may be found at MUS 337 syllabus. I have also attached it here as a Word file: download syllabus. As the syllabus lists them, other graded activities are three quizzes on terms from the book's Glossary appropriate to each Part, and five analysis/interpretation assignments based on the exercises at the ends of chapters in Part I. The assignments are clustered in the first two units, with only the fifth in unit 3. This arrangement allows the final assignment to take on something more like the dimensions of a course paper.

Terms (but not definitions) for the three quizzes are here: Quiz terms.
A sample quiz is here: Sample quiz.
(A quiz bank based on Glossary terms was added to the "Classroom Resources" page on 24 August 2009.)
Instructions for the assignments are here: Assignment instructions.
The study guides for the three exams are here: Exam study guides.

(Large-section courses)   Based on my experience this spring, combined with experience using various drafts of the book over the past three years, I am confident that Hearing the Movies will be effective in courses where enrollment limits go beyond 50, to as many as 100 or more. Instructors are advised to seek the help of graders or a TA, where possible, as both James Buhler and I have found that students write freely when asked to do film description, analysis, or interpretation. (There is a parallel in scholarly studies of film music, where highly detailed case studies are being produced at a surprising, even alarming, rate.) You will also note in this connection that the assignment instructions introduce limits on word counts.

(Writing intensive courses)   Hearing the Movies adapts easily to writing-intensive courses. The interludes that follow Parts I & II are chapter-sized sections that provide guidelines for writing about films in terms of their sound and music. The first of these unnumbered intermediate chapters describes how to construct and write up reports and analyses of films in terms of their sound tracks, building on the terminology  and skills introduced in Part I as well as the exercises at the ends of Chapters 1 & 2. Three categories of forms are discussed in turn: the “analysis report,” a succinct description of a film’s sound track or music, often including tables of detailed information; the “response paper,” a prose version of the analysis report for one or two scenes, or a short essay that responds to questions (such as “How does music articulate narrative structure—or highlight narrative priorities?” “Are sound track (or music) treated conventionally or in a distinctive, stylized manner?"); and a "compare and contrast" exercise focusing on music in two different films. 

After Part II's broader discussions of music in relation to film form and film style, the second Interlude takes up the skill of writing an interpretive essay that puts observations about a film to a critical end—uncovering how a film organizes its meanings and to what purpose. The goal is to draw the sound track and music firmly into a thematic reading of a film, showing how these elements support or resist the dominant directions or emphases of the narrative. We present two models, one that builds an interpretation directly on the overt thematic concerns of the film, and another that works against the grain of those concerns. 

In spring 2008, James Buhler and I taught sections of a general upper-division undergraduate course with a writing component, using a nearly complete draft of the book. James Buhler writes: 

I divided the course into three units.  The first one lasted six weeks and was devoted to basic terms and concepts.  It covered material of Parts I and II of the text.  Besides a couple of short quizzes to make sure the students were learning the vocabulary, I also had the students write up a scene analysis.  The second unit was very short—two weeks—and the goal of this unit was to learn about the production of the sound track.  Using editing tools available on campus (primarily iMovie), students built a sound track to a short film.  The final unit, almost half the class, was a brief history of the sound track, which followed Part III of the text.  During this unit, the students were asked to write up three short sound track analyses for three films.  Each analysis required producing an Events Table (similar to Table 3-1) for the entire film and writing a short interpretive essay on the sound track of the film.  Rather than a final exam, I had the students use their three analyses as the basis for a longer paper that addressed historical changes to sound track aesthetics.

The syllabus is attached here as a Word file: download syllabus.

The reading schedule is attached here as a PDF file: download reading schedule.

The guidelines for sound track analysis are attached here as a PDF file: download guidelines.

The final paper assignment is attached here as a PDF file: download final paper assignment.

David Neumeyer adds: I have even used an earlier version of materials now in Hearing the Movies for a writing intensive course during a five-week summer session. Many of the class sessions consisted of discussion of the previous day's writing exercise, followed by a short lecture-style presentation of new material, followed by several showing of a film clip to which the students responded in writing (which I graded and we discussed the following day).

(Different emphases; Quarter-system course options; and Five- or six-week summer courses)  Follow this link for these course designs and also for comments on courses that might employ Hearing the Movies as a reference volume or supplementary text: Options.

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

Jim Buhler,
Mar 8, 2009, 2:24 PM
Jim Buhler,
Mar 8, 2009, 2:18 PM
Jim Buhler,
Mar 8, 2009, 2:33 PM
David Neumeyer,
Mar 7, 2009, 9:58 AM
Jim Buhler,
Mar 8, 2009, 2:27 PM