Musical Sincerity and Transcendence in Film focuses on the ways filmmakers treat music reflexively—that is, draw attention to what it is and what it can do. Examining a wide range of movies from recent decades including examples from Indiewood, teen film, and blockbuster cinema, the book explores two recurring ideas about music implied by foregrounded musical activity on screen: that music can be a potent means of sincere expression and genuine human connection and that music can enable transcendence of disenchantment and the mundane. As an historical musicologist, Timothy Cochran explores these assumptions through analysis of musical style, aesthetic implications, and narrative strategy while treating the ideas as historically-grounded and culturally-situated with conceptual origins often lying outside of film. The book covers eclectic critical terrain to highlight various layers of musical sincerity and transcendence in film, including the nineteenth-century aesthetics of E.T.A. Hoffmann, David Foster Wallace’s literary resistance to irony (sometimes called the New Sincerity), strategies of self-revelation in singer-songwriter repertoires, Lionel Trilling’s distinction between sincerity and authenticity, theories of play, David Nye’s notion of the American technological sublime, and Svetlana Boym’s writings on nostalgia. These lenses reveal that film is a way of perpetuating, revising, and critiquing ideas about music and that music in film is a potent means of exploring broader social, emotional, and spiritual desires.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Musical Reflexivity
Chapter 1: Enduring Romanticism: Spirit-Realms, Mass-Mediation, and the New Sincerity
Chapter 2: The Sounds of Sincerity: Hearing Post-Irony in Indiewood Film
Chapter 3: On Social Alienation and the Promises of Music
Chapter 4: Performing on Musical Playgrounds
Chapter 5: "I’m Afraid You’re Just Too Darn Loud:" The Music Technological Sublime in Film
Chapter 6: Searching for Lost Time in Debussy’s "Clair de lune"
Timothy Cochran is Associate Professor of Music History at Eastern Connecticut State University. His articles on Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy have appeared in The Journal of Musicology, Theoria, 19th-Century Music, and Twentieth-Century Music. His additional research interests include composer Bernard Herrmann and music in Indiewood.