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  • how has Stravinsky influenced film music?

    So its my last year at university and its time to write a dissertation. I'm thinking discussing the relationships between Stravinsky's 'Primitivism' style and modern film scores. Anyone know any specific scores that use Stravinsky's unique rhythms and orchestrations as an influence? Any help will be much appreciated. Thanks, Luke

  • Hi Luke,

    I believe seeking aid on a formal dissertation for an academic degree is usually illegal on most university campuses....but what the hell! [:P]

    I'm not sure what you mean by "Primitivism"? I looked it up and it is loosely definied as looking to the past, or looking in the opposite direction as technology that causes self alienation, or a cultural attitude that has informed diverse aspects of Modern art (which doesn't really say anything), or a reaction to the Enlightenment, or the general tendency to idealize any social behavior judged relatively primitive, or permissiveness, sexuality, the revelation of repressed urges associated with tribal culture and pre-Christian religious practices including human sacrifice.

    It doesn't seem to imply that a work of art labeled as "Primitivisim" is lacking in sophistication or is primitive in its construction.  From this I can only assume that you are looking at Stravinsky's early period and not the neo-classical period, and certainly not the late serialist period?  Well, if you go for the early period, the Rite of Spring seems to be the piece that most displays the musical aspects of "Primitivism" as I understand it.  However, it's the most famous orchestra work of the 20th century so its musical characteristics have influenced everyone. It might be hard to tie all "primitive" musical moments in movie scores to the Rite because everyone started "trying" to write like that after Stravinsky wrote that piece.

    I would start by looking at movies that have primitive themes (I don't mean musical themes) or moments like "Planet of the Apes", or movies that explore primal sexuality or exoticism like "Interview with a Vampire" (that's not the best example, but it's the first one that came to mind), or movies that take place in "older" more primitive times, or movies that explore psychological "Primitivism" like horror movies, "Psycho" comes to mind.

    Then there is music that seems to have no connection to Stravinsky on the surface, but oozes "Primitivism" in sexuality and perverse dancing like electronica/dance music ("The Matrix"...that fluttery woodwind sound that Don Davis uses with 4ths and 5ths is also very Stravinsky-esque), or anything with perpetual rhythm.    

    Then they are movie composers that have assimilated Stravinsky-esque sounds into their own musical pallette.  Danny Elfman's music always seems heavily Stravinsky influenced to me though the quality of his music is never that great.  Elliot Goldenthal would be another.

    Then there are moments where the film music sounds like it was almost cut and pasted right out of the Rite, but the films themselves really have nothing to do with primitivism. Star Wars "A New Hope" when R2D2 and C3PO land on Tatooine and are walking in the desert...that sounds a lot like the Second Part "The Exalted Sacrifice" Introduction to me.  Almost any perpetual motor rhythm with horns and strings is going to sounds like "The Augurs of Spring" hear that all over the place in films.

    Also if you include exoticism or orientalism as part of "Primitivism" then other early Stravinsky works open up to you like "Fireworks", or "Song of the Nightingale".

    Ok I'll stop now.

    Brian [:D]

  • Yes, that was the section I was thinking about in the first Star Wars there, a diversion into harmony  right out of The Rite. The only other specific one I can think of right now is George Antheill's score for "Dementia" a low budget 50s film which was influenced in general.

    The use of heavy percussion in odd meters such as Lord of the Rings (and probably many other films I didn't go to)  is another example. 

  • Probably the reason this is somewhat difficult to respond to is that Stravinsky is imitated all the time, by concert composers, film composers who imitate others who imitated him, etc. etc.  

  • I just dredged another one out of the cobwebbed cellars  -  Leonard Rosenman's score for "Beneath the Planet of the Apes."

    yes, I know these may not be the most obvious examples....

  • And you might want to check out David Raksin - although not necessarily for the Stravinsky rhythms.

  • I think John Williams has openly regretted "sticking too close to the temp track" on A New Hope.

    You can hear the influence of the low strings motor rhythm on other parts of the soundtrack as well.

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    @lukeyphills said:

    So its my last year at university and its time to write a dissertation. I'm thinking discussing the relationships between Stravinsky's 'Primitivism' style and modern film scores.

    Chiming in with Brian, my immediate reaction to your question was that it fell into the category of "please do my homework for me", which I hope you didn't intend it to be.

    However, my (slightly more considered) response is: "don't do that." 

    In my opinion, writing a dissertation on the influence of Stravinsky on film music is a bit like writing a dissertation on the influence of Elvis Presley on popular music. I'm just not sure what you can say that hasn't already been said numerous times, and so I can't see a top-class dissertation coming out of it.  (I am assuming you want to write a top-class dissertation, right?)

    In terms of your studies, what are you really passionate about? What are you curious to spend time digging away at, maybe to learn something original? Is it film music? Is it Stravinsky? Is it something else? 

    (Listen to me, I've gone from chider to coach in four paragraphs, and short ones, at that.)

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    @William said:

    Probably the reason this is somewhat difficult to respond to is that Stravinsky is imitated all the time, by concert composers, film composers who imitate others who imitated him, etc. etc. 

    Some argue that Cliff Eidelman's score for "Star Trek VI" is heavily influenced by Stravinsky's 'The Firebird', perhaps because of the similarity of the opening bars' arrangement, although I think that Eidelman's score is wonderfully operatic in its own right. (Where else can you hear "To be or not to be" being sung in the original Klingon?)

    Also, I think that Holst's "The Planets" could almost lay claim to being one of the works most adapted by film composers; it's practically a masterclass in dramatic orchestral writing.

  • Yes, Holst and I would add Vaughn Williams have had a huge influence.  I think fcw may have a point about this dissertation topic - it is huge and vague.  Though perhaps it can be done.  Thank goodness I am not doing it... 

  • Actually, dependent on the depth required, you could probably get a dissertation out of tracing the connections between Goldsmith's score for 'Star Trek: the Motion Picture' and various Vaughan Williams symphonies (such as 6 and 7, which Goldsmith admitted to listening to a lot while he was scoring ST:TMP).

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    @lukeyphills said:

    S I'm thinking discussing the relationships between Stravinsky's 'Primitivism' style and modern film scores.

    When you say you're thinking about it - have thought about rethinking that. If you were to make more of a generalization of filmscore writers influence from classical writers - hell, we could write the whole thing for you right here on this forum.

    You could just cut and paste - just like everyone else will.

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    @fcw said:

    "don't do that." 

    The first time I agree to a statement of a forumite on this board.

    However, if you wanna make some money with your thesis by selling it as fiction, this title emanates a good portion of mysterium:


    "The First Man To Compare The Cheeks Of A Young Woman To A Rose Was Obviously A Poet; The First To Repeat It Was Possibly An Idiot"



  •  "Actually, dependent on the depth required, you could probably get a dissertation out of tracing the connections between Goldsmith's score for 'Star Trek: the Motion Picture' and various Vaughan Williams symphonies" - fcw

    Yes, that was what I was thinking was the only way to do this in some meaningful manner - to severely limit it, as it is right now so vague a subject.  Pounding drums?  Dissonant, chaotic woodwinds?   Loud brass fanfares? Yeah, I guess Stravinsky had that influence. So did about a thousand other composers.   And then yes, since his music is good many composers imitated him.  Wow, that's a news flash.   I do think you need something more intricately detailed, such as what fcw mentioned.

  • By the way, that was a very good example - Star Trek The Motion Picture score has some serious  influences coming from Vaughn Williams, from the Seventh Symphony mainly. Also the Sixth Symphony.  I remember in particular a low pp unison horn line that is a very similar orchestrational effect in the context.   Though not stolen - the Goldsmith score is a great, spectacular work by a genius. There ought to be a whole thread just about that masterpiece - it has almost everything film music can do, to perfection.

  • Hey, looks like someone took my comment, about writing a thesis that traces connections betweeen ST:TMP and Vaughn Williams, seriously. Curiously, they managed to read the comment in 1986.

  • first, your title:

    "how has Stravinsky influenced film music?"

    is far off in the green, better would be:

    "how film composer rip off anything and implying it in their functional movie soundtracks"

    For a better understanding of a composer who created original music, and as support for your dissertation, you should understand Stravinsky first and then the copy cats. There is no originality in film soundtracks, it is all clichĂ©, anti-clichĂ©, idioms, snowclone and archetype. Film sound is purely functional music, similar to a TV-spot. I personally would not even call a film soundtrack music. And forgetthat word "Primitivism", that's musicologist nonsense, and none of Stravinky's music is perverse.

    Read Stravinsky's transcribed Oxford lectures, I made a PDF for you:

    Igor Stavinsky - Poetics of Music IN THE FORM OF SIX LESSONS [1942].pdf (6MB)|


  • I see the troglodytic lurker Clematide has re-surfaced from the Lovecraftian netherworld he sunk to after his ludicrous "How-to-do-all-dynamic-ranges-in twelve-steps" thread was mercifully dispatched into the cybernetic non-existence it richly deserved.

    Stravinsky originally wanted to do film music but was rejected from a Hollywood studio gig and only then said film music was 'wallpaper."  Talk about sour grapes!  And yet you believe everything he said.  Like many other great artists he was a source of disinformation and distorted opinions concerning other artists  - which he didn't happen to be - and other arts  - that he did not do - like the  art of film music. 

  • well, filmcomposers "stole" from stravinsky... so what... stravinsky himself stole from other great composers... just an example: his idea of bitonality that is very explicitely elaborated in the rite of spring... he stole it from maurice ravel. but guess what: he made it his own. that is what a great composer does... he steals and makes it his own... stravinsky himself said: a good composer does not borrow, he steals.... there is nothing wrong with stealing or ripping off... it is in the way you do it. sure, there is a lot of bad filmmusic out there, maybe even the vast majority (just like in concert music, btw), but saying in general, that filmmusic ist just a huge rip-off, shows that you don´t know that much about the people who are being ripped off... go back to uni...

    @ william: thanks for that post... it was one of the wittiest i´ve ever read here...

    p.s.: the way you are dissing "functional" music is inherently stupid. stravinsky himself wrote a lot of functional music (i.e. ballets). opera music is also functional (many film composers do also steal from operas). actually you could say that opera is the predecessor of film in a way (200 years ago, star wars would have been an opera, not a movie!). it is just a different medium... there have been many bad operas in the last 400 years and there have been many bad filmscores in the past 80 years... but the best did and will survive... it has always been like that.

    concerning your complaint about the lack of originality in filmscoring: do you know that there is not even one single original idea in the plays of shakespeare? all of his plays have been written before, more than 1000 years before his time, but noone wrote them like he did... there are also filmcomposers who can do a similar thing, but you will only find it if you are openminded enough...

  • well you two, from your responds I must assume that you are both hollywood movie soundtrack tinker

    Insist upon yourself. Be original. You've gotta be original, because if you're like someone else, what do they need you for