Popular music and audiovisual editing in contemporary action films




Watts, Catrin Angharad

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Current approaches to pre-existing music in film focus on the ability of the lyrics or intertextuality to support the narrative and character development of a film, often at the expense of other musical characteristics (Inglis 2003, Lannin and Caley 2005, Powrie and Stilwell 2006, Reay 2004, Wojcik and Knight 2001). While this approach accounts reasonably well for popular music in classical Hollywood cinema, it is considerably less successful in explaining the role of popular music that is deployed similarly to composed scores, such as in contemporary action film. In this dissertation, I explore how the musical characteristics of popular music, such as hooks, timbre, rhythm, and texture, are connected to the audiovisual editing and kinetic action of action film. In Shaun of the Dead (2004), for instance, the protagonists pummel the zombie pub landlord in time with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” An analysis of the lyrics would highlight the song’s comedic function, but this analysis would not account for how music determines the rhythms of visual editing or the choreography of kinetic action. My analyses of introductions, trailers, and action sequences exemplify these important connections between popular music characteristics, kinetic action, and audiovisual editing in order to propose a new way of understanding how popular music functions in contemporary action films.



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