Hollywood’s Soundtrack: Great Symphonic Film Music

"Know the Score" is the official blog of the Luther College Music Department. Students, faculty, and staff provide content on music tours, concerts, recitals and scholarship happening on and away from Luther's Decorah, Iowa campus.

If you attended Christmas at Luther this past December or heard a broadcast, you heard the familiar strains of “Gabriel’s Oboe” performed by Aurora and faculty member Heather Armstrong. This beautiful tune, which is known throughout the world and in various arrangements and guises, seems to transcend time and place.

But, in fact, it is the signature musical motif that runs through the soundtrack of the landmark 1986 film, The Mission, and was composed by Ennio Morricone. This film, along with eight others spanning the years 1938-2002, has been the subject of a new first year seminar I’ve been teaching this January, “Hollywood’s Soundtrack: Great Symphonic Film Music.” It’s been a wonderful experience to watch these films with an eager group of talented students and engage them in conversation about what they hear and how a film’s musical score shapes the audience’s experience. The students blog about each film, prepare a presentation, and for their final project, they may opt to create their own film score for a silent film clip. It’s one of the ways we encourage not only the study of music (and, in this case, image) but also individual creative expression.

This spring, the composition studio will embark on a large-scale silent film project as we collaboratively create an electronic music accompaniment to the 1920 silent classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. You’ll hear more about that project as we get closer to the premiere!