Academic Catalog


Foothill College Course Outline of Record

Foothill College Course Outline of Record
Heading Value
Effective Term: Summer 2021
Units: 4
Hours: 4 lecture, 1 laboratory per week (60 total per quarter)
Degree & Credit Status: Degree-Applicable Credit Course
Foothill GE: Area I: Humanities
Transferable: CSU/UC
Grade Type: Letter Grade (Request for Pass/No Pass)
Repeatability: Not Repeatable

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to analyze how music and images combine to enhance the film experience.
  • The students will be able to differentiate between parallel, contrapuntal, and associative types of music in film.


A cross-cultural study of how music propels the storyline in motion pictures from symphonic scores to pop soundtracks comparing imagery, emotions, characterizations, rhythm, intervals, melody, and chords. A "music-in-film" history course that blends the study of film music composers with an analysis of musical techniques from the earliest examples of film sound to film noir, westerns to James Bond, Hitchcock to musicals, and the Golden Era of Hollywood to Star Wars. Students will differentiate between parallel, contrapuntal, and associative types of music in film. The goal of the course is to identify how music and culture function in film to highlight dialogue, reflect thoughts, create tension, and establish a sense of time and place. Previous musical knowledge is helpful, but not necessary.

Course Objectives

The student will be able to:
A. Identify new concepts of musical elements and apply them to the analysis of themes and motives in films
B. Summarize how musical themes can enhance and justify the moving images experience with specific characters, actions, or scenes
C. Differentiate between diegetic (music integrated into the story reality) and non-diegetic (music not heard by the actors, that exists independent of the storyline) music in film
D. Identify and compare film music composers on a domestic and international level, and respond to weekly writing samples
E. Critique the music of film music composers on a domestic and international level and respond to weekly writing samples
F. Evaluate, by viewing individual images, the form of an entire movie, while expanding critical listening skills and writing comparison essays
G. Summarize and synthesize essays from the textbook on music and film, and communicate their responses in quote and comment format
H. Apply creative use of course materials towards research and writing projects as they pertain to music in domestic, foreign, or documentary films
I. Trace the rise of pop music with the development of film and recording technology

Course Content

A. Understanding basic terms in music
1. Melody
2. Rhythm
3. Chords and cadences
4. Form
5. Scales and modes
B. Understanding qualities in movie analysis set by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1. Music
2. Narration
3. Special effects
4. Color
5. Live action
6. Background noise
7. Animation
8. Dramatizations
C. The anatomy of hit songs in movies
1. Verses, choruses, and bridges
2. Poetic devices
3. Lyric set up: tension, excitement, climax, and resolution
D. Researching soundtracks
1. The influence of technology, marketing, and MTV
E. Film composers - a sample of possible composers to study might include:
1. Burt Bacharach
2. Leonard Bernstein
3. Danny Elfman
4. Marvin Hamlisch
5. Henry Mancini
6. Ennio Morricone
7. Rachel Portman
8. Nino Rota
9. Max Steiner
10. John Williams
11. Hans Zimmer
F. Identifying the use of classic themes in film - possible movie selections might include:
1. The Shining
2. Elvira Madigan
3. Masters and Commanders
G. How music is used to heighten emotion in film
1. Unresolved chords
2. Tempo
3. Elements of horror film music that create a chilling effect
4. Use of diegetic and non-diegetic music
H. Analysis of intervals, rhythm, and chords found in music of different cultures
I. Writing review papers on music in film analysis
J. Critically distinguish types of music used in film
1. Parallel (example: Psycho shower scene)
2. Contrapuntal (example: Godfather christening scene)
3. Associative (example: Titanic instrument choices that establish a specific period)
K. Synthesizing how the meaning of the image changes with different modes of music

Lab Content

A. The intent of the lab is to integrate the history of film music with society and technology. Lab topics will include the origin of film music and scoring for films and emergence of sound design in film today.
B. Lab assignments: the student will find the reading, viewing, and listening materials for each week under "Modules." After reading the assignments, students will be asked to complete an activity by responding to questions they will find under "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys."

Special Facilities and/or Equipment

A. Classroom must be equipped with the latest stereo and sound record/playback unit, DVD and CD player, and multimedia equipment, piano, and staff lined boards.
B. When taught via Foothill Global Access: on-going access to computer with email software and capabilities; email address; JavaScript enabled internet browsing software.

Method(s) of Evaluation

Methods of Evaluation may include but are not limited to the following:

1. Film analysis synthesizing what the music is like, what is happening visually, and what is the overall effect on the viewer
2. Choice of film music comparison essay, hit song analysis essay, or instrumental analysis essay
3. 10 history and debate responses
4. Write a "manual" to accompany a chosen movie. Discuss the elements that the music must have in order to complete the objectives of the imagery
5. Select a favorite song. Design a scene of a fictitious movie that you think would make this song memorable
6. Be a music-in-film critic for the day. Pass judgment on two films, one old, and one new, and then summarize and compare
Research projects
1. Create an original book project on a film composer
2. Film comparison project
1. Two written tests (essays, matching, and/or multiple choice questions)
2. Listening/viewing movies for parallel, associative or contrapuntal music
1. 12 one-hour online labs

Method(s) of Instruction

Methods of Instruction may include but are not limited to the following:

Cooperative learning exercises
Field work
Oral presentations
Electronic discussions/chat
Independent study
Writing samples

Representative Text(s) and Other Materials

Lewis, Jon. American Film: A History, 2nd ed.. 2019.

Hickman, Roger. Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music, 2nd ed.. 2017.

Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing, and Outside of Class Assignments

A. Weekly essay
1. Summarize and then reflect on assigned chapter readings
2. Compare and contrast film music from various eras
B. Weekly readings from course textbooks


Music or Multimedia