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A Lyrical Voice in Hollywood: French Horn Solos in Film, 1954-2012


This dissertation examines the French horn solo as a lyrical “voice” in non-diegetic Hollywood film music, 1954-2012. Through a series of case studies of longer solos (20+ seconds), I consider the changing use of the horn in film scores to show how horn solos evoke a specific range of emotions including nostalgia, melancholy, and profound loss. I also explore the lyrical horn voice’s function as it extends into shorter, meme-like moments, leitmotif iterations, and horn section work.

The research draws on topic theory to place these contemporary emotive associations in historical context (Allanbrook, Hatten, Monelle); recent work on timbral meanings in orchestral music (Fales, van Elferen, Dolan, De Leeuw and De Groot); and a sizeable body of work by film scholars exploring musical narrative and characterization (Gorbman, Chion, Prendergast, Wierzbicki, Sbravatti, Lerner). In this way, my research will help create an innovative, cross-sectional approach, one suitable to analyzing the critical role of all instrumental solos in non-diegetic film music.

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