What an exciting topic! From technology to style, there have been thousands of events that would qualify as important in the film and music industries since 1970. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to write about something that interests you, so let’s look at a few different options. As you begin to explore, you may be inspired to research something completely different. Good luck!
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times on February 7, 2019, titled “They Really Don’t Make Music Like They Used To,” music writer Greg Milner examines the history of compression in modern sound engineering, and how it has contributed to a narrower dynamic range in post-1990s studio albums. The result is a new-genres approach that incorporates sound clips, graphics, and an engaging tone—a stellar example of a creative journalistic angle.
Potential topics extending from Milner’s article:
- An exploration of why “enduring” hits have greater dynamic ranges (this could connect well with film and other art media—are moments of softness in music like white space in images?)
- How did compression contribute to the mainstream success of 1990s grunge or hip-hop?
- What did advertisements for CDs look like? Consider their promises of greater dynamic range (did that happen?), ease of use, and longevity.
For more on the math behind the hits, scroll through “Why Songs of the Summer Sound the Same” by Sahil Chinoy and Jessia Ma, August 9, 2018, also in the New York Times.
Music and Film: Trends
You can’t think about music and film without thinking about John Williams. Williams has composed some of the most recognizable, beloved scores in film history, from Indiana Jones to Harry Potter. He’s worked for decades with director Steven Spielberg, beginning with the 1975 theme to Jaws. But when Williams first approached Spielberg with the spare, creepy, and iconic ostinato, the director thought he was joking.
By the 1970s, films had moved away from orchestral scores, preferring instead the kind of pop hits that could sell a soundtrack. Williams’s award-winning work on Jaws led to the resurgence of classical music in big-budget films. Take a look at Boston Globe Media writer Matt Juul’s 2015 feature, “Why the Music of ‘Jaws’ is Still Terrifying,” for an example of how one composer affected an entire industry.
Potential topics extending from Juul’s article:
- Origins of the orchestral renaissance in blockbuster film scores.
- What events led to the advancement of stereophonic sound in film scores?
- The effect of Apocalypse Now on theater sound.
- The effect of Star Wars on film scores.