Obermann conversation covers the power of music in film

The Obermann Center will host an event as part of its conversation series. It will features a panel of four speakers who will talk about music’s many roles in cinema.


Katie Goodale

The Obermann Center is seen on April 16, 2019.

Annie Fitzpatrick, News Reporter

Classic theme songs from such movies as Star Wars and Jaws are recognizable by nearly everyone, even those who haven’t seen the movies. That is the power music holds in film.

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is hosting “Score the Screen: The Power of Music in Film” on April 17 at 4 p.m. in the Iowa City Public Library. The center wants to start a conversation on the importance of music’s role in film.

The discussion will focus on the many aspects music plays in cinema and features a panel of four speakers who specialize in cinema studies: movie director and University of Iowa graduate Kaitlyn Busbee, musicologist and UI Associate Professor Nathan Platte, film historian and UI Associate Professor Corey Creekmur, and FilmScene Programming Director Rebecca Fons, who will moderate the conversation.

Obermann Associate Director Jennifer New, who started the conversation series in 2016, said the event will invite the Iowa City community to engage in discussion on the creativity in the role music plays in film.

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“The goal of the conversations is to put University of Iowa scholars and artists together to share conversation with people from the community around a shared interests,” New said.

New said Platte was originally chosen for the conversation because she found his work particularly interesting, especially his new book, which focuses on the work of Director Robert Wise and his music of in films. Based on Platte’s specific research and its ties to the conversation, New was able to choose the other speakers who could expand on the conversation.

Creekmur, who has worked on a number of collaborations with the Obermann Center in the past, was pleased to be invited to participate in this conversation because New identified speakers who would bring a unique perspective to the conversation, he said.

“Let’s make it really a kind of chat that will try to pull the audience in as much as we can,” Creekmur said. “So I think it’ll be fun, where … we all have interest in film and music but come at this … in different takes and ways.”

In his own studies, Creekmur said, he primarily works in American cinema and on popular music and their role in films, but having other perspectives adds to the conversation.

Platte’s specialization in film scores and his interesting perspective on conventional perspectives, Busbee’s understanding of filmmaking and collaborations with musicians, and Fons’ understanding of how films work in terms of audiences makes this conversation useful in hearing from different perspectives, Creekmur said.

“To me it’s interesting,” Creemkur said. “How do we talk about a film that’s full of music, but it’s not a musical And it’s also not soundtrack music.”

As moderator, Fons said in an email to The Daily Iowan , that she is focused on kick-starting the conversation and making sure each speaker has the opportunity to present perspectives in the conversation. She is excited to contribute to, and learn from, the rich conversation among people she really respects, she said.

She is most excited to view the movie clips selected by the speakers that illustrate music’s integral role in film, Fons said.

“The introduction of sound and music into film altered cinema in such a massive way,” she said. “… music in film highlights, underlines, elevates. It can add to the story … it can set the tone … it can drive home the point.”

Creekmur said the conversation gives the people of Iowa City the opportunity to bring their own perspectives to the discussion as well. While some uses of music in film are incredibly famous, such as the Jaws theme song, he said, other examples may be “out of left field” and haven’t been talked about as much.

Along with his personal favorites, Creekmur said, it’s important to hear from others and listen to the creative individuals of Iowa City.

“[Iowa City is] sort of arts paradise and a very active sort of film culture, a very active music culture,” he said. “And I just think this is a nice way of sort of bringing these things together.”

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