Unsettled Scores

Politics, Hollywood, and the Film Music of Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler
Author: Sally Bick
Two legendary composers and high art's uneasy partnership with Hollywood
Cloth – $110
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 12/23/2019
Cloth: 12/23/2019
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About the Book

The Hollywood careers of Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler brought the composers and their high art sensibility into direct conflict with the premier producer of America’s potent mass culture. Drawn by Hollywood’s potential to reach--and edify--the public, Copland and Eisler expertly wove sophisticated musical ideas into Hollywood and, each in his own distinctive way, left an indelible mark on movie history.

Sally Bick’s dual study of Copland and Eisler pairs interpretations of their writings on film composing with a close examination of their first Hollywood projects: Eisler’s score for Hangmen Also Die! and Copland’s music for Of Mice and Men. Bick illuminates the different ways the two composers treated a film score as means of expressing their political ideas on society, capitalism, and the human condition. She also delves into their often conflicted attempts to adapt their music to fit Hollywood’s commercial demands, an enterprise that took place even as they wrote hostile critiques of the film industry.

* Publication of this book was supported in part by a grant from the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund.

About the Author

Sally Bick is an associate professor of music at the University of Windsor.


"Recommended." --Choice

"Throughout, Bick's focus is narrow and laser sharp. . . . Her scholarly approach is commendable." --Cineaste


"Sally Bick has given us a thoughtful, fair-minded, and unfailingly engaging study of radical undercurrents in 1930s and 1940s Hollywood, with an emphasis on two very different composers, Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler. Bick has the rare ability to write about abstract and technical aspects of music in a manner that will enlighten both scholar and general listener."--Tim Page, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism

"Engaging and informative study of film scores by Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler within the larger artistic, intellectual, musical, and political climate of midcentury America. Bick's work offers a significant contribution to the new wave of film music studies, which place equal emphasis on insightful and detailed music discussion."--Gayle Sherwood Magee, author of Robert Altman's Soundtracks: Film, Music, and Sound from M*A*S*H to A Prairie Home Companion

Supplemental Material

The complete DVD release (2000) for Of Mice and Men, available from Corinth Films (ID4571CODVD, 1997), is referred to in chapter 3 by DVD timings. The complete and most recently restored DVD release of Hangmen Also Die!, available through the Cohen Film Collection, is referred to in chapter 5 by DVD timings. The symbol in the book ties the text to these scenes.



Chapter 3: Of Mice and Men


3.1. Prologue



3.2. Death of Candy’s Dog



3.3. The Wood at Night



3.4. On the Ranch



3.5. The Barley Wagons



3.6. In the Bunkhouse



3.7. The Fight



3.8.1 Final Narrative Episode: The Death of Mae



3.8.2 Final Narrative Episode: George Determined



3.8.3 Final Narrative Episode: Scene by the Brush


Chapter 5: Hangmen Also Die!


5.1. Opening Credits



5.2.1 Heydrich’s Blood Transfusion



5.2.2 Heydrich Lying in State



5.3. Deutsch Kabaret



5.4.1 Cinema Music Smetana’s Vltava



5.4.2 Vltava as Radio Music



5.4.3 Vltava as Dinner Music



5.5.1 Solidarity in the Hostage Camp



5.5.2 Hostages Singing No Surrender



5.6. Finale; Gestapo Reads Final Report