Seminar Session 2 (10/14): Presentation by Todd Decker (Music)

Todd Decker
October 14, 2016 - 10:00am
Center for Humanities Conference Room, Umrath Hall 201
During this session, Todd Decker will share a chapter from his recent book Hymns for the Fallen
(abstract below).  The text will be circulated in advance via email.

The chapter in question considers elegy in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986), exploring how the elegiac register of the film's music (Barber's Adagio for Strings) "has been put to varied ends: to foster reflection in combat film audiences, to put a pause on the action, and, most significantly, to frame the repeated images of dead and injured American soldiers’ bodies which lie at the heart of the cultural work done by serious war films in the post-Vietnam era."

Abstract: Hymns for the Fallen listens closely to forty years of Hollywood combat films produced after Vietnam. Ever a noisy genre, post-Vietnam war films have deployed music and sound to place the audience in the midst of battle and to stimulate reflection on the experience of combat. Considering landmark movies—such as Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker, and American Sniper—as well as lesser known films, Todd Decker shows how the domain of sound, an experientially rich, culturally resonant aspect of the cinema, not only invokes the realities of war, but also shapes the American audience’s engagement with soldiers and veterans as flesh-and-blood representatives of the nation. Hymns for the Fallen explores all three elements of film sound—dialogue, sound effects, music—and considers how expressive and formal choices on the soundtrack have turned the serious war film into a patriotic ritual enacted in the commercial space of the cinema.