UGED2133 Music in Film - CUHK Course Review

Term Taken: 2019 Spring

Instructor: Prof. Brian C. Thompson

Grading Scheme

  • Online Discussion Participation (20%)
  • Quiz (10%)
  • Project (30%)
  • Final Exam (40%)



  • Tonality / Atonality.
  • Major / Minor.
  • Consonance / Dissonance.
  • Style Topics.
  • Leitmotif.
  • Timbre.
  • Diegetic / Non-diegetic.
  • Audio Dissolve.
  • Synchronization.
  • Counterpoint.
  • Acousmêtre.
  • Performance Scene.
  • Sound Bridge.
  • Montage & Fantasy Scene.
  • Theremin.


  • Vangelis: Blade Runner. (Progressive Rock, Ambient, Film Noir, Bradbury Building, Orientalist.)
  • Rachel Portman: Character Driven & Sounds of Tradition.
  • Bernard Herrmann (and Hitchcock): Modernist, Dissonanant Sounds, Horror/Suspense Film Music.
  • Ennio Morricone: Timbre, Original Melody, Spaghetti Western.
  • Danny Elfman (and Tim Burton): Gothic Styled Music.


  • Stanley Kubrick: Classical Music in Film.
  • Quentin Tarantino: Pop Music in Film, Cultural References.
  • Wong Kar Wai: Non-Original Music in films.
  • Ang Lee: Non-Original vs. Original Music in Period Films.


The was a general education course offered by Music Department. It gave us a grand tour through the history of film music (and films) and it exposed us to a large collection of classic (or at least unique if not classic) movies.

The syllabus was divided into three different parts. In the first part, terminology of film music were introduced by showing examples in movie clips. The terminology was the bread and butter of this course, since further topics would be analyzed using these terms and we had to apply them in the quizzes, projects, as well as the final exam.

There was only one (online) quiz in the course which takes up 10% of the final score. We were asked to match certain terminology to some clips shown in class. It was pretty easy and most people got full marks.

Some famous film composers were introduced in the second part of the course, including Vangelis, Rachel Portman, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone. In the third part, some famous directors were introduced, including Stanley Kubrick, Quentine Tarantino, Wong Kar Wai, and Ang Lee. Each person was associated with a topic in film music and some movie clips were shown as examples. Every topic was extremely intriguing, and you got a chance to watch classic films while understanding the hidden messages behind the film music.

In the final exam, 3 movie clips shown in class were selected and played. We had to recognize the title of the film (a list of films were provided in the exam sheet, so you only need to choose from them), and answer further questions related to the clips. Therefore, we had to be VERY familiar with all the clips shown in class. This takes up 30% of the final exam. For another 20%, two clips (not shown in class) were played, and we had to apply film music terminology to write a short analysis for each clip. This was a bit tricky because we had to take notes, see the clip, and listen to the music all at once. The last 50% consisted of two short essays. (Yes, we had to write two essays during an exam.) Three topics related to the composers or directors were given, and we were asked answer two of them of our own choice. In order to gain a higher score, we had to be extremely familiar with all the topics, film clips, and music related to each person introduced, since we were required to give examples shown in class to support our arguments.

As for the project, we could choose between analyzing a scene or editing a montage with our own choice of music. In both assignments, we were asked to compile our writings, the clips, and other additional materials into a KeyNote or PowerPoint file and burn it on a Compact Disk. It was a pretty old-fashioned way for assignment submission, but the final file of the assignment was very likely to be large (~1GB), so this was probably the optimal way.

I chose montage editing as my project, which I had a lot of fun making it. I took a 2.5-minute clip from BoJack Horseman and combined it with some Radiohead songs as background music. I also made some sound effects for my clip, which wasn’t required for the project. I then embedded my clip to a KeyNote file and wrote down the ideas of why I chose certain music. (I used as many terminology taught in class as possible.) Though montage editing takes way more time than clip analyzing, the process was extremely fun and meditative. So if you enjoy making ART like I do, I 100% recommend you choosing this as the project.

On top of the project, an optional presentation could be given to slightly increase the participation score. After each short break of the course, students could volunteer and share movie clips they found interesting in front of the class while pointing out some special use of music in the clips. The presentations were pretty casual and didn’t count much towards the final score. It served merely as a chance for students to contribute to the course and share what they found interesting.

Prof. Thompson teaches very well and has abundant knowledge in films and film music. He is very well prepared and likes to hear opinions from the students.

This is clearly a top-tier general education course which film-lovers / music-lovers must register, so open your CUSIS now and add it to your wishlist.

Additional Materials

My Course Project

Let me boast a bit, I got a pretty high score on my project.

The Clip

The KeyNote File (Converted to PDF)

Movie Clips Viewed in Class

Casablanca (1942)

Stagecoach (1939)

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981)

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Rebecca (1940)

Grand Hotel (1932)

For Me and My Gal (1942)

Henry V (1989)

Ex Machina (2014)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

L’Ascenseur pour I'échafaud (1958)

The Day the Earth Stool Still (1951)

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Spellbound (1945)

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Blade Runner (1982)

Chariots of Fire (1943)

Witness (1985)

The Cider House Rules (1999)

Emma (1996)

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Oliver Twist (2005)

Psycho (1960)

Citizen Kane (1941)

The Egyptian (1954)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

North by Northwest (1947)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Vertigo (1958)

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Legend of 1900 (1988)

Malèna (2000)

The Mission (1986)

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The Shining (1980)

The Way We Were (1973)

Love Me Tender (1956)

The Graduate (1968)

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Kill Bill I (2004)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Chung King Express 重慶森林 (1994)

In the Mood for Love 花樣年華 (2000)

Ice Storm (1997)

Lust, Caution 色,戒 (2007)

Batman (1989)

Big Fish (2003)

Corpse Bride (2005)

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Nightmare Before Christmas (1995)

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