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Classical Music at the Movies: Aaron Copland, Spike Lee and “He Got Game”

The year is 1998. Filmmaker Spike Lee is ten movies into his career but things have hit a snag.  The writer/director’s last three movies have all been adapted from other people’s material and have done so-so with both audiences and critics. The harsher among them say that Lee–successful, admired, and a long way from earlier films (like Do The Right Thing) which have his stamp on every frame–is now phoning it in. For his next

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Classical Music and Cinema: Beethoven and “Elephant”

The Moonlight Sonata is among the most recognized compositions by one of the most recognized composers. Filmmakers know this, so when they decide to use it, it’s not the musical counterpart to the hero getting out of bed (unless there’s a corpse in there with her) or buying a mop (unless it’s to stab a pursuing serial killer). The Moonlight Sonata (given name Piano Sonata No. 14) can’t help but call attention both to itself and

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Classical Music and Cinema: Pachelbel and “Ordinary People”

Pachelbel’s Canon. Where would weddings, high school graduations or any public celebration of passage be without it? You’ve heard it if you’ve ever played in an orchestra. Heck, you know PC if you’ve ever seen an orchestra. It’s formal name is “Canon in D major”, its composer a German named Johann Pachelbel. But if you say “The song you always hear at weddings” most people will know what you mean. That ubiquity is why I

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Classical Music in Film: Wagner + Apocalypse Now

Today we begin a new series here at Salon97 on the role of classical music in cinema. Our first case study: Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in the famous helicopter assault from Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. In his 1979 review of Apocalypse Now, Roger Ebert called the scene above “simply the greatest movie battle scene ever filmed.” I’m with him on that one and not because of its pacing, photography or that you could

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