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The Devil's Due: the musical representation of the Devil in selected Hollywood film scores

posted on 09.02.2017, 05:16 authored by Fanany, Runa
This thesis examines the contextual and conceptual musical symbolism which represents the Devil in five Hollywood movies over the period from 1941 to 1999. The musical structures which contribute to the creation of affect in the movies are discussed, as well as the ways in which these musical elements represent culturally recognized concepts relating to the Devil. Using the religious and folkloric origins of the Devil in western culture as a guide to the shared cultural knowledge relating to the character, the musical symbolism of the Devil is categorized according to the correspondence of the musical elements with either the emotional standards or the cognitive expectations of an audience. The musical symbols which are widely interpreted as the most characteristic of the Devil are identified through the trends in musical symbolism which appear as a conceptual link between the five movies in this study. The perceptual basis for the interpretation of symbolic meaning by an audience through musical symbolism is discussed in this thesis. The relationship between the visual and musical elements of the movies is discussed in terms of the role of music in creating meaning which is transferred between the visual and aural elements of the movie as a whole. Through the discussion of the key musical symbolism of the Devil, the process through which meaning is subconsciously perceived, and the ways in which musical and visual elements of a movie are subsequently interpreted as meaningful by an audience, is examined and discussed. The place of musical symbolism in allowing audiences to interpret meaning in movies is also examined. The significance of a movie‟s score not only in allowing for the communication of symbolic meaning to an audience, but in developing the plot and characterization in a movie is examined. Through the examination of the musical symbolism of the Devil in the five movies analyzed in this study, broad trends in the musical symbolism of the character in popular culture in general are identified. The significance of the continuing musical symbolism of the character is discussed in terms of the perceptual trends which are represented in society through the musical representation of the character. The development of the use of musical symbols first used or created in the five movies is discussed. New uses of these symbols in popular culture are identified and the significance of these varying uses of musical symbolism of the Devil in maintaining and transmitting cultural knowledge is discussed. The broad cultural significance of the musical symbolism of the Devil in western society is also examined in this thesis. The fact that the Devil is one of the few characters that can be conceptually symbolized through music suggests that the underlying cultural significance that is represented in the appearance of the Devil in folklore, religion, and popular culture is a deeply ingrained aspect of the shared cultural knowledge and experience of society. This thesis examines the place of the Devil as a recurring perceptual trend in western society which allows for the conceptual symbolism of the character through music. The significance of the absence of representations of the character from mainstream Hollywood movies in the period from 1950 to 1970 is also examined.


Principal supervisor

Made Hood

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Conservatorium of Music


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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