Title tunes and the branding of music in Hollywood film franchises
The use of leitmotifs in films has often been critiqued. Theodor Adorno and Hanns Eisler went as far as to claim in 1947 that “The whole form language of current cinema music derives from advertising” and that leitmotifs were in part to blame. While I take a more neutral stance, I argue that Eisler and Adorno’s critique is partly correct, especially in regards to film series produced from the 1960s onwards. The analytical work undertaken for this research suggests that multiple franchises use elements of their scores as branding tools. I argue that these melodies, which have often been referred to as leitmotifs in film music scholarship, should be described as something else: title tunes. It seems that over time, they come to represent not just one or two movies, but entire franchises. They also appear to possess a marketing value not necessarily present in leitmotifs. As such, I would argue these title tunes resemble much more sonic logos as described in the sonic branding world than leitmotifs. This thesis is an exploration of title tunes. My thesis focuses primarily on mainstream Hollywood film franchises from the 1960s onwards. Various case studies from different time periods and different movie genres are analysed to describe and understand this new category of promotional film music. This thesis first takes a historical look at the concept of title tunes, explaining how other sonic branding practices used in radio, television and cinema appear to have influenced the creation of title tunes. From the sample of films analysed for this thesis, I argue that title tunes share commonalities, yet the commonalities seem to vary slightly across movie genres. The analyses undertaken also suggest that title tunes are dynamic entities, that some title tunes are more complex than others (featuring multiple components), and that some franchises can feature more than one title tune. My interpretation of the data also suggests that these title tunes are used as emotional and nostalgic tools and that specific orchestrations and arrangements might carry additional emotional power. While the majority of this thesis explores the use of title tunes in films, their use in trailers and other commodities is discussed. Finally, I suggest how title tunes might change in the future and why certain franchises have omitted using such recurring motifs.