Nat Patrin's new book The Needle and the Lens demonstrates how the creative use of pop music in film – think Saturday Night Fever or Apocalypse Now – has shaped and shifted music history since the 1960s
What movie do you think of when you hear 'The Sounds of Silence', or better yet, what song comes to mind when you think of The Graduate? The link between film and song endures as more than a memory, Nate Patrin suggests with this wide-ranging and energetic book. It is, in fact, a sort of cultural symbiosis that has mutually influenced movies and pop music, a phenomenon Patrin tracks through the past fifty years, revealing the power of music in movies to move the needle in popular culture.
Rock ’n’ roll, reggae, R&B, jazz, techno, and hip-hop: each had its moment – or many – as music deployed in movies emerged as a form of interpretive commentary, making way for the legitimisation of pop and rock music as art forms worthy of serious consideration. These commentaries run the gamut from comedic irony to cheap-thrills excitement to deeply felt drama, all of which Patrin examines in pairings such as American Graffiti and 'Do You Want to Dance?'; Saturday Night Fever and 'Disco Inferno'; Apocalypse Now and 'The End'; Wayne’s World and 'Bohemian Rhapsody'; and Jackie Brown and 'Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time?'.
What gives power to these individual moments, and how have they shaped and shifted music history, recasting source material or even stirring wider interest in previously niche pop genres? As Patrin surveys the scene – musical and cinematic – across the decades, expanding into the deeper origins, wider connections, and echoed histories that come into play, The Needle and the Lens offers a new way of seeing, and hearing, these iconic soundtrack moments.
Minnesota University Press, 264pp, 15cm x 23cm, paperback, 2023
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