Functioning like a clockwork – musicality in "A Clockwork Orange"

Music and musical elements in A Clockwork Orange, both novella and film, are realised and play an important role in achieving the main purpose of the novel/film: to discuss the idea of the free will

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

28 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1.0 Music in film and literature
1.1 Functions of film-music
1.2 Different kinds of film-music
1.3 Summary
1.4 Musical elements in literature
1.4.1 The beat-poets
1.4.2 Different kinds of intermediality between film and literature
1.5 Conclusion and thesis statement

2.0 Practical part
2.1 Musical elements and their function in the novella
2.1.1 A Clockwork Orange and the sonata form
2.1.2 Literature staged as music in A Clockwork Orange
2.2 The score-music of A Clockwork Orange
2.3 Synthesis of film and book - musical elements translated into film

3.0 Conclusion

1.0 Introduction

Fiction and film aka literature and the movies, on first sight, do not have very much in common. First and foremost, the former uses language, whereas the latter consists of moving images. And yet they have the same goal and even often make use of the same measures in fulfilling that goal: to tell a story and, at best, get the reader or viewer emotionally involved in their narrative.

For that purpose of telling a story, cinematographers do not have to rely only on the power of the animated picture. They also use a range of other measures to create fascinating pieces of art of which several are watched by millions of people. The cinema is, thus, one of the few true mass-arts, besides the internet and television – another medium working with moving pictures and, hence, the 'little brother of cinema'. One crucial means of the cinema besides the pictures is music. In Einführung in die Filmanalyse – Teil 1: Die Zeichen des Films , philologist Jürgen Kühnel writes: “[s]chon seit Anbeginn des Films stellt die Musik einen integralen Bestandteil des filmischen Textes dar.”[1] Nowadays, audiences sit in halls with equipped with huge digital dolby surround sound-systems and bass-boxes as high as two men, but the audiences of the early cinema had not as huge a 'wall of sound' while watching the first movies. They, most often, only had a piano player supplying the images with background music. As minute these measures nowadays appear, they yet had a certain and crucial purpose. The images always needed music, were dependent on it. Cinema always had to rely on the effects music has on an audience in connection with moving images. Knut Hickethier, in Film- und Fernsehanalyse sees music as a “selbständige Mitteilungsebene”[2] which is added to the images and, thus, can accentuate “die Bedeutung”[3] of the film, as a first example. The film does not need music only aesthetic purposes or that it is not absolutely silent in a theatre full of people breathless to know what's next, and it is also no l'art pour l'art . On the contrary, the cinema uses music for manifold purposes. This gets to a point where the “Musik im Film kann [...] in bestimmten Situationen [...] eine dermaßen zentrale Bedeutung für das Generieren von Sinn haben, dass ein Ignorieren ihrer Funktion zu einer vollständigen Fehlinterpretation führt.” Many examples come to mind. One can, for example, imagine a film-scene. A man stands right in front of a woman, they look at each other. They don't need to touch each other nor speaking nor do anything at all. If the soundtrack of the scene comprises of violins playing, say, a melancholic melody, the spectator immediately realizes that it is about love or, accounting for the fact that the melody is played in a minor key, unfulfilled love. Would the violins be exchanged with, say, heavy-metal guitars in that scene the effect would be quite different. It would enunciate completely other associations. It has, however, to be mentioned that the effects of music, including score-music, are not always the same. It depends on the audience, or rather its cultural background. Kühnel writes that “Musik [wirkt] nicht auf alle Menschen gleich.”[4] He adds that the effects of music are due to cultural processes of learning, which “wiederum aus der großen Erfahrung des heutigen Publikums mit Film bzw. Filmmusik resultieren.”[5] Hence, the above mentioned example of the violins representing 'unfulfilled love' is likely to be misinterpreted by a spectator from another cultural realm, say China. At least when he or she is not used to watching movies produced in the U.S. or Europe. This paper, however, is going to presuppose that the audience is from the Anglo-American or European cultural sphere.

Taking these above mentioned considerations into account, it is no wonder, that “der musikalischen Gestaltung in sehr vielen Filmen eine zentrale Rolle zukommt.”[6] Film-makers do exactly know that the act of adding music to their works is multiplying their effects. Gianfranco Bettetini sees in film-music the possibility: “to influence the public [the audience, that is] with greater suggestive power by taking advantage of a musician's work and of the spectator's receptiveness to a type of sign stimulus that ought not to have been in play within the ambit of film communication.”[7]

The quote makes clear that music adds something new to the images on the silver-screen, another purpose, something extra-pictorial. Music is “an almost indispensable element of film-making.”[8] But what is this what score-music adds, which effects exactly does film-music have?

1.1 Functions of film-music

Gianfranco Bettetini in The Language and Technique of the Film gives another account of film-music and its purpose. He writes that film music is “an element of expression to be subsequently integrated with the image. [...] [B]ackground music thus acquires a decisive importance, in regard to the expressive power of the film.”[9] Film-music expresses. But what is being expressed by the music? It must be something that can not be expressed by animated images alone. A few pages earlier, Bettetini speaks of the difficulty “to express an idea or concept by means of images [alone and that] often a whole film is needed in order to make clear a single concept”[10]. Thus, it is abstract concepts the images of the film can not depict on their own and make use of the suggestive power of music. How can images express concepts such as freedom, love or integrity in only a short period of time (an average Hollywood-movie consists of only about 90 minutes of screen-time). Hence, the cinematographers have the power of the score-music at their disposal in order to represent concepts which can not be illustrated in a average film-sequence. They apply “musical commentaries, which play[...] upon the spectator's sensibility, suggesting to him those psychological states best adapted to an appreciation of what [is] projected on the screen”[11], just like in the example of the violins and heavy-metal guitars.

Knut Hickethier speaks of the “emotionalen Qualitäten”[12] music adds to the visuals of the cinema and the “emotionale Einbeziehung”[13] it produces among the viewers. It can, he states, lead to an interpretation of the images “in spezifischer Weise”[14]. Moreover, music can “in der Regel bereits im filmischen Geschehen angelegte Stimmungen [verstärken]”[15].

Hickethier says that music can serve also as “Unterstützung des Realismus-eindrucks”[16]. Tonal music, thus, represents “das Normale und Alltägliche”[17] : the screen shows events of everyday life, the characters are, for example, not in danger or do not have fear. On the other hand, there is atonal music, which serves to represent “das aus der Normalität Heraustretende”[18]. In opposition to tonal music, the character(s) are in danger indeed or have fear. This differentiation between tonal and atonal score-music, is often used in connection with a use of sounds (as opposed to 'tones') which, by Hickethier, are called “Merkmale der Geräuschwerdung”[19], which is, however, not of interest for this paper that deals with music and musical elements only. Here, it can be mentioned that there is a realm of science which deals with “bestimmte physiologische Wirkungen musikalischer Parameter […].”[20] In this theory “tiefe Frequenzen” are being “ mit Angstgefühlen gleichgesetzt.”[21] and “technische Verstärkungsverfahren”[22] serve to amplify the sounds and, thus, the feelings of the audience (of which more later).

Jürgen Kühnel has an elaborate systematic description of the functions of film-music. He classifies the individual functions of score-music into four main categories. There are the “[t]ektonische Funktionen […], [s]yntaktische Funktionen […], [s]emantische Funktionen,[and] [m]ediatisierende Funktionen”[23]. 'Tektonische Funktionen' comprise of “main title”[24], the “end title”[25] and the “Musiknummer (als Teil der Handlung)”[26]. With 'tektonisch', Kühnel means “die oberste[...] Ebene”[27] where “die Musik die Tonspur fast umfassend ausfüllt”[28], i.e. where there is no other sound to be heard than the music. It is, thus, an embracing and/or ornamental function of film-music.

'Syntaktische Funktionen' means film-music is used as a device that can also structure a movie. It can be an “Akzentuierung von Szenehöhepunkten”[29], i.e. a specific aspect of a scene/scene-sequence is highlighted through music. Kühnel adds “Trennung von Real- und Traumhandlung” to his 'syntaktische Funktionen'. This can be widened to the separation of two different states of consciousness, e.g. when a character is high on drugs, in a state of madness, etc.

The category with the most constituents in Kühnels analysis, however, is the 'semantische Funktionen” to which most of the above mentioned functions belong described by the other scholars. Kühnel subdivides the semantic functions into three subcategories:

“Konnotativ” can be “Stimmungsuntermalung (Mood-Technik), […] Bewegungsverdopplung (Mickeymousing) [and] [p]hysiologische Stimulation (Sensurround u.a.) as already mentioned by Hickethier. These are functions of film-music that complement “mit musikalischen oder physiologischen Mitteln die inhaltstragende Schicht des Films.”[30]

As the dichotomy of 'konnotativ', Kühnel describes the “denotative Funktionen”:

“Denotativ hingegen wirkt Musik im Film etwa, wenn historisches oder geographisches Kolorit vermittelt wird und die Filmmusik damit klar macht, in welchem historischen bzw. Geografischen Kontext die Story des Films angesiedelt ist. Weiters können Leitmotive auf einzelne Charaktere hinweisen, gesellschaftliche Zustände können musikalisch klargestellt werden oder aber es werden Gedanken oder unsichtbare Handlungselemente (z.B. Das Rieseln von Mikroorganismen aus einem Plastikumschlag) musikalisch übersetzt.”[31]

Measures of the 'denotative' function are: “Leitmotiv, […] Inzidenzmusik (source music), […] Historische/geographische Deskription, […] gesellschaftliche Deskription, […] musikalisches Zitat, […] [and] Denken/Unsichtbares durch Musik ausdrücken”[32].

The third subcategory of the semantic functions is the “reflexiv”[33] function, which is “Musik im Film, die zwar zu den inhaltstragenden Elementen im Film zählt, aber lediglich auf sich selbst verweist, wie etwa die Aufführung eines Konzertes im Film.”[34]

The last category in Kühnel's analysis of the functions of film-music is that of the “mediatisierende[...] Funktion[...]”[35]. This function has an effect which is “vermittelnd zwischen Film und Publikum”[36]. It is “zielgruppen- und genrespezifische Musikauswahl”[37] which is about the “Erwartungshaltung des Publikums.”[38] The film-genre of the Western comes to mind. Here one would expect a certain kind of score-music, e.g. special instruments like guitars or banjos or the famous harmonica in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West . Within this comprehensive system it has to be kept in mind that:


[1] Kühnel, Jürgen. Einführung in die Filmanalyse – Teil 1: Die Zeichen des Films (Siegen: Universi, 2004) 161.

[2] Hickethier, Knut. Film- und Fernsehanalyse . (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2001) 94.

[3] Hickethier 94.

[4] Kühnel 163.

[5] Kühnel 163.

[6] Kühnel 161.

[7] Bettetini, Gianfranco. The Language and Technique of the Film . (Paris: Mouton, 1973) 115.

[8] Bettetini 115.

[9] Bettetini 114.

[10] Bettetini 111.

[11] Bettetini 114.

[12] Hickethier 94.

[13] Hickethier 94.

[14] Hickethier 94.

[15] Hickethier 94.

[16] Hickethier 94.

[17] Hickethier 94.

[18] Hickethier 94.

[19] Hickethier 94.

[20] Kühnel 164.

[21] Kühnel 164.

[22] Kühnel 164.

[23] Kühnel 167.

[24] Kühnel 167.

[25] Kühnel 167.

[26] Kühnel 167.

[27] Kühnel 167.

[28] Kühnel 167.

[29] Kühnel 167.

[30] Kühnel 166.

[31] Kühnel 166.

[32] Kühnel 167.

[33] Kühnel 167.

[34] Kühnel 167.

[35] Kühnel 167.

[36] Kühnel 167.

[37] Kühnel 167.

[38] Kühnel 167.

Excerpt out of 28 pages


Functioning like a clockwork – musicality in "A Clockwork Orange"
Music and musical elements in A Clockwork Orange, both novella and film, are realised and play an important role in achieving the main purpose of the novel/film: to discuss the idea of the free will
University of Augsburg  (Philologisch-Historische Fakultät)
Fiction and Film - Literary Texts and Their Filmic Adaptions
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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functioning, clockwork, orange, music, literature, spontaneous prose, kubrick, burgess, film, novella, violence, beat poets
Quote paper
Lukas Dingelmaier (Author), 2011, Functioning like a clockwork – musicality in "A Clockwork Orange", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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