Thursday, April 13, 2017

Music in Period Films

Period films often use music from the era in which they take place to create an historically accurate performance. Sometimes, however, the music we hear may be from a time following the film’s setting. Today’s let’s look a few examples – one obvious, and the second more subtle.

Have you seen the 2006 film Marie Antoinette staring Kirsten Dunst? This film is set during the 18th century and tells the story of the last queen of France before the French Revolution. Listen to the music here.

This scene shows an obvious example of music displacement. “I Want Candy” performed by Bow Wow Wow is modern music intentionally chosen for use in a period film.

But what about the 1975 Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon? This movie also takes place during the 18th century. Listen here for any displaced music.

Did you hear any? If not, that’s okay! Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-flat, Op. 100 is used non-diegetically during this scene. It fits nicely into this historic setting, and it’s meant to blend well as period music. This piece, however, was not written until the 19th century! I wonder if the creators of Barry Lyndon were aware of this discrepancy when they chose it as part of their film score?

During this month of movie music, let’s talk about a few significant film composers. Join me next time!


  1. I enjoy catching examples of when music written specifically for a modern movie is heard and acknowledged by the characters. My favorite example of this is in the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice:

    I love film music and am looking forward to the rest of the posts!

    1. What a great film and a great example! Thanks for sharing, Crystal! If you enjoy film music, I'd recommend checking out my older film music posts from April 2014, April 2015, and September 2016!