The Collegian
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Course Spotlight: Music in Film with Dr. Riehl

<p>Graphic by Annabelle Zong and Helen Mei.&nbsp;</p>

Graphic by Annabelle Zong and Helen Mei. 

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

With so many options to choose from, picking classes to fulfill the general education requirements might not be an easy task. Between 10-70 courses fulfill each gen-ed. How is a student supposed to choose? This column aims to highlight the interesting courses the University of Richmond offers and to give students a better understanding of the options. Students only have so many opportunities to take classes outside their major, so let’s make them count!

Starting this column with a melodic bang is Music 221: Film in Music. Taught by Dr. Jeffrey Riehl, associate professor of music, this course fulfills the Visual & Performing Arts gen-ed requirement. But trust me, there is much more to be gained from this class than a gen-ed fulfillment. This class closely examines how music operates in Hollywood film, helping students become more sensitized to the use of music in film. Take your favorite movie, for example. Think about every piece of music played in it. Now imagine being able to understand why these songs were chosen and what they are supposed to convey to viewers. Your appreciation of the movie will only increase. This course will impact how you view movies, offering a more well-rounded perspective. 

The course unpacks the interaction of the visual and the musical. It looks at the progression of the way music has been used in film. For example, the role that jazz or rock and roll has played in film scoring. The course even references some of the Harry Potter films and the way the music harkens back to the classic era of Hollywood film. Students should get a sense of the chronology of music in film and how it has changed. 

“Students begin watching films with their ears," Riehl said. "They become a little more sensitized to the role of music in media. I think it helps them develop a more sophisticated understanding of what filmmakers are trying to do and the subtextuality within a film’s narrative. Music can really help provide that.” 

Over the semester, students look at 12 Hollywood films and analyze the role music plays within them. To get a taste of what you would be watching, “2001 Space Odyssey” and “Full Metal Jacket” are two of the most enjoyed movies of the class. From action to romance, the course covers a variety of films.

If watching movies isn’t enough fun, students get to make their own film for the class’ major project. They form groups of four or five, and write, film and add music to a seven or eight minute film they create. Students can be as creative as possible, having ample freedom with their production. 

“Students who think they have no musical ear or musical ability discover they do have something to offer, so that’s always a fun part of the class,” Riehl said. 

Students don’t just reap the benefits of the class. They get to experience the passion and energy of Riehl. His appreciation and excitement about music are apparent from the moment you start talking to him. He works to create a cohesive classroom environment, balancing lectures to give students “tools for their toolbox” and student-led discussions. 

If exploring music in movies sparks your interest, keep an eye out for Music 221: Music in Film during Fall 2023 registration.

Contact opinions writer Madison Slesinski at madison.slesinski@richmond.edu 

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