Ethnic Roots and the Hollywood Sound
: A Musical Experimentation in Time and Tradition

  • Evangelos Chouvardas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD thesis is based on the exploration of the Hollywood film industry in view of scored music and the association between the latter and Middle Eastern music culture. It aims to determine how the music relates to the picture, what are the direct or implied associations with eastern music styles are and if they exist, to what extent these represent eastern physiognomies or a westernised model of perceived ethnic authenticity. Due to the vast amount of material available for researching and discussing, this study’s angle focuses mainly on silent and science fiction cinema.

The study explores these areas by presenting and discussing the lack of communication between the visual and eastern ethnic music implementation in view of scoring composition and instrumentation. It explores a number of films that relate to the issue, or associated subcategories of the main issue. It presents and discusses scoring segments in terms of music implementation and gathers information in view of the composing techniques used. Additionally, it demonstrates interrelating examples and approaches where this is relevant and draws conclusions in view of the original question considering Middle Eastern music. Collected information is then processed sculpting the following creative part.

In order to test the hypothesis of audiovisual fluidity and relevance, it then demonstrates a number of originally composed music examples on how films can be scored in a controversial way, with an increased sense of authenticity in terms of ethnic instrumentation, harmonic progression and rhythmic structure, drawing parallel lines when necessary with the preliminary films’ exploration outcomes. Naturally, this is always related to each film’s corresponding visual, chosen for its appropriateness in terms of ethnic portraiture, insinuation or potentially dynamic experimentation.

Considering the latter, Middle Eastern ethnic instrumentations artistically combine with the Western symphonic orchestra on numerous occasions and the results of this amalgamation are being discussed and evaluated accordingly. Additionally, in view of experimentation, there is an effort to unite the two previous angles (eastern ethnic and Western symphonic) with computer sound design procedures with the intention of constructing hybrid scores specifically for the science fiction genre. Thus the study explores, identifies and demonstrates the potential of ethnic instrumentation in a film genre in which the visual does not necessarily equate, or imply, an eastern scoring character.

The end results of this study determine and discuss the observed lack of depth in view of eastern music character. Out of the composed scores’ presentation and analysis, the research verifies the originality of this attempt focusing also in the associated physiognomies between the music and the visual. Furthermore it explores and presents the scoring potential in view of eastern ethnic instruments and sound design, especially in the directly related science fiction genre.

Finally, the problematic nature of the outcome, as well as thoughts and concerns about the superficial use of eastern music in the Hollywood cinema, are being discussed under a variety of different angles including technology, social culture, film industry, politics, et. al
Date of Award22 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJulio d'Escrivan (Main Supervisor) & Eddie Dobson (Co-Supervisor)

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