Dyer’s “In the Space of a Song” essential for film and music buffs alike

book-cover-in-the-space-of-a-songFor those unfamiliar with the material discussed in the collected essays of Richard Dyer‘s In the Space of a Song: The Uses of Song In Film, I would highly suggest a viewing party before reading each section. While quite familiar with Meet Me In St. Louis, I was astounded at the depth to which Dyer gets with his dissection of the film. Having never seen A Star Is Born, I was hopelessly lost as to what Dyer was specifically referring. Having a fresh image of the films spoken of will make this a much easier read.

However, it is a credit to how well the author analyzes each piece (be it film, scene, or genre), as it’s nigh-impossible to not take away the thrust of his argument, be it that Meet Me In St. Louis is the most natural and least-implausible of the movie musicals, or that the “Prehistoric Man” segment of On the Town “is an embodiment of the terrible philosophical dilemma of reconciling increases in human happiness with the moral and practical limitations on it.”

Heady stuff, to be sure, but as one works their way through Dyer’s essays, you’re gradually introduced to the concept that music in film might be more than just something pleasant. How might one respond to Tarantino’s appropriation of other film scores in Inglorious Basterds after reading “Music and presence in blaxploitation cinema”? The use of Billy Preston’s theme to Slaughter takes on new meaning, when one considers that both Slaughter and Basterds are revenge pictures.

It’s that level of discourse that makes In the Space of a Song an invaluable addition to the library of anyone wishing to enhance their knowledge of film or music. It will have you stacking up films you’d dismissed as fluff and nonsense, and viewing them anew with discerning eyes.