Intertextual music in the films of Quentin Tarantino

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Bachelor's thesis
Elokuvaäänitys ja -äänisuunnittelu
Degree programme
Taiteiden ja suunnittelun kandidaattiohjelma
One of the most recognizable aspects of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography is his use of music, especially that of pre-existing songs and film score. These musical selections are often used in contrast with the visuals of the scene, through aesthetic, and emotional differences. The music also often carries strong intertextual value, or in other words, their meaning is shaped by their connection to other texts. Understanding how these intertextual connections affect the implicit meaning of a scene is important in gaining a deeper understanding of the scene. Also, exploring these intertextual connections can give us insight into the value of music as an intertextual tool. Whilst intertextuality in Tarantino’s films is a topic of frequent discussion, this text will specifically focus on intertextual music. This text analyses how Tarantino uses music to draw intertextual connections to concepts outside of the movie itself. Additionally, the text will explore how these connections affect the implicit meaning of a scene. The goal is to gain insight to the meaning behind Tarantino’s music choices, and to underline the value of intertextual music as a storytelling tool. The analysis is limited to specific examples from three films: Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Django Unchained (2012). The text first goes over concepts of film and literary theory essential to the analysis. The text then breaks down intertextual uses of music in the aforementioned films. These uses of music are traced back to their origins, to see what texts they are drawing connections to. This allows us to see what implicit meanings the music brings to the scene. These breakdowns reveal how Tarantino draws connections to different concepts in cinema and pop culture. These connections allow the audience’s prior knowledge and understanding of these references to create a larger story around the events of the film, without explicitly showing them on screen. The intertextual nature of the music implicitly expands the audience's perception and interpretation of the scene beyond what is shown on screen. The characters and stories of these films are recontextualized through intertextual music to be reflective of different cinematic and pop cultural archetypes and stories. These findings give us insight both into Tarantino’s work, and the value of intertextual music for the filmmaker. Beyond just counterpoint, intertextuality allows for an expansive story to be condensed into just a musical moment, by allowing the audience’s prior knowledge to write the story themselves.
Koskinen, Pietari
Thesis advisor
Boullenger, Patrick
sound design, film, music, intertextuality, cinema, Tarantino
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