Hans Keller:
Film Music and Beyond:
Writings on Music and the Screen, 1946-59

edited by Christopher Wintle
London, Plumbago, 2006

Published with support from the The William Alwyn Foundation

Buy online at Boydell & Brewer:
Paperback (£15.99 / $29.95) or Hardback (£40 / $80)

‘It [is] quite fascinating and a revelation of how the subject can be dealt with. If there is ever to be a ‘serious’ course about Film Music, it would surely have to based on this book. It's also very beautifully produced.’

Alexander Goehr, formerly Professor of Music, University of Cambridge

For forty years after the Second World War, the Austrian émigré Hans Keller (1919-85) was recognized as one of the commanding critical voices in British music. Forceful, witty, pugnacious and brilliantly focussed, he addressed every aspect of concert, chamber and operatic music, ancient and modern, with crusading zeal; and at the end of his life he was awarded a cross of honour by the President of Austria. Few people, however, know that he was also the outstanding film music critic of his day, a category he more or less invented. For twelve years from 1946 to 1958 he went tirelessly to press shows, made himself known to composers, music directors and technicians, wrote columns for several journals, especially Music Review, and championed the achievement of the British beyond all else. But he was also a musician in the line of Arnold Schoenberg and a wide-ranging cultural thinker in the tradition of Kant, Schopenhauer, Schiller and Freud. So as he dealt with the small change of journalism, he moved into the ‘beyond’ by reflecting deeply on the philosophy and topics of film music and the psychology of its composers. In 1959, during the nine months before he joined the BBC, he shifted his attention from cinema to television and wrote a no less innovative column for Musical Opinion.

This book brings together the bulk of his writings on music and the screen and arranges them in four parts – topics, composers, criticism and television music – with a preface arguing ‘The Need for Competent Film Music Criticism’. The result is a fastidiously observed and unparalleled account of a great era for British film music and a volume that in philosophical and ethical rigour stands well beside the celebrated Composing for the Films (1949) by Hanns Eisler and Theodor Adorno.

Hans Keller's other books include 1975 – 1984 minus 9 (Dobson, 1977), The Great Haydn Quartets (Dent, 1986), Criticism (Faber, 1987) and Functional Analysis: The Unity of Contrasting Themes (edited by Gerold Gruber, Peter Lang, 2001). With his wife and artist Milein Cosman he collaborated on Stravinsky at Rehearsal (Dobson, 1962) and Stravinsky Seen and Heard (Toccata, 1982), and with Donald Mitchell he edited Music Survey, New Series 1949-52 (Faber, 1981) and Benjamin Britten: A Commentary on His Works from a Group of Specialists (Rockliff, 1952). He is also the subject of A. M. Garnham’s Hans Keller and the BBC (Ashgate, 2003).

Christopher Wintle teaches in the Department of Music at King’s College London. As General Editor of the Hans Keller Archive (Cambridge University Library) he has assembled a ‘Hans Keller Memorial Symposium’ (Music Analysis, 1986) and edited Essays on Music (Cambridge University Press, 1994), The Jerusalem Diary: Music, Society and Politics, 1977 and 1979 (Plumbago, 2001, with Fiona Williams), Music and Psychology: From Vienna to London, 1939-52 (Plumbago, 2003, with Alison Garnham) and Letters of Internment (Plumbago, forthcoming) .

Ralph Vaughan Williams

see also:


  to Welcome Page