Technology in Teaching Showcase

Collaborative Technology-Based Projects at Hamilton College

Online Music in American Film Project Overview

Description and Resources


Course Name:
Online Music in American Film

Course Description:

Through the use of online tools, Professor Hamessley lectured and fostered discussion on nine films to Hamilton College Alumni, both online and face-to-face.

Films covered:

  1. Star Wars
  2. Rear Window
  3. City Lights
  4. The Adventures of Robin Hood
  5. Casablanca
  6. The Best Years of our Lives
  7. A Streetcar Named Desire
  8. Vertigo
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird

Project Description:

With the seismic cultural shifts of the last fifty years, films have become the primary way in which most people first encounter art music, including both the historical classical composers as well as both 20th- and 21st-century composers writing specifically for film (e.g., Copland, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, John Corigliano, Phillip Glass, Tan Dun). Film scores have likewise become a major creative focus for many major composers, made all the more attractive because of the broad exposure they provide. And the film score itself does a great deal to interpret the nuance of a movie scene. Indeed, music in a film not only shapes our understanding of character, situation, time, and place but it also allows us to experience the emotional impact of the narrative.

An article about this experience was published for the Hamilton News site and can be found here: http://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/music-in-american-film-advances-idea-of-lifelong-learning

» Educational Technologist Ted Fondak
» Professor of Music Lydia Hamessley
» Educational Technologist Carl Rosenfield

Completed Student Projects

Online Music in American Film Feedback - Created Spring, 2013

Goals, Process and Outcomes

Project Goals:

Our approach will primarily be from a humanist, critical, and historical perspective. We will examine the ways that music in film operates on a variety of levels, beginning with the silent film and moving through films of the Golden Era in Hollywood up to the early 60s. As Claudia Gorbman (Unheard Melodies, 1987) writes, “When we shed a tear during a pregnant moment in a film . . . instead of scoffing at its excess, music often is present, a catalyst in the suspension of judgment”

Learning Objectives:
  •  To be able to identify the most prominent American film composers and demonstrate an understanding of their style;
  • To be able to trace and give examples of the stylistic history of film scores;
  • To be able to analyze a segment of a film using the vocabulary, methodologies, and critical paradigms studied in the class.

Project Process:

This course involved the following:

  • Selection and testing of an online tool that would a way to support multiple participants. After experimenting with several solutions, Adobe Connect supported by a telephone bridge connection was selected.
  • Practice sessions to explore the capabilities of the software and allow Professor Hamessley to become comfortable using this technology to teach online.
  • A Blackboard course was set up to contain the links to the live class sessions and other supporting information.
  • Live technical support during class sessions.

Learning Outcomes:

Out of 25 registered online students, 15 attended regularly. Eight live participants also attended. Online students consistently participated in the classs through voice via the telephone bridge and text online chat. As the course progressed, students became more comfortable using text chat and many conversations were conducted via this tool.

Project Feedback:

Feedback from the students who participated was overwhelmingly positive. Some students reported hearing an echo when they used the voice bridge which may explain why text chat became the more popular communication tool. See student artifacts for quotes from students.