Franz Waxman (1906–1967): Between Film Music and the Concert Hall

This project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): project no.: P 33029



The objective of this project is to close a long-standing gap in scholarly research regarding the composer Franz Waxman with the focus on his life and works “between film music and the concert hall.” The project does not aim to produce a biography of Franz Waxman or a purely analytical study of his film scores. Rather, it will relate Waxman’s career as a composer, concert organizer and conductor to the American as well as international music and film industries. In addition, the mechanisms in the adaptation of his film music for other media (e.g. in the form of concert and radio suites or motion picture soundtracks) will be analyzed. It will be shown that Waxman’s professional career was characterized by collaborative working practices, a high awareness for different media and for international cultural politics. This study about Franz Waxman bridges several academic fields, offers a greater understanding of the mechanisms of the international music market, and thereby provides through the critical analysis of source material a solid basis for future research.



The methodological approach of the project is based on the critical evaluation of archival sources in the United States and Europe. The sources contain among others correspondence, personal records, newspaper reviews, administrative files, films, recordings, musical scores, sheet music, etc. The source material will then be connected to the current state of research in the various research areas related to the project (intermediality, Cold War cultural diplomacy, migration of musicians, musical modernism, etc). 


This is the first comprehensive, source-based study about composer Franz Waxman. It focuses on the intermedial transfer of Waxman’s film music and its adaptation for other media (radio broadcasts, soundtrack recordings, sheet music, theme songs, concert suites), but also on his work as a festival organizer and conductor. The examination of (film) music criticism and the reception in the press of Waxman’s film compositions, of which many have been adapted by the composer for other media, presents another important and original angle of the project.

Research context

The research project “Franz Waxman: Between Film Music and the Concert Hall” is situated in the areas of musicology, film music studies, sociology, cultural studies, migration/mobility studies as well as media studies. It has a strong interdisciplinary focus.