Dr Lecter’s Taste for 'Goldberg', or: the Horror of Bach in the Hannibal Franchise

Carlo Cenciarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The repeated use of the ‘Goldberg’ Variations in the Hannibal Lecter saga offers a route into the complexities of cinema's appropriation of Western art music. To an extent, the affiliation of Bach with a cannibalistic serial killer rehearses the notion of ‘classical music’ as socially and culturally other. Yet at the same time, from its first appearance in a memorable scene in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the music is tied to the workings of a mass-media phenomenon. This becomes evident in the sequel, Hannibal (2001), where the ‘Goldberg’ Aria, used as title song, crossing in and out of the diegesis and mixed with sound effects, becomes part of the development of the character into a media franchise, of the romanticizing of his masculinity and the spectacularization of his violence. Thus, in the process of capitalizing on Lecter's success, the saga at once insists on classical music's otherness and blurs its difference from film music.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107
Number of pages134
JournalJournal of the Royal Musical Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this