Towards a Transformational Theory of Music in the Multimedia Franchise

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


It has become something of a truism to acknowledge that modern Western popular media
culture is dominated by franchises. Yet, while excellent music scholarship has engaged with
music within series (e.g. Webster 2018 on Harry Potter, Decker 2017 on Fast and Furious,
Brame 2011 on The Legend of Zelda) and across transmedial hypertexts (e.g. Winters 2017
on Indiana Jones), there has been little holistic theorization of music in the multimedia

This paper begins the work of developing a model for understanding music in the multimedia
franchise. A franchise’s musical identity and discourse may exist on the level of specific
thematic recurrence and reconfiguration in a franchise, but it is not limited to this kind of
precise signification. It is also evident through broader questions of musical style, the
aesthetics of audiovisual synchronization, or any number of other factors (what we
elsewhere describe as a franchise’s ‘musical register’).

Building on the pattern theories of Christopher Alexander (2002), we suggest that music in
the franchise can be understood as a set of nonlinear transformations, evident as creators
and audiences move through (and construct) the franchise space. Identifying and describing
these transformational changes are not ends in themselves, but serve to reveal dynamics of
music in the franchise. An adapted Alexanderian approach to transformation is flexible and
versatile, recognising that musical continuity and change in a franchise is complex.
This paper will outline the transformational theory of music in the franchise, before illustrating
its application through the example of music in the Star Trek franchise. By examining
comparable moments in the franchise (e.g. title themes) through the lens of pattern
transformation, we may better understand how the audience experiences a franchise, and
the factors affecting its musical articulation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSound on Screen II (Conference 2023)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jul 2023

Cite this