Orange Alert

Skip to main content
Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

November Was ‘Epic’ Month for Syracuse Musicologist

Stephen C. Meyer publishes book, becomes editor of top scholarly journal

Dec. 5, 2014, by Sarah Scalese

November ended up being a successful month for Stephen C. Meyer, associate professor of music history and cultures in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Days before publishing his latest book, Epic Sound: Music in Postwar Hollywood Biblical Films (Indiana University Press, 2014), he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Music History Pedagogy (American Musicological Society), a highly respected peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.

“It’s a fulfilling time for me, professionally speaking,” says Meyer, who has taught in the Department of Art and Music Histories (AMH) since 1998. “My new book has been years in the making, so it feels good to finally hold it in my hands. And then to be recognized by my peers in conjunction with a top journal—well, I’m humbled.”

Epic Sound draws on Meyer’s recent foray into the study of American film music and recorded sound. (He’s also a highly regarded scholar of 18th- and 19th-century music.) Much of the book focuses on the role soundtracks have played in postwar Biblical film epics, such as Samson and Delilah (1949), Quo Vadis (1951), and Ben-Hur (1959).

“These soundtracks contributed a special grandeur to the widescreen, stereophonic-sound movie experience of postwar biblical epics,” he says. “They also reflected the ideological and aesthetic tensions within the genre and postwar American society, in general. My book engages musicology with film studies to explore cinematic interpretations of the Bible from the 1940s to the ‘60s.”
Meyer adds that soundtracks often function like additional characters, commenting on the action and moving along the plot—sometimes with mixed results. “I cite instances in which the soundtrack actually complicated the cinematic interpretation,” he says.

Epic Sound is Meyer’s second book. His first was the critically acclaimed Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for a German Opera (Indiana University Press, 2003).

Meyer is equally excited about taking over the Journal of Music History Pedagogy (JMHP), which bi-annually publishes original articles and reviews about the teaching of music history in all academic levels and disciplines.

Meyer calls the editorship a “huge honor,” one that he doesn’t take lightly. In addition to overseeing a review editor, managing editor, and layout editor, he will work closely with more than 30 peers on his editorial and advisory boards. “I’m in good company. These people are some of the biggest names in the field,” he says.   

Theo Cateforis, associate professor of music history and cultures and chair of AMH, says Meyer is major force behind the success of the department.

“Steve brings so much to the table, as a scholar, author, and professor,” he says. “His latest accomplishments underscore his commitment to academic excellence in the humanistic disciplines. He also has a genuine desire to impart information to students and to make a positive difference in their lives.”

Since 2002, Meyer has served as both chair of the Music History Curriculum Committee and director of the Music History and Cultures Program. He also has served as acting chair of AMH and chair of the New York State Chapter of the American Musicological Society. Trained as a bass, Meyer has sung professionally with The Concord Ensemble and with various orchestras, choruses, and opera companies around the country. He earned a Ph.D. in music history from Stony Brook University.