Alex Ludwig

Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts

Berklee College of Music


Alex Ludwig is an Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music. I teach music history courses on topics ranging from The Beatles to Viennese Modernism and Film Music. My research interests include Sonata Theory and the role of editing in film musicals. In addition, I have been cataloguing film scores that use the chant melody “Dies Irae.” Check my list and let me know if you’ve found a new one for me.

When I’m not teaching, I’m playing and coaching soccer, or watching hockey, or running after my son, Lucas, or our new dog, Sofi.


  • Sonata Theory
  • Dies Irae
  • Film Musicals


  • PhD in Musicology, 2010

    Brandeis University

  • MFA in Musicology, 2003

    Brandeis University

  • BM in String Performance, Cello, 2001

    Boston University

Recent Posts

My Pedagogy Video

Given the current pandemic, all academic conferences have shifted online; some more successfully than others! This year, I was lucky …

Recent Radio Appearances

It’s spooky season and that means my work on the Dies irae in film music has bubbled up on the internet again. I was interviewed …

Shazam and the Online Listening Quiz

Here in New England, we get a fair amount of snow. Because of this, I usually build in a few classes that can be taught online. Given …

Let Flubaroo Grade It!

Most of my classes meet once a week, so I tend to start each class with a small, low-stakes warmup quiz. These quizzes serve a few …

What I'll Be Blogging About

Dies Irae

The use of the “Dies irae” plainchant has a long history in film music and other assorted media.1 Its liturgical text comprises vivid imagery of burning ash, illustrating the final day of judgement, and its modal music fits comfortably within a tonal context, highlighting the lowered third and seventh scale degrees. It is no surprise then that quoting the “Dies irae” chant remains a popular option for composers of film music; in fact, using the “Dies irae” in your film score today usually ellicits the same response of recognition in listeners as does the stock sound effect known as the “Wilhelm Scream.” Prominent examples of this chant appear in nearly every decade of the history of film music, ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) to Frozen 2 (2019).

For more, see my three supercuts:


See also a few other media appearances:

  1. the film on which I consulted and appeared as a talking head, Why This Creepy Melody Is In So Many Movies.
  1. the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz
  1. and the “National Public Radio” program Here and Now.

My List: Film (year), composer {Time Stamp}

  1. Metropolis (1927), score by Gottfried Huppertz {00:32:34} V1
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), score by Dmitri Tiomkin V1
  3. The Seventh Seal (1957), score by Erik Nodren {00:08:00} V2
  4. The Great Escape (1963), score by Elmer Bernstein {02:11:15} V2
  5. A Clockwork Orange (1971), score by Wendy Carlos {00:01:00} V1
  6. The Omen (1976), score by Jerry Goldsmith V1
  7. A New Hope (1977), score by John Williams {00:40:15} V1
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), score by John Williams {00:44:12} V1
  9. Alien (1979), score by Jerry Goldsmith {01:53:30} V2
  10. The Shining (1980), score by Wendy Carlos {00:00:00} V1
  11. Poltergeist (1982), score by Jerry Goldsmith {01:44:01} V2
  12. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), score by Henry Manfredini {00:01:59} V2
  13. Friday the 13th: Part VI, Jason Lives (1986), score by Henry Manfredini {00:04:15) V2
  14. Big Trouble in Little China (1986), score by John Carpenter/Alan Howarth {00:11:11} V1
  15. The Mission (1986), score by Ennio Morricone {00:32:56} V1
  16. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), score by Ira Newborn {00:00:08} V2
  17. Friday the 13th: Part VII, The New Blood (1988), score by Henry Manfredini {00:15:03} V1-2
  18. Home Alone (1990), score by John Williams {00:06:58} V1
  19. Gremlins 2 (1990), score by Jerry Goldsmith {01:34:48} V2
  20. Batman Returns (1992), score by Danny Elfman {00:12:15} V1
  21. Jurassic Park (1993), score by John Williams {01:18:30} V1
  22. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), score by Danny Elfman V1
  23. Groundhog Day (1993), score by George Fenton V2
  24. Demolition Man (1993), score by Eliot Goldenthal {00:00:27} V2
  25. The Lion King (1994), score by Hans Zimmer V1
  26. Mars Attacks (1996), score by Danny Elfman {00:02:41} V2
  27. The Bone Collector (1999), score by Craig Armstrong {01:48:59} V2
  28. Shrek (2001), score by Harry Gregson-Williams/John Powell {00:41:30} V2
  29. Attack of the Clones (2002), score by John Williams {01:24:33} V1
  30. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), score by John Williams {01:49:15} V1
  31. The Ring (2002), score by Hans Zimmer {00:21:45} V1
  32. The Matrix Reloaded (2003), score by Don Davis {01:12:12} V2
  33. Lost S1E22 (2004), score by Michael Giacchino {00:30:06} V2
  34. War of the Worlds (2005), score by John Williams {00:49:49} V2
  35. Death Note S1E19 (2006), score by Yoshihisa Hirano {00:18:00} V2
  36. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), score by John Williams {00:04:18} V1
  37. Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol (2011), score by Michael Giacchino {00:29:59} V1
  38. Thor (2011), score by Patrick Doyle {00:57:31} V1
  39. Wreck It Ralph (2012), score by Henry Jackman {00:25:57} V1
  40. Iron Man 3 (2013), score by Brian Tyler {00:24:41} V1
  41. Game of Thrones S5E1 (2014), score by Ramin Djiwadin {00:22:15} V1
  42. Crimson Peak (2015), score by Fernando Velazquez {00:00:00}
  43. The Force Awakens (2015), score by John Williams {01:49:20}
  44. Glitch S1E3 (2015), score by Cornel Wilczeck {00:50:00} V2
  45. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), score by Bear McCreary {00:00:00} V1
  46. Colossal (2016), score by Bear McCreary {01:38:11} V1
  47. Rogue One (2016), score by Michael Giacchino {01:12:48} V1
  48. Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), score by Geoff Zanelli {00:10:30} V1
  49. The Good Place S1E11 (2017), score by David Schwartz {00:23:42} V1
  50. Avengers: Infinity War (2018), score by Alan Silvestri {00:33:52} V1
  51. Ready Player One (2018), score by Alan Silvestri {00:57:51} V2
  52. Star Wars Rebels S4E11 (2018), score by Kevin Kiner {00:02:26} V2
  53. Star Wars Rebels S4E13 (2018), score by Kevin Kiner {00:14:28} V2
  54. Doctor Sleep (2019), score by The Newton Brothers {02:18:33} V2
  55. Frozen 2 (2019), score by Christophe Beck {00:16:40} V2
  56. Succession S2E10 (2019), score by Nicholas Britell {01:09:00} V2
  57. Toy Story (2019), score by Randy Newman {01:15:20} V2
  58. Onward (2020), score by Jeff & Mychael Danna {01:06:00} V2
  59. Westworld S3E5 (2020), score by Ramin Djawadi {00:47:14} V2

  1. See Linda Schubert, “Plainchant in Motion Pictures: The ‘Dies Irae’ in Film Scores, ” Florilegium 15 (1998): 207-229; and Karen Cook, “Beyond the Grave: The “Dies Irae” in Video Game Music". ↩︎


Recent & Upcoming Talks

The Rhythm of Life is a Powerful Beat: Following Fosse's Musical, Physical, and Visual Rhythms

Rhythm is the single thread connecting the many facets of Bob Fosse’s career. As a dancer and choreographer, Fosse focused on shaping the rhythmic properties of his stage shows; as a director, and de facto film editor, Fosse applied this fascination with rhythm in the editing bays. Despite a wide variety of dramatic content, these films are a unique opportunity to explore the role of rhythm in the editing of film musicals. Fosse directed five films in the span of one decade: Sweet Charity (1969); Cabaret (1972); Liza with a Z (1972); Lenny (1974); and All That Jazz (1979). Based on analyses of key scenes from Sweet Charity and All That Jazz, I have found that Fosse manipulates rhythm in three ways: musically (the performed musical score), physically (the staged choreography), and visually (the edited cuts). In this talk, I will examine two sequences that illustrate Fosse’s corresponding layers of rhythm and consider how this complex nexus helps to frame our understanding of film musical’s visual rhythm.


  • 7 Haviland, Boston, MA 02115
  • Tuesdays, from 10:00 to 12:00
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