Nicola Bizzo

CESEM — FCSH, NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal;


A career that develops in a period of more decades like that of English rock band Queen, necessarily compares with a big variety of other artistic currents and expressions. The relationship between the music of Queen and the other visual media is quite complex and can be analyzed following different paths. The iconography of the group spans several media and forms of communication, with the aim to increase the dramatic impact of the performance or the significant influence of the image of the band itself. The invention in the last century of a totally new media – the cinema – gave new impetus not only to figurative arts, but even to music since these representations needed a cooperation between different forms of entertainment: a fluid and dynamic circulation of signs, sounds and images was therefore born to achieve this new aesthetic aim. Regarding the music written specifically for movies, the research is in some manner different, since the band has to cooperate with directors to obtain a balanced final product, that is still nowadays enjoyable and follows a precise aesthetics: there is a precise audiovisual relationship for the first time in cinema that opens to new possibilities creating a dynamic circulation of sounds and images. One main direction for Queen started in 1980 with the soundtrack of the movie Flash Gordon, for which the rock band wrote the music mixing the sounds of synthesizers and a real orchestra, giving thus the movie and the score a similarity with a classical opera for the general conception and the proportions, including some references to Wagner with the use of the leitmotif. Six years later Queen wrote the music for another movie, the sci-fi Highlander. This time, they preferred focusing on more standard songs-form structure, but they were influenced by the story itself and its characters and therefore the soundtrack keeps these elements and gives them new form: even in this case the collaboration with the movie director was a central point in the musical score development and this partnership will go on in musical videoclips too. Regarding the details of soundtracks, Queen wrote for the mentioned two sci-fi movies following a particular principle: if usually when movie directors or producers choose a rock group or artist to write a soundtrack, it is mainly a single track that can be heard at the end credits. But for Queen the process is more articulated and deeper: they wrote many songs that were used during all the movies, and their music is merged with the more classic orchestral scores composed by Howard Blake (for Flash Gordon) and Michael Kamen (for Highlander). Queen had the possibility to follow the script and the shootings, and, in that way, they could create a music that better merge with images, since it was created together and not simply just added later: this idea gives the whole project an internal structure and coherence that keep it valid after several years.

Keywords: Queen; Soundtracks; Iconography.


Nicola Bizzo gained his degree in History of Music at Università degli Studi di Torino (Italy) in 2003. A composer of music, his studies vary from classical iconographical fonts to contemporary popular music, including many new ways of communication such as video clip and album covers; his last articles are focused on organology in the production of the output of Queen. He has published several articles in international magazines such as “Music in Art,” and he is member of several study groups such as IASPM (International Association Study Of Popular Music), AISS (Associazione Italiana Studi di Semiotica), and ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music). He has collaborated in many conferences around the world, as an expert on Queen, and is now part of the Iconography Study Group at the University of Lisbon (CESEM), where he is a researcher.