Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.
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johnboles

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Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostWed Apr 23, 2014 7:48 pm

I have been browsing the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings and have found that orchestras playing for silent films soundtracks has an average of 30 instruments or so. They were always dominated by string instruments. For example, the soundtrack for "Dancing Vienna" 1929 had the following instruments:

5 first violins, 2 second violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, 3 saxophones, 2 cornets, trombone, tuba, banjo, piano, pipe organ, harp, and traps

http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.ph ... ing_Vienna

Modern orchestras trying to recreate the 1920's sound sound take note of these instruments.
Sorry but Trumpets and Clarinets have no place in authentic silent movie music.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostWed Apr 23, 2014 8:26 pm

johnboles wrote:I have been browsing the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings and have found that orchestras playing for silent films soundtracks has an average of 30 instruments or so. They were always dominated by string instruments. For example, the soundtrack for "Dancing Vienna" 1929 had the following instruments:

5 first violins, 2 second violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, 3 saxophones, 2 cornets, trombone, tuba, banjo, piano, pipe organ, harp, and traps

http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.ph ... ing_Vienna" target="_blank" target="_blank

Modern orchestras trying to recreate the 1920's sound sound take note of these instruments.
Sorry but Trumpets and Clarinets have no place in authentic silent movie music.


I would hate to be so rude as to out-rightly rebuke you, but I think you have narrowed your train of thought based upon rather shallow research.

The composition of a cinema orchestra as to instrumentation varied such that you could consider it to be "Heinz 57 varieties". There was no standard whatsoever. The dictates were predicated by the costs the management of a cinema were prepared to pay, the wishes of the music director and the availability of musicians.

The orchestra at the Roxy, New York had 110 musicians and a cinema organ featuring three consoles. Major city cinemas had orchestras up to 75 players and also a cinema organ - but the majority were between 25 and 35 and some even as low as 15.

Out in the suburbs or country towns - films might have been accompanied by a small combo, an organ or a piano - even a player piano and similar orchestral devices.

Also, an orchestra's make up could be varied according to what film they were to play to - in some cases the string section might have been increased or the woodwind or the brass.

Another factor that you may have overlooked is that a lot of musicians doubled up. A clarinetist may very well have played the flute and piccolo and the guitar player may have also played the banjo.

Further, in a lot of cinemas, the full orchestra might only be in attendance for two of the daily performances, all other performances might have had the accompaniment handled by the cinema organ alone.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostWed Apr 23, 2014 10:25 pm

johnboles wrote:I have been browsing the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings and have found that orchestras playing for silent films soundtracks has an average of 30 instruments or so. They were always dominated by string instruments. For example, the soundtrack for "Dancing Vienna" 1929 had the following instruments:

5 first violins, 2 second violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, 3 saxophones, 2 cornets, trombone, tuba, banjo, piano, pipe organ, harp, and traps

http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.ph ... ing_Vienna" target="_blank" target="_blank

Modern orchestras trying to recreate the 1920's sound sound take note of these instruments.
Sorry but Trumpets and Clarinets have no place in authentic silent movie music.


This doesn't make any sense - in the above orchestration that you list we have only one each of viola, cello, and bass - yet 3 saxophones; the total disposition of this orchestra is

10 strings
5 woodwinds
4 brass instruments
piano - a percussion instrument
pipe organ - a unique wind instrument, with possible percussive elements, ie chimes, harp
harp - if you want that is 11 strings
banjo - which depending on how it is played is a mix of string and percussion or string, so I'll give you 12 strings for arguments sake - most scores in the 1920s used the banjo as a harmony percussion instrument
traps - percussion (plural) likely trap set, timpani and toys

for 11 / 12 strings, 9 wind, 2 percussion (or more), and one pipe organ - this is hardly a "string dominated" orchestra, and it includes saxophones that tended to replace clarinets and lest we forget cornets are a slightly mellower member of the trumpet clan.

May I also point you to page 23 and 24 of Erno Rapee's Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures (1925), in which he lays out how to organize, develop, and rehearse a theater orchestra of any size from three to nearly 100 players. And Erno Rapee maybe, just maybe, knew something about silent film orchestras. On pg. 23 he gives the disposition of a growing theater orchestra for silent film work in the following configurations, I quote from the book, my remarks in [brackets]:

3 - men - Piano, violin and cello
4 - men - add obligato violin
5 - men - add flute
6 - men - add cornet [ie trumpet]
7 - men - add drums
8 - men - add trombone
9 - men - add clarinet
10 - men - add one 1st violin

from 11 to 25 it will be the leader's discretion as to the requirements of the theatre if it needs stringy or brassy type of music.

With 26 men the ideal combination would be

6 - firsts 1 - bassoon
2 - seconds 2 - clarinets
2 - violas 2 - horns
2 - cellos 2 - trumpets [note he doesn't say cornets]
1 - bass 1 - trombone
1 - flute 1 - drummer
1 - oboe
1 - harpist - preferably one who doubles on piano and a Leader [conductor]"

Strings and woodwinds need not be in direct proportion, look at any symphony orchestra or even chamber ensemble 2 trumpets and 2 horns can easily cut through an entire string section as can one solo oboe.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, inauthentic about having a clarinet or trumpet in a small ensemble, it was the practice at the time, and it was recommended by a leading figure of the time. Your own example shows that your argument isn't even true in a case that you seem to think is conclusive.
Eric W. Cook
Director, Ivy Leaf Orchestra
Silent Film, Salon and Ragtime Orchestra
Please visit us at ivyleaforchestra.com
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 9:09 am

I'm going to be exceedingly rude and rebuke you. You are clueless.
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Rodney

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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 4:35 pm

johnboles wrote:I have been browsing the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings and have found that orchestras playing for silent films soundtracks has an average of 30 instruments or so. They were always dominated by string instruments. For example, the soundtrack for "Dancing Vienna" 1929 had the following instruments:

5 first violins, 2 second violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, 3 saxophones, 2 cornets, trombone, tuba, banjo, piano, pipe organ, harp, and traps

http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.ph ... ing_Vienna" target="_blank" target="_blank

Modern orchestras trying to recreate the 1920's sound sound take note of these instruments.
Sorry but Trumpets and Clarinets have no place in authentic silent movie music.


I see the problem. You're not actually talking about "authentic silent movie music" here or in the Ramona thread. You're talking about recorded soundtracks for films shot using silent technique, released around 1929, which is a very different thing. The Victor Orchestras made some fine film scores, but they were "recording" orchestras that never played in a movie theater. And they are not representative of the orchestras that were actually playing in theaters. Actual pit orchestras were rarely recorded, but there is a wealth of information about them and how they operated from books, trade journals, and photographs of the time. And collections of the orchestrations that they used survive. And every one of those arrangements includes a part for clarinet and trumpet. Incidentally, almost none of the arrangements have a part for harp, banjo, or saxophone, which lets you know that the Victor Orchestra was not using the silent film orchestra's repertoire, but operated with its own composers and arrangers, like the orchestras used in talkies.

The Mont Alto Orchestra does not sound like the Victor Orchestras, nor do we want to. We use the repertoire and techniques of the orchestras that actually played in silent movie theaters, and our instrumentation is correct (yes, especially the trumpet and clarinet), though many other ensembles were used too. We attempt to be as authentic as we can get, although I expect we arrange a little more carefully and take fewer shortcuts, and our violin may not use as much portamento.

And please note: a cornet, of which your orchestra has two, is interchangeable with trumpet. Without a bit of study, your average movie attendee, and even many musicians, cannot tell them apart by looks or sound, though there are differences that you can learn to recognize. Mont Alto has recorded scores using both cornet and trumpet. Can you tell which is which? Also, your three saxophonists could all double on clarinet, and would have had to if the orchestra played anything from the classical or silent film repertoire, since those arrangements did not have saxophone parts.
Last edited by Rodney on Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 4:52 pm

Let's start with: a cornet, of which your orchestra has two, is interchangeable with trumpet. Without a bit of study, your average movie attendee, and even many musicians, cannot tell them apart by looks or sound, though there are differences that you can learn to recognize. Mont Alto has recorded scores using both cornet and trumpet. Can you tell which is which? Also, your three saxophonists could all double on clarinet, and would have had to if the orchestra played anything from the classical or silent film repertoire, since those arrangements did not have saxophone parts.


Excellent point about switching off on various parts, a standard practice then and now in theater pits and orchestras.

I thought for a while we were just dealing with an individual with a strong opinion and not a lot of information; I wonder if this isn't some elaborate Kafkaesque joke...geeze, I hope so...
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Director, Ivy Leaf Orchestra
Silent Film, Salon and Ragtime Orchestra
Please visit us at ivyleaforchestra.com
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 5:45 pm

Make the comparison for yourself. Here is a clip from "Cobra" 1925. The first time the clip is played
you will be hearing an excerpt from the soundtrack recorded in 1928 for "A Woman Of Affairs".
The second time the clip is played you will hear the "Mont Alto Orchestra" with a single off key violin playing as issued on DVD:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns7Uy7kmlio

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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 6:34 pm

I strongly suspect that Mr Boles is a sock puppet for Richard Roberts.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 7:00 pm

I have no idea who Richard Roberts is but I assume he has good taste. I didn't know it was a crime to
prefer original Synchronized Scores recorded in the 1920's and early 1930's to modern anachronistic ones.

FrankFay wrote:I strongly suspect that Mr Boles is a sock puppet for Richard Roberts.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostThu Apr 24, 2014 8:36 pm

You're the one who enjoys listening to inaccurate and anachronistic music put together by clueless classical orchestra people, whereas we all enjoy what was authentically coming out of movie theatres in mid-size and large towns, represented exactly by what Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra plays, since it is the authentic music used by MOTION PICTURE ORCHESTRAS, not SYMPHONY orchestras.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 12:12 am

The orchestra that is playing "classical music" is the "Mont Alto Orchestra", namely "Raindrop" Prelude written by Chopin in 1838

The recorded score from 1928 features popular musical, namely the beautiful romantic theme song written especially for the film "A Woman of Affairs", a song entitled: "Love's First Kiss"

Image


missdupont wrote:You're the one who enjoys listening to inaccurate and anachronistic music put together by clueless classical orchestra people, whereas we all enjoy what was authentically coming out of movie theatres in mid-size and large towns, represented exactly by what Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra plays, since it is the authentic music used by MOTION PICTURE ORCHESTRAS, not SYMPHONY orchestras.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 12:19 am

I think it would be far better if you stated that "it is your opinion" and that "you prefer" one style of music rather than come out with such inaccurate and absurd remarks to the effect that there is only one appropriate way to accompany a silent picture. Your comments about esteemed musicians who contribute here are downright insulting.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 12:42 am

johnboles wrote:The orchestra that is playing "classical music" is the "Mont Alto Orchestra", namely "Raindrop" Prelude written by Chopin in 1838

The recorded score from 1928 features popular musical, namely the beautiful romantic theme song written especially for the film "A Woman of Affairs", a song entitled: "Love's First Kiss"



So, uh, what's your point? It is most certainly an established fact that not only silent movie theatre orchestras (and pianists) relied heavily upon "classical" compositions but so did Hollywood studio orchestra composer/compilers. Have you ever seen "The Jazz Singer" (that is, the 1927 version) with its "original" soundtrack? Happen to recognize any of the pieces used besides the popular music and stock mood cues? Ever notice it also shows up in quite a few other films from the late 1920s and all through the 1930s and beyond? Ever hear of that famous Hollywood movie soundtrack composer known as Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky (who sadly died fairly young before he got the chance to score any films himself, even though his 19th-century music not only scored numerous films but was turned into several hit pop songs of the 1930s-40s)? Then we get to things like the Flash Gordon serials with scores blending pieces from various sources from Franz Waxman to Franz Liszt, among numerous others. And as for pop romantic theme songs written especially for films, there's things like "Diane," "Charmaine," "The Perfect Song," and "Mickey," among many others going back to the teens, all of which usually show up amidst old-time movie mood cues written years before (and which continued to be used heavily well into the 1930s), as well as various classical themes and excerpts. Exactly what is it you think you're trying to explain to the readers of NitrateVille?
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 2:43 am

Except, Mr Boles, silent film practice varied; from region to region, cinema to cinema, even from film to film in the same cinemas; a decent sized cinema would pull in extra players and instruments for a blockbuster like Ben Hur, but wouldn't feel it necessary for a light romantic comedy. Cinemas depending on status would have fullish orchestras, chamber set-ups, or a pianist with a percussionist and a violinist, down to a pianist on his or her own. In the earlier days of cinema, they would recruit the local brass bands to perform military marches to military footage. I wouldn't say anything went, but just about.....there were even experiments in the 1910's of live actors dubbing silent films in cinemas. It simply doesn't make sense to be proscriptive or didactic about what is or is not 'Authentic'.....an awfully large variety of music practices are 'Authentic' silent film practice.
I could use some digital restoration myself...
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 9:43 am

FrankFay wrote:I strongly suspect that Mr Boles is a sock puppet for Richard Roberts.


I strongly suspect that Mr. Boles is a troll.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 10:20 am

Rodney wrote:I see the problem. You're not actually talking about "authentic silent movie music" here or in the Ramona thread. You're talking about recorded soundtracks for films shot using silent technique, released around 1929, which is a very different thing. The Victor Orchestras made some fine film scores, but they were "recording" orchestras that never played in a movie theater. And they are not representative of the orchestras that were actually playing in theaters.


In late '28 and early '29 Victor recorded a library of generic silent cues by Zamecnik, Savino, Borch, Baron, and other such composers. The records were marketed as Victor "Pict-Ur-Music," and was designed to be played in theaters to accompany silent films. Recording logs from a session 12/5/28 lists 21 musicians, with Joseph Pasternak conducting:

Flute
Oboe
2 Clarinets
Bassoon
2 Trumpets
2 French Horns
Trombone
Tuba
Traps
Piano
4 1st violins
2nd violin
Viola
Cello
Str Bass

Unlike the Victor orchestras employed to record pop and jazz music at the time, the Pict-Ur-Music orchestra's composition could have been used in theaters.
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Rodney

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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 12:39 pm

Yes. The Pict-ur-Music recordings are a much better point of comparison, because you hear music that was actually used in film theaters. Of course, it's a much larger orchestra than you found in most theaters, so the sound can be quite different from the Mont Alto and Cavallo sized groups, but you would have heard such a large orchestra in Los Angeles or New York City. It made perfect sense to record the largest group you could at that time. These recordings are also drastically shortened from the published version, probably because they were used as scene openers and closers and not used over dialogue. That makes them not very useful for actual silent film scoring.
Last edited by Rodney on Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 5:47 pm

There is no problem with adding whatever instrument you like as long as you have the strings first. I was talking about small orchestra with less than 10 musicians. The instruments listed on the bottom are the most important and the others can be added or left out:
Piano
4 1st violins
2nd violin
Viola
Cello
Str Bass

Let me quote from a book from 1920 on the proper formation of small orchestras:

The First Violins are the mainstay of the orchestra. In
fact, it is the presence of violins which make an orchestra.
An
organization which consists of only wood wind and brass is
termed a band.


No matter what the individual proficiency of the players
of the first violins taken singly may be, when eight or ten are
brought together to play, drilling in a body separate from the
rest of the orchestra is absolutely necessary to attain the best
musical results.


In short, the first violins should be as perfect in their playing
as possible so that when they come to rehearsal they
will be the support of the other instruments of the orchestra
.
An amateur orchestra possessing good first violins has much to
be congratulated upon and most decidedly has a very great ad-
vantage over others not so fortunate.


On The Internet Archive at:
https://archive.org/stream/cu3192401772 ... 9/mode/2up" target="_blank


Though violas are essential for the completion of the
string quartet
, players for these instruments are not any too
plentiful even in the amateur orchestras of our large cities.
So if the out-of-town community orchestra cannot obtain play-
ers for the viola, as a substitute we suggest that violins be
strung with viola strings which would fairly well take their
place.


We assume that the community orchestra has already a
cello and a double bass for they are among the most important
constituents of the orchestra and absolutely indispensable for
the complete and artistic rendition of orchestral music.


No instrument is more capable of enriching the tones of
the ensemble even when it is not individually perceptible than
the cello, which is the soul of the orchestra.


https://archive.org/stream/cu3192401772 ... 3/mode/2up" target="_blank

The many small orchestras in the moving picture theatres
at the present time, consisting of string, wood wind, piano and
organ, some of which play a good class of music in a very satis-
factory manner, demonstrate that the brass instruments are not
indispensable by any means for the rendition of all orchestral
music
.


https://archive.org/stream/cu3192401772 ... 1/mode/2up" target="_blank


The Victor "Pict-Ur-Music," and Brunswick "Mood Accompaniment" Recordings have the same sounds you will hear on recorded Synchronized Scores as the string sections are always ample as listed below:
4 1st violins
2nd violin
Viola
Cello
String Bass

Synchronized Scores were recorded to sound exactly like what would be heard in the theaters. In early reviews for the first Synchronized films I have read that some audience members assumed an orchestra was actually playing while the film was being exhibited in many instances.

The problem with new "orchestras" is that the melody is not carried by the string section because there isn't any or there aren't enough string instruments.

Erno Rapee also believed that the string section was the most important part of the small theatre orchestra and has a similar large string section is his suggestions for appropriate film music.

ClayKing wrote:
Rodney wrote:I see the problem. You're not actually talking about "authentic silent movie music" here or in the Ramona thread. You're talking about recorded soundtracks for films shot using silent technique, released around 1929, which is a very different thing. The Victor Orchestras made some fine film scores, but they were "recording" orchestras that never played in a movie theater. And they are not representative of the orchestras that were actually playing in theaters.


In late '28 and early '29 Victor recorded a library of generic silent cues by Zamecnik, Savino, Borch, Baron, and other such composers. The records were marketed as Victor "Pict-Ur-Music," and was designed to be played in theaters to accompany silent films. Recording logs from a session 12/5/28 lists 21 musicians, with Joseph Pasternak conducting:

Flute
Oboe
2 Clarinets
Bassoon
2 Trumpets
2 French Horns
Trombone
Tuba
Traps
Piano
4 1st violins
2nd violin
Viola
Cello
Str Bass

Unlike the Victor orchestras employed to record pop and jazz music at the time, the Pict-Ur-Music orchestra's composition could have been used in theaters.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 6:06 pm

Synchronized Scores were recorded to sound exactly like what would be heard in the theaters.


I think there has been an over abundance of evidence presented here to contradict most vehemently against this statement. You obviously have an adamantine attitude that cannot be persuaded to take in factual evidence, so I will leave you to live in your own little fantasy world.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 6:12 pm

Present your evidence. I have presented records from the Victor Company, a book on the proper composition of small orchestras used in theater music from 1920, an actual recorded soundtrack from 1928, with links so that you can verify all of the information. You have provided nothing that can be verified but have simply resulted to Ad Hominem attacks.

You assertion that a "secret style" existed that have somehow left no recorded evidence and then expect me to believe you simply because you state it. Sorry I am not a Tea Party member to be fooled so easily.

Donald Binks wrote:
Synchronized Scores were recorded to sound exactly like what would be heard in the theaters.


I think there has been an over abundance of evidence presented here to contradict most vehemently against this statement. You obviously have an adamantine attitude that cannot be persuaded to take in factual evidence, so I will leave you to live in your own little fantasy world.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 8:49 pm

johnboles wrote:There is no problem with adding whatever instrument you like as long as you have the strings first. I was talking about small orchestra with less than 10 musicians. The instruments listed on the bottom are the most important and the others can be added or left out:
Piano
4 1st violins
2nd violin
Viola
Cello
Str Bass


This is for a community orchestra playing classical concert works, as is made clear in the text. It would sound a lot like the group I Salonisti, who are a wonderful group and play wonderful music, but they are lacking the woodwinds and brass that were important in a group this size for the movie theater repertoire.

Read what GentlemanFarmer and I both posted in these threads from Erno Rapee's Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures (1925), since you seem to have skipped it. You'll find that his 10-piece movie theater orchestra is very different from his recommended concert orchestra. You won't find it online because it's under copyright, but you can find it through interlibrary loan if you're SO certain that we're lying to you. You can find Gaston Borch's Practical Manual of Instrumentation at Google Books, but it's from 1918, just the start of movie theater orchestras. The few pages on movie theater orchestras are enlightening. Both of these books are also discussed in the essential book Silent Film Sound from Rick Altman.
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostFri Apr 25, 2014 9:26 pm

Here are some enlargements from a photo I posted of the Regent Theatre Melbourne (Oz) cinema orchestra taken in 1929

Image
Image
Image

Now, I am not an expert in identifying all the instruments (help me, my musician friends if I have mucked it up!)
but it looks to me as though the composition is as follows:

cello
tuba
flute
2 clarinets
2 second violins
2 first violins
piano
3 viola
1 trombone
2 trumpets
1 percussion

As far as I am concerned a photo does not lie - so QED

EDIT
(I tried to make these pictures bigger - but they still came out this small size - I must be hopeless at doing photos?)
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostSat Apr 26, 2014 8:08 am

johnboles wrote:Present your evidence. I have presented records from the Victor Company, a book on the proper composition of small orchestras used in theater music from 1920, an actual recorded soundtrack from 1928, with links so that you can verify all of the information. You have provided nothing that can be verified but have simply resulted to Ad Hominem attacks.


Have you examined any score material of published silent film music? The orchestrations were specifically arranged to accommodate virtually any combination of instruments. The advertisements in silent sheet music folios would often include ads for other pieces and that the specific instrument parts were available in custom configurations. The piano or violin conductor copy would include cross-cueing to indicate where one instrument could substitute for another.

We probably all love a good string section, but your insistence that it was obligatory in a silent film accompaniment seems to be based on personal bias.
-Rich
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Re: Authentic 1920's Theatre Orchestra

PostSat Apr 26, 2014 8:38 am

Present your evidence. I have presented records from the Victor Company, a book on the proper composition of small orchestras used in theater music from 1920, an actual recorded soundtrack from 1928, with links so that you can verify all of the information.


I think one of the things you don't understand about this evidence is it's context.

1. There are other records from the Victor (and other dozens of other catalogs) in the 78 RPM era that do include orchestrations similar to the small chamber groups we've mentioned, especially vocal accompaniments, small ensembles, and novelty recordings. I own hundreds of 78s that have piano with a few strings and a woodwind or brass instrument, and hundreds with "orchestras" of varying make-up from symphonic works down to 12 or 15 piece ensembles that include a string quintet or a quartet plus one or two violins. The sort of records you refer to our largely a phenomenon of the Victor and the Columbia's companies ability to record sound with electric reproduction rather than a horn beginning in 1925. It's one reason there are few organ recordings before 1926.

Now - having said all that - the point is the context. Why aren't their Victor records from 1923 labeled "cinema orchestra" or "movie theater orchestra", etc. Because you could hear them live in every town of any size from 1915-1928/9 for a fraction of the cost of a record and because a recording would be a shadow of what you heard. Also, what would be the commercial need for such a record. For a small theater that couldn't or wouldn't rely on a live pianist, and couldn't afford a theater/cinema organ then there was the photoplayer - easier to control, longer lasting, and specifically designed for movie theaters as opposed to the limited volume, short duration, and lack LACK of recorded repertoire for a phonograph.

2. There were early experiments that tried to use mechanically recorded sound for theatre presentations, especially by the Edison company. See The Sounds of Early Cinema by Richard Abel and Rick R. Altman. A collection of serious, well researched, scholarly essays by two leading experts on various attempts to accompany films mechanically before 1928.

3. There was no reason to record these ensembles qau ensembles because they were ubiquitous in every town of any moderate size. Historically musical performance practice is most difficult to research when something is ubiquitous because no one at the time feels the need to "write it all up", because everyone knows about it, why bother. That's what historical research is for - your attitudes are more like the attitudes of many film researchers in the 1950's and 1960's, who relied on one or two sources of information from the period, some elderly people's reminiscences, and the few recordings from the very end of the era that were supposed to carry over previous traditions. To some extent this approach made sense, you wanted to talk to the still living participants of the era before they died. The problem was, most of them had been in unique situations, ie Eugene Ormandy, or were the very young and later participants in a very fluid and dynamic period. The men who would have been in their prime in the silent era as orchestra leaders were already dead. Few people bothered to interview Mr. Smith or Aunt Edna who lead in Smallville, USA's movie theater orchestra or sat at the local Odeon's theater organ console, and they are all now long gone, and their knowledge and information with them.

Trade publications, official business records and correspondence, looking at real surviving musical scores in intact collections, pouring through newspaper and magazine ads, correlating information from surviving local sources, the dull hard historical research - was left untouched 'til later.

Since the 1970's and especially the 1990's the history of cinema music in the silent era has undergone a shift, and new information is being unearthed and analyzed and more systematic and historically appropriate techniques are being put to use, and because of the explosion of information that can be gathered and compared thanks to computers and the internet.

Rick Altman's book pulled together this change in direction neatly and in one lovely, well written, well illustrated volume. There is still much to learn. I have spent hundreds of hours at the University of Pittsburgh music library pouring over one of only a handful of intact silent film orchestra libraries in the world. My research assisted Dr. Carlos Pena in his work and my orchestra has played from those scores, multiple times, nothing like the outstand work of Mont Alto, and Rodney - but we know of where we speak. My research helped establish the biography of the owner of the library Nek Mirskey who was unknown to anyone in the USA (except one man), but whose family in Poland had preserved his life's work and even much of his personal correspondence. MIrskey was trained in Warsaw and studied with leading classical musicians of his day and era the late 19th and early 20th century, his collection of music includes popular songs from 1890-1924, reduced versions of classical works for full orchestra for the American theater orchestra, novelty numbers, photoplay music, and salon orchestra selections, as well as dance music, folk songs, and minstrel show music. He began his career in film music in 1915 in Brookville, Pennsylvania after being a second and then leading violinist on trans-Atlantic steamships before WWI. His orchestra in Brookville must have been small 15 players or fewer - he ended up in Pittsburgh, then Washington DC, his wife playing Piano in another silent film orchestra. The ensembles here were larger but still smallish, by the mid-1920s he was touring the US as an itinerant orchestra leader leading ensembles of around 25-50 members. His small orchestras often have heavily marked and used 1st violin parts - but only 1 to 2 copies meaning 1 to 4 violins, and full brass and woodwind marks.

You can read Dr. Pena's wonderful article with a lovely acknowledgement of my own modest work and that of our orchestra if you go to ebscohost online and search for Nek Mirskey.

Go to Pittcat on line to visit the collections catalog.

Additionally there are late 1920's 78 rpm recordings from Europe of silent film cues - some on Youtube, that sound very, VERY different from the movie tone scores, and you will say "but they're European", and I will say yes, and so were many of the musicians and orchestra leaders in the USA (like Nek Mirskey), and many of them would have played in a manner more like those recordings, and others would have played in the manner of the Victor recordings, and how knows - so much is irretrievably lost from this era in terms of our knowledge, that we should avoid blanket statements without lots of evidence to back them up.

We have pointed to the existence of evidence that contradicts your assertions. Yet you persist.

I am only writing in the hopes that no one will be persuaded by your arguments and they can see the counter evidence in all its non systematic glory!

My point is this - you have misinterpreted information from a 1920 title on community orchestra's which were much different creatures from orchestra's in theaters for vaudeville, opera houses (in small towns), "legit" theater, and silent movie houses. Yes there was some overlap, but string players have always been at a premium in the history of American musical culture.

You are also pulling information from some late recordings of the era made in studio, with new technology, for new technological purposes and anachronistically and a-contextually applying them backwards, and you must remember until theater organs moved into new territory when the primary purpose they were created for was done there was almost no recordings of them. In part because the instruments range and tone colors and volume were beyond the technology of sound recording until the 1950s.

You constantly move the goal posts when contrary evidence is provided, and you were rude and then decried ad hominem when the same tactics were turned on you.

Nobody is arguing you have to like Mont Alto, or any other ensemble, but for pity's sake quit trying to argue they are anachronistic, ahistorical, or un-authentic.
Eric W. Cook
Director, Ivy Leaf Orchestra
Silent Film, Salon and Ragtime Orchestra
Please visit us at ivyleaforchestra.com

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