Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

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telical

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Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Nov 24, 2014 12:45 pm

I am wondering if people on here dislike all electronic music for silents.
For instance, if Vangelis was hired to score a silent movie, would you be
against that? Also, there may be films with electronic scores existing now that don't sound like
"cheap MIDI soundtracks" that you may presently like. An alternative is
to have a high priced sampler keyboard being played live, with a good
orchestra sounding sample of an orchestra. That is different than a "MIDI
roll" which is an automatic file being played by a computer.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Nov 24, 2014 1:22 pm

My aesthetic of what accompaniment should do, in order of preference is:

1: It should support the film without overwhelming it.
2: If the movie is a stinker, I can close my eyes and enjoy the music.

Electronic music is just as capable of this as any other form of music. Unfortunately, I have yet to sit through a showing where it accomplishes one of these two goals. It might be because of my limitations.

On the other hand, if I'm listening to a drop needle score, Death Metal is less likely to do these than Scott Joplin.

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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Nov 24, 2014 1:49 pm

No, of course not. Ben Model playing on the Miditzer (which uses Wurlitzer samples) is an electronic keyboard but produces a vintage sound. But I don't have to have a vintage sound; you can play modern music electronically successfully. Some of these things— like Vangelis— are so associated with a time period of their own, i.e. the 70s and 80s, that they seem as out of place and attention-distracting accompanying a 20s movie as the Wurlitzer would playing for a modern drama.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Nov 24, 2014 2:00 pm

There is no problem as to how the music is produced as long as it is in context with what is happening on screen and does not overwhelm it.

I have had to sit through "Piccadilly" accompanied by a rock band consisting of electric guitars and an amplified drum kit. Now - that would not have been quite so bad if (a) the players had been able to play more music other than three or four standard chords (b) actually tried to play appropriate music i.e., a "Charleston" number when it was being obviously danced on screen.

Theatre/cinema pipe organs - or unit orchestras, to give them their correct name can now have their various sounds sampled digitally these days and thus reproduced electronically over loudspeakers. Not quite the same as the real thing - but pretty close to it.

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telical

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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostTue Nov 25, 2014 11:26 am

Mike Gebert wrote:No, of course not. Ben Model playing on the Miditzer (which uses Wurlitzer samples) is an electronic keyboard but produces a vintage sound. But I don't have to have a vintage sound; you can play modern music electronically successfully. Some of these things— like Vangelis— are so associated with a time period of their own, i.e. the 70s and 80s, that they seem as out of place and attention-distracting accompanying a 20s movie as the Wurlitzer would playing for a modern drama.



So, to you, If it's electronic music, it has to be an imitation of natural sounds,
or sounds that would be germaine to the time period. I would say that any electronic
sound that is unique to the age of synthesizers could support any silent film, it would
just have to be a skillful composer's job to make it not stand out and distract from the
film, except on ocassion maybe to note the beauty of the music.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostTue Nov 25, 2014 12:08 pm

I've seen/heard Jon Mirsalis play his synthesizer at both Cinecon and Niles, and he does an excellent job without distracting from the film. You are probably correct in that he reproduces sound that an orchestra would, rather than an "electronic" style sound.

I also saw a live screening of Wings this year with a soundtrack by Curtis Heath. While it did have a little period music, the flying sequences had music that was closer to Phillip Glass than Gaylord Carter. Although I'd seen the film numerous times, I really felt the music greatly increased the suspense of the film.

The electronic score on The Penalty DVD is so bad because it does not support the film at all. Although it was written specifically for the film, it sounds no better than a needle-drop score of electronic music.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Dec 15, 2014 4:58 pm

The most satisfying silent movies for me have always been in theatres with theatre pipe organ accompaniment by
a skilled artist.......I've never been crazy about orchestral scores either, whether real or digital.

The theatre pipe organ breathes drama and "soul" into silent photoplays--since that is what theatre organs were designed to do back in the late teens..
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostWed Dec 17, 2014 8:56 am

Marr&Colton wrote:The most satisfying silent movies for me have always been in theatres with theatre pipe organ accompaniment by
a skilled artist.......I've never been crazy about orchestral scores either, whether real or digital.

The theatre pipe organ breathes drama and "soul" into silent photoplays--since that is what theatre organs were designed to do back in the late teens..


Yes, in the hands of a talented artist, a theater organ can give good accompaniment. But in the teens and twenties, orchestral accompaniment was more highly regarded than organ music, whose principal attraction to theater managers was that it was less expensive than hiring an orchestra.

In my experience, the artistic skill and dedication of musician(s) matter more than the choice of instrument.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostWed Dec 17, 2014 11:24 am

I saw The Cameraman on TCM the other day and while the mostly electronic score did not ruin the the movie for me (probably because the music itself, I thought, was pretty good), a piano or small acoustic ensemble would have been much better.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostTue Jan 13, 2015 8:47 pm

I think it can depend greatly on the film. More stylized works like the Expressionist films, Nazimova's productions, and other more avant-garde works lend themselves to freer, less historically based scoring or musical settings. I first watched Renoir's The Litte Match Girl on my laptop, and didn't realize the sound on the DVD program was muted and figured it didn't have a score. On a whim I played Brian Eno and Harold Budd's Plateau of Mirror (1980) with it (ambient music for piano and synthesizer), and it worked beautifully. I have shown it to others like this and it has always gone over very well.

However when it comes to straight period films and films very much of the era, an especially modern score can just be distracting. Of course, not that anyone should be stopped from trying.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostTue Jan 13, 2015 9:44 pm

pathe16mm wrote:I think it can depend greatly on the film. More stylized works like the Expressionist films, Nazimova's productions, and other more avant-garde works lend themselves to freer, less historically based scoring or musical settings. I first watched Renoir's The Litte Match Girl on my laptop, and didn't realize the sound on the DVD program was muted and figured it didn't have a score. On a whim I played Brian Eno and Harold Budd's Plateau of Mirror (1980) with it (ambient music for piano and synthesizer), and it worked beautifully. I have shown it to others like this and it has always gone over very well.

However when it comes to straight period films and films very much of the era, an especially modern score can just be distracting. Of course, not that anyone should be stopped from trying.


I agree. You can get away with a lot more -- and perhaps should try to get away with a lot more -- on Diary of a Lost Girl than on Poor Little Rich Girl. An avant garde film can work with an avant garde score, while a film that is firmly set in its time should have at least an echo of its time in the score.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostWed Jan 14, 2015 7:40 am

I'm afraid I don't like synthesized scores for silents at all, at least not the ones I've heard. Maybe I just haven't heard the right synthesizer—I'm not familiar with the different kinds. Even if well-composed and well-played, I've just found the sound quality annoying and out of place. If the score is limited to one performer, I'd much rather have just had a simple piano score.

I'll agree that it's a different situation with experimental and avant-garde films, though. But even there, I think I'd rather more often hear conventional instruments, even if the music itself is is "experimental".
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostWed Jan 14, 2015 2:34 pm

There is nothing wrong with an avant-garde accompaniment - where it is suited to the film - and I have in mind something especially like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" in this context. My personal taste would be that whilst being "more modern" it would not be atonal or too much of the tweet, whistle, plonk and boom variety.

Unfortunately in some modern scores there can be a tendency for the accompaniment not to bear a close relationship with the action on screen. It is if the music is taking its own route. Whether it is because the composer wishes us to hear his music at the expense of the film, I don't know, but it is not in the best interests of trying to get audiences interested in silent cinema.

In Oz the orchestra usually accompanied pictures at the afternoon and evening performances and the cinema/theatre organ at all other performances. The cinema/theatre organ is a very difficult instrument to play - properly - and requires great skill, co-ordination and musical ability. In good hands what can be achieved will be very rewarding to the listener.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostMon Feb 09, 2015 10:48 am

I think the answer to this is more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Although Alloy uses a synth for all of our performances, none of us really loves it. It's practical and can work very well. Obviously, there's rarely the budget to hire a whole orchestra (larger than Alloy's mini-three-man-orchestra), so we use a synth.

There are lots of variables which make using a synth either work well or totally suck. The quality of the instrument or the programs used, the talent of the musician in control of the synth, whether the score is entirely synthesized (or if it's mixed with analogue instruments), and the film that's being accompanied.

There is a huge difference between synths. Alloy uses a Kurzweil sampling synth. "Sampling synths" play back digital recordings of real instruments - one note at a time. They are made to recreate the sound of real instruments. Some sounds are fairly convincing (piano), some are pleasant if not very realistic (string patches), and some are so unreal and bad sounding that they need to be avoided (saxophones). Newer synths tend to have much more memory and are capable of more realistic sounds than older ones. Some synths just sound good, and some are awful.

But along with those sampling synths there are synths that create entirely new sounds. To my ear these are rarely useful for silent accompaniment.

The musician playing the synth is ultimately the most important factor. Rodney of Mont Alto often plays piano sounds on his synth. It sounds good (although not as rich and nuanced as a nice Steinway), and avoids most of the problems with synths. Our synth player, Roger Miller, prides himself on knowing how to play a synth in the style of a real instrument. He writes his parts as he would write for a real instrument. Clarinets don't play chords. Tubas don't play fast runs of notes. Solo instruments are quieter than whole orchestra patches.

Alloy's other "trick" to make the synth palatable, is to mix it up with analogue instruments. In any score, Alloy always mixes two analogue musicians with the one synth. Us analogue guys play real percussion, accordion, clarinet, musical saw, xylophones, zithers and occasionally a banjo or guitar. When the bulk of the sounds are "real" the synthetic ones are less annoying.

Another problem with synths is how easily they can be played in an unreal, computerized fashion. It's easy to "perfect" a synth score. You can make all the notes play perfectly in time (called quantizing), making the performance sound mechanical and cutting out one of the most expressive techniques of analogue players. Sections can easily be chopped up and reconfigured - again making the score sound mechanical. I don't have too much problem with correcting mistakes (which is easy to do when recording synth via midi), but it further adds to the unreality of the performance.

And then, as mentioned above, it really depends on the movie. Alloy only uses synthetic sounds (ones that don't imitate real instruments) in Sci Fi films like Metropolis. I've seen accompaniments to avant guard films, done with artificial sounding instruments, that were really effective (such as Donald Sosin performing to the newly restored Caligari at the fall San Francisco Silent Film Festival).

Personally I tend to like real orchestral accompaniments (whether they are modern sounding or traditional). But I do think that a good synth, played by an excellent musician, to the right film, especially in conjunction with traditional instruments (or junk metal) can be a really effective substitute. But, I'm always open to some clever musician coming up with a score that defies all the rules, and my expectations.

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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostTue Feb 10, 2015 11:04 am

As has been pointed out, synthesizers and traditional acoustic instruments are not mutually exclusive.

For silent film accompaniment, I use a Korg Triton LE digital synthesizer, often referred to simply as a "big-ass keyboard." I've used this same model for more than 10 years now because I have yet to find another synth better at recreating the texture of the full orchestra. Many people say it doesn't sound like a synthesizer at all.

Also, the output sounds especially good when run through a pair of Roland DS-50A bi-amp studio monitors that I use as speakers. This is important because I play in many venues that lack house sound. The Korg and the two Rolands allow me to set up a big house-filling full orchestra sound virtually anywhere: town halls, older theaters, library basements, etc.

Yes, it's no substitute for the sound of a full live orchestra. But then again, much of my accompaniment is improv-based and done in the moment, which would be impossible to do with an actual orchestra. Having a digital keyboard that can reproduce the full sound of the orchestra enables this to happen.

And within that, there are so many details that make a difference. For example, among the elements of a good synthesizer is a keyboard with a robust weighted action system. This means the keys feel like those on a real piano, but that's only the beginning.

On the Korg, by pressing notes in a certain part of the keyboard at different levels of intensity, the accompanist can trigger different sounds, all in real time. For example, by hitting the lowest C slightly harder than normal, a big bass drum and cymbal sound is added to the mix. Boomcrash!

This requires a different style of playing than an acoustic piano, but it opens up a lot of possibilities. And it's all done to create a score that sounds like what I think an audience today expects to hear when attending the cinema: something big and orchestral that helps make the experience larger than life. (This depends on the film, of course.)

As for the music itself, I stick to a conservative orchestral texture and use a generally tonal palette, although I incorporate techniques and styles of scoring developed after the silent film era when appropriate. Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, John Williams: I try to mimic (or steal from) the best. But all of it's possible due to the digital synthesizer.

So in my case, synthesizer = more opportunities for traditional orchestra scoring.

The only time I push the Korg into outer space (using its considerable capacity for weird electronic or aleatory sounds) is for films that justify it, either in terms of content or possibly because of the venue/audience. This weekend, I'm creating a live score to 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' as part of the 40th Annual 24-Hour Boston-Sci-Fi Marathon, and you can bet I'll ramp up the weirdness for that.

After all, many of the attendees will have ray guns, and they'll expect nothing less!
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostThu Feb 12, 2015 3:13 am

The only good modern scores are pipe organ ones, since the style of playing the organ has not changed too much. Unfortunately, when it comes to orchestras, whoever is in charge of the majority of them cares little about recreating an authentic sound, which would entail having a large string section (violins, cellos, etc.), the most important section when recreating a 1920's cinema theatre sound. Instead we have orchestra directors, who have little interest or knowledge of the popular music of the 1920's (perhaps they are fans of swing music), playing scores that sound likes what some ignoramus in the 1950's and 1940's would imagine 1920's music to sound like.

The last great scores were made by men, such as Charles Chaplin, in the 1970's. Chaplin was alive in the 1920's and he knew what the appropriate style of music should entail. He always made ample use of strings, especially in sections which are supposed to be romantic, unlike the clueless orchestra directors of today.

I just mute completely any non-organ or piano modern score and play a recorded Synchronized Score from any of the numerous ones that still survive (I especially like the Movietone scores for MGM pictures from 1928-1929, such as "A Woman Of Affairs") or from Vitaphone soundtracks from lost films. I would suggest anyone who wants an authentic silent movie viewing experience do the same.

And by the way, I've heard the excuse that in small hick towns they couldn't afford huge orchestras. That's true but it is also true that those locations were not interested in the majority of the pictures that were made for city audiences. Instead they enjoyed westerns, religious and low brow comedy as the sophisticated themes of urban films went completely over their heads, and anyone who is familiar with period reviews will know. So let those who want to play small town hick scores to silent films, do so on western, religious and low-brown comedy films. That will certainly be an "authentic" presentation.... Don't forget the stetson hats
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostThu Feb 12, 2015 3:28 am

On the Korg, by pressing notes in a certain part of the keyboard at different levels of intensity, the accompanist can trigger different sounds, all in real time. For example, by hitting the lowest C slightly harder than normal, a big bass drum and cymbal sound is added to the mix. Boomcrash!


Sounds very much to me like the 'double touch' facility on a standard cinema/theatre organ. What's the expression? Oh yes - there's nothing new under the sun!
:D
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostFri Feb 13, 2015 7:30 pm

I have to say that while small town audiences didn't enjoy sophisticated films as much as big-city audiences, that doesn't mean that these films didn't play in small towns. They just had shorter runs. Here's an example from the small town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin in 1927.

Image

Browsing through the theater programs that I have in my collection, it was only the big palaces in big cities that had full orchestras. There were full orchestras at theaters like the Strand and Rivoli. In the 1920s, there were more theaters with orchestras, probably because more palaces had been built.

The better theaters in small towns might have a small ensemble, but I'm sure that even small, second-run theaters in big cities would only have a pianist.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostFri Feb 13, 2015 11:15 pm

Browsing through the theater programs that I have in my collection, it was only the big palaces in big cities that had full orchestras. There were full orchestras at theaters like the Strand and Rivoli. In the 1920s, there were more theaters with orchestras, probably because more palaces had been built.

The better theaters in small towns might have a small ensemble, but I'm sure that even small, second-run theaters in big cities would only have a pianist.


I can only vouch for Oz which was not too dissimilar to America. Even though the picture palaces had a 35-55 piece orchestra - it was usually in attendance only twice a day - at the afternoon and evening performances. All other performances - the morning and intermediate - featured the cinema/theatre organ.

The "lesser" cinemas had smaller ensembles - probably piano, violin and drums or something like that - augmented perhaps by a few more instruments as and when money was available.

I am not too sure what the fellah means by orchestras having more strings in the 1920's? The instrument allotment was fairly standard and there was not a preponderance of strings or a leaning in favour of them. Even the dance bands probably only had one violinist in a 15 piece ensemble. I think it was Mantovani who increased the string section in his orchestra back in the late 40's or early '50's to create that cascading strings effect.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 11:09 am

johnboles wrote:...whoever is in charge of the majority of them cares little about recreating an authentic sound, which would entail having a large string section (violins, cellos, etc.), the most important section when recreating a 1920's cinema theatre sound. Instead we have orchestra directors, who have little interest or knowledge of the popular music of the 1920's (perhaps they are fans of swing music), playing scores that sound likes what some ignoramus in the 1950's and 1940's would imagine 1920's music to sound like.


Right. And I like Beethoven symphonies, and his symphonies have lots of woodwinds and brass and percussion. So I never listen to those hacks who play Beethoven's music with a string quartet. What ignoramuses. Perhaps they are fans of small-combo bebop music.

We went over this in the other thread, so I won't rehash it here. Three or four people who know a lot more about silent film music than you do took the time to post photographs, original documentation, and first-hand experience of playing from archival scores. Clearly it made no impression on you, since you're repeating the same misinformation here. You haven't even changed your arrogant and insulting tone.

In short, you are jumping from:
    I really like a particular collection of recorded film scores produced after (in the case of Chaplin, long after) the silent film era was over,
To:
    Therefore all other scores are inauthentic hack jobs produced by ignoramuses who know nothing of music.
The first statement is fine. But it does not lead to the second statement.

Many of the 1970s Chaplin scores are charming and effective, but they are very much a product of their time. I like most of them, but I am at least aware that nothing in the 1920s sounded like that. Which is not surprising, because they are sound film scores, composed using sound film score techniques, recorded by a sound film orchestra.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 11:46 am

With all due respect to the composer of Chaplin's scores, to me his 70s scores are pretty posh-syrupy, and tend to be a blanket on the humor that the composer was creating back when he was just a base comedian, 50+ years earlier. In any case, they are very much of (the muzak of) their times.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 2:16 pm

]I have to say that while small town audiences didn't enjoy sophisticated films as much as big-city audiences, that doesn't mean that these films didn't play in small towns. They just had shorter runs. Here's an example from the small town of Elkhorn, Montana in 1927.


I pity the poor pianist or small ensemble attached to this cinema - they would have had to learn a new accompaniment every second day!
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 6:08 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
]I have to say that while small town audiences didn't enjoy sophisticated films as much as big-city audiences, that doesn't mean that these films didn't play in small towns. They just had shorter runs. Here's an example from the small town of Elkhorn, Montana in 1927.


I pity the poor pianist or small ensemble attached to this cinema - they would have had to learn a new accompaniment every second day!


They probably did not have to learn a new accompaniment at all! I expect that an individual pianist/organist would be improvising most if not all scores, combining ad-lib musical passages with memorized key themes from published movie mood music and classical selections (just like today's noted silent film accompanists). More advanced accompanists and certainly a small pit orchestra of three to ten players would more than likely quickly arrange a series of appropriate pieces from the theatre's or their private music library by following the film's cue sheets, possibly composing a few original themes of their own. This was what was expected of them.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 6:19 pm

Isn't there the story about the guy hired to play the piano at a small theater and the only song he knows is "Love Me and the World Is Mine"?

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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 6:28 pm

Christopher Jacobs wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:I pity the poor pianist or small ensemble attached to this cinema - they would have had to learn a new accompaniment every second day!


They probably did not have to learn a new accompaniment at all! I expect that an individual pianist/organist would be improvising most if not all scores, combing ad-lib musical passages with memorized key themes from published movie mood music and classical selections (just like today's noted silent film accompanists). More advanced accompanists and certainly a small pit orchestra of three to ten players would more than likely quickly arrange a series of appropriate pieces from the theatre's or their private music library by following the film's cue sheets, possibly composing a few original themes of their own. This was what was expected of them.


I believe that's correct. There were some nickelodeons where the program changed EVERY day. I think you learned music where you could, and played it often. I find it interesting the improvisation enters jazz at about the same time that all across America musicians were being forced, of necessity, to learn to improvise.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 6:40 pm

Christopher Jacobs wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:
]I have to say that while small town audiences didn't enjoy sophisticated films as much as big-city audiences, that doesn't mean that these films didn't play in small towns. They just had shorter runs. Here's an example from the small town of Elkhorn, Montana in 1927.


I pity the poor pianist or small ensemble attached to this cinema - they would have had to learn a new accompaniment every second day!


They probably did not have to learn a new accompaniment at all! I expect that an individual pianist/organist would be improvising most if not all scores, combining ad-lib musical passages with memorized key themes from published movie mood music and classical selections (just like today's noted silent film accompanists). More advanced accompanists and certainly a small pit orchestra of three to ten players would more than likely quickly arrange a series of appropriate pieces from the theatre's or their private music library by following the film's cue sheets, possibly composing a few original themes of their own. This was what was expected of them.


Yes an individual musician could certainly improvise - bit harder when you are an ensemble having to work together - and yes, they would have their set pierces of course and the cue sheets to go on - but I think that most musicians like an opportunity to have a bit of a 'run through'. Also, with the set pieces - audiences would tire of the same old tunes every time they went to the pictures - and I wonder how much rotten fruit got thrown into the orchestra pit as a consequence?
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 9:56 pm

Yes, nickelodeons tended to change their program every day, like the Mozart Theatre in an unknown city...
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It was pretty normal for most theaters in the teens to change their programs every day...
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There were some early palaces like The Strand in New York City that played the same program all week even in the 1910s. Of course they had large orchestras who would have had to prepare a new score each week...
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSat Feb 14, 2015 10:26 pm

Back in the 1960's my parents had a wedding reception business and one of the pianists we engaged on a regular basis for "dinner music" was a former silent picture accompaniste in the 1920's. I found her stories fascinating. She said that she liked doing the dramas better than the comedies because the comedies were very hard to keep up with due to the constant change of action on the screen. She often used to play me the type of music she used to do - I was only a 14 year old at the time and used to get a great kick out of all this.

Later on I had friends who lived next door to Harry Jacobs. He was in charge of the orchestra of Palais Pictures in St.Kilda. He held the position from 1927 to 1949 when the orchestra was finally dispatched. I eventually got to meet him and of course he was an old man by then - but he could still play the piano and his mind was still active and he was very charming and gracious. He was a mine of information about the old times and it's where I learned so much about what was on the programme when one went to the pictures in the old days.

Musicians were worked ragged at the cinema palaces. They would do two shows a day for a film that would play a week and then rehearse the next week's programme on the mornings for two days before it commenced. The conductor usually had the work of compiling the score and doing the arrangements - sometimes assisted by the orchestra leader. The organist usually had his parts sketched out for him - so he could improvise as necessary when he had to play a film solo for the morning and intermediate performances - sometimes he would be playing the afternoon and evening performances as well, with the orchestra, although some of the bigger cinemas had two organists for the different times. Lucky for the suburban houses there were not that many performances scheduled so the pianist didn't have to play "continuously". The woman I knew said she usually played cold to each film she had to work - just relying on a vast repertoire of themes and stock bits of the classics etc., she had built up into memory over the years.
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSun Feb 15, 2015 4:20 pm

Criticism of silent film accompaniments is not new!

"The writer, in going the rounds of the picture shows, has often tumbled on strange and weirdly imaginative musical directors. On one occasion, a gazette included "The Burial of the Unknown Warrior", a living memory to our dead, and throughout, the musicians kept on playing the lively ragtime music that they were playing for the previous episodes in the newsreel. The effect was astounding, and lack of attention on the part of the director doubtless had the effect of offending many of the patrons.

"On another occasion, I happened to call at a picture show in the country, and found a "Feature" pianist employed. "From Manger to Cross" was being screened, and when it came to the scene showing Jesus walking on the water, our friend of the keyboard struck up "A Life on the Ocean Wave". Here was indeed an example of misplaced humour and bad taste, probably offensive to ninety per cent of the patrons who noticed it.

"In many of the larger picture theatres, very good orchestras are engaged, but somehow or other, the selection of music is often far short of suitable. I am quite aware of the difficulties of obtaining "suitable" music, but the trouble seems to be a lack of knowledge on the part of the persons responsible for the selection of the melodies.

"It seems to be the general rule that if a "big" picture comes along, the music must also be "big". Away flies the director to his library and selects the biggest and most ponderous "Overtures" or "Selections" he can find. Now what in all that is wonderful do grand opera overtures or classical selections to do with the picture?

"I admit, of course, that in some cases portions of them may be used, but not generally. Another mistake made very often by our enterprising musicians is the playing of popular selections of musical comedy during a drama. The minds of the patrons familiar with the airs and words of these compositions immediately revert to the stage where they originally heard them, and focuses attention away instead of on the picture being screened."

[Fred Mumford, "Music and the Photoplay", Everyone's, 11 May, 1921]
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Re: Do you dislike all electronic music for silents?

PostSun Feb 15, 2015 5:51 pm

Donald Binks wrote:Criticism of silent film accompaniments is not new!

"On another occasion, I happened to call at a picture show in the country, and found a "Feature" pianist employed. "From Manger to Cross" was being screened, and when it came to the scene showing Jesus walking on the water, our friend of the keyboard struck up "A Life on the Ocean Wave". Here was indeed an example of misplaced humour and bad taste, probably offensive to ninety per cent of the patrons who noticed it.

[Fred Mumford, "Music and the Photoplay", Everyone's, 11 May, 1921]


Even in recent times, otherwise highly competent accompanists sometimes just can't resist things like playing "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" when a gypsy camp is bringing in a deer to roast, or "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" while Babylon is burning during INTOLERANCE! (Audience members gently chided the INTOLERANCE accompanist at one of the reel breaks, noting how formidable the film is to play for, and he remained much more in the mood for the rest of the film.)
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