KFOR: Sound for Silent Movies

Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.
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KFOR: Sound for Silent Movies

PostWed Jul 13, 2011 8:59 pm

http://www.kfor.com/community/greatstat ... 8083.story

Sound for Silent Movies
9:39 a.m. CDT, July 13, 2011
NORMAN, OKLAHOMA --- If you threaded a projector with the 1917 Mack Sennett comedy 'Teddy at the Throttle', in the projection booth you'd only hear the whir of electric motors. No sound track. No music. That's where John Schwandt comes in. "It's both exhilirating and terrifying," he says of accompanying silent films.

He's a music professor at OU. He is director of the American Organ Institute, but John is also the practitioner of a nearly lost art in American Music. "You are really creating the whole musical backdrop for the images, an enormous responsibility," he says. "Most people probably wouldn't enjoy a film without any music."

In their day film accompanists might play several shows a day in the shadows. For comedies like Mack Sennett's there weren't any musical scors. It was all improvisation for every show. "There really isn't time to look at the score quite frankly," laughs Schwandt. "The pace is fast."

John has the luxury of screening Gloria Swanson's first starring role. It's a classic tale with a villain and old of the first times Sennett made use of a lady tied to the railroad tracks. In a silent movie you can't hear the train coming or can you? With a proper house organ just about anything is possible.

We in the audience may not realize it but the effects of house musicians lasted a long longer than the silent era. Most living movie goers have never seen a movie presented like this but the music still carries the idea

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PostSat Jul 16, 2011 7:20 am

Always bemused when I see a puff piece like that written in the absence of any simple research.
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PostThu Jul 28, 2011 2:25 pm

ClayKing wrote:Always bemused when I see a puff piece like that written in the absence of any simple research.

I dunno, looks okay to me. Any particular research you'd add? It was one of Gloria's first starring roles (she was playing bit parts the year before). In most theaters, the scores to things like this were improvised, especially when played (as at this showing) by a solo keyboardist. Most people wouldn't enjoy a film without any music. It's a good article for one this short.
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
"Let the Music do the Talking!"

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