The Guardian: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in B

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The Guardian: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in B

PostThu Jul 14, 2011 7:06 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/ ... CMP=twt_gu

Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in Birmingham
About 500 scores – including a theme tune used in Charlie Chaplin films – found in council's music library

Stephen Bates
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 July 2011 20.08 BST
Hundreds of musical scores used to accompany silent films in cinemas more than 80 years ago have been discovered in the collection of Birmingham city council's music library, including a theme tune used in early Charlie Chaplin films.

About 500 scores have been uncovered, many including the full parts for small orchestras of between seven and 11 players, not just a pianist. Judging by the titles, the often-fragmentary pieces were selected thematically to accompany similar plotlines. They are frequently self-explanatory: the mysterious manor house, exciting-dramatic, harrowing, creepy-creeps, wild chase, supreme peril, the poisoned cup and mounted police gallop.

"We don't actually know where they came from as they were in separate collections," explained Ali Joyce, the head of the music library. "They seem to have been in our basement for 30 to 40 years.

"We think groups of musicians would travel round cinemas and match the music to the situations in the films."

The Chaplin theme – Marche Grotesque – appears to be a unique example of a score written for a particular artist. It dates from 1916 at the height of the British-born actor's early fame as a worldwide star and was for use when his tramp character appeared on screen. It was composed by Cyril Thorne, a long-forgotten musician who wrote mood music.

The scores have the names of Louis Benson and HT Saunders stamped on them, the latter thought to have been a musical director at cinemas in Glasgow.

Neil Brand, an early film historian said: "This collection gives us our first proper overview of the music of the silent cinema in the UK from 1914 to the coming of sound. Its enormous size not only gives us insights into what the bands sounded like and how they worked with film [but also] the working methods of musical directors. Above all, it gives the lie to the long-cherished belief that silent films were accompanied on solo piano by little old ladies who only knew one tune. When they are played we will hear the authentic sound the audiences of the time would have heard."

Some of the tunes will be heard for the first time in 80 years next Tuesday – not even the librarians have heard them yet – at the launch of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's film music festival, when they will be performed at a free pre-concert event by Ben Dawson, the CBSO's pianist.
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LouieD

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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 12:36 am

Are there no "regular" people who can't get excited about anything related to silent film unless it has CHAPLIN in the story?
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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 3:06 am

LouieD wrote:Are there no "regular" people who can't get excited about anything related to silent film unless it has CHAPLIN in the story?

I doubt they'd get much attention if they wrote about Al Joy!
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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 3:09 am

Richard Finegan wrote:
LouieD wrote:Are there no "regular" people who can't get excited about anything related to silent film unless it has CHAPLIN in the story?

I doubt they'd get much attention if they wrote about Al Joy!



Al Joy gets brought up all the time as the nadir of silent comedy- but I've never seen him. Could someone be so kind as to post something to YouTube?
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Jack Theakston

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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 11:37 am

I hope they make this material available to the public... based on the dates, most of it is probably in the public domain.
J. Theakston
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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 11:42 am

Albert Ketelbey wrote a great deal of descriptive music for early films, though he's most known for pieces like In A Persian Market- which is the next thing.
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PostFri Jul 15, 2011 8:17 pm

FrankFay wrote:Albert Ketelbey wrote a great deal of descriptive music for early films, though he's most known for pieces like In A Persian Market- which is the next thing.


Did Ketelby write genre music specifically for film use? I thought his pieces were written for music hall performances and afterward found their way as film accompaniment, similar to the adoption of circus marches and rags in U.S. films.
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PostSat Jul 16, 2011 3:24 am

ClayKing wrote:
FrankFay wrote:Albert Ketelbey wrote a great deal of descriptive music for early films, though he's most known for pieces like In A Persian Market- which is the next thing.


Did Ketelby write genre music specifically for film use? I thought his pieces were written for music hall performances and afterward found their way as film accompaniment, similar to the adoption of circus marches and rags in U.S. films.


Yes, he wrote film music fairly early in his career. Here are extracts from liner notes to an album of his piano music issued on NAXOS:

"

In 1907 he had taken a job as "impresario" with the Columbia Record Company. In true showbiz fashion, his conducting career was launched when the regular conductor was indisposed, and over the years he rose to become the company's musical director. During the First World War, he also held the same post in revues promoted by André Charlot, including Ye Gods (1916), Flora (1918) and The Officers' Mess (1918). In such productions, music needed to be direct, instantly setting a scene. 5imi1ar qualities were need in the new market of music for the silent cinema, and the composer duly produced collections of brief mood-setting pieces. In later years, at the peak of his popularity, he was able to recycle some of these fragments as concert pieces.
Significantly, one of his collections of cinema music was published by Bosworth. After the First World War, this firm became Ketèlbey's major publisher."



"A Woodland Story



This suite "in eight short chapters" appeared in 1921, using tunes which had been published by Hammond in 1915 to accompany silent films. No complete copy of the earlier collection has been located.



1. This is where the fairies dances. A graceful dance in the style loosely known as a gavotte.



2. The voice of the trees. A slow introduction in the style of Grieg, leading to a flowing melody representing rustling trees, though in the 1915 incarnation it was labelled "for running water".



3. Poor little bird. Two melodies, which in the 1915 collection are called "Pathetic, relating to a sad story, etc." and "Plaintive, love, entreaty, etc."



4. Oh! Look at the rabbits! A tarantella in the usual key of A minor. A similar tune was later used in the overture ChaI Romano, recorded on Marco Polo 8.223442.



5. Listen! What's that? Typical mood-setting music for suspense, with unsettling chromatic phrases, harmonies of diminished seventh chords or bare unisons. The opening melody is characterised as "Mexican or Spanish" in the 1915 collection.



6. l do love you. A long sustained melody, requiring a more advanced piano technique.



7. Let’s play at Indians! Many of the devices used here appear in the composer's better-known tone-pictures. The opening juxtaposes left-hand repeated fifths against an angular right-hand tune based on a scale with a flattened second note. The same features occur at the beginning of In a Persian Market. A fanfare figure recalls the Caliph's theme in the same work, while a scampering semiquaver passage could have accompanied the thief from In a Chinese Temple Garden.



8. Let’s hurry home, ifs getting dark. A French-sounding quick march which ends the suite with a subtle joke: the music explores several keys, but never retums to the home key of D major until the very last bars."
Eric Stott
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PostSun Jul 17, 2011 5:48 pm

http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2011/07/s ... l-library/

Silent movie scores found at Birmingham central library
By
sarahk
– July 15, 2011Posted in: Culture, News

Musical gems discovered at Birmingham Central Library
reveal lost world of silent movies

· Collection sheds new light on how silent music was written and performed
· Unique Charlie Chaplin theme tune discovered
· CBSO pianist to perform highlights at event to mark opening of CBSO Film Festival on 19 July

Staff at Birmingham City Council making preparations for their move to the Library of Birmingham building in 2013 have uncovered what could be the UK’s largest collection of silent movie scores, including a unique Charlie Chaplin theme tune.

The collection, most of which belonged to movie theatre Musical Directors Louis Benson and HT Saunders, consists of 500 scores and parts for use with silent movies. It is representative of the entire oeuvre of silent movie music between 1915 and 1929, the golden age of the silent movie, and reveals what audiences at the time were listening to.

It includes many complete sets of music scores, containing all the parts for the 7-11 members of the ‘salon orchestra’ who would have performed the music live in front of a watching audience, revealing that accompaniment was not only from solo pianists, as is traditionally thought, but from bands as well.

The collection also reveals the variety of music available for silent movies. Musical Directors would have had access to a library of short scores associated with specific moods and action, for example, romance and horror, or fire and battle, with titles such as ‘Wild Chase’ or ‘Supreme Peril’. They would match these scores to scenes in films, so that each Musical Director was in effect creating their own individual soundtrack for a film.

The collection includes a unique example of music being composed for the star rather than the action in the film. Marche Grotesque, a piece dating from 1916, was written to be played when Charlie Chaplin was on screen. At this time a huge number of cinemas would be showing the actor’s films and looking for music to accompany this new kind of comedy. The score was composed by an almost-forgotten composer of songs and mood music called Cyril Thorne, whose publisher saw the potential for his composition’s use in other movie theatres.

Other unique items in the collection include parts with cues written on them to correspond to particular films, for example referring to caption titles on screen. It is also possible to match one score with a particular film: Richard Howgill’s score The Onslaught was published in 1928 and is thought to have been played with the film The Guns of Loos, a huge success in British cinemas that year.

Neil Brand, composer and early film historian, said: “This collection gives us our first proper overview of the music of the silent cinema in the UK from 1914 to the coming of sound.

“Its enormous size not only gives us insights into what the bands sounded like and how they worked with film, it shows us the working methods of the musical directors and, above all, gives the lie to the long-cherished belief that silent films were accompanied on solo piano by little old ladies who only knew one tune. These are full band parts of specially composed mood music of every possible kind from publishers in the UK, France and the US – when they are played we will hear the authentic sound the audiences of the time would have heard.

“This is a hoard of considerable value for future scholars of music and performance technique which will re-assess many forgotten British composers of light classical music and could fundamentally change our view of silent film music for ever.”

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

“Birmingham Central Library has a vast collection of archives and this is just one of the unique stories that can be discovered amongst the items that we have. This collection of silent movie music is a unique one, and a real gem for silent movie enthusiasts.

“When the new Library of Birmingham opens in 2013 the general public will have much greater access to our collections, so that they can see more items such as these. With new technology people from around the world will be able to access the Library of Birmingham’s world-class resources.”

The scores have been uncovered by staff at Birmingham Central Library as they are preparing to move the collections from their current home to the new Library of Birmingham building, due to open in 2013. When the new Library opens there will be greater access to the Library’s vast collections, both in the Library and online. The Music Collection at Birmingham Central Library currently holds more than 40,000 CDs, DVDs, printed music and books on music, as well as significant archives.

On Tuesday 19 July, to mark the launch of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s Film Music Festival, CBSO pianist Ben Dawson will perform some of the scores in a free public event in the Foyer of the Symphony Hall Birmingham at 6.15pm.

Ends/…

For further information please contact Sarah Watson at Colman Getty on 020 7631 2666 or sarah(at)colmangetty.co.uk
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Re: The Guardian: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed

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Re: The Guardian: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed

PostSun Aug 14, 2011 11:30 am

The collection includes a unique example of music being composed for the star rather than the action in the film.


Unique? Do people really forget that "unique" means "only?" While not exactly common, the music in this case is hardly the only example of a theme being written for a star.
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Collection of Silent Film Score Cues Found

PostMon Aug 15, 2011 11:38 am

While they are a little over the top about the find, the BBC has a story about a collection of silent film score cues Found:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/1 ... 25643.html

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