What do you want to know about a score?

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greta de groat

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What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri Apr 29, 2016 1:33 pm

Hi all,

I'm working on another esoteric library project, where i am to collect research case studies involving both performed music and film/video. So i though i'd ask you all about some things that you might want to know about a film score before, say, buying the video or choosing to watch one version or another. If you can think of other film music things you might want to or have had occasion to research, please let me know.

I know i've seen folks here who either want or do not want to watch a silent with an organ score. Or nothing written by Maria Newman. Might you look for a new original score? An original score composed at the film's first release? Score from a cue sheet? Avoid a drop-needle score? If you have actual stories about either researching a film score, performance history, or just picking one to watch, i'd love to hear them.

Any talkie related research, etc. would also be welcome. I've already noted the question on the songs in the various films of Show Boat--that's a great use study. Any interesting Vitaphone disc research? Like perhaps trying to find the discs for which the film is extant (i know of a talkie example but a musical one would be welcome). Any interesting research in soundies? And if anyone has an interest in ethnographic film and can think of a music research case study there, that would be great (i was about to rummage around and look for something like that, i probably have one or two ethnographic recordings of dance performances handy in case i can't find anything else). Musical issues in vintage television? (aside from the obvious performer research for all those Ed Sullivan shows) Music videos?

Thanks in advance for your collective wisdom and experience!
greta
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missdupont

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri Apr 29, 2016 10:47 pm

You should check out the book, SILENT FILM SOUND, which is all about this subject.
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Christopher Jacobs

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSat Apr 30, 2016 1:11 pm

If this is for a library card/database listing, the first thing I like to know about scores for silents is if they're piano, organ, orchestra (small or large), or synthesizer. The next thing would be the composer and/or performer(s). After that, a notation of the score's date (or at least whether it's new/modern or period). If it's the original score composed for the silent film, I'd like a notation as to whether it's Vitaphone, Movietone, or a new performance of the (e.g. 1928) score. Merely stating "original" score is usually misleading, since brand new scores are original for the movie but not what were originally played when it came out. In lieu of composition/compilation dates, a brief note as to whether it is period-appropriate (compiled or composed), modern, or needle-drop from stock music or classical music could be useful. After that it is also nice to know whether the silent film score is a mono recording or stereo recording. Some people might also want to know the format (DTS-HD MA, Dolby TruHD, Dollby Digital, PCM, etc.) and number of tracks.

For talkies, the only notes about the score needed would probably be whether the score is the one originally released with the film, or was added later, or is an alternate score by a different composer (as is sometimes the case on later reissues or American/foreign versions), whether it is the original mono presentation (and if that has been digitally processed/noise-reduced or was re-recorded as-is directly from an original print or negative), if it is an original 3-track or 4-track stereo presentation prepared for the film's first release, or a later re-mix for stereo using the original multitrack recordings (even for films issued in mono versions only), or is a digitally simulated/reconstructed stereo (e.g. PSYCHO). If the stereo reproduces an original Perspecta sound mix, that would also be good to know (e.g. YOJIMBO).
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Brooksie

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSat Apr 30, 2016 5:12 pm

This academic paper might be of interest to you, which details an attempt to recreate a silent film orchestra from the ground up, using the State Theatre sheet music collection held by the National Library of Australia as its basis.
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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSat Apr 30, 2016 7:35 pm

Thanks for the info and references, i had no idea of the issues in sound films. Those are good starting points, though what i am actually looking for are specific "use cases." Let me try more focused examples:

For a silent, what film has the most different scores available on video? Phantom? Nosferatu? An example with widely varying scores would be useful so i could build a question using some of the characteristics cited above about what a user might have to choose from. An example that also has a vitaphone or movietone score among the options would be ideal.

Do you have a specific example of a sound film issued on video with different scores? That would be a nice use case--someone wanting one version or the other.

I'll go over to the Vitaphone project site and see if i can figure out a nice musical short for which the picture elements survive but the disc is still missing and needs to be found.

Gotta get back to mopping the floor,
greta

PS, i didn't do a very good job in explaining what this is about. As best as i understand, i am to look for use cases for any kind of person who might be using a library or archive of any sort--casual user, film geek, academic, industry person. Since folks here are always geeky about scores, that's the first thing i thought of. If anyone is current involved in some sort of music/film related research, i'd love to hear about what you are doing.
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostTue May 03, 2016 1:51 pm

I don't know if you followed the kerfuffle surrounding the accompaniment to the Murnau Foundation restoration of Variete (1925) (discussed at length here and thenceforward), but it gives a good idea of what people don't want in a silent film accompaniment, to the extent that it will probably not be included with future releases (as discussed here).
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostTue May 03, 2016 9:24 pm

The single most important thing I look for is who's doing the music. If I see people listed like Robert Israel, Michael Mortilla, Carl Davis, Frederick Hodges, then I know that, at worst, the music's gonna be pretty good and it's going to fit the picture. On the other hand, seeing local monopolist Cliff Retallick listed is enough to start my vein-popping Cliff-Retallick-has-no-clue-how-to-accompany-a-silent rant.
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Brent

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSun May 08, 2016 7:31 am

This sounds like an interesting project and I genuinely look forward to reading the results. Will you be posting a link here when it's completed? As for silents with the most custom scores on home video, it's easy to be specific, as long as we're talking about quality restored releases. If you're including public domain cheapies, then it's impossible to count all of them, as there are so many with crappy needle-drop scores. Anyhoo, the front runners are:
    The Phantom of the Opera has a whopping 10: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Ben Model pipe organ, Carl Davis orchestral, Ed Bussey piano, Frederick Hodges piano, Gaylord Carter organ, Gabriel Thibaudeau orchestral, Jon Mirsalis digital keyboard, Lee Erwin pipe organ and the 1929 reissue Vitaphone soundtrack edited to fit Photoplay's restoration.
    The General has seven: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Thames Silent Orchestra (Carl Davis), Joe Hisaishi orchestral, Lee Irwin organ, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Robert Israel orchestral and Stuart Oderman piano.
    Nosferatu has six, as detailed here.
    Charlie's Mutuals have five each, except for The Rink and The Pawnshop (six apiece) and One AM (four), as detailed here.
    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has five: DJ Spooky modern electronic, Donald Sosin orchestral synth, Freiburg University of Music orchestral, Rainer Viertblöck modern, Timothy Brock orchestral. Edit: other on-disc scores are indicated here, here, here and here, though exact release details are a little scant.
    The Man with a Movie Camera also has five: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Cinematic Orchestra modern, In the Nursery modern electronic, Michael Nyman orchestral, Volga Select modern electronic, Werner Cee modern electronic.
Have I missed any; are there any other silents with five or more quality scores?
Last edited by Brent on Sat Sep 16, 2017 12:06 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSun May 08, 2016 11:38 am

Brent wrote:The General isn't far behind at five: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Carl Davis orchestral, Joe Hisaishi orchestral, Lee Irwin organ, Robert Israel orchestral


The Blue Grassy Knoll have also done an accompaniment to The General which I believe they were trying to get released via Kickstarter. I have their scores for Sherlock Jr and Our Hospitality on CD, and both are very good.

An excerpt:

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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSun May 08, 2016 9:58 pm

Brent wrote:This sounds like an interesting project and I genuinely look forward to reading the results. Will you be posting a link here when it's completed?


I wish it were as interesting as you make it sound. It will probably end up as one sentence in a data modeling report. The use cases (along the line of "Researcher wants to find x," Student needs to report on y", "industry person needs to compile z," "casual user wants whatever") provide test cases for the data model, in this case involving library/archival metadata about music performance. I wanted to go beyond the obvious of "i want to hear so-and-so's performance of some particular arrangement of a musical work." But i can post a link when we're finally done, not that it would be especially meaningful to anyone but library catalogers and systems people.

Brent wrote:[list]The Phantom of the Opera has seven-and-a-bit: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Carl Davis orchestral, Ed Bussey piano, Frederick Hodges piano, Gaylord Carter organ, Gabriel Thibaudeau orchestral, Jon Mirsalis digital keyboard, and reel 5 from the 1929 sound reissue with its Vitaphone disc soundtrack.


Excellent! I have a follow up question on this--the library catalog record for the 2003 Image "Ultimate Edition" has a note saying "This DVD presents the original 1925 version of the film with a piano score, the restored 1929 version with a stereo orchestral score by Carl Davis and an optional score featuring the original 1930 soundtrack edited to fit the 1929 cut." Now, i remember that it was said that the discs didn't fit the existing 1929 version, so this note makes it sound like the audio from the discs was edited to make it fit. But above you mention that only reel 5 has the disc soundtrack. Is the note on the library record in error? (Which would be it's own interesting case study when the library metadata is wrong--i remember once correcting a bunch of records that said that Citizen Kane was based on Pauline Kael's Raising Kane, an embarrassing error that one cataloger made and then got propagated through a bunch of other catalog records).

greta
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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostSun May 08, 2016 9:59 pm

Brooksie wrote:
Brent wrote:The General isn't far behind at five: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Carl Davis orchestral, Joe Hisaishi orchestral, Lee Irwin organ, Robert Israel orchestral


The Blue Grassy Knoll have also done an accompaniment to The General which I believe they were trying to get released via Kickstarter. I have their scores for Sherlock Jr and Our Hospitality on CD, and both are very good.
...


Thanks! That reminds me that DJ Spooky would make an interesting case.

greta
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostMon May 09, 2016 3:31 am

Whoops: I boobooed. I'd forgotten about the Milestone Ultimate Edition's full length re-edit of the 1929 reissue soundtrack – and I own it! :oops: In my defence, it was a helluva confusing job compiling that (now corrected) post.

Funny about those silly librarians, but then until now I'd always thought Citizen Kane was a biopic of Carol Kane's Russian uncle...
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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostMon May 09, 2016 9:16 am

Brent wrote:
Funny about those silly librarians, but then until now I'd always thought Citizen Kane was a biopic of Carol Kane's Russian uncle...


"розбуд!"

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri May 13, 2016 2:49 pm

Brooksie wrote:
Brent wrote:The General isn't far behind at five: Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Carl Davis orchestral, Joe Hisaishi orchestral, Lee Irwin organ, Robert Israel orchestral


The Blue Grassy Knoll have also done an accompaniment to The General which I believe they were trying to get released via Kickstarter. I have their scores for Sherlock Jr and Our Hospitality on CD, and both are very good.


The Mont Alto Orchestra also has a release of The General, which is (if I say so myself) a polished, professional production (on pressed discs and the only version I know of with a commentary track).

The Kino DVD of Sherlock Jr. Had at least four scores, possible five; I forget at the moment. And because like The General it's public domain, I'd look at Steamboat Bill Jr. For another film with lots of scores. The Kino Bluray seems to be a different score than the DVD, and there's the Alloy Orchestra's as well, and possibly a European release.

Didn't the Criterion release of Pandora's Box have about four scores?

The Mark of Zorro has scores from the Kino release, a Paragon Ragtime Orchestra release, and Mont Alto's / Flicker Alley's release. Possibly others: it's another public domain film.

I can't easily look these things up at the moment, because I'm far from my computer in a hotel room, preparing for a presentation of the above-mentioned General score in Washington state...
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri May 27, 2016 12:53 am

I somehow managed to overlook your excellent score for The General, Rodney – added! I already considered Sherlock Jr. and Steamboat Bill, Jr. but could only find two custom scores for the former (Mont Alto and Club Foot Orchestras) and four for the latter (Alloy Orchestra ensemble, Lee Erwin organ, Robert Israel/The Biograph Players orchestral, William Perry piano).

It wouldn’t surprise me if Buster’s One Week had managed to sneak out with at least a handful of scores too. It’s harder to search for different releases though, as it only appears on compilations.

There are loads of silents with three or four custom scores; far too many to list here or for me to bother looking up! Likewise with studio-recorded versions of custom scores issued on CD but unavailable on video. I’d venture those number in the hundreds.
Last edited by Brent on Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:23 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri May 27, 2016 6:53 am

Brent wrote:I already considered Sherlock Jr. ... but could only find two custom scores (Mont Alto and Club Foot Orchestras)


The Kino release of Sherlock Jr. also includes a compilation vintage jazz score by Jay Ward. I over-estimated in my previous post.

Steamboat Bill Jr. had a release with an Alloy Orchestra score: it was on the same disc as their General. That two-film set may have been an official Image release.
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri May 27, 2016 8:47 am

Rodney wrote:
Brent wrote:I already considered Sherlock Jr. ... but could only find two custom scores (Mont Alto and Club Foot Orchestras)


The Kino release of Sherlock Jr. also includes a compilation vintage jazz score by Jay Ward. I over-estimated in my previous post.

Steamboat Bill Jr. had a release with an Alloy Orchestra score: it was on the same disc as their General. That two-film set may have been an official Image release.


The Alloy Orchestra double feature is available on Amazon, and is listed as an Image release.
http://www.amazon.com/General-Steamboat ... mboat+bill

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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri Jun 10, 2016 9:37 am

Thanks, all for your suggestions. Here's the theoretical use cases i'm going to submit to my group--don't know how many will make it to the final report. They are all in a standardized format of {person] wants {something] in order to {do something], and they all had to be specifically about music. Now that you see what i was after, if you have suggestions for improvement or other examples, let me know. Particularly if someone has an example that would be someone in the industry looking for something, that would be particularly useful.

Use cases:

As a public library patron, i want to know if there is a video of the 1929 sound version of the Phantom of the Opera originally released 1925, in order to experience it with the most authentic period score.

As a collector and audiophile, i want a video of Yojimbo with the original Perspecta sound mix to play on my new home theater setup.

As a researcher studying opera in popular media, i want to find out about number of opera performances on the Ed Sullivan television program in order to compile statistics on how often opera appeared, and what performers and composers were represented, and how those numbers changed over time.

As an undergraduate, i want to find out if there were other Hollywood films besides the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera where there are fake opera excerpts (cobbled together from instrumental pieces) in order to write a term paper.

As a film archivist, i have the mute film elements to Hope Hampton in the Fourth Act of Manon, i want to find the Vitaphone discs for a possible restoration for a screening at next year's Hope Hampton tribute.

As a researcher, would like to know which songs are in each of the film versions of Show Boat in order to contribute to a discography/filmography on Jerome Kern.

As a public library patron, i would like to know who the terrific singer was who follows Joan Blondell in the Remember My Forgotten Man number in Golddiggers of 1933 in order to seek out more films and recordings that she may have made.

cheers,
greta
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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri Jun 10, 2016 5:00 pm

Your suggested scenarios remind me of a story told to me by a friend who worked in a shop selling gramophone records. He said he would often get customers asking for a particular recording giving him no further details other than it was a song, had either an orchestral or piano accompaniment and mentioned the word "love" a few times.
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greta de groat

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Re: What do you want to know about a score?

PostFri Jun 10, 2016 8:59 pm

Ha, that reminds me of the librarians' worst patron--wants a book but doesn't remember the author or title and is iffy about the subject, but thinks it had a brown cover.

greta
Greta de Groat
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