Film Music in 1916

Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.
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Jack Theakston
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Film Music in 1916

Unread post by Jack Theakston » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:27 am

Here is an interesting article—beginning around 1912, much thought started being put into the musical setting of pictures. Up until that point, the protocol for accompaniment to films was varied, and much contemporary documentation as surfaced that shows that in many cases, little to no accompaniment was provided in nickelodeons for the films at all (musicians would play for the illustrated song shows, and then take a break during films). Others only provided "trap" sound effects.

Starting in the early 'teens, publications started promoting appropriate music and/or sound effects at theater owners, and by the mid-teens, with Roxy's influence on the Broadway scene, legitimate scoring had become the trend among movie theaters all over the country. Books of "theme" music began being published to cover music for every occasion. This eventually morphed into larger orchestral publications that became the staple of many theater orchestras.

This article, published just on the cusp of the introduction of Roxy's European imports Hugo Riesenfeld and Erno Rapee to the scene of film music, was published by S. M. Berg (who formed Belwin Music) as part of his series of articles in Moving Picture World, and gives an enlightening look at what the Broadway houses presented at that period.

Mentioned in the article are James Bradford, who continued to be active in both cue sheets and scoring into the sound era, and Carl Edouarde, who likewise remained one of the beacons of good music on Broadway. Less known about is Louis Maurice, who the most I can find out was responsible for the NY premiere score of Ince's CIVILIZATION. Does anyone have more information about him?

“What Does the Public Want?” by S. M. Berg, published in “The Moving Picture World,” January 8, 1916 .

A DETAILED program of the entertainment presented at the leading motion picture theaters of New York City is here given. Each theater is striving to present a program that will please its patrons sparing no expense, energy or trouble to obtain the best possible results.

The Knickerbocker, which is now known as the official Triangle theater, appears to have as its aim the presentation of an entertainment of pictures with an appropriate musical setting; but nothing Is offered as a relief or divertissement. Two shows dally are given one in the afternoon at 2.15 and the other in the evening at 8.15. The orchestra is seated in the pit and is composed of two first and two second violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, cornet, trombone, two French horns, harp, timpani, and drums—in all fourteen musicians and the director, Mr. Louis Maurice. The show consists of two feature pictures of five reels each, with either one four-reel or two-two reel comedies, making fourteen reels in all. The orchestra plays for the features and rests during the comedies which are accompanied by the piano and drums.

The Broadway theater, which may be classed as the official home of Paramount pictures, attempts to give an appropriate setting to the film, but believes that in selecting its music the program should be entertaining from a musical standpoint, even if something of the atmosphere of the picture is sacrificed. As an overture a selection is played at both the afternoon and evening performances. The house opens at 11.30 A. M., and a continuance entertainment of about two hours is given, which is made up of a Paramount feature and three or four reels of selected films. The orchestra comprises four first and two second violins, viola, two cellos, bass, flute, clarinet, piano, timpani, and drums; fourteen musicians under the direction of Mr. James Bradford, who is also responsible for the official musical suggestions published by the Paramount Corporation in their weekly magazine. In addition there is a banjorine orchestra of two banjos, saxophone, bass, piano, and drums. Both are on duty from 2.30 to 5 and from 7.30 to 11. Mr. Bradford and his musicians are seated on the right side of the stage partly screened with palms and plays for the features without intermission while the banjorine combination sits directly opposite and plays during the comedies. At the selection the two orchestras combine, the banjos doubling on other instruments.

At the Strand theater one may almost say that the entertainment is a musical one with the addition of pictures. Here the music selected for the picture must not only be fitted but varied and entertaining with vocal and instrumental solos interspersed through the program. The theater opens at 11.30 A. M., and is a continuous performance. The entertainment is of about two hours duration consisting of a feature picture and three other selected reels. The orchestra, made up of twenty-five musicians, is under the direction of Mr. Carl Edouarde and they play from about 2.15 to 5 and from 7.30 to 11 The instrumentation consists of six first violins, two violas, two cellos, two basses, piano, flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two French horns, two trumpets, trombone, harp, timpani and drums, and a colossal organ.

The following is a selected program:

1. Selections from “Pagliacci” (Leoncavallo)
Strand Concert Orchestra and Organ,
Carl Edouarde, Conductor.
2. Strand Topical Review.
3. “Rose in the Bud” (Forster)
Margaret Horton, Contralto.
4. “Scenes from the South Sea Isles.”
5. “Concerto” (in E Minor—Finale) (Mendelssohn)
6. Fannie Ward in “The Cheat” ( Paramount Picture)
7. “Until” (Sanderson)
8. Comedy—“Diplomatic Henry”

Providing the character of the feature permits, the orchestra usually plays the first, third and fifth reels and the organ the second and fourth.

Exhibitors who have given thought to the problem ask this question: “Does the public want a presentation of motion pictures with fitting orchestral accompaniment, or an entertainment of music and pictures?”

A well-known exhibitor controlling four houses when asked the question answered, “We had our orchestra play a selection during the evening but before they had finished the audience applauded for the picture to start.” However, on dissecting this it was found that the orchestral instrumentation consisting of cornet, trombone, piano, violin, and drums was trying to play the William Tell Overture without house lights on, and no slide to announce what was being attempted

Another exhibitor whose theater seats 600 people charges 5c. admission on week days and 10c. on Saturday and Sunday. He books a service of second run features and miscellanies that total about ten reels. The music consists of a pianist to whom he pays $12 weekly, and the instrument used is well fitted for the wood pile. When asked the above question he answered, “I’d like to have good music but I can t afford it.” This is usually the type of a man that has tried everything for a living from delicatessens and groceries to newspapers and sodas, and would be most likely to have his “Ice Cold Soda” sign outside of his store all winter when he was trying to sell hot drinks inside.

But there is another kind of exhibitor. This is the man who realizes that in order to make his chance patron a permanent one he has to present his pictures with a fitting musical accompaniment. It should be borne in mind that it is not the quantity of musicians that gets the results but the quality.

In Brooklyn , N. Y., there is a small theater that seats 450 people and charges 10c. admission for en eight-reel show. The house supports three musicians (piano, violin, and a small reed organ) and the proprietor provides the music for which he spends $10 a month. Although this theatre has been built six years the owner will tell you that there were nine changes of management in the first four years, and when he bought it, it was considered a “lemon.” However, his attempt to give in a small way an entertainment on the lines of the leading houses has resulted in a successful enterprise.

No theater is so small that serious thought cannot be given to musical requirement. Better a violinist and a pianist who will try to play simple waltzes and intermezzos with some taste and expression than a noise combination of unskilled performers who have no knowledge of interpretation.

The efforts of the three leading houses of New York City are being watched by musicians and exhibitors all over the country, as their ultimate success may be taken as the recognized standard of how motion pictures should be presented.
J. Theakston
"You get more out of life when you go out to a movie!"

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Re: Film Music in 1916

Unread post by gentlemanfarmer » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:00 am

A great article thanks for sharing it Jack.
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