Restored Movietone sountrack for FOUR SONS (1928)

Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.
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radiotelefonia
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Restored Movietone sountrack for FOUR SONS (1928)

Unread post by radiotelefonia » Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:13 pm

My biggest frustration with the Fox DVD version of the John Ford 1928 classic, is that they decided to replace the original soundtrack. Explanations about it are all no good and unacceptable... and I don't care who state them.

For that reason, I decided to totally restore the original soundtrack so that anybody can try to resynchronize it back into the film. I tried to do it myself, but I was unsuccessful.

At least, I feel that I did an acceptable restoration, although it was physically devastating.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=4ZF15Z42

Enjoy it... Fox is NOT going to have it published.

Cole Johnson
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Unread post by Cole Johnson » Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:07 pm

This is atrocious. I find the original scores and sound effects tracks on these late 20's a thrilling and an all too rare experience. They give the viewer the exact experience intended by those who made them. This was the type of music as heard by silent film audiences in the bigger venues (with large orchestras.) Too many people today want to tamper with silents for one reason or another. There are those who insist upon slowing silents down. How this insanity gained favor, I can't imagine, but it's like a plague. When the silent has an original track that proves what the original, normal speed should have been, that frustrates the slow-mo enthusiasts. (Although I recall a tape of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS where that didn't stop them. It had the weirdest, eerie sound..) Another common thing is the "star performer" syndrome. Original Movietone/Vitaphone soundtracks will be ditched in favor of a live performer. It's as though the film was no more than a hook to hang a "performance". These talents range from boring to wretchedly inapropriate. A friend of mine asked one of these musical geniuses why the available track wasn't being played, he told him it was "old-fashioned" "had no appeal" to a modern audience! Too many people who know better than you control the way we see these films. -----Cole Johnson.

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Rodney
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Unread post by Rodney » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:01 pm

Cole Johnson wrote: Original Movietone/Vitaphone soundtracks will be ditched in favor of a live performer. It's as though the film was no more than a hook to hang a "performance". These talents range from boring to wretchedly inapropriate. A friend of mine asked one of these musical geniuses why the available track wasn't being played, he told him it was "old-fashioned" "had no appeal" to a modern audience! Too many people who know better than you control the way we see these films. -----Cole Johnson.
I disagree completely. Some Movietone scores are good, some are bad. But a theatrical performance of a silent film deserves live music. The orchestras were moved from the pit to a recorded soundtrack not because of any wish of the directors or the actors (who never, from the beginning, had control over the music in theaters and certainly had little influence on the Movietone scores that were recorded for their films) but because many theaters had fired their musicians and they needed something. The recorded score for SUNRISE is excellent, but that film was performed with live music at higher-class theaters in 1927, the recorded score being considered a lesser substitute. Ditto for WINGS. I think the recorded score for SEVENTH HEAVEN is quite nice, and I'd like to have it on DVD, but I wouldn't recommend it for a theatrical performance if you can get live musicians. The score for SPITE MARRIAGE almost destroys that film in my opinion, and I feel may be a good reason why it's not more highly regarded. That film works so much better with live music. D.W. Griffith hated the recorded score for THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES, and though they'd be of historical interest, it may be that the loss of those disks was a good thing for the current improved reputation of that film.

I am, of course, biased; as I'm one of those boring, wretchedly inappropriate musical geniuses. But for a silent film there is no single "appropriate" score -- there are multiple appropriate scores, and there always will be. That's what makes them "silent films."
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"

Michael Mortilla
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Unread post by Michael Mortilla » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:50 pm

Rodney wrote: I am, of course, biased; as I'm one of those boring, wretchedly inappropriate musical geniuses. But for a silent film there is no single "appropriate" score -- there are multiple appropriate scores, and there always will be. That's what makes them "silent films."
:lol:

There are several things at play here (pun intended) with taste, and perceived historical accuracy, topping the list.

Nothing to be done about taste. NOBODY can provide a score that everyone would love - so composers or arrangers will create what they think is most effective and hope for the best. Good and bad Movietone scores? One man's fav is another man's indigestion. So it shall ever be. I personally applaud Rodney for his research into the music of the day and his bringing that to screenings before a live audience. (Well, most often they're "live." :) )

Historical accuracy... hmmm... now there's a tricky one. Except where a film had a specifically composed score in close collaboration with the director, there is no historically accurate way to accompany the films. Even the often over-rated Music Cue Sheets only gave an indication of what might work and maybe a sense of what actual musical references would appear onscreen. But often they only give a few bars or melody (not even left hand accompaniment!) and it was up to the musician to make it up for the rest of the film.

What many audience members don't realize (and what I suspect Rodney knows all too well) is that silent film, for the most part, is still a collaborative art form. The person(s) scoring the film are in the truest sense of the word, collaborating with the filmmakers, whether it be on DVD or live in the theater. This annoys some viewers (especially the hard core loyalists of one camp or another) as their concept of "right and wrong" or "good and bad" might be (and probably will be) turned on its head. And as with taste, there is nothing to be done about it short of producing your own tracks to accompany the film - which some do.

What ends up on the DVD soundtrack is not a historical record of the film; it is a record of the visuals and one persons interpretation of the story as told through music. Unlike contemporary films which can easily be viewed on TV, silent films were made for a big screen, with a fairly decent sized audience and accompanied by live music. Beyond that, no one has the inside scoop on how they should be accompanied - not even those of us who do so on a regular basis.
Michael Mortilla

MIDILifeCrisis

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radiotelefonia
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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:26 pm

SUNRISE, at least in Argentina, was released in a silent version.

The Fox Film Corporation decided not to gamble on their sound on film system and they would not release a film with a soundtrack until late 1929, when other studios already were releasing talkies! (MGM was the first).

I agree that there should be soundtracks and not a single one for silent films. It is impossible to satisfy everybody in the audience and in those days, the music changed from theater to theater, city to city, nation to nation.

But DVD producers can probably have enough resources for just one, and not necessary a budget for a full orchestra.

I myself like experiments and I really enjoyed the ersatz "score" I compiled from tango recordings of the Roberto Firpo quartet for the Borzage film LUCKY STAR, with a complete divorce between the actions in the screen and the music... just as it happened in Buenos Aires. And I do like the results, which almost nobody that read this will have a chance to enjoy.

In the particular case of this John Ford film, I prefer the original soundtrack and I refuse to consider FOUR SONS as restored until it is reinstated. Then, yes, we can have more soundtracks.

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FrankFay
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Unread post by FrankFay » Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:52 am

About a month ago I was at the Newport Vintage Dance Week. We showed Irene and Vernon Castle's "The Whirl of Life" and I threw together an improvised needle drop score- literally. I sat by the screen with a wind up Victrola and shuffled through two boxes of period dance music records. The results weren't all that bad, though I didn't have much appropriate for the dramatic scenes (villany and a couple fights) and had to keep repeating bits of the Polonaise by Liszt, played by a concert band. Only problem was, the computer projecting the disc kept freezing up- but it gave me the opportunity for a laugh. After it froze for the third time I just put my finger on the turntame and the music ground down slowly.
Eric Stott

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