Music in the Picture Theatre
Hugo Riesenfeld Mixes Interesting Bits of Philosophy With Plain "Hoss Sense" On Subject
MUSIC and its place in the motion-picture of yesterday, to-day and tomorrow was the subject of an interview recently had with Hugo Riesenfeld, the managing director of the Rivoli and Rialto, Broadway's photoplay palaces. The salient comments of Mr. Hugo are quoted directly, as much of their significance would be otherwise lost:
"The taste for good moving pictures is inherent; it is mankind's desire to see itself and its neighbor. In the big city, where the personal touch does not exist for a large part of the population, there are hundreds of thousands who seek in the movie the picture of domestic life, the family group, the little home incidents the romances of everyday existence that the inhabitant of the small city and the country lives day by day.
"The desire for good music, however, is not innate. It is gained by most of us from hearing the best of tunes again and again, until we acquire the taste. Added to the motion picture, in pleasing surroundings and carefully chosen to fit the story, music and pictures blend into one harmonious whole, and the audience scarcely realizes that it is getting as much good music as it would hear at an ordinary concert. And it does not go to sleep.
"The taste in pictures improves under the stimulus of good music until the original movie fan becomes a confirmed motion picture and music patron. How the taste for better things in motion picture theatres developed is best seen from the offerings in the average motion picture house. A month ago I was in a theatre far uptown and saw a beautiful scenic picture with a voice singing behind the stage. I heard people exclaiming about the beauty on the screen and the music. The idea, first conceived and executed in the more expensive theatres downtown, has spread to the little neighborhood institutions and is being appreciated to the utmost by thousands whom neither propaganda for classical music nor music school could reach.
"Four years ago we bashfully introduced a classical number here and there on our program, but the bulk of our music was of the promenade concert variety. Four years of serious effort has not been in vain. We are not afraid to-day to play the most difficult and modern composers and the people like it.
"The next step? The motion picture-music houses are coming in great numbers. If I were to venture into the field of prophecy I should say that within the next five years New York will see the present Broadway theatrical district one great array of beautiful motion picture houses. The orchestras will be an even bigger feature than they are now, and we have almost fifty trained men in each of our houses. But the people want music and they are going to get it."
Source: “Music in the Picture Theatre,” Music Picture News 22 November, 1919: 3729.
Image from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Note that Riesenfeld's name is misspelled in the database (and on the photograph).