Friday, July 24, 2009

General Issues in Accompanying

This week's column by Sinn is fairly amorphous. He begins recapitulating his general classification of genres and gives some more detailed suggestions for playing scenics and Shakespearean tragedies. Sinn then answers some general queries from his readers. In this column, he also offers his column as a forum for discussing problems of accompanying moving pictures: "I should like to make this page a sort of meeting place where we can all get together and exchange views for our mutual benefit."
"A. J. O." writes a long and complimentary letter in the course of which he voices a wish in which we all share. He says, "I want to know how to work up pictures correctly and the proper music to play for them." His question is natural—we all want to know the same thing. As I said in the beginning, I shall try to give helpful hints on this subject, but from the very nature of the thing, these hints can only be along general lines. An unreleased picture is an unknown quantity and we don't know what music to play for it until we have seen it, but when we do see it we should be able to classify it at once. My third article contained a classification which, though by no means complete, is sufficient to meet the ordinary run of pictures. A purely scenic picture is easily recognized, and though these are not easily "worked up" in detail as you would a melodrama, still they often provide opportunities for musical coloring. For East Indian or Hindu scenes "The Star of India" (Bratton) is a good number. It is also effective in African and jungle pictures generally. Herbert's "Oriental Dance" is another useful number. For Chinese pictures "The First Born," "Highlanders' Patrol" and "Chinese Serenade" are good. Medleys and patriotic songs of Europe are so well known as to need no mention here. When you have fitted a scenic picture with music suggestive of its own locality, and introduced all required sound effects, you have done all there is to do. If you don’t happen to have on hand the required piece of music, get as near to it in character as you can. Even if your picture is laid in Tangiers or Turkey, you could use one of the above in a pinch; it will at least sound characteristic and provide a novelty number for your program. (You know the concert idea of the program is not to be ignored.) If you have nothing characteristic of the countries shown or nothing that by a stretch of the imagination might be suggestive, play any concert number you like; but I earnestly advise you to provide yourself with something of this class as soon as possible. Oriental music and songs of other nations are in constant demand and your library surely should contain these. Industrial pictures seldom call for any special music, I've said that before, but it naturally falls in place here. Scientific pictures likewise. These give opportunity for selections or anything you wish which will round out your concert program. Now let us consider these three classes of pictures disposed of for all time (there is really nothing to suggest further as to their musical settings) and consider the others.

First on the list we find “Tragedy—Shakespearean order.” These abound in court scenes, royal and titled personages, combats, light comedy, and sentiment. A grand march (4-4 time) or a polonaise is ponderous and dignified and fits very well when the characters are gathering for a serious scene—a coronation for example, or a council or departure for battle. For the lighter scenes a gavotte or minuet is useful. “La Cinquantine” can sometimes be used as a fill-in. Any ordinary andante (except modern songs) will be appropriate for the pathetic and sentimental scenes. Battles and other combats of course call for “Hurrys.” If A. J. O.” will send me specific questions (in care of this department) I will be glad to answer them if I can, and if not, they can be passed over to our readers for suggestions. I should like to make this page a sort of meeting place where we can all get together and exchange views for our mutual benefit. So come on with your communications; make them brief and to the point, and if they require a personal answer don’t forget to enclose a stamp. I get a good many of that kind, and it makes an inroad into my postage stamps.

The common inquiry is for titles and descriptive numbers. Occasionally I can slip in a few names on this page, but a list of any length would completely fill it, and while it might all be for the good of the picture, it would not be practical to devote ourselves entirely to the advertising of music publishers’ wares. Such letters will receive personal answers if a stamp is enclosed.

“James T.” asks: “What should I play for acrobatic scenes such as Pathe gives us?” If you mean pictures of acrobats, [play] just the same as you would for a troupe of real performers doing a vaudeville turn. Give them a long chord or a flourish on each appearance and play a galop or lively march for the act.

"Jessie O. S., Chicago, Ill." inquires as to what should be played when the picture stops and a letter is shown on the screen. A letter, newspaper article, or any document or writing or printing which a character is reading or writing, is a part of the scene in which it is shown and whatever you may be playing at the time it is shown should be kept up until the action of the scene warrants a change or stop.

A few suggestions are appended for music to the following pictures "Elder Alden's Indian Ward.”

Lively till Indian enters;
Indian music till change of scene;
Heavy mysterious (bass solo) till change;
Repeat same number till change;
Indian War Dance (Belstedt's) till sub-title Thanksgiving Day;
At next change of scene, mysterious (pizzicato effect) till change of scene;
When Indian looks in window "heavy mysterious" (same as third number) till attack;
"Hurry" till death of Chief Squantum;
Soft Indian music till finish.

"The Golden Supper":

Gavotte till "After the Wedding,'' then
Anitra's Dance (by Grieg) till "Later," then
Massinet's Elegy till funeral procession, then
Chopin's Funeral March till Camilla moves hand;
Rubenstein's Melodie in F till "The Golden Supper."
Scarf Dance (short) till Camilla enters;
Short pause.
When Lionel sees Camilla, '"Oh Tender Moon" (from Faust) till end of picture.

Clarence Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 24 December 1910, 1465.