Friday, May 29, 2009

Video Game Music

NPR's Morning Edition had a nice interview with Tommy Tallarico on music for video games. Among other things, he makes the point that, because video games do not use much dialogue, the music is generally much more foregrounded than is the case for narrative film or TV. Here's a link.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Music Library

Here is a column S. M. Berg wrote for Exhibitor's Trade Review urging theater managers to acquire music libraries for the theater rather than relying on the musical director, pianist or organist to provide one. In the course of his argument, Berg offers a number of observations that provide much insight into the conditions and challenges of musicians playing in smaller venues. The article dates from early in 1917.

Carefully Selected Library Is the True Solution of
Proper Music for the Picture Theatre

Mr. Manager, do you insist that your operator provide his own machines, carbons, films, your doorman his own ticket chopper and uniform, your ticket sellers their own tickets or your cleaner his own broom and pail? If you provide these essentials to some of your employes [sic], why do you force your orchestra leaders, piano players or organists to provide their own music? Do you pay such royal salaries to these hard working but frequently oppressed, necessary adjuncts to your theatre, that you can demand continual outlay from their meagre salary for new music? Let us get down to facts.

The leading motion picture theatres in any large city today change their program at least once and not more than twice a week, demanding at the same time an entire change of music. The majority of these theatres have an orchestra, the members of which are in most cases union. The leader receives double the salary of the other musicians, which is admitted by the union to be a recompense for the supply of music, but the requirements of musical interpretation of the film necessitate such an enormous library that it is becoming the custom for the manager to pay for and provide the music which then becomes the property of the theatre.

Small houses, owing to the competition and their limited clientele are forced to change their program daily, which requires a change of music daily. As an example the Strand Theatre of New York City plays but 52 overtures a years, and yet the small house having a change of program daily must use 365 overtures in the year. On the same pro ratio for music for the film the small theatre should have seven times as great a library as the large theatre, owing to their continual daily change, but the question is, have they it?

Theatres throughout the country seating anything from 300 to 600 patrons depend for their music upon a piano player or organist. The average salary paid to these earnest, hard working musicians, is from $12.00 to $25.00 a week, making the average salary about $18.50 per week. Before beginning their day’s work they have to get a line on the picture, and prepare and assemble their music. A large per cent of these players are women. To fit themselves for the position many years of study and concentration were necessary, and then for nearly 12 hours’ service per day, 7 days a week, they draw the enormous salary of $18.50 per week, out of which they have to continually expend a considerable amount for music in order to hold their positions.

Compare this with any other branch of skilled labor for women. A girl at the age of 15 or 16 years leaves school and goes to business college, where she learns in about three or four months a fair knowledge of stenography and shorthand. After completing her course she is able to procure a position at about $7.00 or $8.00 a week, and if she exhibits any small intelligence is capable of doubling her salary within a couple of years. Does she have to provide her own ribbons for her machine, her books or her pencils to keep her position? Her hours are usually from 9 to 5:30, with a fair intermission for lunch and Saturday afternoons off, at least during the summer months, and no docking of the money which she has honestly earned.

Here is the manager’s problem: Let any manager seek a piano player. One of his first questions would be: Have you a library? and the answer is: Plenty of music. He then asks the pianist to play something. If it meets with his approval he engages the player. The performer comes on the job with a package of music, and the first day or two passes off splendidly. Towards the end of the week the manager notices signs of repetition in the melodies. He begins to complain. The musician promises to procure some new music next week, possibly after she has received her first week’s salary. On the following Monday she arrives with a smiling face and a half-dozen new pieces of music. Again, at the latter part of the week, the same story of repetition occurs, and again the complaint and promises of further music. Ultimately, after three or four weeks, the player is discharged and the same performance continues with new faces. Again I repeat, is it a fair thing that these musicians should be forced to purchase music from their own salaries week by week to hold their jobs?

Here is the solution: Music for the pianist costs on an average of 20c. per number. There are hundreds of pieces of music that can be bought for 10c. per number. Especially composed incidental music costs, on the average, 20c. per copy, and it is in very few instances that any piano part costs more than 30c. per copy. An outlay of $10.00 as an initial expense would give the pianist fifty compositions and further expenditure of $2.00 per week, at the expiration of a year would make a library of 600 standard numbers which could be repeated, without becoming monotonous or distressing to the audience, at intervals of once a month. Such an outlay as this is within the limitations of any theatre devoted to films, besides which the music then becomes the property of the theatre, and in engaging a player you would immediately show that you are interested in your musical problem. There could be no complaint of unnecessary repetition because you would know what material there is in your library. If the music was not satisfactorily performed, you would realize that your player is not competent for the position.

One must realize the importance of music for the film. The true solution of proper music for the picture is the theatre library, and until the theatre manager realizes this the problem of correct musical interpretation by musicians will continue to be unsolved.

Musical Suggestion Cue Sheets which I invented have been copied throughout the industry, and are of great help to players of the film. With a small but carefully selected library of music they are invaluable and will solve the problem of “Musically Interpreting the Picture,” together with “Better Music for the Film.”

Source: S. M. Berg, “Music for the Photoplay,” Exhibitor's Trade Review 6 January 1917, 352.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fresh faces from the concert music world

There are several instances of composers, primarily known for their concert works, being invited to write film scores throughout the 20th century; Copland, Prokofiev, Bernstein, Takemitsu, Glass and Corigliano come quickly to mind with plenty of others (including Herrmann, Rosza, Rota, Chihara and Goldenthal) who have effectively straddled the fence between the concert hall and the scoring stage. Until recently, the real (or imagined) stigma of writing for film seemed to keep most concert composers from even considering it, but there have been several promising signs that the stigma may be crumbling.

Later this year, Tetro, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, will hit the theatres with a score by Osvaldo Golijov. Golijov, with his many compositions and arrangements for the Kronos Quartet, his opera Ainadamar and his St. Mark's Passion, has been steadily becoming known as one of the major musical forces at the turn of the century. His ability to combine musical styles from around the globe as well as his unique voice make it hard to believe that he's only scored two other films to date: Coppola's 2007 film Youth without Youth and Sally Potter's 2000 film The Man Who Cried. This is a good example of a composer who admits that he is new to the idiom but is nonetheless effective in producing thoughtful scores.

Another composer who seems much more at home in the breakneck environment of film is 28-year-old Nico Muhly. A last-minute juggling of composers for Stephen Daldry's 2008 film, The Reader, dropped Muhly into the deep end with less time than usual to produce a score. His experience working as an assistant and conductor for Philip Glass helped considerably and the result was a score that was considered to be one of the best aspects of the controversial film. One can only imagine what affect composers like Muhly and Golijov will have on the overall medium of film music, though I'd like to think it can only improve things in the short and long run.

(Here's a clip of Muhly performing some of the music from The Reader in a public concert):

Market for Photoplay Music

An overabundance of photoplay music? That's what George Beynon claimed in 1918—though he is no fan of the genre, preferring, as he does, the "classics" whenever possible.

A reader writes to him:
I have composed some special music that I think could be cued in on most pictures, and would like to know where I can find a good arranger to make orchestrations. Do you know of any? Is there any demand for such music and would a publisher be interested in buying such compositions?

Beynon replies:
Already the market is flooded with such stuff, but if it be of exceptional merit and suitable for arranging in album form, it would have a chance of a publisher's acceptance. However, we would advise you that it is a hard row to hoe and, at the best, would bring but small remuneration for your creative ability and hard work.

I find particularly interesting in Beynon's reply the stress he places on the music conforming to the proper format.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Refrigerated Comfort

Here is a nice shot of the exterior of the Warner's Theatre during the initial run of Don Juan. Notice how prominent the advertising for the air conditioning is. Air ventilation was an important selling point for theaters already in the teens and actual air conditioning ("refrigerated air"), which was also being installed in department stores, became increasingly common in the 1920s.

(The photo is available from the National Archive, here.)

As part of its celebration of 100 years of business, Carrier Corporation in 2002 produced a press kit and a weekly blog outlining the history of air conditioning, with considerable attention given to its use in film production (sound film in particular required hot lights and closed buildings) and exhibition. This blog entry, for instance, covers the installation of air conditioning in the Rivoli Theatre in New York City, this one deals with its use in production, and this one details its use at Radio City Music Hall. The press kit, with a number of high resolution photos including that of the Rivoli (above), is located here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Musicians' Pay

In his column for 18 May 1918, George Beynon gives the following pay scales for musicians working in theaters in New York City:

The average salary given to the orchestra leaders of the large picture house is about $150 a week, while leaders of the less important theaters receive from $50 to $80 per week. The Union scale for players runs from $28 to $43.50 per week.

Source: George W. Beynon, "Music for the Picture," Moving Picture World 18 May 1918, 1002.

"Embalming" Sound, c. 1916

Text not available
The Popular Science Monthly

Here is a nice little description of recording practice, c. 1916, including a discussion of the Stroh violin:

As a general rule the musicians are perched midway between floor and ceiling, with their instruments pointing toward the horn of the recording phonograph. Men who play the tuba and similar brass instruments turn their backs to the phonograph so that the mouths of the instruments may project their growls and blasts toward the horn. In order that the tuba players may see the conductor of the orchestra, mirrors are placed in front of them, which reflect the movements of his baton.

For violin solos, an ordinary violin is used, the artist usually playing directly in front of a horn projecting through a partition. This is true of chamber music and all records in which the violin tone can be heard with sufficient distinctness. In heavy orchestral pieces, however, a special instrument called, after its inventor, the Stroh violin, is used. It seems that the sounds of the ordinary violin are difficult to produce, especially at a distance. Stroh devised a violin which has no sounding-board. It comprises simply a bridge, over which the strings are stretched in the usual manner, and a horn which amplifies the sounds. This instrument is now used in all phonograph laboratories. On the finished phonograph record its sounds are hardly to be distinguished from those of an ordinary violin.

Source: "Singing for the Phonograph," The Popular Science Monthly, May 1916, 659-60. Click on image above to go to article in Google books.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Illustrated Song: "My Mother Was a Northern Girl"

I was poking around through the database of the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division, and I came across this proof sheet for an illustrated song set to "My Mother Was a Northern Girl," a 1902 song by J. Fred Helf. The song slides also date from 1902, before the era of the nickelodeon, so these slides were likely used by a singer in vaudeville, where the illustrated song was an occasional (minor) attraction.

The actual lantern slides (these are paper proofs) would have likely been hand colored, with a cover of the sheet music being used as the opening slide. By the time of the nickelodeon, the chorus would often be included as a final slide and the audience urged to "join in." An ambitious theater manager would have copies of the evening's songs available for sale.

A larger jpg version is available by double-clicking the image, and you can get the full 64MB tiff through the LoC site, here.

The full sheet music for the song is available through the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at the Sheridan Libraries of the Johns Hopkins University, here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Underscoring -- a contrary view

The trend after about 1935 toward more and more symphonic underscoring had its persistent critics, who objected not only to the idea of musical commentary (underscoring as analogous to the voice-over narrator) but also to music's use when emotionally or dramatically redundant. Kurt London (Film Music, 1936), for example, minces no words on the subject:

Just as once the sound-film song hit ruined the whole structure of many films, so now a pernicious habit of 'mixing' music behind a scene, without any particular motive or connection, has already had quite a number of unpleasant consequences. To give an example. A pair of lovers speak of their feelings for one another; or a tearful parting is enacted; or a dead man is being mourned. Suddenly—no one can tell why—a violin starts sighing out some tearful phrase. Result —a terrible strain on the lachrymal glands. It is an abuse of music to obtain with it a dramatic effect which should be achieved in any case, provided the situation be well founded, well acted, and well staged. 

This vulgar straining after effect has unfortunately become noticeable even in big films, in scenes, moreover, where there could be no possible justification for it [and] it has recently spread with painful rapidity.  

There are in reality only a very few occasions which would justify a use of 'illustrative' background music; still less, a mixture of speech, music, and noises. The dangers of background music are indeed very great.

The Novelty of Offscreen Sound

From The Talkies by Arthur Edwin Krows (1930), 112-114:  

A man to watch is Josef Von Sternberg; . . . . There is no one more intelligent in grasping the new factor of sound. . . . Only an artist could have staged those scenes [in Thunderbolt (Paramount 1929)] in which the audience hears with the ears of the imprisoned bad man, the gossip of his unseen neighbors. When those convict comrades have characterized themselves in sound, then the audience, unlike Thunderbolt, is permitted to see them. There are in this picture a dozen other proofs of Von Sternberg's artistic insight in the new realm of audibility. In the light of more recent talkie accomplishments, why don't the critics have another look at "Thunderbolt"? 

Probably for the same reason that hardly a man or woman among them saw the force of another pioneer example in "Behind That Curtain" [Fox 1929]. There an unhappy wife, gathering her belongings in her boudoir to leave a faithless husband, is forced to hear from off the scene, the penetrating voice and repetitive, maddening song of the Indian girl who has supplanted her in the husband's favor. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Hand Maiden of Motion Pictures

This article by George Ingersoll contains some good material. First, it has a brief recollection of the early years of accompaniment. These sorts of descriptions are fairly common, especially by the 1920s, but Ingersoll has clearly read the trade papers from the early years, and consequently his recollections seem better grounded than most. Second, the last part of this article is a fairly elaborate discussion of how music was being used on the set at the time. I especially liked the quoted remarks of Victor Schertzinger, who says he plans his shoots by first developing a musical score.

The Hand Maiden of
Motion Pictures

“If Music be the food of love, play on,” the lover cried in Shakespeare’s day.

Music is more than the food of love today. It is the hand maiden of motion pictures. Music is often the better half of the entertainment at a motion picture theater. Great orchestras play on the stage before the screen. Wonderful modern pipe organs are manipulated by first class artists at the keys. In every village where pictures are shown music is now accepted as a part of the program.

Few know how much more music has to do with motion pictures. Orchestras play in the studio when the pictures are taken. Directors find that music keys up the actors and gives the required tempo to the scene. Many of the tales from grand opera have been translated to the screen and told in pictures. Some of the operatic stars like Geraldine Farrar have left the stage to act before the camera.

It is a prophecy well on the way to realization that the music we get with motion pictures will make American the most music loving county the world has ever known.

High Points in Cinema Music.

It is a pleasure to trace the history of music and motion pictures.

One Moment Please!

Everyone remembers when that phrase was flashed on the screen in the early days of the motion pictures. It was flashed at the end of each reel. The theater had only one motion picture machine, and it took time to change to the next reel.

Between reels a singer might appear on the stage before the screen and sing a new popular song. Or the player at the piano would favor the audience with a selection.

This was the beginning of music in the motion pictures years and years ago.

Early flicker films were so tiresome to the eyes that they could only run 30 minutes at a time and were followed by piano music and song.

Harmony fakers were hired at every theater to make up any music they could think of as they watched the picture on the screen.

Wherever and whenever there was a waste moment music would be heard. Then when each theater installed two projection machines to keep the showing of film continuous, shifting from one to the other for each reel as they now do, the musical part of the program became more ambitious.

Ragtime musicians and ragtime musical publishers controlled the field until 1909.

In the motion picture trade journals in 1910 a campaign for better music was started by Ernest Luz and Clarence E. Sinn.

Several film producers were ready to put out music suggestions, but the harmony fakers refused to cooperate because they could not play the better quality music.

In 1910 Humperdinck composed an original score for Max Reinhardt’s production of “The Miracle,” which was produced in Convent garden, London, and later in New York.

The first successful attempts to unite good music and pictures was made by Marcus Loew at the old Bijou theater in New York. Mr. Loew was again a pioneer when he put a 10 piece orchestra in the old Herald Square theater which was the first theater in America devoted exclusively to feature pictures.

Seven years ago Sam Rothapfel came east from Minneapolis and originated the idea embodied in the Strand theater of a big theater designed for and devoted exclusively to motion pictures. Since that time great orchestras have been a feature of every program.

There had been music in the old melodramas. And music followed melodrama to the screen. At first the effect was as crude as the tom tom beating at an Indian Sun dance. It was not even so good. The piano player was left to his or her judgment and that was not always good.

Music expresses emotion. Instrumental music expresses emotion better than anything except the human voice. But all music does not express just the right emotion for any specified photoplay. When the producers realized this, they employed musicians to write the musical key sheets to go with the pictures. They indicated what music to play at various places and scenes and indicated the cue and the tempo.

For example, here is a passage from "The Girl from Outside." The, timing is based on a speed limit of 14 minutes per reel of 1,000 feet. T indicates title and S indicates scene.

S At Screening 1 min. 10 sec. Characteristic Tremolo—Lovenberg, T. City of Nome, 35 sec. Blue TTe (2-4 Allegretto) Aiken; S The Fight, 35 sec. Dramatic Agitato—Hough.

And so on through Sinister Theme, Sorrow Theme, Dramatic Narrative, Pizzicato Misterioso (for burglary and and stealth) to Perpetual Motion (Allegro Agitato), Dramatic Recitative, Tension, Suspense and Furioso—for riot or storm scenes.

Musical accompaniment in the best picture play theaters is approaching the standard that has made pantomime a delight on the continent and Christmas pantomime an especial delight in London. Music for pantomime is specially written, however, and a score is seldom written for photodrama. The first faint beginnings are now being heard. There is a promise of grand opera in motion pictures. There are theaters today where the music is frequently more satisfying than the screen entertainment.

Music lovers in the large cities go to hear the music of the symphony orchestras. They are eager to have music scores written to accompany the photodrama. The music will be written by the best composers after they have witnessed an early showing of the photoplay. The prophets say the time is not far distant when the moving picture theater will be the musical headquarters of the neighborhood. The pictures will necessarily be of a quality to be worth writing the best music for.

Good music adds to the emotional power of photodrama.

Now that this is known, every theater manager is trying to the best of his ability to secure good music in the theater. His chief limitations are the amount of money he can afford to spend and the quality of musicians his town affords.

In Montana is a town of five thousand people who patronize two motion picture theaters. Each theater has three musicians. In one three girls play the piano, a cello and a violin. In the other a girl plays the piano, a young man plays a cornet and another the piccolo and sometimes the snare drum. Each Monday afternoon the two sets meet to practice the selections they are to play for the first three days of the week, and on Thursday afternoon they rehearse the music scores for the new programs. Naturally their music becomes monotonous in the course of the months. Constant playing wears away the fine edge of their performance.

What Are You Doing for Better Music?

What can be done to make their work more interesting and their playing more spirited? That is the problem of every theater manager and every neighborhood.

In the finest theaters of the cities 40 and 50 musicians are engaged to interpret the music. In these theaters films are screened twice and even three times before they are shown to the public. At the first screening, the musical director views the film and the musical setting is sketched. At the second and later showings the final score is determined upon the finishing touches suggested. A vast music library is kept up to date with the latest scores. The final score selected at the second screening is then carefully rehearsed by the orchestra to insure a smooth performance at the first showing of the picture to the public.

Two out of three pictures possess all the elements that go to make opera with natural scenery and the finest acting in well developed story.

In fitting music to motion pictures the process may be likened to modern ballet, where the dancing is fitted to the music. In the case of pictures the process is merely reversed and the music is fitted to the emotions and actions of the actors. And this opens up a new field of analysis of great artistic value. For it is a true gift to be able to translate the mental vision into musical sounds. In the first place it requires a comprehensive knowledge to select suitable passages that convey distinct emotions.

What the Musician Does

The Musician who views the motion picture to provide music for the theater must take note of the exact length of the scenes and chose musical scores that are of the same length. He must analyze the general atmosphere and the tone color of the picture, whether happy or unhappy, comic or tragic and so on.

It is far from easy to choose the music when these points are decided. As pictures are now made it is seldom that a whole movement can be used which follows exactly the screen action. Two thirds of the music must be fragments and these must be carefully bound together and synchronized to reproduce and strengthen the action of the play.

The problem is then to provide the musical accompaniment at a reasonable expense and find music form. Where the large cities now have orchestras the motion picture theaters of the smaller cities, particularly in the middle west, place their main dependence on a pipe organ. The great improvements in organs and the real artistry of American organists is a story in itself. Where the organ has often been the main feature of the musical program in churches it is becoming so in theaters. Many former church organists are now playing for the cinema.

The cinema program often begins with an organ prelude even when an orchestra is also employed. The topical films are preceded by an ambitious rendering of a symphony or grand opera selection. A singer of excellent voice may appear to sing popular or classic melodies. Half the pleasure of the evening belongs to the musicians.

Where a Director Scores.

Music today is so much a part of motion pictures that photoplay directors use orchestras at the studio when the cameraman is turning the crank on the pictures. They get a better tempo in the acting. A good jazz band is indispensable to a jazz scene as Victor Schertzinger realized when he directed Mabel Normand in the jazz romance of “Upstairs.” Both the star and the director are no main [?] musicians. It was Tom Moore who played the composer in “Heartsease,” and the playing he did at the organ was reproduced on the organ in many of the theaters where the picture was shown.

In the case of Victor Schertzinger, a famous boy violinist has grown up to be a motion picture director. He was raised in Philadelphia and appeared there with the symphony orchestra. He subsequently played solos in Sousa’s and Pryor’s bands. Later he wrote the musical score for “Civilization” and is now directing Mabel Normand in her acting for he screen. This is the way he explained his success:

“You see, the whole world loves music. The lowest beast of humanity will transcent [sic] for the second at the sound of certain musical strains, and you would never recognize him in that state. The higher souls are likewise uplifted, cheered, made merry by music.

“When first I get a script, I read it over once to get the story, then I read it with blue pencil in hand, marking the important action scenes. Then I go home, sit down at the piano and go over the marked portions carefully. I visualize the action—then work up a little score fitting the scene and the emotion, then I play it over and see if it suits. In this way I memorize the big scenes and have music to accompany them.

“Now as you know at the studio I always have music on the set, whether it be violin, piano, orchestra, band, or a jazz dance quintet. So we play the original scores when the camera is grinding.

“I have seen the time when just a passing breath of melody would put the star and the players in the correct spirit during a hard day’s work.

“The war proved that music can keep up the morale of an army—so why not the spirit of a few motion picture actors and one dear little star, to say nothing of the harassed director?”

So thoroughly is music established in the motion picture studios that one of the great producing companies, the Goldwyn Pictures corporation, now has a regular brass band of 18 pieces, made up of employees who rehearse regularly in the music room of the wardrobe building. They plan to parade, play and rejoice and probably give noon concerts for the benefit of those actors who are too tired to go home in their limousines.

The musician who leads this studio organization is Bert Crossland. He also directs the orchestra which plays for dances, state affairs, hotel scenes and so on. He has spent six years in the photoplay field studying players and directors and composing music That will bring tears and smiles or keep up emotional acting so that the director can get all the effects in acting that are necessary to the making of an excellent picture.

For Geraldine Farrar’s three pictures of this season, Mr. Crossland was in constant attendance with his violin, playing it carefully when the great star was to show moments of joy; producing moaning, mystic tunes when she had to cry or show grief. This sounds amusing or amazing, depending on your point of view, but it is easily understood by those who know how difficult it is to act before the camera with only the fierce lighting of the scene and the few property men to watch. In the absence of a great audience, music has been the spur to the self expression of every artist. Music interpretated [sic] by fellow artists has been found to be the greatest aid and inspiration to emotional expression.

Sources: George Ingersoll, “The Hand Maiden of Motion Pictures,” Fresno Morning Republican 21 December 1919, 6A; Charlotte Observer 12 February 1920, 5. Note: Each of these sources reproduces only a portion of the full article and may include insertions by the local paper's editor. I've tried to construct a coherent text from the sources.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Flesh and Blood

I find ads like the ones here fascinating because they point to a fundamental ambivalence toward the recorded nature of the motion picture medium. Note how the ad bills the "flesh and blood" performance by actors in the theater as an "enhancement." Such ads provide insight into why "live" entertainment beyond the accompanying music might have remained such a large part of the experience and definition of cinema until the sound film became the dominant form of exhibition.

Source: Duluth News Tribune 28 & 31 October 1916, 6

Friday, May 8, 2009

Photoplay Music

The Exhibitor's Trade Review was a trade paper started by W. Stephen Bush at the end of 1916. Bush had formerly been a contributing editor at Moving Picture World. ETR was distinguished from the start by a very generous music section, which generally ran for several (newspaper-sized) pages and included a column by S. M. Berg (a music publisher specializing in music for film) as well as extensive cue sheets. In April of 1917, the music section began publishing items out of Berg's catalog. Here is the first example (from 14 April 1917), an Allegro Agitato (a type of hurry) by Carl Kiefert.

Notice the highly modular structure, which would allow the player to expand and contract the music as needed. As is typical of hurries, the basic phrase structure at the 8-measure unit is sentential, with a 2-bar basic idea, a repetition of that basic idea, and 4-bar continuation that leads to a cadence. In the first two instances, Kiefert then pairs two sentences with complementary half and full cadences into compound (or double) periods. (The second set of 16 measures is actually a bit more complicated, as m. 24 is actually a tonicized arrival in the minor dominant, but this E-minor chord serves a similar structural function to a half cadence at the level of the compound period.) The third set of 16 measures (p. 2) is similar, except that each of the 8-measure phrases ends with some sort of half-cadence. The fourth and final set of 16 measures is an actual 16-measure sentence, with a 4-measure basic idea, which is repeated, and then an 8-measure continuation.

A PDF scan of the piece is available here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How It Is Done at the Strand, Part II

In this column of his series, Harold Edel urges adding a short orchestral concert to the first matinee performance as a means of boosting attendance at the show. Also of interest in this column is how he much attention he gives to the proper mediation between "popular" and "high brow." Pretentious cinemas such as the Strand were in this way very active participants in the definition of middle brow music.

Much has been written and said on that ancient problem, “How can we build up the matinee business?” With the largest number of seats of any cinema theater in New York City, the Strand had a particularly hard nut to crack in solving this question. However, after trying various ideas and suggestions we have finally hit upon an original plan, the execution of which has made our afternoon business a source of no further worry. We are now able to point to our matinee attendance with pride and our orchestra is responsible for it.

It is my contention that every theater in the country carrying an orchestra can overcome the matinee slump just as the Strand has done. The answer is a high-class popular concert as an added attraction for the afternoon show. When we first announced our afternoon symphony concerts various people shook their heads and smiled. The result, however, is that the Strand Symphony orchestra is not only one of the most noted motion picture organizations, but it is classified with all the great musical concert institutions in the city. In other words, we have not only attracted to our theater lovers of photoplay plus good music, but we have brought to our house lovers of high-class music, people from the musical world who seek their entertainment at the most prominent recitals in the city.

When I say the Strand orchestra is classified with all the big musical organizations I mean just that. Through our symphony concerts we have enlarged our scope. We have gone into the world of high-class music. In the newspapers our activities are not confined to the pages or spaces devoted to the silent drama. In the columns devoted to music and read by many persons who never look at the motion picture departments appear notices and reviews of our orchestra and musical artists. In publications read exclusively by the patrons of high-class music we receive the same recognition. What is the result? New Yorkers who patronize afternoon recitals have become patrons of the Strand and have told their friends that high-class popular music at reasonable prices can be heard here.

With the engagement of Oscar Sperescu, the noted conductor, and the installation of a thirty-minute concert preceding our regular afternoon show we have attracted patrons to our theater that otherwise would never think of going to a photoplay entertainment. Among our afternoon audiences will be found prominent persons of the musical world enjoying the efforts of our artists. It is always said that the photoplay is the entertainment of the masses. This is true, but with extra effort it can be made the entertainment of the classes as well.

I cite the case of the Strand as an absolute denial to the feeling that a noticeable number of empty seats are to be expected during the afternoon performances. Every exhibitor should endeavor to seek new fields of patronage. In view of the fact that music is so closely associated with the presentation of the pictures, it is easier to reach out to the musical world in addition to the cinema world, than any other art. However, to do this, real orchestral entertainment must be presented and to the man who does not carry an orchestra this article is of little interest. To the exhibitor who has an orchestra I would suggest that he make an honest-to-goodness bid to the music public. Get a conductor of local popularity and engage him to direct your orchestra a half an hour in the afternoon. Get recognition in another channel aside from your regular motion picture field, but be sure you give them the right kind of music, which is the most important of all.

By the right kind of music I do not mean ragtime, nor do I mean music that is so “high brow” that no one excepting an expert would understand or enjoy it. The kind of music we offer is popular high-class offerings, with as much emphasis on the “popular” as on the “high class.” Selections taken from well-known operas, music familiar to the average person of any musical instinct at all, is the class of entertainment to present. Favorite selections done perhaps in a new way or introducing novel solo bits; this is the kind of music that will please the “high-brow” as well as the average person who likes musical entertainment. The Strand is not merely a photoplay theater; it is a place where music lovers as well as screen patrons may find real entertainment, and this has answered our afternoon attendance problem.

Source: Harold Edel, “How It Is Done at the Strand,” The Moving Picture World 12 January 1918, 230.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Music as an Advertisement

Here is an interesting excerpt on how to use the musical program as part of the advertising campaign for a theater. It comes from Epes Winthrop Sargent's 1915 book on motion picture advertisement. Sargent wrote a column in The Moving Picture World, and much of the material for this book was drawn from that column. He also wrote a book on screen writing.

At the beginning of this chapter, Sargent makes the claim that treating music as a co-attraction is an Australian innovation. He then outlines the criteria a manager should look for in a leader (i.e., musical director) and weighs the advantages and disadvantages of different instrumental combinations for accompanying pictures. Note that he specifically advocates against both the illustrated song and the piano and drum accompaniment unit—both of which would have been associated with just that nickelodeon-style show against which the picture palace aesthetic is beginning to define itself.


Music makes for business—Value of music as a talking point—Best musicians not always the best picture players—Credit the house and not the leader—Making music help dull days.

Music—the best you can afford—is a distinct and valuable advertisement. More than one house has been raised from failure to success through a change in the music, and many Exhibitors have found that it pays to adopt the Australian idea of making music a co-attraction with the pictures instead of merely an accessory.

[32] If you can get a good one, an orchestra is the best form of music, but there are very few really good orchestras in motion picture theatres. In this sense "good" means not alone competent players but musicians competent to play the pictures. Above a certain point the skilled musician is not well fitted to become a picture player. This does not mean, of course, that the worst musicians make the best picture players.

A really high class musician, particularly a leader, is apt to regard playing the pictures as beneath the dignity of his professional standing. He may consider the pictures to be of vastly inferior importance to the work of his band and will build a musicianly program and adhere to it through the thunders of Wagner's mightiest moments disturb the death bed of the heroine and the lilting measures of Mendelssohn's Spring Song fill the house while battle rages. The picture is not overdrawn. It has happened and is happening daily.

On the other hand, an effort to strictly play the pictures with an orchestra will be equally futile. The rapid changes in the tempo of the story would require an abrupt shifting of the selections that would be quite as disturbing to the patrons. The aim should be to establish in the leader's chair a man familiar with the library of good music. Let him see a rehearsal of the pictures before the regular performance opens, selecting then a program that will be in general accord with the pictures to be shown, not playing entire selections through, but not changing with each shift of scene.

Where they can be had, men who have played vaudeville of burlesque houses are better suited to the work than men from the dramatic houses, for they are more used to quick shifts and changes and to "following the act." Most orchestras are led by the first violin, but the Turner and Dahnken houses report excellent results with their leaders at the drums; these players having less to do. A system of lights at each desk is employed instead of baton signals.

Where possible, the orchestra pit should be sunken, not alone because the glare of light on the white music sheets

[33] fights the screen, but because music from an unseen source is more in accord with the general idea of picture presentation.

As a reward for playing the pictures properly, and for other practical reasons, a short selection should be played as a number between subjects. This not only gratifies and appeases the vanity of the players, but it serves as a break between stories, enables the lights to be thrown on that the house may clear without confusion and rests tired eyes.

These musical interludes may be made a distinct asset. Flash a slide to the effect that Mr. Chopin will be glad to play request selections. Ask the patrons to write the names of desired selections on cards to be had at the rear of the house, as in Figure 6.

Figure 6.—Request card for musical selection.

If the selection can be played, notify the patron by a form post card filled in with the address from the request card. The form in Figure 7 is recommended. The cards should be filled in with the name of the selection and the day and date. By assigning request selections to dull days, some extra business may be created.

Feature your orchestra in the advertising. Play them up, but before you start tactfully explain to "Professor Chopin" that you are going to do some press work for him that must not be taken by him too seriously. He is liable to acquire too good an opinion of himself and

[34] want more money. In the same way it is better to feature the house orchestra than the leader and his band. If he resigns, or is dismissed, you still have the attraction.

Next to an orchestra, the better class of mechanical orchestras are best. For some reasons a device of this sort is to be preferred to a band, since the music is handled by one man and changes can be more evenly made than when there are many players, some of whom think more slowly than others and always are a little late in changing over. Another advantage is that part of the musical appropriation may be diverted to paying for the instrument and at the same time more money can be paid the operator and better results had.

Figure 7.—Notification card for musical selection.

Third in value comes the pipe organ. This is not as flexible as the orchestral device, but on the other hand it can give the sustained note that is the best form of accompaniment and can be swelled in tonal volume for the big scenes. The best accompaniment is never intrusive, and the aim of the players should be to supplement the effects on the screen instead of sharing the honors.

With all of these forms of music it is possible to work direct advertising. Give morning musicales or Sunday afternoon performances in towns where pictures may not be run on that day. Concerts at an admission price may be countenanced where pictures will not be. If no fees are permitted, make them invitation affairs without charge, getting your tickets, where possible, into the hands of the better class of your patrons and giving programs that

[35] will appeal to them. Do not confine your efforts to the patrons. Reach out for the people you are not getting. They may come to a concert where the pictures will not attract, and once they get to know your house, they will be more apt to form a habit of coming.

Do not let your programs be too heavy, nor yet permit them to become cheap, and give the program with as much style as possible. If you introduce vocal numbers do not use stuff of the illustrated song type. Perhaps the local music teacher can help you to get some good talent cheaply in return for advertisement for herself. Get up the sort of concert that will create a demand for more. Work the local papers for special mention. If there is a musical club in town enlist their interest. Make the scheme work in as many ways as possible.

At the regular performances give the same prominence to the music. Have a program printed for the day or print a list of selections for the week and announce that the daily program will be taken from these, the selection being shown by card or program letter or number. This should be done only with selections presented as such and not while the picture is running on the screen.

Failing even an organ, recourse must be had to piano either alone or in combination with other instruments. The once popular combination of piano and drums was a hideous thing that has been outgrown. The drummer was handy to work his traps, but today it is the picture that counts and not the sound effects. Piano and cornet lacks the balance of piano and strings. The second instrument should be strings, and a cello rather than a violin, if possible. If a third player can be added a saxaphone [sic] will give the combined tone of brass and wood. If this may not be had use a clarinet. If piano alone is used, it is a good plan to have some relieving novelty, such as a chime of bells or a xylophone. These should not be used while a picture is on the screen, but for a brief interlude.

Because you can afford only a piano is no reason why you should not give proper care to your music. Indeed it will pay to be even more careful, since you

[36] have so little to offer. The smaller the volume of tone the better it should be.

No matter what form of music you employ, be willing to spend money for a musical library. Get the new selections and see that these are played; not the jingly stuff from the cheap houses, but the hits from the musical comedies, good marches and the like. Of course you will need the product of the popular song publishing houses, but set apart some of the dull nights as "popular" nights and use them then.

Though it is contrary to accepted belief, NEVER permit a popular song hit to be played during a drama, and in a comedy only when it fits in. Consciously or otherwise, the patrons will mentally repeat the words of the song and interest will be divided between music and the screen. This is one of the little things, seldom noticed but always important.

Trade slides should be discouraged, but there is no objection to a slide stating that "all of the music played at this theatre may be had at Jones' Music Store, Holtoa Block." If Jones is a live wire he will see that you get the newest and best, either free or at reduced cost.

There are three kinds of music. One kind keeps patrons away, a second is barely good enough to pass, and a third makes business. The latter means constant alertness some expense and a lot of worry—but it is worth it.

Source: Epes Winthrop Sargent, Picture Theatre Advertising (New York, 1915), pp. 31-36.