Monday, January 11, 2010

Drummers and Sound Effects, Cont.

In response to a challenge from a reader, Sinn in this column backs off a bit from his criticisms of sound effects he made previously. Uncharacteristically testy in his response, Sinn here admits that sound effects can contribute productively to a show, so long as they are done well. Interestingly, Sinn still fixates on correctly rendering the sound of the horse: "Do you uphold the fellow who imitates a hose 'trotting on asphalt pavement when it is plain the horses are on soft or sandy soil?'"

The second part of the column is given over to musical suggestions, which is becoming a regular feature.

From Albany, Oregon: “In the issue of Jan. 25th, of the Moving Picture World I read your opinion of drummers and their effects for the picture. You seem to regard them as of not much consequence in the making of a picture realistic.

“I have seen photo-plays in the Eastern houses, and the way they are worked—usually with an orchestra; also in the West where they are worked with a picture pianist and a good drummer with an air cabinet costing all the way from three hundred to two thousand dollars.

“Until recently the West was far ahead of the East even in regard to photo-play houses devoted exclusively to pictures. Here in the West the pianist plays to and with the picture, improvising, “faking” and playing from memory. The drummer has a compressed air outfit that makes trains, auto’s, motor boats, in fact here they make any effect in the picture—not loud and blaring but modulated according to the size of the house. In Portland, Oregon, there is one air outfit that I know of owned (as they always are) by the drummer, which is insured for $1800. In this small town there are three houses, two of them using drummers and paying out (both houses for drummers and pianists) about one hundred dollars per week for their music and not working matinees.

“You may not think much of the drummer and his effects, but if you could step into the People’s Theater, Portland (Oregon) and hear one show played and compare it with an orchestra playing pictures I think you would agree with me.

“As for effects not making the picture, you’ve got to show me. I’ve been to Sadalia Missouri and acquired the habit. Thanking you for at least reading this I beg to remain,
Sincerely, A Drummer with an air cabinet.”

Well, I’ve read your letter; now honestly, did you read mine. You say you did, but did you? My comments were upon a letter from a Massachusetts correspondent criticising [sic] some Boston picture houses. You are evidently in favor of using correct sound effects. Are you finding fault with me for opposing those which are “noisy, silly and incorrect?” Do you uphold the fellow who imitates a hose “trotting on asphalt pavement when it is plain the horses are on soft or sandy soil?” I don’t believe you do, else why buy an expensive including and “air cabinet.” I still maintain that, generally speaking, the sound effect man has not advanced in the same ratio with his co-adjutor the picture pianist there are not so many good or even careful players among the drummers as among the pianists. If all the sound effect men in your part of the country are above criticism they are to be congratulated, but in the east and the middle west they are made up of good, bad and indifferent. I repeat “the sound effect idea, with many is practically the same now as it was in its crude beginning.” And so it is.

Speaking of the “air cabinet,” the first compressed air machine as applied to sound effects was invented and perfected by Wm. E. King of Chicago, some seven or eight years ago and has been in use at the Orpheum Theater (Chicago) since that house has been a picture theater. “Billy” King should have patented his ideal it would have brought him as much fame as has his popular “three-in-one” drum and bell rack.

There are a number of theaters in Chicago where the sound effects are rendered in a careful manner. Mr. King and Mr. Provan at the Orpheum have long made this branch a feature of the orchestral accompaniment to their pictures.

There are some pianists who are not yet out of the wilderness. One of them had “The Resurrection” to maltreat, slander and otherwise disfigure. For the two scenes of Russian Dancers he played “Every Body’s Doing It” and “Every body Two-step,” and at the meeting in the prison, “When You Waltz With Me.” Can you beat it?

(Courtesy W. E. King.)
First Reel.
  1. Allegretto “In Meadow Land (by Theo. Bendix), until: “Marion’s Foster Father” (when singer seen).
  2. A few bars of “The Rosary”; then back to No. 1 until she sits and sings. A few bars of “The Rosary again, then
  3. “Lilacs” (by Katheryn Roberts) until: “On the Eve of the Duel.”
  4. Plaintive until title: “At the Time Appointed.”
  5. Agitato pp. until shot. Stop a few seconds, then:
  6. “Walther’s Traumlied” (Wagner) until title: “Training His Child to Carry Out His Revenge.”
  7. “The Rosary” until title: “Ten Years Later.”
  8. “In the Shadows” (Finck) until end of reel.
Second Reel.
  1. ”Roses and Memories “ (Snyder) until scene at piano.
  2. “The Rosary” until end of scene: “Here He Comes Now. Don’t Forget Your Promise.”
  3. Schubert’s “Erl King” until Carl and Durand meet.
  4. “Evening Star” (Wagner) until struggle.
  5. Hurry (long) for fire scene until title: “Vengeance Is Mine.”
  6. Plaintive until title: “Memories.”
  7. “Roses and Memories” until she sits at piano.
  8. “The Rosary,” then back to “Roses and Memories” until close.

“THE LORELEI” (Edison).

  1. Waltz until page from book is shown.
  2. “Die Lorelei” (old German song), then back to waltz until: “A Conquest etc.”
  3. “Le Secret” (by Gautier) until title: “Neglected.”
  4. “Salut d’Amour” (Elgar) until title: “Song of the Lorelei.”
  5. “Die Lorelei” until she stops playing.
  6. “Salut d’Amour” again until title: “The Answer.”
  7. “Dreams, Just Dreams,” until title: “The Loveliest Maid is Sitting.”
  8. “Die Lorelei” until she awakes.
  9. “Au Mer” (By the Sea) until close.

(Courtesy of Milt. E. Schwarzwald, Bijou Dream Theater.)
First Reel.

Neutral all through—Novelettes, etc.

Second Reel.
  1. “Pirouette” (by Finck) until title: “When Greek Meets Greek.”
  2. “Lion du Bal” (valse) until: “The Plot Thickens.”
  3. “Avalon” once through, then “Fire Flies Dance” until: “At Once We Must Act.”
  4. Agitato p. and f. until end of reel.

Third Reel.
  1. Waltz until spies are seen approaching the house.
  2. Mysterious (“sneaky”) until: “The Night Attack.”
  3. Agitato pp. until girl signals flag ship. Swell to:
  4. Hurry (long number), until battle ship tender arrives at wharf.
  5. Presto gallop (for very fast hurry) until they blow up gasoline launch, then:
  6. Patriotic French song—“Le Chant du Depart,” or “Partant pour la Syrie” until end of picture.
Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” MPW 1 March 1913: 878.