Thursday, March 25, 2010

Borodkin's Guide To Motion Picture Music

Here are some scans of the opening pages of Maurice Borodkin's Guide To Motion Picture Music from 1928, which unlike Rapee's Encyclopedia, the catalogues Seredy compiled for Fischer is not much mentioned in the literature. This is very similar to the Carl Fischer Motion Picture Music Guide compiled by Seredy et al. in 1922, albeit Borodkin's guide is not restricted to pieces by a single publisher. Borodkin's collection does not include the extensive information on each piece that Seredy's 1929 Analytical Orchestra does, but it is published in loose-leaf format which would have permitted easy updating of the content.

Borodkin apparently worked for Balaban & Katz, which by the time Borodkin compiled his Guide had been acquired by Paramount to form the basis of its Publix Theatre chain. The book was privately published and as such the details of why it was published are somewhat murky. One possibility is that the Guide was first assembled to help establish a degree of musical uniformity among the Publix theaters and was then offered for sale to music directors of other theaters. Why Publix would have permitted the dissemination of such proprietary information, however, is unclear, as is why the company would have allowed Borodkin to publish it on his own.


No one but the experienced musical director or organist can appreciate what a task the synchronization or fitting of appropriate music to a music picture is. The other numbers on the average picture house program, the overture, presentations, musical novelties, etc. are prepared along accepted lines but the job of setting the feature picture and the various short subjects to music is frequently the stumbling block of some of the most capable musicians.

There are many fine points to be learned before one can be really called competent to provide suitable music to the action of the film offerings. The volume of work that surrounds most picture theatre conductors and organists is generally so great the time in which to develop the art of cueing pictures is seldom available and every aid must be employed to complete the job.

To actually cue a picture correctly and artistically presupposes adequate equipment in musical knowledge and considerable experience. A finely balanced artistic sense of the propriety of things. An intimate and readily accessible knowledge of dramatic emotions, moods, scenes, incidents, climaxes and their musical complements.

To know even a part of this requires more time than the average musician can afford and so Borodkin's Guide to Motion Picture Music makes it bow and finds a place already awaiting it in the musician's library. To the thousands who prefer to specialize in their own work it places the work of cueing in the hands of an expert.

Maurice Borodkin, in the compilation of this carefully planned work has rendered a definite service to the profession—a service plainly apparent even by hasty investigation. More than six thousand numbers—in daily use in the finest De Luxe theatres throughout the country—are classified and sub-classified into more than one hundred and fifty distinct categories.

Each mood is accurately defined in plain language so that musician does not have to consult an encyclopedia of a musical dictionary. Each piece in a suite, potpourri, or medley is individually mentioned. This is a valuable point, for one will often remember but a single chorus of a selection and forget just where to look for it in the confusion ensuing from an overburdened memory.

The general task of filing is reduced to the extremely simple one of putting one's library away in consecutive, numerical order. There are even interesting program notes included which will assist the musician who has to furnish the explanatory material for his concerts. It is entirely a loose-leaf affair,—which means that the work can be added to from time to time and thus kept up to date.

Finally, this Guide is written in such simple language, it is so thorough in its scope of application, and so accurate in its attention to the details of classification that the user can compile his entire score away from his library. Once having completed a selection it is only necessary to look the numbers up and the score is complete and ready for the pit!

In this manner Mr. Borodkin relieves the musician of the tedious detail and lessens the experience otherwise necessary to do good work. He has had intimate acquaintance with thousands of musical compositions during his fifteen years of library experience so that "Borodkin's Guide To Motion Picture Music" ought to deserve a place in every serious musician's library for its value in picture fitting. The serious professional will not be without it.

Instructor of Theatre Organ Chicago Musical College.

And here are scans of the "agitato" section of the Guide: