Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Examples of Early Sound Film

Here are a number of examples of early sound films.

The Dickson Experimental Sound Film (c. 1894)



Nursery Favorites (Edison, 1914)





A Few Moments with Eddie Cantor (de Forest Phonofilm, 1923):



Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake Sing Snappy Songs (de Forest Phonofilm, 1923)



President Coolidge, Taken on the White House Grounds (de Forest Phonofilm, 1924)



Gus Visser and his Singing Duck (Theodore Case, 1925)



Anna Case in La Fiesta (Vitaphone, 1926). (Although the YouTube video lists this as 1928, I believe it is actually 1926.)


George Bernard Shaw (Fox Movietone, 1928)



Finding His Voice (Western Electric, 1929)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First International Exposition

Below are excepts from a review of the International Trade Show that was held in New York in early July. I have included primarily the passages on music and sound effects. The full article, which contains many interesting bits about equipment available to exhibitors, can be accessed via Google Books in window at the end of the post.
The First International Exposition

Splendid Showing Made by the Various Branches of
the Motion Picture Trade and Contributary Interests

It was something of a venture on the part of the promoters of the First International Exposition of Motion Picture Arts when they suggested the project. As has been frequently observed in these columns, conditions in the trade were not favorable to such an undertaking, but that fact did not deter the promoters, the New York City Exhibitors' League. They framed their plans very carefully and toiled with great industry for the ultimate success.

Whether conditions of the trade changed to please the promoters of the exposition, or whether it was their energy that overcame adverse conditions, the fact remains that the exposition was a huge success. The big hall of the Grand Central Palace was tastefully laid out, the booths were artistically designed and decorated, giving the exposition a fairyland aspect when illuminated by the thousands of incandescent lights.

It would be impossible to publish all the complimentary remarks expressed by visitors, but they were enthusiastic to the last degree, and well they might be, for it seldom happens that a trade exhibit at Grand Central Palace is more comprehensive and attractive than this. A careful review of the displays follows:

[. . .]

[325]

[. . .]

Just across the aisle from the big Wurlitzer instrument, that makes more noise than the band, the Dramagraph effects machine has to get in when the Wurlitzer man has a heart, but the novelty of the machine holds the crowds. It is a compact collection of drummers' traps and effects self-contained and supplemented by the usual bass and snare drum. The bass pedal has an arrangement whereby the cymbal or drum may be operated independently of the other or in unison. The other has a lever device for throwing off the snares and converting it into a tom-tom. Cranks, pulls and handles work all sorts of bells and a series of tubes work the whistles, and other pneumatic effects. There is a phonograph for use where the piano is absent, and an organ run by a crank for church scenes. A typewriter key effect has its accompanying bell, and the demonstrator claims that not a single sound asked for yet has not been replied to. The jokester who asks for "a noise like a nut" is given the laugh by the operator tapping his assistant's head.

Scott and Van Altena have their display in running order and show a collection of slides that it would be hard to beat anywhere. They are all straight photographic effects in combination instead of crude drawing, and some of the colorings are unusually effective. You are missing an eye treat if you go past this booth too quickly. The interior is darkened and a glass screen shows the effect of some of the numbers in the lantern.

Phonoliszt Violina is a pretty large mouthful of name. It belongs to one of the most unique musical instruments on the floor, a combination of two violins and piano. While there are four instruments for each violin, each violin using but a single string, all are completely strung and the combination of the eight give the full effect of two good instruments, the bowing being done by a circle bow and the stopping by mechanical fingers. Apart from the novelty the tonal effects are really good and the piano accompaniment leaves nothing to be desired, being neither obtrusive nor lacking in volume. Perforated paper rolls are used, these being made in Germany. There is another instrument giving a combination of piano and organ, a pleasing effect, and there is a pipe organ with effects for those who desire something of greater volume, all of them being handled by Ernst Bocker. There is more than plenty of music in the air, but it is good music.

[. . .] There is a full equipment of Deagan's bells. A. F. Berry is in charge of the exhibit, and he is aided by J. R. Hunter and J. R. Sweeney.

[. . .]

[326]

[. . .]

The one thing that can make the Wurlitzer organ weary is the Yerkes bells mounted on the balcony railing and operated from a booth close to the entrance. Next exposition, it is rumored, they are going to put all the musical instruments in a special

[327]

hall and let them fight it out, but the bells are holding their own well, and are attracting attention. They have other music makers, but the bells lead the rest.

[. . .]

It isn't necessary to talk much about the Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. It speaks for itself and in no uncertain tones. Every time it starts up—and it starts up about ten minutes after it runs down—the crowd hustles over and the only person in hearing who does not seem to like it is the man who tries to sneak in a demonstration of the Dramagraph each time they change a tune.

The W-H-J has to hustle some to live up to two hyphens, but it makes it every time and with plenty to spare. The Wurlitzer people might have filled that end of the hall with their various styles of instruments, but they centered on the Unit Orchestra and the band lost its job after the opening night, just as many orchestras have been replaced by one man at the W-H-J console. The best thing about it is that having only one man, a good man may be engaged, since he is the director over a mechanical instead of a human orchestra. The regular Wurlitzer catalogue lists machines all the way from $375 up, but no one ever discovered that they had more than one standard of excellence though a score of degrees of elaborateness.

The Berry-Wood people, at the other end of the hall—and have you noticed how these automatic players run to hyphens— have three instruments on display and many more in their catalogue.

[. . .]
Source: “The First International Exposition,” Moving Picture World 19 July 1913, 324-27.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wurlitzer, Sound Effects, and a Letter from Columbus

Sinn's column appeared only sporadically during the summer months, and this particular column seemed to serve primarily to drum up reader interest in the column. For whatever reason Sinn would place only two more columns in Moving Picture World before the end of September.

Here, Sinn spends the first part of the column on the Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra, which had made a very big impression at the summer trade show in New York. This instrument is indeed the forerunner of the mighty Wurlitzer that would become legendary during the picture palace era. Wurlitzer had long advertised in the Moving Picture World, but their ads, as the one to the left, had generally sold their cheaper automatic instruments, with the promise that its automatic instruments would "furnish better music than musicians and reduce expenses." Wurlitzer did not, for the most part, advertise the Unit Orchestra directly in Moving Picture World—though it did receive fairly extensive coverage in news items.

Sinn then turns to Lapin's (Excelsior) "Dramagraph" sound effects cabinet, which had likewise impressed at the trade show, before printing a long letter urging musicians to play appropriate music. He ends with a short item announcing a collection of music written specially for "motion picture work."

Come Right In; Don’t Stop to Knock.

The editor of this department has been a few weeks vacation and in consequence the page has been neglected somewhat. Now that we are back in the harness we are going to try with your help to make the music department more interesting than before. Those having new ideas, worries, questions or answers—anything in fact which may be of interest to your fellow musicians—please come forward with your offerings. It says “Welcome” on the door-mat and we are always glad to hear from you.

To the exhibitor who contemplates the installation of a pipe organ in his theater, I would respectfully suggest that before deciding he will give a thorough inspection to the Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. (The manufacturers object to its being styled an organ, tho it is played the same.) Exhibitors who attended the convention in New York heard this instrument among other exhibits, of course; they could not very well help it, but amid all the confusion, bustle and many-voiced sounds, the Unit-Orchestra had little or no opportunity of demonstrating its value as applied to picture-music. To appreciate its worth, one must see and hear a practical demonstration and I found one at the Astor Theater where “Quo Vadis” is being shown. Many of the visitors attended this performance, no doubt. Those who did not, missed a treat. I saw it three times this week and enjoyed Mr. Clarence W. Dow’s masterly accompaniment upon a Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. I wish to remark in passing, that Mr. Dow is an artist, an experienced picture-musician and one of the very few I have been fortunate enough to hear, who can improvise appropriate and musical music to moving pictures.

The instrument at the Astor Theater is only one of their many styles and, as the manufacturers justly say, is destined to become very popular. So again I suggest before you decide upon that pipe organ inform yourself regarding the Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. The Rudolf Wurlitzer Co. will gladly give you details in case you are so situated that a personal examination is impossible.

Sound Effects.

Lapin’s “Dramagraph” was another exhibit which attracted much attention. This is purely a “sound-effect” instrument and its inventor claims that it can be made to produce “any conceivable sound known and used in dramatic or photoplay portrayal.” As that will cover theoretically every sound known to art and nature, you can see it is a pretty big proposition. At that I think they made all of them and added a few original noises during that week of July 7th. It is “some sound box” all right.

A Few Remarks From Columbus, Ohio.

“So much has been said about music for pictures in your valuable magazine that I feel as though I might add a few words of advice to picture-pianists. First of all, play the picture as it should be played, if you know how. If not, give up your position to one who does know how and save your credit. Not every pianist is qualified to play pictures. I have known the very finest performers of piano to be utterly lost on a picture as far as appropriate music for the picture goes. First of all study your picture thoroughly before you touch the piano, know just what you are playing for and play it. If you played a song for a singer you would have some feeling about that song, wouldn’t you? I am sure no piano player, no matter how brilliant or what amount of knowledge of music he may have, would play ‘Il Travatore’ in the same rambling time and tone as he would ‘Grizzly Bear.’ If some of the old authors who spent the best of their lives in writing such pieces as ‘Melody in F,’ ‘Sextette from Lucia,’ ‘Il Travatore,’ ‘Poet and Peasant,’ or any of the higher class of music, could hear how it is being literally butchered by the ragtime banger, they would week with mortification if they at all recognized their composition. Now, piano player, for sake of poor suffering humanity, please play as though you enjoyed your work and were not doing it simply because you had to, to buy a new frock or that it was more of a task than a pleasure. It is a task for an intelligent audience to sit through, probably, the very finest set of pictures, when they are poorly played. Play all the latest popular airs, of course, and, as much lively ragtime pieces as you like, but for your own sakes play them at the right time and in the right places. It is always best with a three (3) reel subject to carry the feeling of one reel straight into the next one, then play a rag or poplar air at the close of the picture. I was in a picture show in my own town just a few nights ago. The picture was ‘In Slavery Days,’ a Southern drama. The pianist was an exception; she played All the old Southern airs, I believe, that was ever written from ‘Kentucky Home’ to variation of ‘Mocking Bird’ and between the reels she played variations of ‘Massa’s in the Cole, Cole Ground,’ and, to tell the truth, there was not a dry eye in the house and scarcely a breath drawn between reels, simply because that girl got her audience and she held them. One more word, pianists throw your whole life and soul into your picture. Just make yourself fit in and put feeling into your playing. I believe that the time will eventually come when the ragtime junk will be thrown out altogether, and the higher class of compositions used. Pianist should remember that no matter where the theater is located, there is bound to be a musician at some time or other visit it. And they should also remember that his or her manager is depending on them for exactly one-half of his entertainment. If the pianist is no part of the entertainment and cannot hold up his or her end of the entertainment, the sooner the music is dispensed with the better. I have played in picture shows for seven years and the best way to play for pictures is to get the ‘Moving Picture World’ and the moving picture stories each week and read all the stories of the picture your exchange furnishes. Then you are familiar with the thread of the picture before the show. And until pianists do acquaint themselves with the different subjects of the pictures, the managers are bound to have poor music.

“The pianist alluded to in the above is Mrs. Ethel London at the Oakwood Theater, Columbus, Ohio, and I believe her to be one of the best in our City.

“Mrs. I. B. Sneed.”

New Music.

I notice Mr. J. Bodewalt Lampe, the well known American composer, is about to launch a collection of music designed for motion picture work. Mr. Lampe expects to have it on the market in a few weeks and you will doubtless see his announcement in these pages when the work is ready. It will be for piano and orchestra and can be used for any combination of instruments, and will, I am sure, be a welcome addition to the meager selection of music designed especially for picture work which is now on the market.
Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 23 August 1913, 833.
Image Sources: Excelsior Sound Effect Cabinet Moving Picture World 12 July 1913, 256; Wurlitzer Moving Picture World 9 August 1913, 692.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What and How to Play for Pictures

Here is a scan of Eugene A. Ahern's What and How to Play for Pictures (1913) [5 MB PDF]. Unlike Lyle C. True's very similarly titled catalogue from the following year, Ahern's book offers practical advice in the specific task of playing to the pictures; it is in that sense a practical manual. The copy I looked at did not contain a Table of Contents, but I have compiled one below:

Preface 5
How to Play 7
Appropriate Music 10
Short Scenes 13
Continuous Playing 18
Difficult Music 22
Producers' Suggestions 28
Popular Music 32
Arrangement of Themes 39
War Dramas 43
Society Plays 45
Brighter Prospects 50
Effect Playing 53
Specimen Program 56
Don'ts 58

Here is his preface:
This Booklet was not gotten up to criticize anyone's way of playing pictures, nor to teach you how to play the piano; but What and How to Play for Pictures is the object aimed at. The book also contains a little advice to beginners in this line of business.

The Booklet embodies my ideas of the business of playing the pictures. I do not claim to be infallible, but experience has shown me the wisdom of the views set forth. In the hope of assisting others in this particular occupation I offer the result of my own observations and study.
Eugene Ahern.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How and What to Play For Moving Pictures

The catalogues of Seredy, Rapee, Borodkin and Hastings all date from the 1920s and they emphasize orchestral music. The same is true for the most elaborate of these catalogues, the Allgemeines Handbuch der Film-Musik of Erdmann and Becce.

The idea of a list of music catalogued by topics occurred early, however. Numerous times in the early days of his column, Clarence E. Sinn had mentioned a list he had compiled and was willing to share with correspondents for the cost of postage—though he declined to publish it in his column and so the extent of its coverage remains unclear.

The first publication I’m aware of that sees cataloguing music by topic as key to the whole enterprise is Lyle C. True’s How and What to Play for Moving Pictures: A Manual and Guide for Pianists (1914), which, aside from a two page introduction (reproduced below), consists almost entirely of a list of compositions catalogued by topic. Earlier publications had also contained topically arranged lists of compositions as part of longer works, but these lists were initially fairly short and clearly conceptualized as appendices rather than a primary order of musical knowledge.

The primacy given to the categorization is what changes with True's collection, even though his treatise remains relatively short: 11 pages of catalogue proper divided into about a dozen categories (some with subdivisions). In addition, he includes 7 additional pages that analyze well-known operas, operettas, and overtures into categories and also provide a list of some common, useful popular songs.

Here is the preface:

How and What to Play for Motion Pictures

The motion picture pianist who would be above the mere mechanical devices in playing for the picture must, first of all, take his work seriously. He should be able at once to recognize the dramatic possibilities of a picture and to augment and support them through the medium of his art.

It is obvious, of course, that the solo pianist has an advantage over two or more musicians through being able to watch the pictures and play at the same time. He can instantly follow each change of mood and character, and support the climaxes as it becomes desirable.

It is not sufficient, in many cases, merely to select a number of compositions of a given character, and to play them through as the drama is shown on the screen. To do so is to miss completely the scores of opportunities that arise for fitting the music to the action.

The pianist should create a tone poem that forms a frame, as it were, for the picture: and this involves a true test of his musicianship. To do this well, he should have at his finger tips a large and varied repertoire, and the ability to improvise, so as to unite several, or the fragments of many compositions into a pleasing and effective whole.

As a good accompanist merges his work with that of a soloist to a degree that the hearer is entirely oblivious of his work, so the good picture pianist makes the music so intregal [sic] a part of the picture that the two become one perfect, inseparable, and harmonious whole.

Of course there are scenes and situations requiring no particular kind of music, and yet even here, lack of judgment and taste can work to disadvantage.

After having read the synopsis of the picture in the "Moving Picture World", which is, of course, an essential guide in his work, and having gotten an idea of its general atmosphere, he can select from the particular group of compositions required,

[3]

those single numbers that his taste tells him are best suited. It is needless to say that often his second performance will be an improvement on the first, as some details, not forseen [sic], are sure to suggest more accurately fitting accompaniment.

It is the object of the classified lists and notes on the following pages to aid the player in the selection of suitable material, but he must use good judgment in fitting his selections, whole or in part, in modulating smoothly, and in playing through a picture without break or interruption.

Many songs are included, and these he will, of course, transcribe into piano solos, as they form one of the most valuable groups of his material.

The classification of the following numbers does not mean that they cannot be used for other situations, as, for example, numbers like the Grieg Nocturne, while pastoral in character, would be fine for a sad, or a love scene. The classification simply shows what they are originally written to picture. This is left to the judgment of the pianist.

Time and money spent in acquiring a good library of music is well spent, and this is a part of the preparation for those better positions that are sure to appear when the possibilities of the picture pianist's work are fully recognized, and when he will have developed with the demand created by the higher conception of this offices by the public.

In the better houses the ill-toned and often blatent [sic] mechanical instrument has given way to the grand piano and the ten thousand dollar pipe organ, played by an ambitious artist who is not satisfied to "get by" with a few stock tunes of questionable fitness.

The ambitious picture pianist is proud of his work, and glad of the opportunity never before so favorable, of bringing really good music to countless millions who are in a receptive mood and have no other opportunity of hearing music of lasting merit.

The following list, which includes many gems in piano literature, contains nothing which the author has not used often, and every class embraces the most suitable selections for its character and mood.

LYLE C. TRUE

Because it emphasizes categorization, the book appears almost entirely devoted to “what,” with the “how” covered mostly implicitly, through the act of choosing from the catalogue on the one hand and the presentation of a brief exemplar on the other.

This is a scan of the first two pages of the catalogue:




Here is True's example musical interpretation for Vitagraph's The Mystery of the Hidden House (1914).
The object of this book is to deal with the standard music and the serious pictures.

The following synopsis of the Vitagraph release, "The [Mystery of the] Hidden House" will serve as a model to the pianist showing what type of music to use for woodland or forest scenes, poetic fantasy, contrasts of sorrow and gladness, dancing and love scenes.

This two reel subject also demonstrates how much music is required (with no improvising) playing the music successively from beginning to end of the second reel.

There Is so much good music of this type, that the improvising of the average pianist would suffer in comparison.

[21]

"The Mystery of the Hidden House"
Synopsis
The music was played as follows:

Reel 1
Who is Sylvia. Song—Schubert
Moon Moths (entire suite; 3 numbers)—Kussner
Song of the Waternymph—Rhode
Festival in the Fields—Bachmann
The Lake of Como—Galos
What the Pond Lillies [sic] Whispered—Betts
Scarf Dance—Chaminade
Narcissus—Nevin

Reel 2
Dance of the Hours (from ''La Gioconda")—Ponchielli
Pas de Fleur (Nalla)—Delibes
Venezia (complete suite; 4 numbers)—Nevin
Strophe—Bartholdy
Pourquoi?—Latour
Serenade—Drigo

While tramping the hills of Virginia on his vacation, Dick Marston, a young minister, sprains his ankle. Moina Jardine, a demure little mountain maiden, assists him to her grandfather's home, "The Hidden House." Marston learns that Moina is subject to great stress of mind, at times. She tells him she and her sister, Robina, take turns caring for Mr. Jardine. Marston falls in love with the beautiful Moina. but Mr. Jardine and Mercy, the colored servant, say "Wait until you see Robina!" One day, Moina turns from Marston and begs her grandfather to explain the Mystery, but is angrily told to keep silent. That night Marston, walking in the grounds, meets Moina. She seems dazed, tells him that Robina comes! She disappears, leaving him greatly puzzled. The next morning Robina, beautiful and bewitching, comes dancing in.

Mr. Jardine and Mercy decorate the house and at night, before the blazing logs the colored servant tells witch stories. Marston, in his room, sees Robina dancing through the grounds in the moonlight. She pouts and goes straight up his room, laughing at his displeasure. Seeing a picture of Moina, she angrily tears it in pieces and rushes out. Marston is fascinated by Robina and one day, seizing her in his arms, he kisses her passionately. Suddenly her expression changes. She cries out that Moina is coming and falls unconscious. The girl is cared for by Jardine and Mercy, and when Marston next sees her, finds she is once more the sweet and gentle Moina. Appalled at the strange phenomena, he Is overcome with emotion. The grandfather explains that Moina is a dual personality, possessed in turn with the soul of Moina and that of Robina, which explains why Marston has never seen the two girls together, but he now knows that Moina and Robina are one and the same. Marston later meets Moina in the garden and tenderly takes her in his arms, telling her of his love. The mystery of the "Hidden House" is solved and Robina is only a memory of the past.

A scan of the whole book is available here [8 MB].

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sam Fox Motion Picture Music Catalogue

Catalogues classifying music by mood were quite common in the 1920s. We have already posted scans from Seredy's two catalogues from Fischer, Rapee's Encyclopedia from Schirmer as well as Bodokin's general collection. Today, we turn to the Sam Fox company. In 1929, J. B. Hastings published a loose-leaf volume very much in the spirit of Rapee's Encyclopedia (without the extensive notes and advice for exhibitors). The title of the collection was Classified Catalogue of Sam Fox Publishing Co. Motion Picture Music. Here the idea seems to have been to layout a proper cataloguing system for a music library that served a large movie theater. Preprinted in the catalogue were all of the appropriate items from the Sam Fox backlist, but Hastings' collection also contained ample room for the theater to log its own music and included numerous empty pages for this purpose. (The collection was also only printed on the recto side of the paper, leaving the verso free for additions as well.)

Here is the table of contents for Hastings' Classified Catalogue. (The copy I had access to did not include a title page.)



And this is the entry for Agitato:

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.




PREFACE


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.

—HENRY FRANCIS PARKS,
Instructor of Theatre Organ Chicago Musical College.


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















Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carl Fischer Motion Picture Music Guide, Part 3

Another set of short articles from the Motion Picture Music Guide, this time covering topics such as the advantage of medleys, the use of well-known songs for accompanying film and the leitmotif. Part one of this series is located here. Part two is located here.
Serious Selections

It is customary when no special action is being carried on in the picture, to fill out in musical score with a selection in accordance with the dominating mood in the picture. It should be taken that those parts of the selection which are dramatic (agitatos, mysteriosos, etc.) are omitted. (p. 32).

* * * * *


Medleys

Every library should contain a few old Medleys to be used in cases where the action in teh picture goes back one or more decades. The Medleys listed here cover a period of about the last thirty-five years and contain the popular Songs and Dances of that time. They can be used in whole, or in part. (p. 33)

* * * * *


The Use of Well-Known Songs

Music should represent in sound the emotions of the characters on the screen and should also interpret the action. This function of the orchestra is well within its scope. After much experimentation, arrangers of music for the motion picture have come to the conclusion that standard published works are most satisfactory for this purpose. But occasionally, there are times and situations when a well known popular song may be employed with telling effect. For example, in a domestic life comedy, when the situation reveals a backsliding husband about to return home to an angry wife, it would be quite in order for the orchestra to strike up the dashing theme of "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." The significance of this particular song lies in its being universally known. It happens to be one of the few in which the melody is characteristic of the title. But the audience will not think of the melody so much as the words of the song. And when these interpret a situation, the effect of the picture is enhanced. What really happens is that the audience adds another title to whatever the screen may have flashed. That title in the instance cited, is "There'll Be a Hot Time," etc. It would be manifestly ludicrous for an orchestra to play this melody simply because it has a brisk rhythm. The audience would think of the words, and if these did not add to the action of the scenes they accompanied, the picture would appear ridiculous.

The nature of popular music is adaptable to farces and to light comedies, but the compositions selected should have more than a titular relationship with the photoplay they are chosen to accompany. If the composition has no great popular vogue, the music alone will carry the necessary significance, but if the music is fairly well known, orchestra leaders must take into consideration what effect the words of the song, if the composition be a song, will have on an audience. (p.33)

* * * * *


Modern Orchestra Arrangements

The modern arrangements in the Carl Fischer Orchestra Catalogue are fully cued. This permits of any portion being played first by part of the orchestra, pianissimo and gradually (or instantaneously) being brought up to full orchestra, fortissimo or vice versa. Excellent effects can often be obtained by this method.

_____________

Good motion picture music should blend unerringly with the picture, and should be made to appear to the audience as an inseparable part of the picture itself, and not a separate and distinct attraction. (p. 34)

* * * * *


The Use of the Music Theme

The use of the "theme" in motion pictures is neither more nor less than applying to the film drama a principle Wagner introduced in opera. Wagner in his scores associates a certain theme, motive or air with the appearance of his leading characters. When they take the stage the melody with which they are identified is heard. This effective musical device has great possibilities in the picture drama, and is valuable in giving unity to music and dramatic action. The picture musician has wide freedom in the choice of his "theme" material. Most important to remember, however, is that the first requisite is a genuinely melodious theme, one which will bear repetition. A theme of pleasing outline, suave, graceful and pronouncedly melodic in type, is sufficient to establish clearly the identity of the character whose appearance it accompanies.

A theme such as that described may be varied in tempo and played either ff or pp, as the varying of the stage action may demand—the effect will be the same. It will make the role with which it is identified "stand out." The use of the "leading" theme is naturally best adapted for larger and more elaborate picture productions, in which the appearance and stage action of principals is broken up to some degree by minor incident. Yet the idea may, on occasion, if the picture conditions are favorable, be employed in smaller pictures as well. At all events the use of the theme is an idea on which the intelligent moving picture musician can ring his own variations. And in many cases he will find it of great value in "making the music fit the picture." (p. 36)
Source: Julius S. Seredy in collaboration with Chas. J. Roberts and M. Lester Lake, Motion Picture Music Guide to the Carl Fischer Modern Orchestra Catalog Indicating All the Themes and Motives Suitable for Motion Pictures and Showing their Practical Application to the Screen (New York: Carl Fischer, 1922).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carl Fischer Motion Picture Music Guide, Part 2

This is a continuation of a summary of the Carl Fischer Motion Picture Music Guide. The first part is located here. Though not as useful for planning out programs for films as Seredy's 1929 Analytical Orchestra, which included timings and keys, the 1922 Motion Picture Music Guide carried little passages of advice for the musical director. A set of these have been gathered below:

Dramatic and Romantic Moving Picture Situations

Romantic and dramatic photoplay situations are in the most cases either psychic (emotional, without much action), or physical (in which emotion is expressed in movement). In "romantic situations, where love, hatred, anxiety, despair, horror, ecstasy, etc., are shown by facial registration and with little or no bodily movement, dramatic maestosos, lentos, adagios or andantes are best employed; while in scenes of physical violence or agitation, bodily struggles, encounters, etc., agitatos, hurries and furiosos are the proper musical mediums of expression. In both "love scenes" and "fighting scenes" absolute synchronization, it need hardly be said, is a first requisite. In the last-named, fifteen second "let downs," with only a dynamic change in the music are often decidedly effective. (p.9)

* * * * *


Music and Pictures

"A successful musical interpretation is as necessary to a picture as good projection." The truth of this maxim, born of experience, cannot be denied. Music in the Motion Picture show provides "atmosphere" and establishes mood. It infuses the mute action of the motion drama with the life of tone and harmony. Properly used, it may be made to take the place of the spoken word, and underline every detail of picture acting and registration with appropriate tonal comment, explanation or emphasis.

But music should never be considered an accompaniment to the motion picture, it should be apart of it. In this fact, accepted in theory and carried out in practice, we have the gist of music success in the "movies." Synchronization is its secret—the welding of picture movement and music movement, the matching of picture mood with music mood, the merging of picture and music in a unit of effect.

And the object of this Guide is to provide the musician with the means for realizing this ideal, an ideal which means personal success for him, as well as the artistic success of his work. (p. 15)

* * * * *


The Use of "Tacet"

In very many instances "tacet" can be used to good effect. We quote the prize fight scene in Charles Ray's picture "SCRAP IRON" as presented at one of the largest New York Theatres. Realism was introduced by the sounding of a gong at the beginning and end of each round. The fighting was spirited and entirely held the interest of the audience. Music was not necessary, and was not missed. At the end of each round, as the gong struck, the orchestra played a lively number, which then tended to serve as a relaxation. "Tacet" can also be used during funeral processions provided it does not cover too great a space of time. A funeral is generally sad enough without being accentuated by a dirge or depressing music. (p. 31)
Source: Julius S. Seredy in collaboration with Chas. J. Roberts and M. Lester Lake, Motion Picture Music Guide to the Carl Fischer Modern Orchestra Catalog Indicating All the Themes and Motives Suitable for Motion Pictures and Showing their Practical Application to the Screen (New York: Carl Fischer, 1922).

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Musical Suggestions

This week's "Music for the Picture" consists largely of musical suggestions provided by a drummer in Virginia. In addition, the page carried a warning from a manager in Illinois about a disreputable music salesman.

From Huntington, Va.: “I don’t suppose you often get a letter from a drummer with a score of music for the picture, but I am an exception. Although I am a drummer I also play piano, having studied it for several years. Am playing with a young lady (Miss Shirley Notter), also a good musician and picture player, so between us we pick out music for the picture; it ought to be pretty good as two heads are better than one. I would like to see ‘Music for the Picture’ every week, as it is just as necessary as any other of the departments. Why don’t you get after the musicians for not sending in any more ‘dope’? We are playing Universal pictures and find in them a good field for good music.

“Am sending in three scores we used last week. If you think they are any good I will send in more every once in a while.”

“Thus Saith the Lord” (Eclair).
Part One.
  1. “The Palms,” until title: “While Jesus and the Twelve Disciples, etc.”
  2. “Perfume” (From Suite, “My Lady’s Boudoir”—Witmark), until title: “Five Wise Men and Five Foolish Virgins, etc.
  3. “Thais” (Valse Oriental—Jos. Stern), until it shows virgins coming out of door; then:
  4. “Bells of Seville” (Valse—Walter Jacobs), until title: “Attracted by Curiosity, etc.”
  5. “On a Sunny Morn” (Theo. Presser), until title: “Wednesday Feast Drawing Near, etc.”
  6. “Shahin Shan”—Oriental Valse (Smith & Brown, pub.), until title: “Here Comes the Bridegroom.”
  7. “Roman Emperor March” (Sinn’s Orpheum Collection), until end of reel.
Part Two.
  1. “Old English Dance” (Theo. Presser, pub.), until it shows Jesus and Disciples. Then:
  2. “Perfume” (From Suite, “My Ladies’ Boudoir”), until title: “Our Father, etc.”
  3. “Oriental March” (From page 12 of “A Tragedy of the Desert”), until title: “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
  4. “Barcarolle” from “Tales of Hoffman,” until title: “Thy Kingdom Come.”
  5. Third Movement “Poet and Peasant Overture” (Allegro), until title: “Thy Will Be Done.”
  6. Pathetic until title: “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.”
  7. Prayer from “Der Freischutz,” until title: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses.”
  8. Hurry—slow down with action and gradually get down to pathetic until title: “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.”
  9. Massenet’s “Elegy,” until title: “But Deliver Us From Evil.”
  10. Storm (No. 42, Sinn’s Orpheum Collection), until title: “For Thine Is The Kingdom.”
  11. Heavy bass chords until title: “And After Jesus Had Finished, etc.”
  12. “Perfume,” until end of reel.
_____

“Slavery Days” (Rex).
  1. “Old Folks at Home,” until it shows colonel and wife.
  2. “Maurice” Valse Lento, until title: “Colonel Called Away On Business.”
  3. Pathetic until title: “The Maid Takes Care of the Baby.”
  4. Waltz (No. 2 from “Sign of the Rose”—Vandersloot, pub.), until she brings the baby back.
  5. Lullaby from “Erminie” until: “Colonel’s Return.”
  6. Lively waltz until: “Fourteen Years Later.”
  7. “I’ll Change the Shadows to Sunshine” (Witmark), until it shows girls and mother on porch.
  8. Pathetic until it shows them out in the woods.
  9. “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (Shapiro), until title: “Robert Fails, etc.”
  10. “Jack O’Lantern” (Flirting Princess), until ballroom.
  11. “Flo Waltz” from “Maid and Mummy” until end of reel.
Part Two.
  1. “Just My Style” (From Fantana), until girl comes upon them.
  2. Agitato until it shows Robert himself.
  3. Sentimental until title: “The Slave Dealer, etc.”
  4. Intermezzo until Charlotte sells Tennessee.
  5. Hurry until Robert comes to tell them.
  6. Sentimental until girl runs on.
  7. Hurry’s from this on; heavy chords for burning and agitato for boat race until title: “Twenty-four Hours Later.”
  8. Intermezzo until they come out of church.
  9. “Here Comes the Bride” until end of reel.
_____

“Crossed Swords” (Great Northern).
Part One.
  1. Third movement “Raymond Overture” until inside house.
  2. “Hallowe’en Valse Lento” (from “Wonderland”), until ballroom.
  3. “Birds and Butterflies” (Espressivo movement), until title: “Both Love the Same Girl.”
  4. When I Dream of You” (Forrester, pub.), until title: “A Serious Accident.”
  5. Agitato; work up into a “hurry” with action until inside house.
  6. Pathetic, until title: “Experimenting With Airship’s Guns.”
  7. I’ll Introduce You to My Father” (from “A Modern Eve”), until title; “The Proposal.”
  8. Waltz until ball.
  9. Grand March (No. 2, C. L. Johnson’s picture music), until title: “At the Club.”
  10. Waltz until end of reel.
Part Two.
  1. Six-eight March until: “He Shows Her, etc.”
  2. “Jingles” Intermezzo until it shows one officer creeping after the other.
  3. Mysterious—work up into hurry until man by fireside.
  4. Sentimental until title: “His Great Day.”
  5. “Bobbing Up and Down” (Theo. Morse), until engine room.
  6. “Jingles,” until officer about to turn crank.
  7. Agitato—work up into hurry until shot.
  8. Sentimental until working guns.
  9. Jingles intermezzo until inside house.
  10. Waltz until end of reel.
Leo Volkenrath, Lyric Amusement Co., Huntington, W. Va.

I am sure the constituency is under obligation to Mr. Volkenrath, and we hope he will call oftener than “every once in a while.”

_____

Look Out For a Sheet Music Fakir.

Galesburg, Ill., July 2.

Editor Moving Picture World:

Dear Sir:—Through the columns of your paper I would like to voice a warning to nickel-theater men, particularly those of the Middle West, against a young man who represents himself as Ted Johnson, of the Snyder Music Co. Mr. Johnson is soliciting orders for professional copies of music, claiming that for two dollars a year his company will send three copies of new music weekly together with a catalogue of music arranged for moving picture playing.

Mr. Johnson cleaned up on all the Galesburg houses two seeks ago for music orders. He found ready purchasers. But since his exit no music has been received and enquiry at the office of his supposed employer developed that he was a fraud.

Mr. Johnson is of medium height, well built but not heavily, light haired, has a nervous manner and is well acquainted with the picture business. He is wanted in the city for forging the Snyder Company’s signature to a check.

Yours very truly,
R. C. Schroeder,
Mgr. Colonials of Galesburg.
Source: Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 19 July 1913, 303.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Carl Fischer's Motion Picture Music Guide

The large music publishing firms recognized the value of selling music to the picture theaters fairly early on, and they quickly developed music specially suited to playing the pictures. Publishers also recognized that cinemas were ideal places to monetize their back catalogues. It was toward this end that Carl Fischer "published for the convenience of the profession" its Motion Picture Music Guide, which was essentially the Fischer orchestra catalogue organized according to the needs of a cinema orchestra. Compiled by Julius S. Seredy, Charles J. Roberts and M. Lester Lake, 1922 version ran about 30 pages of double-columned entries. Here is the opening of the collection:


You can see that each entry carries a classification, title, composer, catalogue number and price category.

The later better known 1929 version is far more extensive, running 244 pages albeit with a single column:

The new arrangement adds key, meter, tempo and duration to each line and this has clearly been laid out as much to be useful as to sell music.

Besides the entries, the 1922 version had also sprinkled a fair amount of advise throughout the catalogue. (The 1929 version, by contrast, has little text other than the preface.) Here is the text that introduces the 1922 version:
SIX REASONS
WHY
The MOTION PICTURE MUSIC GUIDE
Is Indispensable

* * *
It shows how many different themes each number contains.

* * *
It classifies each theme, according to the mood it portrays.

* * *
It lists themes which can be used to express different moods, in their proper classification.
* * *
It helps you to derive the utmost value from your library, by showing you all the material in each number suitable for motion picture use.

* * *
It points out—on the piano part—the pages and measures, where each theme starts and ends.

* * *
It places at your disposal the largest collection of modern, classical, standard and popular orchestra music in the world.

* * *
Note: Piano parts of all numbers listed here are fully cued and may be used for piano solo or organ.

The following plug for Fischer-sponsored publications preceded the catalogue itself:

Why Every Motian Picture Leader
and
Musician Should Read the Musical Magazines.


Nearly every professional man of any prominence subscribes for and reads a few good magazines devoted to his profession. Where would the doctor be without his medical journals or the lawyer without his law papers. The journals are the professional man's stock in trade and are equally important to the musician in the motion picture theatre. They help him keep in touch with the latest developments, to get new ideas, and to broaden his outlook.

There are three magazines which will prove of most help and interest to the musician playing for the films. They are “The Metronome” and “The Dominant,” both band and orchestra monthlies; and “The Musical Observer,” devoted to the interests of all music-lovers. Everyone who plays a band, orchestral or other instrument in a picture theatre, should read one or both of the first two magazines. They are the tools of the trade. Not only do they keep you informed on all the latest popular and standard successes but they bring you in touch with the important musical events in the movie field—events which are making history and which you should not miss if you would keep up-to-date. Music in the movies and for the movies is a leading topic in these journals. Each issue contains interesting articles written by expert writers upon music as the foremost and indispensable accessory to film presentation and the progress of music in this field. Many news items inform you of the music offered in all the leading picture theatres. There are personal notes about the musical directors and their orchestras. In addition, both magazines contain two complete orchestra or band selections in every issue.

"The Musical Observer" covers the entire musical field and is of value and interest to anyone identified with music. It will help you to keep out of a rut and will prove an inspiration and an ambition builder by bringing you in contact with prominent musical people and musical activities the world over.

If you are looking ahead, it will pay you to get acquainted with these magazines. If you can read and think for yourself you will profit by subscribing for those that meet your needs best. You could make no mistake in taking all of them. But you owe it to yourself to read one of them, at least. (p. 6)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scene Analysis Assignment

For the assignment, I require the students to select at least two scenes and the scenes must total at least six minutes of film.

They begin by making a complete shot list and sound track description for the scene. For each shot, I ask them to provide:
  • A time code for each shot.

  • A shot description, which should include the characters in (or object of) the shot, the framing (LS, MS, CU, etc.), any significant camera movements, and any image transition other than a cut (dissolve, wipe, etc.). A brief description of the action can also sometimes be useful.

  • A complete transcription of the dialogue in the shot.

  • A listing and description of the sound effects. (In an action sequence from recent films, it is unlikely that the list will be completely exhaustive, but try to be as complete as possible.)
  • A listing and description of the music.

  • General remarks, which contain more detailed comments about aspects of the sound track, including interactions among the components and how they interact with the images/narrative.

Filling out the form requires making at least four passes through the scene, attending on each pass to one element:
  1. Time code and shot description
  2. Dialogue
  3. Sound effects
  4. Music
.
Here is what the scene analysis blank looks like:

I distribute the blanks as an Excel file. I also give them some exemplars, which are provided as jpgs below. After the students have filled out their forms for the scenes, I will ask them to write a short paper based on these analyses.

The first examplar is the terrace scene from Rebecca.


(We analyze this scene using musical notation in HtM, pp. 218-21.)

* * * * *


The second is the main title and Trinity in a jam, from The Matrix:




We analyze this sequence from The Matrix on pp. 223-24 of HtM, albeit in much less detail. Note the large number of shots (and short average shot length) in this sequence. Also this is a very busy sound track, and at times it is difficult to know whether a particular event belongs to the sound effects track or the music track. A version of the script is located here. (Correction: HtM refers to the agents collectively as Mr. Smiths; according to both IMDB and the script, however, the other two agents in this scene are named Mr. Brown and Mr. Jones.)

* * * * *


The third example consists of two scenes from 42nd Street.



Neither of these dialogue scenes has music. The number of sound effects is also quite low.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 8 Lectures

This week's lectures focused on scene analysis. The text has three chapters given over to scene analysis: Chapters 6, 7 and 9. Besides giving the students an overview of the scene types, I also wanted this week's lectures to help prepare students for making scene analyses of their own, as this is the task for their second paper.

I began by following the divisions of the chapters and then formalizing some implicit subdivisions of scene types:



(NB: "Supradiegetic" is a term Rick Altman uses in The American Film Musical to describe the characteristic performance situation in a film musical, where the singing is diegetic but the accompaniment is rendered, usually after an audio dissolve from diegetic piano, by a nondiegetic orchestra. The performance is thus partially diegetic and partially nondiegetic and for Altman is representative of the idealized realm of romance.)

I then sorted the scenes according to how they deployed the sound track.



We then looked at a number of examples.

For main titles: Meet Me in St. Louis, Broadway Melody, 42nd Street, and The Apartment. I actually ran each of these examples well into the first scene so we could talk about how the main title dovetails with the establishing sequence and how the establishing sequence serves to set up the first scene. Music runs right through the establishment sequence of Meet Me in St. Louis and covers all of the opening dialogue scene in the kitchen until Agnes begins to sing, when it shifts to accompanying the song. After opening with a brief bit of the title song, Broadway Melody continues "Give My Regards to Broadway" over an establishing shot of the city; the music ends for an exterior shot of the music store, where we hear snatches of music coming from the store; with the cut into the store, we hear a cacophony of diegetic musical sound. The scene will eventually end with a performance of "Broadway Melody." 42nd Street, like Meet Me in St. Louis follows the classic two-theme title music, the title song opening the credits, with a shift to "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" when the credits turn to the actors. The music returns to the title song for the beginning of the establishing sequence, creating a three-part ternary structure (ABA') for the titles and establishing sequence considered together. As is often the case, the first extended dialogue scene, here between Abner and Dorothy, does not have music. Finally, the titles for The Apartment use a single theme. The establishment sequence, which integrated into a prologue with voiceover commentary, has new music, a march that contrasts with the lush romantic quality of the main title theme proper. The music continues until it is displaced by diegetic music coming out of Bud's apartment, just before the voiceover itself ends, marking the conclusion of the prologue.

We next compared the opening of the 1933 version of King Kong with that of the 2005 version, noting that the recent version is much, much shorter. We then also compared the final scene and end credits of these two films, so we could see how long end credits are today and how short they were in the studio era. (In fact, due to time, we did not watch all of the end credits of the 2005 version, but we watched enough of it to get the point.)

We then watched the Ländler scene from Sound of Music as an example of a performance scene before turning to two examples of montage: the montage sequence of Blood as pirate from Captain Blood and "I Wasn't Born to Follow" from Easy Rider. I then presented two action scenes: the opening of Captain Blood and the theft of the sword, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Finally, we watched some dialogue scenes: the terrace scene from Rebecca and the opening scene between Abner and Dorothy from 42nd Street.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Musical Conditions in New York

S. M. Berg was a composer and small music publisher specializing in music for the pictures. He also published occasional articles in trade publications before being asked to help Clarence Sinn run the "Music for the Picture" column in early 1916.
Musical Conditions in New York

By S. M. Berg

Among the numerous inquiries received from musicians throughout the country, one of the most common is “what are my chances in New York City?”

Some go into detail on their years of experience they have had as musicians, telling the class of music they are conversant with, and how they are able to compose and arrange. Others will write me they hear of the enormous salaries being paid to certain men, and that here in this great city is the opportunity to get one of the big salaried positions that are frequently offered. Then many will tell me of the poor opportunities for advancement in the town they are in, and how they have been told by their relatives and friends of their capabilities, that New York is the only place for them to come to and quickly climb the ladder of success. I have in no way exaggerated or overdrawn, but have endeavored to state clearly from my personal experience in the past ten years, what is the real condition of affairs in New York.

The Musician’s union, which is allied to the American Federation of Labor, has a membership of about 7,000. It is financially strong, and has usually won everything it has gone after. All of the leading theaters playing Drama, Opera, Comic Opera, Musical Comedy or Burlesque, and the leading motion picture theaters engage exclusively union musicians. The Hotels, Restaurants, Cafes and Cabarets engage on the average about 33 per cent union musicians.

The largest combination in greater New York, of theaters which play pictures or vaudeville and pictures the conditions are peculiar, as no outsider really knows how the music is handled. The company trade under one man’s name. Some of the houses playing vaudeville and pictures engage union musicians.

The rest have non-union men, and when the question “why” is asked, the answer is given that he books the shows but has no financial interest in the house.

The second largest company controls a number of theaters playing vaudeville and pictures or pictures only. The whole combination is non-union, and the their largest circle of theaters playing vaudeville and pictures only, the musicians again are non-union.

The union scale of salaries for pictures in New York City for the two shows a day, seven days a week is $28.00 per man, double for leader, and the price per man ranges to about $40.00 according to the scale of admission prices. On the face of such a statement as this it would appear that fair wages and plenty of work is open to musicians, be they union or non-union. Here is the other side of the question.

As stated before, the union is composed of 7,000 members. The test of capability as a musician is ridiculously simple. In fact candidly it is disgraceful and some years ago when they were making an effort to control things, almost anybody that had the slightest idea of drawing a melody out of an instrument was accepted as a union musician, and qualified to take any job. A story is told, that a certain man who was in the habit of getting jobs for musicians at weddings, etc., according to the laws of the union, he could not be a contractor, and claim one-half of the leader’s money unless he was a member of the union so it became necessary for him to become a musician and play some instrument. He took lessons on the flute and after two months applied for membership. He endeavored to play the “Star Spangled Banner” and after three attempts to play the first half was accepted.

There is a large number of men who are members of the union who are not qualified musicians in the true sense of the word. This raises the question “What is a qualified musician?” One who is acquainted with what is known as Standard Music and is able to play his part in any combination. Qualified to read with ease at sight, he should be a master of his instrument and be able to play the cadenzas, passages, etc., which are frequently marked solo in orchestrations, but I regret to state there is a large percentage of men without these capabilities. Now to the non-union men.

Owing to the war conditions, we have lying idle in New York over a thousand foreigners, who were in the habit of traveling to Europe as boat musicians. Then possibility there is another 8,000 men who are non-union. There is a second union the American International Musical and Theatrical Union, which claims to have about 3,000 members but are not allied to the Federation, their scale of prices being lower. Possibly my readers will now begin to realizes what all this means. Qualifications with the exception of very few instances cut no figure. Price is the consideration. Non-union men work for less. Union men that are in need are forced to accept below the scale. Union musicians can be found working in any of the three theater circles as non-union men and at very low salaries. Over two-thirds of the Restaurants, Cafes, Cabarets, have all kinds of mixed combinations. An instance was brought to me a few days ago at a picture theater at which application as director was made by a well-known Italian leader, a man who is in the habit of dressing in a white uniform with many medals. He explained to the proprietor what a good director he was and what a good orchestra he would give him. When prices were talked of, he said “My price is so much.” When asked the price of the orchestra he quote the union scale but was told the theater could not pay it. After much discourse he exclaimed “I have a friend in the outer office, permit me to bring him in.” His friend was brought in and after explanations were made told the proprietor he could supply the rest of the men, union men too, at a moderate figure which was far below the union scale.

I trust that my readers will not feel that I am falsifying my statement. There is a large body of competent qualified men, with honorable ideas but the abnormal conditions in New York forces a number of them who possibly have the best intentions but whose wives and children are in need of the necessities of life, to accept such propositions. What can they do?

A word as to the positions in the leading dramatic houses. This class of job is the easiest in the business. A stranger could not get one of these positions as they are almost all in the hands of men who have had them for years. Possibly for no other reason than they are known to the managers.

The few organists who are receiving high salaries are the exception. I am sure that if one were to insert an advertisement in the Evening Telegram (which has a column for musicians), for an organist wanted to play 7 or 8 hours a day at a salary of $30.00 a week, on would get 20 or 30 applicants.

In my earlier days I have been as far west as dear old ‘Frisco, and have traveled from New Orleans to Northern Canada. My personal experience with the qualification of musicians is far beyond the New York average. The salaries are not so high but the cost of living is much cheaper. The musician in the small city is looked upon with respect and is recognized as a professional man. He has the opportunity to do a little teaching but unfortunately here in this great city one might almost classify musicians as a necessary evil. In fact this very expression was used in my presence by a well-known restaurant proprietor. I sincerely hope that the day is not far distant when conditions will be changed.

In this great city the sincere and earnest musician is deserving of a living wage, but my knowledge of the conditions is that many qualified musicians willing to accept a position for $18.00 a week to play for 7 hours a day and 7 days a week, cannot find the work. With such conditions as these can you say that New York is the stepping stone to prosperity for musicians?
Source: S. M. Berg, “Musical Conditions in New York,” Moving Picture World 14 October 1916, 237.

At the end of 1916, Berg left The Moving Picture World to become head of the music section for the Exhibitor's Trade Review. On 26 May 1917, he republished a lightly edited version of this same item, which I include below for sake of comparison:
Among the numerous inquiries received from musicians throughout the country, one of the most common is, “What are my chances in New York City?”

Some go into detail on their years of experience they have had as musicians, telling the class of music they are conversant with, and how they are able to compose and arrange. Others will write me they hear of the enormous salaries they hear of, which are paid to certain men and feel that if they were given the opportunity they could fill one of these big salaried positions. Then again, many will complain of the poor opportunities for advancement in the town they are in, and how they have been told by their relatives of their capabilities and that New York is the only place for them to come to and quickly climb the ladder of success.

The editor has in no way exaggerated or overdrawn but has endeavored to state clearly from his personal experience during the past ten years, what is the real conditions of affairs are in New York. The classes to be considered are the union and non-union musicians.

The Musician’s Union, which is allied to the American Federation of Labor, has a membership of about 7,000. It is financially strong and has usually won everything it has gone after. All of the leading theaters playing the drama, opera, comic opera, musical comedy or burlesque, together with the leading motion picture theaters engage exclusively union musicians. Hotels, restaurants, cafes and cabarets engage on the average about 33 per cent. union musicians.

The largest circuit of theatres in greater New York that play pictures or vaudeville and pictures, has peculiar conditions as no outsider really knows how the music end is handled. However, some of the houses playing vaudeville and pictures engage union musicians while the rest have non-union men. The second largest circuit of theatres playing vaudeville and pictures, or pictures only, is also peculiarly situated.

There are two other unions in New York City, which are not allied with the American Federation of Labor, whose members also hold positions in the various circuit theatres.

The union scale of salaries for pictures in New York City for the two shows a day, seven days a week is $28.00 per man, double for leader, and the price per man ranges to about $42.50, according to the scale of admission. On the face of such a statement as this, it seems that fair wages and plenty of work is open to musicians, regardless of whether they are union or non-union. Here is the other side of the question.

As stated before, the union is composed of 7,000 members. The test of capability as a musician is ridiculously simple. In fact, candidly, it is disgraceful, and some years ago when they were making an effort to control things almost anybody that had the slightest idea of drawing a melody out of an instrument was accepted as a union musician, and qualified to take the job. A story is told that a certain man who was in the habit of getting jobs for musicians at dances, weddings, etc., according to the laws of the union, could not be a contractor, and claim one-half of the leader’s money unless he was a member of the union. It therefore became necessary for him to become a musician and play some instrument. He then took up lessons on the flute and after two months applied for membership. He endeavored to play the “Star Spangled Banner,” and after three attempts was finally accepted. Now to the non-union men.

Owing to the war conditions, we have lying idle in New York hundreds of foreigners, who were in the habit of travelling to Europe as boat musicians. Possibly readers will now begin to realize what all this means. Qualifications with but few exceptions cut no figure. Prices are the only consideration. Non-union men work for less. Union men who are in need, are forced to accept positions far below the scale.

Union musicians can be found working in any of the three theatre circuits as non-union men and at very low salaries. Over two-thirds of the restaurants, cabarets, and cafes have all kinds of mixed combinations. An instance of this kind was enacted a few days ago at a picture theatre at which application as a director was made by a well-known Italian leader, who is in the habit of dressing in a white uniform with many medals. He explained to the proprietor what a good director he was and what a fine orchestra he would give him. When prices were talked of, he said “My prices are so much.” When asked the price of the orchestra he quoted the union scale, but upon being told the theatre could not pay it he brought in a friend who explained to the proprietor that he could supply union men at a moderate figure which was far below the union scale. With such obstacles as these, can one blame those musicians, who possibly have the best of intentions but whose wives and children are in need of the necessities of life, for accepting such propositions?

A word as to the positions in the leading dramatic houses. This class of job is the easiest in the business, but a stranger could not get one of these positions as they are almost all in the hands of men who have had them for years for no other reason probably than they are known to the managers.

The few organists who are receiving high salaries are the exception. I am sure that if one were to insert an advertisement in the Evening Telegram (which has a column for musicians) for an organist wanted to play seven or eight hours a day at a salary of $30.00 a week, one would get 20 or 30 applicants.

The early career of the editor has taken him from coast to coast, and his experiences with the qualification of musicians are far beyond the New York average. The salaries are not so high but the cost of living is much cheaper. The musician in the small city is looked upon with respect and is recognized as a professional man. He has the opportunity to do a little teaching, but unfortunately here in this great city one might almost classify musicians as a necessary evil. In fact this very expression was used in my presence by a well known restaurant proprietor. However, we sincerely hope that the day is not far distant when conditions will be vastly different.

In this great city the sincere and earnest musician is deserving of a living wage, but with the conditions as mentioned above, many qualified musicians are willing to accept a position for $18.00 a week to play seven hours a day and seven days a week, cannot find the work. With such a state of affairs, can you say that New York is the stepping stone to prosperity for musicians?
Source: S. M. Berg, "Music for the Photoplay," Exhibitor's Trade Review 26 May 1917, 1753.