Sunday, April 26, 2009

Types of Musical Accompaniment

This is an excerpt from George Beynon's 23 March 1918 "Music for the Picture" column in The Moving Picture World. In this column Beynon tries to sort out the differences among the music services available to producers and exhibitors of the time. In the middle of his discussion, he takes a long detour into issues of modulation.
“Music Service for the Exhibitor.”

A well-known producer confessed to us the other day that he did not know the difference between a score, a setting or a cue sheet, and supplemented the remark by saying he did not believe one producer in ten knew what he was paying for in the matter of the much-abused term, “Music Service for the Exhibitor.”

For the information of exhibitor, producer and orchestra leaders, we will try to classify specifically all forms of music pertinent to “Fitting the Pictures.”

MUSICAL SCORE—A Musical score is a compilation of either original or standard music, prepared in synchrony with each and every dominant scene of the picture, carrying throughout themes and counter-themes to denote the characters portrayed on the screen. Each number should be in key sequence and arranged in such a manner that there be no obvious break during the playing of the entire score. They must of necessity be short, and for that reason requires varied orchestral treatment to avoid monotony. Many occasions arise where there are two characters in the foreground, and two themes must be blended together, showing two emotions at one and the same time. Frequently a standard number must be changed in tempo and rhythm to convey the proper idea. Special legitimate effects sometimes must be arranged by the use of the orchestral instruments themselves to obviate shoddiness. All these things call for superb orchestration and a thorough knowledge of instrumentation. A real musical score requires almost as much ingenuity, careful thought and untiring efforts as an opera score, for in every way it meets the same obstacles, which must be overcome. “The scores for “The Birth of a Nation,” “Ramona,” “Civilization,” “Intolerance,” or “Peer Gynt,” will live and continue to be classed as epochs in the picture industry. These are prepared only for the big run features.

MUSICAL SETTING—A musical setting is comprised of standard selections placed loosely, in rotation, in a folder, for the purpose of fitting a picture. There is no synchrony, and because of that fact, no key sequence is considered, for it may happen that where the break occurs the key will fit the following number perfectly. For practical purposes one theme only is used, although it is sometimes feasible to use two. This music cannot possibly fit every foot of the picture, but can hold the atmosphere in a general way and carry the picture. These are used in every theater and are frequently prepared by the aid of cue sheets.

MUSICAL CUE SHEET—A musical cue sheet is a prepared list of cues, indicating where the music should be changed, and suggesting certain selections which are suitable for use, with the tempo and character of each noted to allow for substitution. The approximate time is shown, and sometimes a three-word description of the scene to be fitted is given. Cue sheets are distributed by the picture producers for the benefit of the exhibitor who cannot procure his film in time to see it before the first performance, and are good, bad, or indifferent, according to the ability displayed by the writer of them.

MUSICAL SUGGESTION SYNOPSIS is a concise musical review of the picture with suggested numbers that may be used as a theme. Atmosphere, period of time, location and big moments are noted, and frequently selections are mentioned for use in the climaxes.

At the present time of writing, the above is a complete classification of music for the pictures. The rapid growth of the industry, bringing with it new ideas, may cause changes to be made in the method of musical presentation, but now we can only rely on four forms denoting picture accompaniment.

The importance of music as an adjunct to the picture has been but recently recognized, and there is considerable confusion in the minds of producer, exhibitor and layman regarding its classification. By definition, example and qualifications, we have tried to standardize music for the pictures in order that the producer will not be further muieted [quieted?] by unscrupulous arrangers, and exhibitors will know what they are getting when called by its proper name.

Scores and settings are frequently regarded as one, and the same thing and capital is made out of it by those fakers who throw together loose music and demand score prices for it. In many respects the two are alike; they are played as an accompaniment and must fit the picture. The difference lies in the necessary qualifications required by each.

A score must follow the picture minutely, foot by foot, as an accompaniment follows the voice. It must be in perfect synchrony. By this we mean that if a dominant scene has a footage of 150 feet, and the film projection calls for 15 minutes to the thousand feet, the appropriate selections should run exactly two minutes and fifteen seconds. Naturally the number of measures required will be governed by the tempo selected. An adagio or andante sostenuto number will not be as long as an allegro or allegretto. The following examples, indicative of the time duration of fifteen seconds, will show a marked difference, and by using these as a basis one can readily understand how an entire score can be in absolute synchrony.

A score must have key sequence—in other words, each successive number must be in a relative key to the one immediately preceding it. As students of harmony well know, there are five relatives to every key, so the task is not so great as would appear on the surface. Besides using legitimate relatives, it is permissible to use an enharmonic key, or one which begins with a note common in the chord of the preceding key; for example: Going from the key of F to the Key of A major, we find A is the third of the chord in the key of F, and is also the tonic of the key of A. The best results are obtained when they finish and begin.

At (A) you will notice the upper A is held in common, the F falls one half tone, and the C rises one-half tone, while at (B) these progressions similarly obtain, but in different voices.

The following examples of enharmonic keys are the only ones available and must be used judiciously lest discord appear in the change:

1—5 flats, key of Db, has for its enharmonic 7 sharps, key of C sharp
2—6 flats, key of Gb, has for its enharmonic 6 sharps, key of F sharp
6—7 flats, key of Cb, has for its enharmonic 5 sharps, key of B
and vice versa.

The following table of relative flat keys is worked out in the sharp keys in the same manner.

[1662] Our contention is not that these keys should be used in sequence and selection made with this in mind only. By no means. A number must first be selected for its suitability alone, and then if it does not fall within the rule for key sequence, it should be transposed to a key relative to the preceding number. Before deciding the key for transposition, the orchestration should be carefully scrutinized lest a key be selected that will carry some instrument out of its range. This would be calamitous and make the work of transposition absolutely abortive. Where there appears to be no key suitable for transposition, it is better to write an original modulation for approximately a fifteen-second length. This should be tacked on the end of the preceding number and not used at the cue for the next number. Of course, allowance should be made for it in the timing.

The qualifications required for a musical setting are by no means so exacting, nor do they entail such minute detail or painstaking effort. It must fit the picture in a general way and portray the big emotions depicted. No special orchestral arranging is necessary, no blending of themes is possible, nor is key sequence counted upon to work out satisfactorily. Synchrony is not attempted; the principal problem is simply to fit the picture with standard music. This form of musical accompaniment is not a score and must not be classed as such.

Turning from the playable music to the suggestion sheets, remarkable as it may seem, we frequently see producing companies advertise their cue sheets as scores. This is misleading to the exhibitor and his orchestra leader, and is most detrimental to the company itself.

The difference between the cue sheet suggestions and the musical suggestion synopsis is again the difference between detail and generality. In both cases the picture must be seen in order to suggest proper music, but when a cue sheet is prepared, it entails the use of a stop-watch to catch the time, a stenographer to get the titles, and an assistant to note the effects. When the data has been obtained, each number must be selected with care, looking to its suitability, and practicability, for small combinations, as well as for its probable existence in the library of the average orchestra leader. Of course, the tempo being given, he has a chance to substitute if he deems it wise, and this is made easy because of the given time duration. Cue sheets are sent out when no score is prepared, and from them the leader can compile his musical setting.

Musical leaders prefer to disregard cue sheets for some reason or other, and yet they require some idea of the picture they must fit. These fellows used to read the reviews of the pictures in question and thus learn its general trend. As an aid to this class of musicians, the musical suggestion synopsis was adopted and has received many high commendations for its brevity and conciseness. It is also an aid to those leaders who have been neglected by the exchange, or whose cue sheet has been delayed in the mails. It suggests the music required in a general way and leaves to the judgment of the orchestra conductor the proper presentation of his picture.

Music service in any form is absolutely essential to the up-to-date theater, and every producer should see to it that he is getting the service he is paying for under its proper classification.
Source: [George W. Beynon,] “Music for the Picture,” MPW 23 March 1918, 1661-62.

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