Monday, January 25, 2010

Musical Suggestions; More Discussion of Effects

This week's "Music for the Picture" column covers a variety of topics. Besides, a number of musical suggestions, one correspondent asks for help finding "characteristic" music for orchestra, in particular music that follows the eastern and/or "oriental" style topic. Another correspondent adds to the debate Sinn had initiated on sound effects.
Edgar Ray, Musical director Grand Theater, Newark, Ohio, writes: “I am sending you the program with which I accompanied the two-reel Vitagraph, “The Chains of an Oath.” Used your cues for the “Cowboy Millionaire” with success. Give us some more.”

“The Chains of An Oath” (Vitagraph).
Part One.
  1. “Joyous Farmer” (Schumann). Repeat once, then segue.
  2. “Chants du Voyageur (Paderewski) until Donia enters house.
  3. “Sicilian Chimes” (Kerry Mills) until title: “First English Lesson.”
  4. “Pearls” (Novelette by Niel Moret) until Donia reads letter.
  5. “Farewell to the Piano” (Beethoven) until end of reel.

Part Two.
  1. Agitato p. until Svan enters apartment with Donia.
  2. “A Summer’s Dream” (By P. Hans Flath) until title: “Svan Decides to Follow.”
  3. Short light Hurry until title: “The Land of Bondage.”
  4. “Sans La Feuille” (F. Thome) until Gregory appears with knife.
  5. Agitato pp. and ff., following action until Gregory turns to leave apartment first time.
  6. “Sans La Feuille” until end of reel.
“If entre d’acte is desired, “Romanze” by Schumann will hold the “color” until part two is projected.”

A dignified program which follows the motive of the picture very well. Our constituents will be glad to hear from you again Mr. Ray.

* * *

From the Broadway Theater, Salt Lake City, Utah: “This is the first time I have taken the liberty of communicating with the music section though I have contributed many other articles and suggestions to various departments of the Moving Picture World. We are using first run pictures and of course all your accompanying music and suggestions for the various pictures come too late to be of much assistance to us, though from the program you selected for Reincarnation of Karma, I picked many numbers which we will be able to use in future pictures of this nature.

“In making up a recent order list of orchestra music I found the catalog’s particularly short of Oriental and Eastern music; at least they were hard to select from the titles. Also the Mexican music we have on hand is well worn since the long run of these pictures we have had. I think it would be of great value and assistance to exhibitors and orchestra leaders if you would from time to time publish lists of various classes of music, giving when possible the composers’ and publishers’ names. In our new house we will use an orchestra of ten pieces. Yours, Dean R. Daynes.”

I can appreciate Mr. Daynes’ difficulty in selecting music with nothing to guide him but the titles in the publisher’s catalog. The music suggested in this department is usually accompanied by the name of the composer and frequently the name of the publisher is given, but it would not be expedient to publish lists from their catalogs here. Such advertising would be too valuable to the publishers to give them free gratis. When these gentlemen awaken to the fact that over 16,000 moving picture theaters in this country alone are constantly on the lookout for appropriate music, and that the Moving Picture World is read in every one of them, they will arrange assorted lists of their music and publish them in the advertising pages of this paper. They might be surprised to learn that moving picture musicians desire something else than “rags” and popular songs. In the meantime the suggestions for musical accompaniments will give the composers’ names and occasionally, the publishers; but I am sorry to say, no catalogs or lists.

* * *

From C. H. Snow, Middletown, Del.: “It is doubtlessly seldom that you hear from this part of the country. I want to congratulate you on the excellent work you are doing in the music suggestions in your department, especially your ‘tips on improvising.’ Am working in the opera house here running the cream of licensed pictures and two 2- or 3-reel features per week. Speaking of the art of picture playing in general, it would benefit all photo-pianists to keep in close touch with each other and exchange views and compare their ideas as to the conception of music for the picture.” (That is what this department is for.—Ed.)

“Only recently a friend sent me a good suggestion and since that time I gave a few pointers to another friend because one had done me a good turn and I passed it along.”

Our correspondent has the right idea, but if he will watch the Moving Picture World closely he will find many friends busily engaged in “passing along” their ideas and suggestions. Not so many as I should like to see, perhaps, but compared to the apathy of a few years ago, it is encouraging to observe the number of thoughtful musicians who are willing to share their experience; in proof of this, witness the growing number of “musical suggestions” sent in from various parts of the country and given this page. They are “passing it along.” Some time ago a correspondent sent us a set of rules for the guidance of picture players. One of his maxims was: “go and hear other pianists play the pictures.” This is broadening. It gets you out of the rut and stimulates your ideas. Studying the other fellows “dope-sheet” is of great help too. In both cases you are bound to criticise or approve; if the latter, you may get some new ideas. If you criticise you will naturally try to think how his work might be improved—if it is wrong, where and why it is wrong, and what will make it right. We develop by sharing our ideas and comparing our efforts.

* * *

H. R. Seeman, La Fayette Theater, Saint Louis, Mo., says: “In the issue of the Moving Picture World, March 1st, I notice a letter from Albany, Oregon, in reference to effects from Oregon. If I get him right he thinks a drummer with a first class air-cabinet in the orchestra with the pianist can make the pictures more realistic, and (if I understand him right), is of the opinion that such a combination can accomplish more. Quoting his words, ‘You have got to show me.’

“I grant that the effects are quite essential for making the picture realistic, but I must say that effects and music are two different things, and when a drummer of an orchestra attempts to make all the effects for the picture with his $1800 air cabinet he then and there becomes an effect man, and that orchestra is sadly in need of a drummer that can make effects—I mean effects that are characteristic to the music his leader is playing—and let the effect man take his place behind the screen where he belongs. My idea of a drummer and his traps is to make effects incidental to the music the orchestra is playing. For instance, I am playing this week for the Pathe special release, “Mother”—a western drama, and there is one scene where there is galloping horses and Indian fights. I am playing a good number for this scene entitled “Cowboy Capers” in the drum part of which there is lots of work for cymbals, tom-tom, etc. Is it right for the drummer to sacrifice these effects that are characteristic to the music in order to catch shots, horses hoofs, etc.? In other words, the effect drummer must play his effects according to his picture whereas the orchestra drummer who makes his effects characteristic to the music is helping his leader carry out his contract to play music suited to the picture. I must say again that the drummer who attempts to do both not only sacrifices his work a drummer, but is also doing an injustice to the music. Both good effects and good music are essential, but cannot be worked together in the orchestra pit. The drummer using bells, chimes, xylophone, tympani, etc., is doing more to help the cause of “better music for the picture” than the drummer with his $1800 air cabinet. Yours very truly, H. R. Seeman.”

These gentlemen are evidently looking at the proposition from different angles. Without taking sides one way or the other at present, I wish to point out that the majority [1326] of picture houses employ but one effect man, viz.: the drummer in the orchestra pit. With the larger houses using an orchestra it is often differently arranged, but in the smaller places employing but two or three musicians (usually two—piano and drums), the sound effects incidental to the picture are the most important part of the drummer’s work.

Mr. Seeman kindly encloses his musical program for two pictures.

“Mother” (Pathe).
Part One.
  1. Waltz “Blush of the Rose” until title: “Their Boy;” then:
  2. Intermezzo “Starland” until he writes home; then:
  3. Song “Mother” (from play of that name) until title “Bob Gambles, etc.”
  4. Same intermezzo (“Starland”) softening for fireside scene, continuing until mother gets letter. Then waltz (No. 1) until scene out west.
  5. March “Local Pride” (fast) until title: “Bob’s Mother Prepares, etc.”
  6. Waltz “Asphodel” (Hildreth) until end of reel.
Part Two.
  1. At title: “Bob Sells the Stolen Horses” Bright characteristic march “Cowboy Capers” (new—by Allen), until title: “Believing Her Son the Sheriff.”
  2. Waltz “Asphodel” until sheriff sends for Bob.
  3. Tosti’s “Goodbye” until title: “Their Dreams—and the Reality.”
  4. “Mother” song till end.

“A Chance Deception” (Biograph).
  1. 16 bars Spanish dance (Bolero) then:
  2. “Il Bacio” (The “Kiss Waltz”) until title “Am I Too Old?”
  3. “In the Shadows” (Finck) play second part quasi mysterioso at title “His Suspicions Confirmed.” Continue until husband enters house; then:
  4. “The Romance of a Rose” (new) 2d movement agitato until title: “Asphadia” then take up “Romance of a Rose” at introduction, play through—then:
  5. “Titl’s Serenade” (or any serenade) until finish.

Source: Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 29 March 1913, 1325-26.