Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Tidbit on Vaudeville Music

This item on vaudeville music for "silent artists" (also known in the vaudeville business as "dumb acts") comes from the end of a 1910 New York Times' article that ponders certain peculiarities of the vaudeville aesthetic, in particular the frequent, unmotivated changes of clothing by female headliners. Like cinema musicians, vaudeville musicians, at least according to this report, accompanied silent acts in a subdued fashion.

The music accompanying the silent artist, the juggler, the wrestler and the acrobat, is one of the artistic features of vaudeville. Just as the black background best brings out the living white models of statuary, so the modesty of the orchestra or piano player caters to sound only to the degree of a slightly audible background. This detracts not a particle from the performance but throws it more in evidence where absolute quiet would cause the most marvelous feats to become tiresome after a while.
Source: “Some Reasons for Vaudeville,” NY Times 30 January 1910, SM6.