Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Brass Band Accompaniment

Even when scores were composed for a particular film, the practice of accompaniment rarely demanded that it be used. The accompaniment was very much dependent on the venue where the film was screened. When in April 1913 the New York Exhibitor's League put on a benefit show for flood victims at the 60th Regiment Armory, they selected the New York Letter Carriers' Band to provide accompaniment for the five (!) hour show, which attracted more than 5,000 people. As the excerpt below suggests, the band's approach to playing the pictures was enthusiastically embraced.

Imagine that second reel of "War," by the "101" Bison Company, when accompanied by a brass band of fifty pieces. Try to imagine one of the most thrilling battle scenes ever produced being presented with the sound of ten trombones coming up the scale chromatically, with an equal number each of clarinets, cornets, altos and bassos working strong on the "hurry" stuff in counter melody, and you will get an idea of the right way to put that picture on. Of all the punches and thrills of the evening, that was the knock-out.

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And, speaking of bands, a blind man would have enjoyed himself that evening for no other reason than listening to the New York Letter Carriers' Band, one of the best trade bands in America. When it comes to playing for pictures, their leader seems know just what to select.
Source: “New York League Benefit a Big Success,” Moving Picture World 26 April 1913, 369.