restricted access 1. “The Classical Hollywood Music”: A Chronicle
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9 1 “The Clas­ si­ cal Hol­ ly­ wood Music” A Chron­ i­ cle Music in the Si­ lent Era The reg­ u­ lar pres­ ence of music as an ac­ com­ pa­ ni­ ment to film pro­ jec­ tions dur­ ing­ cinema’s in­ fancy—­ between 1895 and 1905—is not cer­ tain.1 At that stage, cin­ ema was seen as a kind of car­ ni­ val amuse­ ment, a ­ low-brow draw based on “at­ trac­ tions” pre­ sented in sim­ ple ­ single-shot tab­ leaux run­ ning a few min­ utes.2 Music, how­ ever, be­ came an es­ sen­ tial part of the film ex­ pe­ ri­ ence in the 1910s. With the rise of nick­ el­ o­ de­ ons—those urban store­ front the­ a­ ters spe­ cial­ iz­ ing in film pro­ jec­ tions at pop­ u­ lar ­ prices, usu­ ally a ­ nickel—from 1905 on, and then the ­ spread of the posh pic­ ture pal­ aces in the teens,3 the du­ ra­ tion of films in­ creased and the phase of the “nar­ ra­ tive in­ te­ gra­ tion” began.4 In order to meet the bur­ geon­ ing de­ mand and to guar­ an­ tee a ­ longer life for the in­ di­ vid­ ual films, it was no ­ longer suf­ fi­ cient to re­ sort just to iso­ lated ­ antics, short vaude­ ville skits, in­ ven­ tive op­ ti­ cal ­ tricks, and sce­ nics and top­ i­ cals (short travel­ ogues and proto­ typ­ i­ cal news­ reels). Cin­ ema could no ­ longer set­ tle for and live on the nov­ elty ef­ fect given by re­ pro­ duc­ tion of mov­ ing im­ ages but had to re­ think it­ self in terms of more struc­ tured prod­ ucts. Cin­ ema ­ needed to tell sto­ ries. The con­ ver­ sion to 10 • “The Classical Hollywood Music” the nar­ ra­ tive form was ac­ com­ pa­ nied by the con­ sol­ i­ da­ tion of the re­ la­ tion­ ship­ between cin­ ema and music. Many ex­ pla­ na­ tions have been given to ac­ count for the rea­ sons of this ­ nowsolid re­ la­ tion­ ship ­ between music and cin­ ema, and good sum­ mar­ ies are avail­ able.5­ Herein, one rai­ son ­ d’être will be priv­ i­ leged over the oth­ ers: ­ music’s con­ tri­ bu­ tion to film nar­ ra­ tion. The at­ ten­ tion and care for music in terms of the­ matic con­ sis­ tency and co­ her­ ent in­ te­ gra­ tion with the ­ film’s nar­ ra­ tive rose sig­ nif­i­ cantly when cin­ ema ­ turned from show­ ing at­ trac­ tions to tell­ ing sto­ ries. Im­ pro­ vised, un­ will­ ingly com­ ical, and in­ con­ gru­ ous forms of ac­ com­ pa­ ni­ ment such as those typ­ i­ cal of the “cin­ ema of at­ trac­ tions” were no ­ longer tol­ er­ ated. Prac­ ti­ tion­ ers now re­ al­ ized that a ­ botched-up per­ for­ mance or an un­ suit­ able mu­ si­ cal ac­ com­ pa­ ni­ ment could be harm­ ful to the ­ film’s re­ cep­ tion and could rad­ i­ cally mod­ ify the in­ tended ef­ fects that the film was de­ signed to have on the view­ ers. In the 1910s there was a flour­ ish­ ing of ar­ ti­ cles that the­ or­ ized and pre­ scribed the man­ ner in which music ­ should be writ­ ten and per­ formed in order to serve the film in a ­ proper way.6 Ever since The Birth of a Na­ tion (David Wark Grif­ fith, 1915, music by Jo­ seph Carl Breil)—con­ sid­ ered to be the first case of an ­ American score ex­ pressly com­ piled/com­ posed to sup­ port the ­ film’s nar­ ra­ tion—music now ­ proved to be able to con­ note the im­ plicit mean­ ing of the nar­ ra­ tive.7 In the case of The Birth of a Na­ tion, this im­ plicit mean­ ing is the ­ film’s in­ fa­ mous ra­ cism: “Music lends in­ sid­ i­ ous aid to em­ pha­ size the teach­ ing of the ­ screen, for the ­ tomtom beats from time to time to con­ vince us that the col­ ored man, well drest [sic] and ed­ u­ cated ­ though he may be, came from Af­ rica.”8 Film music in the late...


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Subject Headings

  • Williams, John, 1932- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion picture music -- History and criticism.
  • Jaws (Motion picture).
  • Star wars (Motion picture).
  • Raiders of the lost ark (Motion picture).
  • Boston Pops Orchestra.
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