- German Film Scores from the Silent Era
It is always a problem for teachers of music history to deal with music for which no published score exists. Although this problem arises less frequently when teaching the Western canon, when teaching film music, it is simply the normal state of things. Within the subfield of German silent-film music, a series of scores published by Ries & Erler represents a significant step toward addressing this problem. Under consideration here are Eduard Künneke’s score for Ernst Lubitsch’s Das Weib des Pharao (usually translated as The Loves of the Pharaoh, 1922); Wolfgang Zeller’s score for Lotte Reiniger’s Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926); Gottfried Huppertz’s score for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927); and Edmund Meisel’s score for Walter Ruttman’s Berlin: Die Symphonie der Großstadt (1927). These recent publications—all from 2006–2011—belong to a well-established and, it is hoped, ongoing project that includes numerous other films (twenty-one at present), which are listed, with some descriptive notes, at http://www.stummfilmmusik.com/filmmusik/ (accessed 15 May 2013).
All four films are historically important, and all are gems of the German late silent cinema. We have here a virtuosic benchmark in the animation medium (The Adventures of Prince Achmed); the lavish apex of legendary director Ernst Lubitsch’s German career just prior to his emigration to Hollywood (The Loves of the Pharaoh); and a feature-length avant-garde masterpiece that strikingly exemplifies the interwar aesthetic of “New Objectivity” (Berlin). And, of course, in Metropolis, we have one of the most complex, analyzed, and debated works in film history, as well as—with its dazzling images and provocative politics—one of the few silent films to continually appeal to an extremely broad contemporary audience.
The publication of such scores is a significant aid for the teaching of film-music history. Without relying upon transcription, memory, or the availability of archival resources, educators can lead students to delve into specific details of orchestration, large-scale tonal structures, and interrelated musical motives within a score. This, however, is not the scores’ only potential function. Venues still exist through which silent films can enjoy screenings with live music, and these publications (two of them—Metropolis and The Loves of the Pharaoh—appearing in conjunction with specific restoration projects) demonstrate that a contemporary German exhibition culture for silent-film music is alive and well. Thus, another purpose of these scores is to facilitate new performances through commercially available materials. [End Page 181]
What are the various expectations for scholarly versus performative use of this material, and how do the editions represent...