(and/or improvised) but intended to sound like 'period' music -- the approach usually taken by Kleiner, by the organist Gaylord Carter, and more recently by Carl Davis; (3) a new score which is deliberately anachronistic in style, such as those created by Moroder for Metropolis in 1983, and by Duhamel and Jansen for Intolerance in 1986. Thus, altogether there now exist nine possible combinations of music and silent cinema (three modes of presentation, three types of score), and all of them have yielded results both subtle and obtrusive, both satisfying and offensive.
Particularly interesting in this respect are the cases where different versions have recently been prepared of the same film. For Intolerance, for example, there now exist four different versions. There is Anderson's, which is based on the Breil score and has been performed in conjunction with a restoration of the film (by MOMA and the Library of Congress) in a version as close as possible to that seen at the 1916 New York premiére. There is a Brownlow-Gill restoration with Davis score, which has been screened both live and on television. There is the 'modernist' Duhamel and Jansen version. And a laser disc also exists of a further restoration with a recorded organ score by Carter. In the case of Metropolis popular attention has been grabbed by the Moroder version with its synthetic mix of disco styles and new songs performed by various pop artists, but the film has been presented several times with a version of the original Huppertz score adapted and conducted by Berndt Heller, and with semi-improvisatory scores performed live by avant-garde ensembles. It is not possible to make hard-and-fast choices between the different approaches taken in these cases. Anderson has argued persuasively in favour of the presentation of a film like Intolerance in proper viewing conditions with the music originally designed for it, but even she has admitted that such meticulous restorations can have more historical than aesthetic interest. Meanwhile a case can also be made for the enlivening use of 'anachronistic' music, particularly for unconventional films, though the case of Metropolis shows that the use of trendy pop-music scores can make the film itself look dated when the music itself begins to date and progressive styles of jazz and minimalism can provide a more effective counterpoint to the film.
It is good to face so many possibilities, even if they stand in such confusing array. The simple fact is that music for silent films was ever-changing, because live, and to be truly 'authentic' must continue to change. Moreover, it is probably futile to expect that the musical traditions of silent cinema will ever be fully restored; for one thing, we simply cannot watch the films in the same way as our ancestors, after so many decades of experience with sound films, and after so much of the original repertoire has either been forgotten or has lost any semblance of freshness. The best that can be hoped for, perhaps, is that from time to time we will be able to return to the theatre to hear a live accompaniment, whether old or new, that makes an effective match to the film and is sensitively performed; when this happens, we are better able to imagine the silent cinema's past glories, and to experience it as an art still vital, a century after it all began.
Anderson, Gillian ( 1990), "No Music until Cue".
Erdmann, Hans, and Becce, Giuseppe ( 1927), Allgemeines Handbuch der Film-Musik.
Gorbman, Claudia ( 1987), Unheard Melodies.
Marks, Martin ( 1995), Music and the Silent Film.
Rapée, Erno ( 1924), Motion Picture Moods.
----- ( 1925), Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures.
By the middle of the 1920s the cinema had reached a peak of splendour which in certain respects it would never again surpass. It is true that there was not synchronized sound, nor Technicolor, except at a very experimental stage. Synchronized sound was to be introduced at the end of the decade, while Technicolor came into use only in the mid 1930s and beyond. Nor, except in isolated cases like Abel Gance's Napoléon ( 1927), was there anything approaching the wide screen that audiences were to be accustomed to from the 1950s onwards. It is also the case that viewing conditions in many parts of the world, particularly in rural areas, remained makeshift and primitive.
But there were many compensations. Audiences in cities throughout the developed world were treated to a spectacle which only twenty years earlier would have been unimaginable. In the absence of on-screen sound there were orchestras and sound effects. Film stocks using panchromatic emulsion on a nitrate base produced images of great clarity and detail enhanced by tinting and toning. Flicker effect had been eliminated, and screens up to 24 X 18 feet in size showed images brightly and without
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Publication information: Book title: The Oxford History of World Cinema. Contributors: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 192.
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