Modern Times. Preserving and Performing Film Scores by Charles Chaplin

By Brock, Timothy | Journal of Film Preservation, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Modern Times. Preserving and Performing Film Scores by Charles Chaplin


Brock, Timothy, Journal of Film Preservation


The preservation of film scores is a fairly new enterprise, but the techniques are identical to those employed by early-music scholars since the 1950s. There are two distinct jobs a music preservationist does when preserving a musical work: preserving the actual written notes on a score or player's part, and preserving the way in which it was played. This comes from study and knowledge of period performance practices of a given era, and of how to renotate the music (for the modern performer) in keeping with the then-common stylistic choices a musician would have made upon seeing it. These basic applications are universal for all archivists and researchers when preserving a score, be it Monteverdi or Gershwin - though there is far more detailed research and expert opinion available on Monteverdi than there is on Gershwin. Comparatively little research has been undertaken on performance practices of the music of the early 20th century because the techniques have been deemed unworthy of full documentation.

Today's orchestras are trained to play a strict and faithful account of the printed music before them, whereas that was not true 100 years ago. A composer had certain expectations that his or her score would be played with flexibility, expression, and ornamentation that was left unmarked on the printed page. This was so not only with "popular" or "light" music, but also in the concert hall. it is fairly safe to assume that to Brahms's ear, the way his symphonies are played today would be nearly unrecognisable: very clean, but perhaps lifeless. Performances of orchestral music since the Second World War lean toward more precise and note-accurate score reading, without embellishment or variation from the printed version. This approach became essential for performers to successfully execute the demands of modern composers from Schoenberg onward, but by doing so they tragically abandoned a vast array of playing techniques, uniquely suited to the music that went before it.

A music preservationist, therefore, is left with the twin tasks of preserving the score itself and of collecting as much information as possible regarding its performance in the year it was written. These guidelines hold especially true for the preservation of scores for silent films, as this is a short and unique period in the history of music, an era that has seduced a variety of composers from Saint-Saëns to Mascagni to Shostakovich.

For the most part, the majority of original scores for silent cinema were written in a form similar to that of incidental music for a theatrical play - music to be played over the course of the film, underlining the general tone of the scenes. These descriptive moments were a familiar and comfortable musical structure for composers since Beethoven's Egmont or Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. These scores, richly beautiful as they are, when applied to film, serve as a simple and seamless and connective musical fascia that helps the overall fluidity of the story. For the film's director, there is no dependence on the composer to accomplish more than character colourisation and highlighting of major plot lines. The music serves a limited amount of crucial or defining purpose in the storytelling, other than underlining the apparently obvious by supporting a scene with general and broad musical strokes.

Some directors, whose visions extended far beyond their own studio production schedules, saw the music accompanying their films as an inseparable extension to the artistic success of a picture. An original narrative score, music so emotionally and physically embedded in the image, is one without which the film seems unavoidably incomplete. Eisenstein and Meisel, Oxilia and Mascagni, Kozintsev and Trauberg and Shostakovich, Murnau and Riesenfeld: all were well-established partnerships in the history of silent film, all independently supreme artists applying their unique crafts to produce a singular cinematic experience. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Modern Times. Preserving and Performing Film Scores by Charles Chaplin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.