105 Years of Film Music: Part One - The Silent Era

The first part in an ongoing special series on the history of film music

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brigitte Helm as Maria in Fritz Lang's <em>Metropolis</em> Brigitte Helm as Maria in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (Kino.com)

For over a century, music and movies have been making magic together. Music composed for films grew out of a rich and varied classical tradition, while taking on special attributes of its own. David Garland presents a series of programs on the history of film music. Heard on Movies on the Radio on the last Saturday of each month for the next ten months, the series will cover the styles and innovations in the soundtrack field, decade by decade.

This first program is the one exception to that chronological rhythm, in that it features music from the Silent Era, which spanned from the Lumière Brothers first public film showing in 1895, to the introduction of the "talkies" in 1927. Garland shows that right from the start, movies were inspiring resourceful composers to create music of depth and power.

Featured are the original scores for silent film classics such as "Metropolis," "Nosferatu," "The Birth of a Nation," "Battleship Potemkin," and "The Gold Rush," written by composers such as Camille Saint-Saens, Dimitri Shostakovich, Charlie Chaplin, and others.

Comments [6]

Eugene Rennahan

Splendid, illuminating Program, Mr.Garland!. Listening to it is a wonderful musical journey into the Past, back to my childhood in Hollywood.
Proof of the music abominations we have to endure today in films.
Thanks ...

Feb. 22 2014 10:53 PM
Neil in Brooklyn

The music for "The Goldrush" that you played was used in the 1942 reissue (from which your recording sounds like it's from). Was it actually composed for the 1925 original?

Jan. 27 2014 10:45 AM
FL from Manhattan

Several selections were from one LP recording that I recall for the 60s--but I cannot recall the album title. Is this listed anywhere? I am unable to locate it.

Jan. 25 2014 10:03 PM

I'm a music teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina and usually I show the XX and XXI music's century using film's music.

I hope can follow you next Saturday with this very interesting program!!

Jan. 25 2014 10:01 PM
David from Flushing

One of my most remarkable musical experiences took place in a department store. It was at showing of "Metropolis" with a transcription of the original score played on the Wanamaker Organ at Macy's Center City, Philadelphia. The ability of this immense instrument to reproduce orchestra sounds with astonishing fidelity greatly added to the occasion. The organist must have been exhausted at the end of this long film.

Jan. 25 2014 01:18 PM

While in college, I took part in singing the score (with orchestra) to the silent film "Alexander Nevsky" while the film was being shown. A few years later, I saw the silent film "Robin Hood" (1922) with the Detroit Symphony playing a live score.

More recently, I've attended silent film screenings at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts with live piano accompaniment.

Jan. 25 2014 02:35 AM

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