The Film Score

2 From the Cue Sheet to the Movie Theater Orchestra

Whereas the choice of the pieces to be played was previously left to the musicians, in 1910 the Edison company published the first so-called cue sheet for a Frankenstein film. Thus the piano player was handed an arrangement into scenes with precise suggestions for its underscoring (e.g., light music, Weber’s Freischütz, Wagner’s Lohengrin). Sam Fox Moving Picture Music (1913) represents a pioneering achievement in the history of the film score. Composed by John Stepan Zamecnik, it contains examples of music for typical narrative elements that could be rearranged for each film. Likewise legendary is the twelve-volume Kinothek (1919) by Giuseppe Becce, which primarily comprised newly composed examples of music for specific situations. References to music for other scenes were noted in the margins. Ernö Rapée’s 1924 collection of opera and symphony fragments, dances, romantic character pieces, and the like, had a similar concept.[2] Although these kinds of musical patchworks for piano accompaniment were the rule, scores were specifically composed for a few films, such as the score in 1908 by Camille Saint-Saëns (L’assassinat du duc de Guise, FR, dir. André Calmettes and Charles Le Bargy),[3] in 1909 by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (The Song about the Merchant Kalishnikov, RU),[4] and in 1913 by Joseph Weiß (Der Student von Prag, DE, dir. Stellan Rye and Paul Wegener). In the 1920s, composers became increasingly interested in film scores, which resulted in several original and first-class compositions for silent films, for instance for La Roue (FR 1923, dir. Abel Gance, music: Arthur Honegger), for Battleship Potemkin (RU 1925, dir. Sergei Eisenstein, music: Edmund Meisel), or for The New Babylon (RU 1929, dir. Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, music: Dimitri Shostakovich). Unusual arrangements were also produced for abstract films and films which used narrative sparingly, such as music by Hanns Eisler or Paul Hindemith.

An outstanding role is accorded Erik Satie’s score for Entr’acte (FR 1924, dir. René Clair). The importance of this work is seen less in the modular method he used—the stringing together of recurring segments while dispensing with melodical evolvement—and more in his briefly segmented repetitive patterns. Satie anticipated the challenge of the sound film with music structured in this way, which could easily be synchronized with images. As the film score no longer could be adapted live, it had to tolerate losses of material caused by film tears during playback without having losses of meaning.

In the 1910s, the motion picture increasingly won over refined middle-class audiences. Thus, demands swelled not only with respect to the venue in which a film was shown, but also with respect to the presentation of the accompanying music. The latter took on a central role in the film palaces opening up beginning in the mid-1910s in the United States and after World War I in Europe. The elegant Strand Theater in New York, which opened in 1914, had its own orchestra, which is said to have comprised 30 instrumentalists, an organist, and a vocal quartet.[5] The Birth of a Nation (US 1915), the elaborate production by D. W. Griffith, was to be accompanied by a compilation of popular and classical music that Griffith had selected in collaboration with Joseph Breil.[6] The Ride of the Valkyries for the Ku Klux Klan was of course meant to be combined with bombastically orchestral sound. This film is exemplary for the illustrative functions of music that emerged during this period, including first and foremost the expression of feelings and moods (mood technology) as well as the realistic underscoring of actions, such as a storm with agitato. In addition, horns, drums, boxes of dishes, and the movie theater organ, first developed in 1908, were used with numerous noise registers.[7] Music was sometimes also assigned tasks of generating meaning, such as when, during a harmless man/woman scene, an informing Donna è mobile sounded from off screen. In addition to these functions, which influenced perceptions of the film, music assured the viewer sitting in the dark of his or her place in a room.[8]

For the American premiere of the expressionist nightmare Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (DE 1919, dir. Robert Wiene), however, Rapée did not draw on such pieces but instead on excerpts from what at the time was new music (Strauss, Debussy, Schönberg, Stravinsky, Prokofiev).  
The film score entered his body of works as opus 128. The unusual instrumentation consisting of piano, harmonium, and strings indicates its origin.  
Sometimes written Joseph Briel.  
The movie theater conductor Willy Schmidt-Gentner used this kind of dramaturgically motivated music, which required keen knowledge of the film.