Silent Film Sound

Front Cover
Columbia University Press, 2007 - Performing Arts - 462 pages
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Because silent cinema is widely perceived as having been exactly that -- silent -- no one has fully examined how sound was used to accompany the films of this era. Silent Film Sound reconsiders all aspects of sound practices during the entire silent film period. Based on extensive original research and accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, the book challenges the assumptions of earlier histories of this period in film and reveals the complexity and swiftly changing nature of American silent cinema.

Contrary to received opinion, silent films were not always accompanied, nor were accompaniments uniform. Beginning with sound practices before cinema's first decade and continuing through to the more familiar sound practices of the 1920s, Rick Altman discusses the variety of sound strategies and the way early cinema exhibitors used these strategies to differentiate their products. During the nickelodeon period prior to 1910, this variety reached its zenith, with theaters often deploying half a dozen competing sound strategies -- from carnival-like music in the street, automatic pianos at the rear of the theater, and small orchestras in the pit to lecturers, synchronized sound systems, and voices behind the screen. During this period, musical accompaniment had not yet begun to support the story and its emotions as it would in later years.

But in the 1910s, film sound acquiesced to the demands of captains of the burgeoning cinema industry, who successfully argued that accompaniment should enhance the film's narrative and emotional content rather than score points by burlesquing or "kidding" the film. The large theaters and blockbuster productions of the mid-1910s provided a perfect crucible for new instruments, new music-publication projects, and the development of a new style of film music. From that moment on, film music would become an integral part of the film rather than its adversary, and a new style of cinema sound would favor accompaniment that worked in concert with cinema storytelling. For the first time, Silent Film Sound details the ways in which these diverse interests and industries came together to produce an extraordinarily successful audiovisual art.

  

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Silent film sound

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It is axiomatic that silent films were never really silent. But anyone who thinks that the totality of their sound was a tinkling piano will be proved wrong by Altman (cinema & comparative literature ... Read full review

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To date the best study of silent film music and the historical practice based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources, often corrected errors and myths that were based on long distant memories. An excellent resource for someone studying film history, silent film, or the history of music and the movies. 

Contents

Past Attempts to Write the History of Silent Film Sound
7
Crisis Historiography
15
Vaudeville
16
PART II
22
LateNineteenthCentury Musicians
28
The Bandwagon
43
Lecture Logic
55
PART 111
63
Last Words
173
The Nickelodeon Program
181
Silence
193
Nickelodeon Music
203
Musical Effects
209
Popular Songs and Verbal Matching
220
PART VI
279
Moving Picture Orchestras Come of Age
289

From Peep Show to Projection
77
Projected Images
83
Moving Pictures in Vaudeville
96
Vaudeville Sound
102
PART IV
114
Competition
120
Ballyhoo
126
Lectures Sound Effects and the Itinerant
133
Lyman Howe Leroy Carleton and Film Sound Effects
144
Films That Talk
157
Voices Behind the Screen
166
The Motion Picture Orchestra
300
The Evolving Musical Repertory
308
New Roles for Keyboard Instruments
321
The Cinema Organ
330
Cue Sheets and Photoplay Music
345
Photoplay Music
354
Musical Practices
367
The Full Program
379
Trade Press Discourse 231
389
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Elizabeth A. Castelli is associate professor of religion at Barnard College at Columbia University. She is the author of Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power, coauthor of The Postmodern Bible, and editor of several books, including Women, Gender, and Religion: A Reader. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and is the editor of a new journal, Postscripts: Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds. In 2003 and 2004 she was the senior research scholar at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University.

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