"All Join in the Chorus": Sheet Music, Vaudeville, and the Formation of American Cinema, 1904-1914
This dissertation shows how the illustrated song, a nearly forgotten mode of performance that combined the singing of popular songs with the projection of colored stereopticon slides, shaped the American moving picture and music publishing industries through the first decade and a half of the twentieth century. Although it is generally assumed that popular music did not exercise a significant influence on moving pictures until the successful introduction of "sound film" in the late 1920s, the sheet music industry ("Tin Pan Alley") was inextricably bound up in the very formation of the "picture show," an extraordinarily popular commercial amusement that, beginning around 1904, privileged the exhibition of both moving pictures and illustrated songs. Despite the intermedial nature of picture show exhibition between roughly 1904 and 1914, the bulk of "silent era" cinema scholarship has focused almost exclusively on the filmic text and largely neglected the formative role that illustrated songs played in the transformation of cinema from "peep show to palace." Illustrated songs, performed in-between reels of brief moving picture titles, facilitated the film industry's dramatic expansion when the films themselves were of insufficient quantity and uneven quality to consistently draw patrons into the picture show theater on their own. By analyzing period trade periodicals as well as the recollections of individuals who experienced or were invested in the picture show illustrated song, this dissertation will demonstrate how the study of early moving pictures and sheet music publishing, separated by convention, must be approached from a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective. Neither of these remarkably influential culture industries, I argue, can be understood absent the other.
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