The Pioneers of Movie Music
Sounds of the American Silent Cinema

Composer(s): William Axt, Erno Rapee, Gaston Borch, Christopher O'Hare, Z.S. Zamecnik, Victor L. Schertzinger, Maurice Baron, Domenico Savino, M.L. Lake, Otto Langey, Lester Brockton, Adolf Minot, Irenee Berge, Hugo Frey, Julius E. Andino, T.H. Rollinson, Ribe Danmark, Hugo Riesenfeld
Album Title: The Pioneers of Movie Music
Sounds of the American Silent Cinema 
Cat. No.: 80761
Genre: Musical Theater/Opera / Musical Theater
Release Date: 12/2014
Description: The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra
Rick Benjamin, director

The motion picture is without doubt one of the most powerful art and entertainment forms in human history. And few would argue with the fact that a vital element of any film is its music: indeed, most hit movies owe a large part of their success to their scores (think Star Wars or The Sting to cite just two of hundreds of examples).

With the advent of sound films (i.e. “talking pictures”) in the late 1920s up to the present time, motion picture music has been preserved on the films themselves, and can be readily experienced in viewings at theaters and via DVDs. But the soundscape of early cinema—the age of so-called “silent movies”—is hardly documented at all. Because of this almost total lack of ability to experience early film music, many wrong assumptions are made about it. Without any familiarity at all, writers and “researchers” often breezily dismiss music of the silent film era as “crude,” “primitive,” or otherwise beneath regard. But nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the entire vocabulary of film music as we know it today was developed in America between 1910 and 1925; there was—and still exists in the form of scores—a vast and beautiful repertoire of film music created by talented composers during that period. Yet virtually none of this important material is available on recordings (in any format) for research and enjoyment.

Into this surprising historical void comes this recording, which presents for the first time the original scores of America’s pioneer film composers, including William Axt, Maurice Baron, Irénée Bergé, Gaston Borch, M.L. Lake, Erno Rapée, Hugo Riesenfeld, Victor L. Schertzinger, J.S. Zamecnik, and others. The twenty-eight pieces are sequenced in a way that will lead listeners into creating their own imaginary “daydream movie” as the CD is played.

The extensive accompanying essay explores the widespread use of cinema orchestras (there were more than 8,000 of these in America by 1921); the methods for scoring (“setting”) the films (“photoplays”); period performance techniques; the nationwide network for publishing and distributing film scores; the working life of cinema musicians; the influence of brilliant, music loving showmen-exhibitors like Roxy (Samuel L. Rothafel); and biographical profiles of the composers represented. Original orchestrations have been selected from the Capitol Theater’s 1,000–title collection of c. 1900 to 1928 cinema scores, played by the world’s leading silent film accompanists (with 650 screenings to date)—the Paragon (Ragtime) Orchestra.

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