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Film Music - Essay Example

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In this paper the writer will attempt to give some details about music in silent movie period and in particular what role the jazz had played as part of the silent motion picture. Furthermore, he will give try to illustrate the jazz music used by Chaplin for his films…
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Film Music
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Film Music

The difficulty of studying the nature of the music for motion pictures derives from the complexity of the medium. Films usually operate through "a conjunction of visual and auditory signals, research into film music requires an understanding of not one but two non-verbal systems of communication, as well as the problematical jargons with which we attempt to describe each of them in speech (Marks, 1997, p. 3)". Currently, few scholars have mastered the field of such specialized studies as music in silent movies. Thus, I have to address that this paper has limitation based on the narrow specialization of the topic. The subject of film music is neglected by researchers, because it spans between two disciplines and its material presents many problems (Marks, 1997). Unlike concert music, film music exists only as an accompaniment to the film and is not included into a repertoire. Especially in music for silent movies, the primary material that has to be researched is not the music, but the film itself. Consequently, the film music in silent movies has to be studies together with a profound observation of the movie. Music in this sense is in the core of the research and the movie plot stays in the periphery (Marks, 1997). "As we view a film, our minds must contend with the ever-changing content of the moving image and the soundtrack. The individual elements (not just music, but also lighting, camera work, editing, and so forth) are submerged into the flow of images on the screen. Hence the engrossed audience rarely perceives these elements consciously; it is simply carried along by the stream of sights and sounds (Marks, 1997, p.4)."

Marks (1997) points out that most of our "information about music and silent cinema dates from after 1910; earlier than that, documents are lacking and extant scores are few (p. 26)." Altman (1998) observes that in the early periods of silent film musical accompaniment was not standard practice. He explains that the US film industry began to introduce normative musical score as accompaniment between 1908 and 1912. Altman (1998) also notes that developing the musical accompaniment was a significant part of the cinematic transformation that was taking part at that time. Efforts were made to stimulate the use of film music and to supervise its quality. Much more attention should be paid on the impact of geography into music. The urbanized east coast versus the less populated western states, the neighborhood trends versus the downtown surroundings have influenced the sound in the silent movies (Altman, 1998). Ethnicity and race and the emergence of African folklore traditions, ragtime and jazz on the musical accompaniment also placed a cornerstone in silent movies music.

After the World War I and the disastrous flu epidemic in the 1918, the 1920s can be characterized as one of the most prosperous years in America. The 1920s are also called "The Roaring Twenties" or "The Jazz Age" (Blundell, n.d). After the World War I, a lot of African Americans who were living in the South, started to move North. Northern America was more industrialized and provided more employment opportunities. Thus, African Americans hoped they could make a better living. 1920s was the time when ... Read More
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