Thief of Bagdad, The

(Fairbanks, 1924). Music composed by Mortimer Wilson.

An American fantasy film (having nothing whatever to do with the Middle East), The Thief of Bagdad falls in love with a princess, becomes a virtuous prince after a difficult quest which involves numerous adventures and special effects, and wins the princess as his bride. The thief and some of his rivals encounter a flying carpet, a magic rope, a crystal ball, a magic apple that restores people to health, a cape that makes the wearer invisible, a flying horse, a magic powder, a giant bat, an underwater monster, a great fire breathing dragon, a tree that turns into a person, and a magic army that helps the Thief win the city of Bagdad back from the evil Mongol Prince and his hordes. While compelling for children, the film is also attractive for adults, the art-deco decor by Menzies giving the film a stunning look that influenced a number of subsequent films (the James Bond films for example). The moral of the film is that “happiness must be earned.” The score by Wilson, who after a childhood spent in the Midwest, studied with Max Reger and taught for three years at the Leipzig conservatory, is one of the best film scores ever written. One contemporary film composer, after hearing it, said it made him feel like a midget.


Performing forces
26 players (strings: 3,3,2,2,1, flute/piccolo, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 trumpets, 2 Fr. horns, 2 trombones, percussion, tympani, harp, piano)
Performing forces
45 players (strings 7,7,6,5,4; flute/piccolo, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 trumpets, 2 Fr. horns, 2 trombones, percussion, tympani, harp, piano or full strings (14,14,12,10,8) plus brass and woodwinds.)
Rehearsals Two 2 ½ hour rehearsals
One 3-hour 10 minute tech rehearsal
One 3-hour 10 minute dress rehearsal no later than 10 am on day of performance
Performance time 2 hours 20 minutes with additional 15 minute intermission
Film speed 24 frames per second
Film source Museum of Modern Art, or Paul Killiam Films, NY
Rights Controlled by Wilson family through agent Clyde Allen
Program Note A Consummation and a Harbinger of the Future: Mortimer Wilson=s Accompaniments for Douglas Fairbanks Gillian B. Anderson With The Birth of a Nation (1915) D. W. Griffith not only made film history, he made music history as well. Taking his cue from the 1914 New York presentation of Cabiria with its orchestral accompaniment by Manlio Marza, Griffith combined his film images of the American civil war with a full orchestral accompaniment by Joseph Carl Breil. Fifty percent of the effect of The Birth of a Nation (and every subsequent Griffith film) lay in the way the large symphony orchestra and the sound-effects intensified the image and aroused the audience. Thereafter, ambitious film directors and theater managers competed with each other to create ever more spectacular theatrical film/musical events. Before 1915 music already had begun to be an important element in film presentations, but there were still a number of theaters where one could hear anything from only sound effects, to music with no relationship to the images on the screen, to improvisations, to mosaic scores made up of all preexisting compositions. After the screening of The Birth of a Nation, Aappropriate,@often orchestral, music became an indispensable part of successful presentations. However, Griffith=s composers, Joseph Carl Breil, William Frederick Peters, Louis Silvers and Louis F. Gottschalk, almost always wrote what were called Acomposed and compiled@ scores. Half the music was original and the rest was a pastiche of preexisting compositions. Such scores did not have Aan inner unity of design,@ the kind of design only possible when a composer writes his or her own score from beginning to end. Before 1922 such scores were extremely rare: in America Robert Hood Bowers= A Daughter of the Gods (1916), Joseph Carl Breil=s Queen Elizabeth (1911), Victor Herbert=s Fall of a Nation (1916), and perhaps a few of the Triangle scores by Victor Schertzinger. After 1922 Douglas Fairbanks began to popularize the idea of using original, musically complex scores. For this purpose he chose the American composer Mortimer Wilson (1876-1932). Although still melodious and diatonic, Wilson=s film music was complex structurally and harmonically. Often aimed at the emotion or kinetic motion within an entire scene, it always had an overarching musical unity that was lacking in compiled scores. Although the tradition of using an original often harmonically complex score became the dominant musical tradition for the accompaniment of feature and documentary films after 1929, it was very unusual in the twenties. Initially, Fairbanks= approach had its detractors. Many critics and music publishers were accustomed to the hodgepodge approach of the compiled score, and they preferred it, but the adoption of original scoring in the sound-film era is a tribute to Fairbanks= foresight. Fairbanks= contribution to the development of original musical accompaniments for films has been obscured by the general lack of recognition of the role musical accompaniments played in the reception of early films and by the fact that Fairbanks= films have not entered the film canon. His contribution is further obscured by the lack of opportunity specialists and the public alike have had in seeing Fairbanks= orphaned images reunited with the original orchestral music he chose for them. In choosing Mortimer Wilson to write the accompaniment for The Thief of Bagdad (1924), one of the most accomplished American composers of his generation, Douglas Fairbanks clearly wanted to realize what had been only conceptually accepted in the United States up to that time: The great possibilities of writing a complete musical score as a setting for the finer productions have always been recognized, but it is only of late that some have realized and made it possible for a definite original score to be written that would intensify and make more beautiful the presentation on the screen. In the Thief of Bagdad being presented this week at the Oliver theater the practicability of such a procedure is more than a justification; it is a consummation. It is the beginning of a new symphonic art for the composer. . . A more beautiful picture than the Thief of Bagdad . . . cannot be imagined and it would be difficult to find a musical score, that would equal this setting, played by the small orchestra which travels with the production under the direction of a most capable director. Mr. Fairbanks is to be congratulated for selecting so talented a composer as Mortimer Wilson. He has caught the spirit of this delightfully imaginative bit of art and painted in vivid colors the result of his inspiration. ...It is interestingly built along the lines of Wagnerian music drama, not in the development of complex harmonic and polyphonic schemes, but in the development of the many motives. He has invented, for instance, the thief motive, the rug [flying carpet] motive, the love motive and many others, that appear and reappear. They express in various hues and rhythms the emotions of the characters or describe the many fantastic scenes. The pictorial writing in this work is excellent. The fire scene, the fight with the dragon and the numerous encounters of the thief are described musically in a most artistic manner. Another interesting feature of the work is the use of a number of original oriental melodies, easily recognizable because of their individuality and beauty. Mr. Wilson has preserved their racial characteristics by using with very ingenious ability the instrumentation necessary to give it the local color of the east. He is a master of orchestral writing. He is a colorist of rare attainment.. . Wilson=s accompaniments for The Black Pirate and Don Q Son of Zorro also received critical praise. In The New York Herald Tribune Wilson explained the unique way he went about writing the score for The Black Pirate (and all his film scores): One of the pleasures of the work is being on the lot while the filming is in progress... In this way I become familiar with every detail before the camera is called for. Often the themes are on paper while the scene is being rehearsed, so that by the time the film is developed the music is scored and copied, ready to perform. My copyists take my score sheets from me right off the set and the duplicates are done by the time the day=s filming is ready to be shown. The interviewer went on to explain: Usually in composing a two-hour screen symphony Wilson bases his main theme on a few simple tones that are easily followed and do not disturb the audiences. These he elaborates into main and secondary themes as suit the action. Wilson then was quoted again: For instance, in The Black Pirate, except for a bare half dozen >doggerel= tunes which have been sung by sailors for a hundred years, the score is an original work. These tunes have been borrowed, just as Shakespeare borrowed plots from old Italian sources, then done over as to the harmonization, tonal orchestral coloring, etc. The most outstanding of the old tunes is >Fifteen Men on a Dead Man=s Chest,= which I used because it was sung by the >extras= on the set during the filming of the bacchanal scene. I have canoned and fugued and otherwise developed this old tune to great length throughout the score. I have used it as the secondary theme of the pirate crew. The main theme of the crew is to be heard as the pirate leader is first shown, his knife in his teeth. Many developments of this main theme and the secondary theme appear interwoven in various ways as the action demands while over all the strident motive of The Black Pirate (Doug=s motive) predominates as the star appears. My faith in the motion pictures is boundless. I believe that in time they are bound to accomplish many and great things. The fact that to-day special scores are being written for the large productions is a sign that points the way. While the score for Don Q was simpler than for The Thief of Bagdad or The Black Pirate, Wilson used the same techniques in its construction. There were some preexisting melodies, in this case Spanish mission music from California, as well as original themes assigned to the various characters, laid into a sophisticated harmonic and musical structure. He again was on location during the filming and spent many hours in the projection room of the studio afterwards, refining the timings and writing the music to fit each sequence. Once again his work was acclaimed by the critics as brilliant and original. Fairbanks= employment of Wilson to write original musical accompaniments for three of his films was the cause of much comment in the press about the wisdom of using original scores. These discussions reveal a lot about the performance practices in American movie theaters of the period. The uniqueness of what Fairbanks was trying to do was mentioned in the following review in The Literary Digest, which quotes a number of other reviews: AMake your score as artistic as you can and don=t feel that you have to jump like a banderlog from one mood to another at the expense of the development of your musical ideas.@ These are the words Douglas Fairbanks used when he commissioned Mortimer Wilson to write the music for the film of The Thief of Bagdad. Now, declares Theodore Stearns in The Morning Telegraph (New York), Aa big motion picture producer who is artist enough to say that to a composer has made musical history.@ Mr. Wilson has worked in the same spirit as the composer of a symphony employs in pursuing his ends. He is permitted to see his ideas develop with a regard to their own integrity and not become merely a running comment on the text of the picture. This has been the bane of the musical accompaniment hitherto, insists Mr. Stearns, who pays Mr. Fairbanks the credit of being an independent innovator. AFairbanks is probably the sanest, healthiest film star in the world to-day. His out-of-doors outlook on things in general can not help but make him always refreshingly picturesque and logical. AWhat has handicapped the few real composers of original scores to accompany a big movie, up to date, has been that producers and directors eternally insist upon the music changing instantly with the changes in the picture. Inasmuch as The Thief of Bagdad is made up of some 2,000 >cut-ins,= all to be explained musically in the space of two or three hours, it would be impossible, artistically, to set that many musical moods without making the music sound like a kaleidoscope. AIt would mean, in the case of The Thief of Bagdad, changing the musical idea at the rate of once a minute for two hours and a half. This attempt is made, however, in most moving-pictures, and the result B nine time out of ten B is a hodgepodge of something commenced, nothing ever satisfactorily finished.@ Mr. Wilson develops a musical idea Aconsistently without having to worry about the flashes to and fro on the film, and still his music reflects the action and backgrounds.@ . . .AIt has lofty sentiment, warmth and tenderness, and feelingly portrays the fundamental idea of the Thief of Bagdad, that true happiness must be earned. In the Shiraz bazaar B in the Isle of Wak B in all the subsequent adventures of the Thief searching for the magic casket, Mr. Wilson logically develops his former musical idea, altering them and fitting them to the symbolism of the picture rather than to the tempo of the cameras. ABut characteristic gestures B even expressions B of Douglas Fairbanks are nicely mirrored in the orchestra. As the flying carpet is brought forth, just a single flute trill delicately portrays it. There is no Flying Dutchman hurry and bustle B no inane tremolos on the cymbal or strings. AAs the Thief is passing through the ordeal by fire and slays a dragon that would turn Siegfried green with envy, there is no Ride of the Valkyries idea B merely a restless movement in the music. The snake and the magic apple are coldly pictured by a ponticello on the strings B which always gives a shiver down the spine. AThe final reunion of the Thief and the Princess is marked by the highly artistic return of the Mosque music. Ordinarily, a composer B certainly the general run of movie directors B would naturally insist upon using the former love duet or barcarolle music. But, in a sense, the happiness of the lovers was earned through sacrifice and pain. Moonlight and magic carpets did not bring them together so much as did renunciation and patience. AProbably the most satisfactory element in Wilson=s score is that he never descends to mere noise. He follows a scheme of sane restraint and, thank the Lord, does not work the oboe to death. This screen symphony is the most logically musical one I have thus far heard.@ Mr. Wilson=s work is highly commended, too, by Mr. Finck, the retiring veteran music critic of the New York Evening Post, who sees in his example a new opening for American composers: an opening, we are informed, that has already become wide enough for the entrance of others: AMortimer Wilson, already favorably known in the musical world, was chosen for this task and the result has been a masterwork of its kind. Where the eyes are kept so busy every second it is difficult to listen to every detail of the music, but I have learned to do so, and it was with increasing admiration that I followed the evolution of Mr. Wilson=s score, noting the freshness and inexhaustible variety of the music invention, its appropriateness to every situation and the clever avoidance of awkward gaps. Everything synchronized to perfection . Mr. Wilson to some extent uses leading motives; he is a master of orchestral coloring, and yesterday he conducted the score as only the creator of a work B if he happens to be also a born leader B can conduct it. Mr. Fairbanks=s experiment may be set down as a decided initial success.@ Although Fairbanks gave Wilson carte blanche, after the film=s premiere in Hollywood, opposition to Wilson=s original score gave Wilson a temporary setback at the beginning of the New York run, as the following account in Musical America makes clear: This little tale concerns a widely known New York theatrical man who is exceedingly ambitious to shine in the musical firmament. . . Some months ago a motion-picture actor named Doug, who is wedded to a rather well-known film ingenue known as Mary, had the good fortune to encounter Mortimer Wilson, a talented young American composer. Doug liked Mortimer at once, liked his music and his personality; so he did a unique thing in motion-picture annals. He invited, or rather engaged, Mortimer for a long stay at Hollywood, with the understanding that Wilson would like and breathe in the atmosphere of a great Oriental film which Doug was making. ACompose the music for my picture just as the inspiration strikes you.@ Doug told Mortimer, Aand I will accept your score and use it when the film is exhibited.@ As far as I can learn, Wilson is the only composer engaged under such unique terms. It is true Converse, Breil, Strauss and many others have written incidental music for the screen, but I know of no instance where a composer was especially engaged to create his music directly on the scene of action. At last the production was completed. Our theatrical producer was sitting between Doug and Mary at the trial performance. AWho wrote the musical score?@ he asked Doug. ANow, now,@ he objected when he was told, Athis will never do. What you want to help make your picture a success is to have the music written by some composer with a big name.@ Our theatrical producer, you see, believes in the potency of names and the principal of encouraging the famous. AI will find a composer for you,@ he informed Doug. So Mr. Theatrical Man hied off and promptly contracted with a prominent and highly esteemed musician to complete the special score within a space of a few weeks. Now, let me make it plain that this musician is one of the ablest and experienced men in the field. Naturally, he produced a good piece of work. To my mind, however, he worked under a great disadvantage, for his was obliged to follow the standardized formula and compose his score after watching the reels spin out their story. Unlike Wilson, he did not live and breathe in the atmosphere of the Arabian Night tale. Our theatrical producer cast aside the Wilson music and replaced it with the new score. For one week or so this new music was played by the orchestra. Then suddenly, without any public explanation, the rejected Wilson music was recalled. Doug and Mary looked happy B certainly Mr. Mortimer Wilson, who had been wearing a forlorn and melancholy look for a week or so, looked happier. I heard the Wilson score when I viewed the picture and I can attest to its suitability. It is unpretentious music, but it does fit the story nicely and, what is far more important, the use of the score marks the birth of a new day for the American composer. Many of us have become thoroughly impatient with the puerile and inappropriate music used in connection with the big films. For the most part, the present music consists of more or less bombastic themes and hackneyed, disjointed development or a patchwork of numerous compositions. If some of our big producers could be induced to follow the idea of Doug and give our best composers carte blanche, we would soon witness a marvelous improvement. Incidentally, our composers would have a chance to develop themselves, a chance which is now denied them in the field of the opera and ballet. Of course our theatrical producer with the music aspirations was disgusted to find that his musical judgment had failed him. However, I don=t suppose he feels half as badly over his artistic lapse as he does over the fact that his little scheme cost him $7,000. Mortimer Wilson regarded the compiled score as a distraction that at worst detracted from a new film. AThe associations of >stock= music with a new picture detract from the novelty of the film by suggesting all the former hearings of the music . . . This is not an experiment, writing screen symphonies; it is an established fact and a necessary adjunct to the production. One might as well write a new opera libretto and adapt Tannhauser music to it and then call it a novelty.@ However, Wilson=s account of what happened at the beginning of the New York run of The Thief of Bagdad is interesting because of the way it differs from the report in Musical America. It explains the unnamed theatrical producer=s attitude as a function of prejudice against the work of American composers and against the taste of the movie going public. ...recently a 42nd street public allowed our symphonic score to The Thief of Bagdad to be played (almost) unmolested matinee and night, for nearly eight months. . . We have said >almost= unmolested because at the beginning of the engagement of The Thief of Bagdad the specially engaged presenter had >condemned= our original score to the picture just ten days before the opening and before he had heard or seen a single note of it. We were an American! Consequently damned in the eyes of this foreign managing impresario, by every conception of European methods and hackneyed foreign standards we were informed that we should never have written an original score to The Thief of Bagdad at all, that there was enough music already written by Russians to have set this picture adequately, and, besides this, we were informed that Ano composer could ever write two and a half hours of interesting music.@ However, our music score was in the hands of the printer in preparation for the opening, and in spite of [his disapproval we] used most of our score (we conducting, accompanied the picture when the presenteur arrived). The real molestation occurred two weeks later, when we were informed that another score had been assembled from the works of name composers and that this new score would be tried out in a few days at a regular performance. After the days= rehearsal, our men being worked each of these days for five hours in the morning besides playing two performances of the regular score daily, a matinee and a night were given to the tryout of the assembled score. This new score proved to be as good as any assembled score can be. The result, regardless of worth in either case, was that our score was resumed and continued to be performed throughout the engagement, and is now being performed in ten other cities twice a day. The main reason perhaps for the retention of our music was that it fitted the picture in character without calling to mind as familiar classics do when played with pictures, scenes and moods which have formerly been associated in the minds of the listener with other pictures or conditions. It is amusing to realize the number of repetitions certain well-known works are given in the >scoring= of pictures. For instance, it would be difficult to name a feature picture, since The Birth of a Nation, that did not make use of the Schubert D Major March and the finale of Liszt=s Mazeppa. A certain musical characteristic becomes associated with a certain kind of dramatic action and that sets the pace for all future scenes of similar nature. A safe-cracking exploit must be set with Jimmy Valentine music; a love scene must be a mushy, calf like tune with the intelligence of a jellyfish; a fire scene seems not to be thought effective unless the cymbals, piccolo and tympani are being forced to Hades; the sight of an American battleship calls for ARolling down to Rio@ and gunshots on the tympani till the house trembles! All this and more is still met with at some theaters. Of course, it is an echo of the tremendous equipment used upon the backstage of the Liberty Theater when The Birth of a Nation, in its long run there made use of every bit of noise-producing machinery known to pandemonium. What a set of numbskulls an audience must be thought to be when, in order to appeal to their consciousness, the limit of caveman methods is made use of! Returning to the molestation of our score referred to above, there is the interesting item of the producer (an American, you know) of the picture, having given out a number of newspaper interviews which contained the most flattering praise of and satisfaction with our original score which had been heard in Hollywood before coming on to New York. However, the presenteur, after taking charge, had given order to his press department to Alay off the music,@ consequently the publicity for that part of the production was squelched. In addition to this no music critics were invited to the performances until some time after the tryout of the assembled score had been held, our score reinstated, the meddlesome influence removed and peace restored. We need only mention that when the music critics did come, they made our score famous all over the United States in a few short weeks; The Literary Digest gave two pages to a review of the outstanding critiques (using for a cut our very worst likeness) and a committee from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, after a visit to The Thief of Bagdad, performed a suite from our score at the Stadium concerts. We mention these things only to show that the music may not have been, to competent judges, so bad as the presenteur had at first thought. Even with this the molestation with our score had not ceased. At the final rehearsal, at the instigation of the presenteur, there were forcibly interpolated in our music score a number (perhaps ten) of outside pieces including some inane character pieces which should have been served in nursing bottles B and, to be sure, the inevitable Mazeppa was among the inserts! Here we were, indeed, with an >original= score! There was nothing for us to do but take our medicine. We were never a quitter, although we realized that there was sufficient cause to desert the ship between the final rehearsal and the first performance. We would not have it thought that we did not offer to retire if they chose to have us do so. But we were assured that everything was >sitting pretty.= And, lo! That night we received a characteristic telegram from the presenteur, during the intermission, wishing us success, and telling us AI know you have the goods.@ The few weeks later, however, determined the sincerity of that message when the try-out score was given two performances and then retired for good. The amusing part of this incident is that within ten performances after our vindication by the real owners and managers, who had always been fair, we had removed every one of the last-minute interpolations from the score, substituting our own works and only the members of the orchestra were any the wiser. It only goes to show that the serious American composer and conductor will be discriminated against just so long as certain European managers who are un-Americanized are active in catering to an American public. This is purely a matter of how long the Americans themselves are going to remain in ignorance of these conditions. If the theater-going public knew the >tender regard= in which they are held by certain former European managers-presenteurs, and the estimate placed by these pseudo-psychologists upon American intelligence, they would not be slow about taking action toward either Americanizing or ostracizing those few whose dominating methods bring discredit upon the genuinely capable, constructive and successful of the theater industry. . . This account confirms the impact of both the musical accompaniment and the use of sound effects in The Birth of a Nation. Even more revealing is a letter to the editor that Wilson wrote in 1927: . . . . The experiences I have had with composing music for a number of pictures has probably taught me much about the inner workings of the industry. I have spent many hours under the camera while the >shots= are being made, and have been able to feel the pulse of everyone connected with the production. I have seen the film grow, daily, from one hundred feet to fifteen or twenty thousand feet, in four months, and subsequently viewed the >cutting= process back to ten thousand feet, as ready for market. During this time I have written the music for every foot of film, finally, >cutting= to match the footage. Now here is where the main difficulty lies. The producer never knows what the sequence or the footage will be until after the first several public performances. It is a case, you see, of >trying it on the dog,= so to speak. Now the original score must keep pace with all the various changes in footage and sequence which are made from time to time. That would be simple enough, of course, if the tempos of various operators in the booth, were somewhat similar, but you will readily understand that the interest of the average exhibition operator is not with the music in such a case, but with his own comfort; unless, of course, the managing director be of the proper notion to keep in touch with such things. Here is where the assembled score is found to be very practical. Not having been composed for the picture, it may be stopped anywhere in the midst of a number, and the signal given to >take the next number.= Still again, the orchestral players are entirely familiar with the music of an assembled score, and no rehearsals are needed; whereas, with an original score there must be many extra rehearsals. Some theaters will not pay the extra expense, and others have not the time, because so many different pictures are shown per week or month, as the case may be. With so called >first run= pictures, which have original scores prepared during their manufacture, there is time and expense taken for necessary rehearsals. But, again there is trouble in some cases with the music. That is, after starting with an adequate number equal to an orchestra for five hard hours each day, with Sundays included. It is, therefore, patent that the easiest and most familiar music is going to be selected for the >grind.= One must realize that pictures are, today, purely a money-making proposition. No other angle is often considered, simply because the industry is new after all; and those who control it are usually less concerned about the product and its details than with its power to draw the greatest number, from all the more common walks of life, to whom entertainment is entertainment only. And further, the music to a moving picture is still in the >second fiddle= stage, so far as the producer is concerned. It supplies, to him, merely the >cues= of the >ten-twenty-thirty= days, when the soubrette made her entrance skipping down a flowered path to eight measures of a six-eight allegro. I have found that the directors think only in >shots=; that is, whatever is on the screen should be >played up= in the orchestra, even though the general mood is of another nature and may hop from extreme to extreme within a short space. I have not found that they consider the preservation of a general mood at all necessary; in fact that would entirely ruin their conception of the kaleidoscopic continuity. This condition prevails also because the industry is new; and with few exceptions haste to the box-office with the film is the governing factor. There is enough money wasted in making the average film to pay the expense of an orchestra of fifty men for a twelve-month season; and in addition to that, still enough left of the waste to pay several composers each to write a score to the picture! But this money soon comes back as everyone knows it will. Unless the music is composed as the picture is being made, there is no chance to provide an original setting, simply because as soon as the film is ready to show it is shown with the score most quickly adaptable, and that is the assembled score. If a large number of composers were put to work on a finished picture, music could thus be done in time, but the effect would be an >assembled= score, merely because so many personalities and individualities must be dissimilar. So, except for the fact that there might be a change from the more familiar music, there would still be a >hodge-podge,= as you call it. Think of a real opera composed by a dozen different men in collaboration! It would be a >musical show= no doubt as we know the term, but would present the same character as would the leading role in a play acted by a dozen different individuals during the one performance! It is the same with the assembled score, of course, where dozens of composers= individualities are felt during the one picture play. In the work I have done for pictures I have been extremely fortunate in my relations with the producer, and almost always easily co-operative with the director. I have been given carte blanche from the outset. Mr. Fairbanks has always said (when I have asked him his ideas before I begin a score for him). AYou are the artist,@ He has always been most enthusiastic over the music when it is finished and he knows well the dramatic values of good music in relation to his screen productions. This music, as you know, has been played with his pictures over the civilized world B in European cities always with much larger orchestras than I have ever had with the first productions in this country. It is when the picture is released and reaches the smaller theaters that both film and music suffer. First of all the picture is then run so fast that it is ruined, and at the same time such a camera tempo makes it impossible to synchronize the score, even if it has been properly rehearsed. Only the better class of theaters welcome an original score, because they have the men of numbers and musicianship to perform it. As between a score written in such a manner that any small town orchestra could play at prima vista and a score assembled from familiar numbers, the latter is to be preferred, and will probably be in vogue for some time yet to come. There they will Aplay one number till a new cue, then jump to the next,@ till the final >fadeout.= What else can be done until every house has a first class orchestra and time to rehearse? The original score must satisfy itself with those productions which take time to prepare themselves before showing; that is, until fewer and better films have been decided upon by the producers.. . By 1929 with the advent of sound on film, many of the obstacles to the use of original scores had been eliminated. The speed of the projectors became a standardized 24 frames per second. Talking and background sounds eliminated the need to write two and one half hours of musical accompaniment. The finest studio orchestras were assembled in Hollywood, and they were rehearsed before being recorded. Finally, composers as well as whole music departments were maintained on staff by the studios. Although AB@ movies and movies with no pretentions were still accompanied by compiled scores, first run feature films had to be accompanied by original scores composed by serious, well trained artists. It is important to remember that Douglas Fairbanks was the pioneer who began what has come to be considered the compositional process used in the golden age of film music and that Mortimer Wilson=s accompaniments for Fairbanks= films were both a culmination of the practices of the silent era and a harbinger of the future.
artwork:Lidia Bagnoli