The Sounds of the Silents in Britain

ISBN : 9780199797547

Julie Brown; Annette Davison
352 Pages
160 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2013
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The Sounds of the Silents in Britain explores the sonic dimension of film exhibition in Britain, from the emergence of cinema through to the introduction of synchronized sound. Edited by Julie Brown and Annette Davison, the volume includes original scholarship from many highly-regarded experts on British silent film from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, such as film history, theatre studies, economic history, and musicology. The essays provide an introduction to diverse aspects of early film sound: vocal performance, from lecturing and reciting, to voicing the drama; music, from the forerunners of music for visual spectacle to the impact of legislation and the development of film music practice; and performance in cinemas more generally, from dancing and singalong films, to live stage prologues, and even musical performances captured in British Pathe's early sound shorts. Other topics include the sonic eclecticism of performances at the Film Society, British International Pictures' first synchronized sound films, and the role of institutions such as the Musicians' Union and the Performing Right Society in relation to cinema music and musicians. In addition to tackling these familiar topics from surprising new angles, The Sounds of the Silents in Britain also debunks some of the myths about the sonic dimension of film exhibition. For example, the book reveals that local venue licensing decisions had a profound effect on whether music could even be performed with film in some British performances spaces and cities, and that the same was true of live acts alongside film - even into the late 1920s. The books also bring to light the fact that, in terms of special film presentation and orchestral accompaniment, practices in London were arguably more sophisticated than those in New York before the onset of World War I; that lecturing to film in Aberdeen, Scotland had almost as long a life as Japanese benshi; and that the London Film Society was as eclectic in its approach to sound as it was in programming the films themselves. Filled with both archival research and sound musicological analysis, The Sounds of the Silents in Britain represents an important addition to early film and film music scholarship.


Introduction: The Sounds of the Silents in Britain
Julie Brown and Annette Davison
Speaking to Pictures
1. Professional Lecturing in Early British Film Shows
Joe Kember
2. "Now, where were we?" Ideal and Actual Early Cinema Lecturing Practices in Britain, Germany and the US
Judith Buchanan
3. Eric Williams: Speaking to Pictures
Stephen Bottomore
4. Sounding Scottish: Sound Practices and Silent Cinema in Scotland
Trevor Griffiths
Accompanying pictures
5. "Suitable music": Accompaniment Practice in Early London Screen Exhibition from R. W. Paul to the Picture Palaces
Ian Christie
6. The Art of Not Playing to Pictures in British Cinemas, 1906-1914
Jon Burrows
7. "The efforts of the wretched pianist: Learning to Play to the Pictures in Britain, 1911-1913
Andrew Higson
8. The Reception of British Exhibition Practices in The Moving Picture World, 1907-1914
James Buhler
Performance in cinemas
9. Selsior Dancing Films, 1912-1917
Stephen Bottomore
10. Song Performance in the Early Sound Shorts of British Pathe
Derek B. Scott
11. Atmospheric Film Prologues and the British Film Trade Papers, 1919-1926
Julie Brown, Royal Holloway
12. Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s
Malcolm Cook
Musicians, Companies and Institutions
13. Workers' Rights and Performing Rights: Cinema Music and Musicians Prior to Synchronized Sound
Annette Davison
14. Sound at the Film Society
John Riley
15. Edmund Meisel's "visual sound" in The Crimson Circle (1929): The Case of the Vanishing Part-Talkie
Fiona Ford

About the author: 

Julie Brown is Reader in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has written on early twentieth-century music (especially Schoenberg and Bartok), television music and film music. Her publications include Bartok and the Grotesque: Studies in Modernity, the Body and Contradiction in Music, and Western Music and Race, which was awarded the American Musicological Society's Ruth A. Solie Award. Annette Davison is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on film music and sound, music for the stage and for television. Publications include Hollywood Theory, Non-Hollywood Practice: Cinema Soundtracks in the 1980s and 1990s (2004), Alex North's A Streetcar Named Desire: A Film Score Guide (2009), and, with Erica Sheen, American Dreams, Nightmare Visions: The Cinema of David Lynch (2004).

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