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History of Film Music – Review

Functions of The Film Music
Functions of The Film Music

What would have been my first visit to the cinema without music?

I remember it was yesterday when my brother told me that we would go to the movies on my sixth birthday to watch the movie “The Jungle Book”. Full of anticipation, I asked each of my relatives holes in the stomach, wanted to know how a cinema looks from the inside and how the juice tastes there. When it finally happened and the cinema darkened I was a little scared.

But music started and I calmed down and as Balu the bear sang “Try it with cosiness …” I felt safe. Music has always been important to me, so it accompanies me throughout my life. I humming to myself when I’m sitting on the bus, going to school or listening to the radio. At the age of about twelve, I once had a particularly bad day.

I was constantly humming a very threatening melody from the movie “Star Wars” to my mind (“Darth Vader Theme”). I realized how much film music fascinates me. Since then I’ve seen a lot of movies in the movies and on TV. When I look at a movie today, not only the image and the action are important to me, but also the music. And sometimes it happens that I am so overwhelmed with the music that the picture and the action become secondary.

It always amazes me how many ways the music affects the film. I wrote this FBA in music because I wanted to get more involved in film music. In this connection, I would like to thank Prof. Astner for his patience with my writing ‘arts’ and also for all my colleagues who share my eternal’ Do you understand, do not you? Please ?!”



Definition of film music

Film music is the music that accompanies the film images, that is, the music that was composed especially for the film (scores) or arranged from existing works.

In normal language usage, a movie is a feature film or a documentary, but basically one also includes advertising or animated computer games (Final Fantasy VII, VIII). My work here mainly refers to film music from all sorts of feature films.

There has been every imaginable kind of music in movies, from folk music (“Marianndl”, 1961, Johannes Fehring) to hard rock (“Strange Days”, 1995) to 12-tone music or classical music (“Amadeus”, 1983) to hits like “My heart will go on” (“Titanic”, 1997, Celine Dione) from the movie “Titanic” (1997, James Horner). Not to forget the scores (English score). by John Williams (“Star Wars”, 1977) or by Jerry Goldsmith (“Planet of Apes”, 1968), who made the films known beyond measure.

In addition, one must of course mention all the famous music films such as “Singing in the Rain” (1952), “Yellow Submarine” (1968, by and with the Beatles), “Westside Story” (1961, Leonard Berstein), Evita (1990 , Andrew Lloyd Webber) or “Sound of Music” (1965).

One of the questions one often comes up with in the somewhat meager definition of film music is how to classify film music into the following categories: E-music or U (entertainment) music?

Definition of film music
Definition of film music

The question arises for the following reasons:

A film music composer places different demands on itself and its music than e.g. a concert composer. Film music is written not only for the sake of listening, but above all to intensify the effect of the film images. For this, the composer must subordinate his score completely to the course of the film.

“If the shallow composer goes unnoticed, then there is really no reason why a demanding composer working with an intelligent producer on an artistically prolific film project would not be entitled to his score being judged on the same scales as his Concert music. “1 Aaron Copland (1949)

Although this quote is over 50 years old, it has lost none of its topicality. There are many composers today who, on the one hand, write film music and, on the other hand, concerts and are thus successful.

Functions of The Film Music


Film music can evoke many emotions in people, the music can scare, calm, scream aggressively, create a feeling of warmth or a sense of hatred. On the one hand, it can confuse us if the expectations we receive from it do not correspond to the progress of the story, and on the other hand, it can tell us in advance, through the already highlighted mood, how the film will continue. It is simply more complex in its functions than you think, that makes it so interesting for me.

If you look at a film without music (not without sound!), It usually sounds two-dimensional and not profound; it simply lacks the emotional connection between viewer and action. Of course, the exception confirms the rule. There is the so-called Dogma95-Film2, which works completely without unnecessary technical trivia like lighting.

History of Film Music Review
History of Film Music Review

Imagine any scene in front of a long shot of an old house at sunset, a film music composer could let the mood in the scene go from utterly exuberant to melancholy. Due to the lack of music, the scene could have something threatening and frightening about it, if it were absolutely quiet, you would probably feel lonely and alone.

So the same situation allows many ways to describe, edit and deal with it. Roughly speaking, one can distinguish between three different types of film music:

Music that shows what mood the movie has, where it plays, what it’s all about

Music that points to connections

Music that causes confusion in the viewer and creates contradictions.

The mood of the movie

“Police Academy” is a more or less serious slapstick collection of deepest humor, which has at least brought to six for me agonizing sequels. In part IV (“Police Acadamy”, 1986, Marc Folk) of the ulf is one of the stupid cadets shown in the shower. He notices a shadow in front of the shower curtain, which holds something pointed in his hand; so much can be seen. The cadet cries out in fear, somehow the shower curtain dissolves … It’s a colleague who wanted to offer him toothpaste.

Not very exciting, right? But as a spectator one sees or hears more, because none other than the famous scratch violins, which made the shower scene from Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (Bernard Herrmann, 1960) unforgettable, accompany the scene. The viewer knows this and prepares in advance for a bloody murder. Here, mood was created, and only by a significant melody.

But film music can be more than a run down a shiver on the back. At the beginning of a film, the music can tell you what kind of environment you are in, where and, most importantly, when you play it. One can already find in the opening credits, which subject the film is subordinated (love movie, thriller, (anti) war film).

The music can literally chase the viewer through the movie and take his breath away until the end, without even hinting how it ends. She is able to tell the viewer more than a thousand pictures could and yet she is often difficult to understand without pictures.

In short, it creates the atmosphere, the mood that the movie demands. As the Scratch violins from “Psycho” make one shudder, so does the theme of Darth Vader (The Evil) from the movies “Star Wars” (I, IV-VI). Here you can hear the ominous signet even begin to open, as Vader is still a child, very softly, but it shows that Vader’s way will still be very dark and gloomy and that he will by no means remain the sweet little villain.

History of Film Music
History of Film Music

Relativize time sensations:

In order to become aware of time sensations in the film, one must first define two terms. The real time means that the movie has the same length as the period it deals with. That would mean a movie that describes the content of a day would also take a day. Since movies usually last no longer than two and a half hours, longer periods are not shot in real time.

Films deal with periods that usually go beyond the two and a half hours mentioned. For example, to show three generations of a family, as in “The Haunted House,” the film must be cut from real time to experience time here. Experience time is thus a time variable that describes “how the cinema visitor experiences it – and that’s because of a corresponding dramaturgy” 3.

When individual scenes are lined up and this results in a story, the viewer knows where he is in time. Therefore, one can say that (almost 4) each film somehow breaks through the space-time continuum (real time). Thus scenes / moments in the film can be presented in time lapse (years are skipped, five minutes to one minute shirred). But time can also be intentionally slowed down (flashbacks, slow motion) or stopped altogether.

Film music plays an important role here. Thus, even in a scene in real time, music can convey the feeling of haste or awaken the feeling of serenity in the audience. For example, a man enters a room and then leaves. With a same melody that ends only at different times, namely, before, during or after leaving the room, the viewer is given different things.

While the scene ends hastily and hurriedly when the melody ends too soon, a later one conveys a stoic calm. Now if the melody stops exactly when the room is left, the scene gets a touch of accuracy, in some cases of penalties. So you see the same scene and through the music has many possibilities to change their character and give them a different mood, and only the music alone irritates the time sensations.

Music that points to contexts
Music that points to contexts

In the movie “On Behalf of the Devil” starring Keanu Reeves (Lomax) and Al Pacino (Devil), young smart lawyer Lomax finds out he’s one of the devil’s many children. He is also a lawyer in this film and wishes Lomax a grandson. To witness the Antichrist, he would have to volunteer for a night with his half-sister (“Only free will counts,” explains the devil Lomax). In order to spare the world the suffering of the Antichrist and to escape his father, Lomax realizes the only possibility he has and he shoots himself (“free will, is not he ?!” he says) !! This scene, in which he pushes off and falls to the ground, is filmed in slow motion. Again and again the case is interrupted by short scenes.

Into these transforms the devil in Lomax, from whose body devouring flames spring, which destroy everything around him, also his daughter. The gate to hell opens and the devil pulls back beaten, the picture gets smaller, everything around black and suddenly you see Lomax who recoils in horror at his reflection (he lives again) and then the drama starts from the beginning.

The music here supports the atmosphere, which is very tense throughout the whole scene. Even when Lomax and his half-sister testify to the Antichrist, one notices that soon something important will happen, because the music is aiming for a climax. Suddenly the melody stops, only the violins remain, which tremble to the end of the action as if frozen. Lomax raises the gun and holds it to his head.

The devil tries to prevent that, but the deadly shot has already fallen. Furious, the devil shows his true face and at the same time one hears a chorale-like church music, which has very long verses. These litanies are also mixed with trumpets that sound like a triumphant cry of God, who could once again defeat the devil by not intervening.

Due to the abundance of the litany, the whole scene appears very long and the music has scary character, it reminds again and again of the old Dracula films. At the same time, the music becomes faster and more confused and begins to go into chaos, until it finally falls silent and Lomax looks startled in the mirror.

Rhythm and melody are very important in film music. “Rhythm basically has a vertical effect” 6, that is, it can be used to describe ecstasy or meditation. The melody, on the other hand, is “horizontal” 7. Your task is to report on the passage of time.

Today’s action films therefore have more rhythm-oriented music, since this points to the here and now, z. For example, such music is often used in brawls or explosions. Melody will be more disturbing than positive in this genre, because it would bring the scene out of the here and now.

It can therefore be said that rhythm supports the dramatic aspects of the film, while the melody drives the plot.

Music that points to contexts:

A further variety of film music makes it audible where, when and especially in which social class the film plays. Thus, every social stratum has a specific sound idiom, its own dialect. These dialects generally go in the ear and say a lot about the milieu and about the people who live there. In historical films, nobility and citizens are characterized not only by their appearance and place of residence, but also by the music that prevails in that class. Here, the film music composer usually works with music that looks largely authentic, but taken in the background often has nothing to do with an original score this time.

In “Cyrano de Berèrac” (Dimitri Tiomkin, 1950), for example, the music has a rather authentic-looking context, but on closer listening, one quickly notices that the large symphonic orchestra, which accompanies the entire film music, probably does not quite fit into the Music of that time, because at that time in the fifteenth century there were no symphonic orchestras in this lineup. The “normal” viewer hardly bothers about it, but the critics notice such a “mistake” again and again. From this example one can read out a problem which concerns film music composers, namely, how one manages to make the film appear authentic.

There are some solutions for this. Often preferred and always liked are the so-called original quotes, that is, music that was really played or heard at the time of the film. In “Forrest Gump” (Alan Silvestri, 1993), for example, original quotes were repeatedly interspersed, songs by Elvis Presley and the Beatles, which ensure authenticity in addition to the now famous scenes showing Gump (Tom Hanks) with the American presidents. Another, perhaps even more common, way is to vary several famous pieces that were ubiquitous at the time, this technique is called a “style quote.”

This quote will then appear again and again in the film and adapted depending on the situation. To mention is the film music by Leonard Rosemann for the film “Barry London” (director: Stanley Kubrick). Handel ‘s 11th harpsichord suite was quite darkly varied here, and does not promise good times in advance. Kubrick was known for using foreign material in his films. The brilliant opening scene from the movie “2001- A Space Odessey” was accompanied by the work of Richard Strauss “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “A Clockwork Orange” uses Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”.

One problem with the dubbing of far past conditions is that one often no longer knows anything about the instruments and music that was common at the time. If one takes the famous history films, also known as “Sandalenschinken”, such as “Quo Vadis” or “Ben Hur”, one quickly becomes aware of the problem addressed. Today there is hardly any record of the then common instruments, nor do you know what music sounded like back then, a problem that was difficult to solve with authenticity for Miklós Ròzas, the film music composer of those films. Listening to those film scores, they just spray like “kitschy Hollywood Symphony” 9. The work of a composer is therefore greatly facilitated if he knows which instruments were in use at the time.

In this context, the film music of “Robin Hood – King of Thieves” (Michal Kamen, 1991) draws attention to another problem of “historical” film scores. If the film music is played with original instruments here, the piece of music that runs through the whole film and sounds like an original score is nothing more than an instrumental version of Bryan Adams hit “Everything I do, I do it for you”. So neither a style quote or an original quote !! But that does not really bother the viewer and I’m counting on it quite deliberately. Because authenticity is really not everything, often it is much more important that you get carried away into the world and feel connected to the characters, and that’s really been successful in this film10.

Nevertheless, there are critics who rightfully question the correctness of this approach. After all, authenticity is given by the music, which does not really exist. I would like to argue that movies are a fiction (that is also a lie), and actors are also (as the word already says) only posing and playing something to the viewer. If the actors are allowed to lie, why should not it be the music?

Create contradictions:

When you listen to film music, you expect it to be in line with the picture and to be in harmony. It should make the event more understandable to the viewer and prepare him for any problems. Mostly the music determines the plot and very rarely the action the music (Mickey Mousing). This has, in addition to the reasons already mentioned, an even more profound sense. The audience reaches this kind of musical scene much better than a disharmony – the chances of success for the film are much greater!

“Just this advertising mechanism, in which the film music always behave in blind agreement with the images, complained early some critics” 11

And it was those critics who set out to break these practices. They tried to create contradictions with their music by bringing sound and image into disharmony. In the film “Good Morning Vietnam !!” with Robin Williams such contradictions are generated again and again. There is a scene that particularly touches and upset one. While the song “What a wonderful world” is played by Louis Armstrong, Uncle Sam’s troops are seen marching through the rice fields of the Viet Cong, which are then attacked in the most beautiful sunshine. While the soldiers fight for their lives, the great Satchmo sings “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world …”.

This dissonance between the cruelty of the image, the falsification of the words, and the so gentle music make up the effectiveness of the message of this film, namely, how unnecessary it is to wage this war.

“Psychologically speaking, what speaks of such montages is the destruction of grown relationships or the alienation of seemingly transgressions, as this confidant is suddenly brought to the crooked level of meaning and the actual contradiction between both (image against music) results in the mind of the beholder “12

There are also many other contradictions. One uses music that gives the viewer a sense of security, “innocent music”, in order to make the following moment seem even more surprising and inappropriate, perhaps even more heartless.

Mickey Mousing – the trick with the mouse

Charlie Chaplin is certainly a household name. He was a gifted actor and comedian, who made many generations of people happy through his intense play. But what exactly made him so funny? On the one hand, Chaplin himself was astoundingly funny in the figure of the stray, the bowler, the perky schnauzer, the over-sized shoes, and his waddling gait all contributed to his image. On the other hand, the music that accompanied his action and is played by the band in today’s performances was very important.

She almost illustrates his movements, it makes “DOING” when he falls and “KRACKS” when he manages to break through a wall. Since most of his films are from the silent film era, the music nevertheless had to take over the function of the language and its emotions. This illustration is not new. Disney eventually introduced it to his animated cartoons (hence Mickey Mousing), but Chaplin films were particularly successful because the music also demonstrated the human movement.

Today, one is skeptical of this Mickey Mousing, as this type of onomatopoeia seems completely outdated. But even if it is frowned upon, this stylistic device is still used today by a film music composer. If a scene is not rich enough and does not say enough, it’s a lot better with the illustration of a small moment. You can illustrate small movements to z. For example, to make a wince or jitters more visible, but of course it is also possible to make a great impression.

In “Star Wars Star Wars”, there is a scene in which Han Solo (he is one of the good guys) suddenly finds himself facing 15 Stormtroopers (Evil) when escaping from the Death Star. Solo pulls his gun and runs screaming to the trooper-and they flee from him! At the end of the corridor, they see that it’s 15: 1 and chase it. If the scene is actually funny for me, the music makes it awesome in my eyes, because it goes solo with it and makes it strong at the moment, then it tears off, just when the Troopers realize that they actually have a lot are more. Only later does the music pick up again and it seems to be a bit faster than the hunted one.

Today you want to avoid overly eye-catching illustration, actually it is only used in slapstick scenes. For a while trying to banish all the illustrations from the music, but nowadays it’s used a lot again, because the movies are getting faster and faster, the music is a last clue to the perception. The Hong Kong film, and especially those films that we generally use as karate films, are very dependent on this kind of film music.

With the opening of the market (1995), the Hong Kong film has also become more interesting for Hollywood, an adjustment on both sides has taken place film technically and musically. “Matrix” (1999, Don Davis) is the first truly successful film of this genre in recent years. Due to the tremendous success Movies of this kind, I think that Mickey Mousing is back on the rise.

In summary, there are three variants of the Mickey Mousing, namely up and down movements that can be equated with the ups and downs of the music, then movements rhythmic style, such as escape scenes and car racing and still the classic way as Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny.

The history of film music

In order to be able to look closer at the history of film music, the technical developments and, nevertheless, the various film music composers must be taken into account as well. It has changed a lot since the introduction of the movie.

For this reason I would like to discuss not only the history of film music but also the development of the sound systems, because today THX or Dolby Surround could not be imagined without a cinema.

a) From silent film to sound film (technical versions):

In general, the year 1927 is called the beginning of the sound film era, but that’s not really true. Already in 1889 Edison is said to have produced a speech film with his “kinetophonograph” by letting a clay roller and a film strip run together. Until the year 1927, the speech film developed into a sound film. I will elaborate on this development now.

In 1900, the Paris World’s Fair was temporarily enriched with a sensation, because here the first “Phono-Cinema-Téâtre” was publicly presented. The crowd was very large, but you quickly noticed the problem of this theater: The sound from the horn had only a small range, which did not allow a larger crowd in the cinema. Around 1903 Oskar Messter developed the “Biophon”, which allowed a good synchronization of the mechanical process by means of electrical coupling of roller and film. Messter had with this system great success, because according to his own data were turned off by 1913 1500 audio films.

Only in 1922 was the Lichttonverfahren13 developed by the group “Triergon”, now image and sound were on the same strip. In 1925, Sam Warner, the Warner Brothers’ elder, signed a development and evaluation contract with Western Electrics after seeing a talkies movie in the Bell Laboratories. The needle tone process14 was renamed by them to “Vitaphone”. 1926 “Don Juan” with John Barrymore under the order of the Warner Brothers was publicly presented in New York, in addition to film music were also heard 325 spoken words. The movie was a great success and filled the movie theaters for weeks. In 1927 William Fox acquired the Triegonverfahren, which prevailed successfully against the Nadeltonverfahren.

That the sound film did not prevail earlier against the silent film had several reasons:

The sound reproduction was conceivably bad, the horns could not compete with large orchestras and singers.

Record and film strips were always apart, only the Bildttonverfahren put an end to this.

The silent film camera leadership allowed much more dynamic picture, in a sound film, the actors had to always remain in the same place, since image and sound could not be recorded separately as today.

Sophisticated editing or assembly techniques were not possible with a speech film

The synchronization of the picture films was expensive and usually unprofitable

The film repertoire was consistently monotonous, because the sound film was dependent on vocal numbers and theatrical numbers and could not edit much content.

Nevertheless, the sound film managed to prevail against the silent film after 27 years.

That had several reasons. First, the silent film had its day, the cinemas noticed a decline in the interest in silent film and the film industry recorded declining profits. The Warner Brothers had recognized this and therefore in 1926 embarked on the risky business of producing Don Juan. They speculated with the sensationalism of the audience, relying on their star Al Jonson and lastly saved themselves with this project, the Cinema Orchestra and the soloists and artists of the supporting program. The bill went up !!

William Fox’s investment in the “Triergon” method also paid off. His realistic newsreels got even better with sound, giving the viewer the feeling of being in the thick of things. Of course, after the success of the Warner Brothers and William Fox, it was not surprising that the big companies wanted to keep up. For example, in 1928, MGM, Paramount, and United Artist signed with the Western Electric licensing agreements, and the sounding process went around the world, or better, through Hollywood. However, the question arises if the film did so well. After all, the films stunted on musicals and the art of making a sophisticated film seemed lost.

“With the introduction of the sound in the studio, one de facto rejected the great achievements of the silent film in order to start all over again. The clock of the film’s progress was turned back twenty years, at the time of the ‘Film d`Art’, to the slavishly theatrical performances. “15 (Toeplitz)

The silent movie that was never silent:

Music was already important in the era of silent films, without them the film was dead. 16the music gave depth to the film. But the real reason for using music during movie screenings was much more banal. The demonstration unit was so loud that its buzzing disturbed the viewers. To make this hum more bearable one used music that should drown out. This music was at the beginning of the silent film time like from so-called Orchestrions related, but that soon became unattractive to the cinema owners.

The smorgasbord of individual disjointed pieces of music was soon disturbed, “because the pictorial impression […] was completely paralyzed by the random melodies of the mechanical musical work.” 1716 The film was then attempted silently and the film was played with the help of a Filmerklärer, but even this demonstration was not crowned with success. The more demanding the films became, the less the film clearer was accepted by the audience. One then came back to the music to take the dumb movie images of their menace.

So one allowed to play classical music to the films, usually after discretion of the respective pianist. At his own discretion, he played a tune sequence of well-known pieces or improvised a melody that fitted somewhat well with the film images. In this way “film music came closer in its true sense, demanding that every film receive only its appropriate music” 1718.

But also the reverse way, namely to take already existing music pictures / films, was soon no longer unusual. It was filmed with matching costumes and background as well as a record to which the actors had to move appropriately and acted as if they were singing. The film was then performed in the cinema with the same record.

Despite these occasional recordings, the pianist was indispensable in the movie theater. Next to him, only a second musician became virtually indispensable: the drummer. While the pianist made the movie more receptive to the viewer, the drummer was trying to make reality a reality. In addition to the Idophon19 he used all sorts of equipment to make the picture as real as possible.

“It is understood that with such means an artistically serious film accompaniment could not come about.” 2018

Despite constant attempts to couple the music with the film, they did not initially provide the necessary conditions for a large-scale distribution and so the pianist remained the cinema audience. Especially small businesses benefited the pianist, those who could afford it resorted to larger occupations. However, one thing did not change for years. The choice of music was left to the cinema owner. These then engaged often composers who should choose from a glimpse of the film suitable pieces of music.

This practice remained for a long time and was rarely broken. To simplify the search for suitable pieces, music publishers released so-called SO editions (Salon Orchester), which allowed any orchestra or pianist to play the same pieces almost equally through crafty arrangements. This practice was quite successful at first, but over time the tunes became known. For example, in case of misuse entire film screenings could be ruined if, for example, a cheerful melody was played on a death scene and thus this scene had a funny accent.

It was not until the end of the silent film era that sensible methods were finally used. Some of the cinematic composers set about composing their own music in order to make the stereotypical and too-often-heard SO editions more expendable. This resulted in individual and specific film music in the individual countries, which seemed to be suitable for the recurrent situations.

These were then often included in a “specimen collection” 2119, which was then made available to the cinema bands. The collections contained suitable pieces of music for every situation and mood and came bundled as so-called Kinotheken on the market. The Kinotheken were gratefully received by spectators as musicians, because the much played SO issues were completely worn out.

In addition to the composers of the Kinothek, there were those who took the music more seriously and wrote “real” film music for the films. To these belonged Giuseppe Becce (* 1881, +?), Who worked as a house composer with Messtner, and Gottfried Huppertz (* 1887, +1937), also Edmund Meisel (* 1874, +1930) and Marc Roland (* 1894, +? ). They composed the right music for an already finished film.

A further step in the development of film music was that composers were commissioned to compose suitable music in coordination with the director’s ideas. The sheet music was always included with the film. So it was possible to play original music at a performance. This finally met the demand “that every film must be given only its own music.” 2022

Anyone who has written the first “real” film score is not clear about that. “In 1908, French composer Camille Saint-Saens wrote probably the first film music for Charles le Bargy’s The Assassination of the Duke of Guise.” 2321 Personally, I think it’s more likely that “in 1921 Marius-Francois Gaillard El Dorado ‘has created the first original film music24. “22 This assumption is more in line with what I have read about’ cinema-theater ‘, freelance artists, and commissioned composers.

“With the departure from the melody-mix of earlier cinema music, the reputation of the film music increased so much that now more reputable composers [composers] could be won for the film” 2523

In any case, Arthur Honegger’s “Pacific 237”, Richard Strauss, who edited the “Rosenkavalier” for the silent film, Gottfried Huppertz (“Metropolis”, “Nibelungen”) and Giuseppe Becce (“The Cat’s Bridge”) are considered pioneers of commissioned film music.

The silent film had evolved, from the cinema to the Filmpalast, from the orchestrion to the pianist to the big orchestra, from randomly assembled pieces to commissioned works.

The Sound Film And Its Music

c.1) The sound film as a musical film (1929-1945)

The suppression of the silent film by the sound film was quite fast, although of course there were some problems. Above all the musicians had to suffer under the new situation. They were terminated, in Germany alone lost 12,000 musicians their work. After only one year, the audience also got used to the cinemas without an orchestra and had almost forgotten the silent film.

In the sound film, the film music was recorded in parallel with the image, and regardless of the size and condition of the projection room, the same quality could be offered everywhere. In addition, the sound film allowed not only the presentation of music but also dialogues and sounds.

For a long time, these new opportunities were not fully exploited, they still composed as much music as possible and interrupted only in absolutely important dialogues or noises; It took a long time until the composers understood that even quiet music and those that were scarcely discernible were accepted by the audience. Until then, the music was extremely rare in the situation.

Since the thirties, all major studios owned music departments employing a full staff of composers, arrangers and conductors. But it was mostly used, as in the silent film time, matching set pieces from the archive. This smorgasbord of juxtaposed melodies as well as mostly inappropriate music pieces was mainly used in Hollywood. It’s called the “Hollywood Sound” 2426 today. This was replaced only slowly, after understanding that the audience liked less loud and pompous things. Gradually, the Hollywood sound was replaced by film music written on the model of the great music dramas.

“Instead of merely illustrating the visible moment, the film music should now point beyond it in its ‘commentary’, and in a Wagnerian way, it should clarify the context of the action to the viewer27 by means of a leitmotif process27.” 25 But until this wish was really fulfilled, it should still be take.

Thus, since 1929, mainly music films were produced, whose single decoupling usually became true bestsellers. Many broadcasters and film magnates soon joined forces to form syndicates. On the radio, these hits were played “up and down”. This also made the films famous, in which from today’s point of view “the video was played to the already known song”. Of course, there was the opposite. Many music films were based on the life of more or less famous composers or musicians.

As a result, many previously unknown songs were finally known and, above all, popular! These music films displaced the operetta by their enormous popularity. In order to achieve further success with the genre of music film, the composers tried to lend the songs more and more inconspicuous in the film, because he also usually sold better. Only a few films of this time managed to put this project into action, for example in the “Sous les toits de Paris”, in which one used a leitmotif or in the movie “Two Hearts in Three-Fourth Time” in which a lost and rediscovered waltz to circle the plot.

“In such special cases, where a hit is used as a symbolic factor, it can achieve a pronounced dynamic function, provided that it has a linguistic and compositional level” 2826

Such “good” films were written largely by skeptics of Hollywood sound and by those composers who opposed commerce. They often lived in Europe and were mostly of French or Soviet descent. In Germany, Hanns Eisler, probably one of the most famous composers of the time, whose music is very diverse, wrote a theoretical essay “Composition for the film” which also arouses much suspicion with the ‘old’ (Hollywood sound) as well as ‘new’ Discussing film music.

“In the attempt to make experiences of autonomous new music fruitful for the functional requirements of a film music that is not directly dependent on the image, the idea of ​​drawing from the character of the character of the film consequences for the formation of musical form, is of special interest, so – […] – to develop categories of functional form in the sense of Schönberg […] as if they were absolute music models detached from the formal context and to make available a film dramaturgy committed to the montage principle29 “27

In other words, it means that the music adapts to form and movement.

But also in Hollywood it was understood that a precise film music, which is based on conditions in the film, as very effective and thus also boosts sales. Max Steiner proved this with the film music for “King Kong and the White Woman” as early as 1933. At the end of the decade, more and more composers came to Hollywood. B. Broadway greats such as Alfred Newman and Roy Webb or famous composers from the musical hall and opera as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Nino Rota or Miklos Rozsa. The already mentioned Bernard Herrmann also climbed out of the radio into the ranks of film music composers. Also leading figures of classical modernism, among them Aaron Copland, composed film music.

At the beginning of the forties the film music was primarily characterized by “opulent orchestration30” 28 and “emotional exuberance31” 29 and reproduced primarily romantic music of the 19th century. Thus, in addition to small concert pieces and operas and ballet scenes were written for certain films such. For example, Brian Easdale’s ballet for the fairytale film “The Red Shoes” (1948) and Nino Rota’s opera “Glass Mountain” (1949).

c.2) Film music of the post-war period

During the post-war period, the elements of Hollywood sound gradually receded in favor of new influences from the fields of jazz and light music. Important representatives of this reversal were, among others, Elmer Bernstein, Ernest Gold and Lawrence Rosenthal. In addition, there were more and more composers working for competing television, which has become increasingly popular since the development of color television. They include Jerry Goldsmith, Richard Rodney Bennett and John Williams. Only in the mid-fifties was the film music recognized as an independent element by the audience. The producers saw this as an additional source of income and gave, as in the early days of the sound film, increasingly catchy melodies and songs in order.

At that time one of these box-office hits certainly belonged to “Moon River” by Mercer / Macani from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. It was easy to commit to stars, such. Elvis or the Beatels3230. Very helpful here were the improved sound systems. Exemplary of the growing popularity of film music in the sixties were, in addition to the “James Bond” films, the “Spaghetti Western33” 31 by Sergio Leone with the typical melodramatic music of Ennio Morricone, who then became the hallmark of these Westerns. An effect comparable to the success of the music Morricones achieved Stanley Kubrick with his soundtrack to “A Clockwork Orange” (1970-1971) and “2001-A Space Odessey” (1965-68). He sets in his science fiction epic z. B. on “So Spoke Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss and on the waltz “On the beautiful Danube” (Johann Strauss).

In addition to the renaissance of the music film, in 1952 “Singin’in the Rain” was filmed or “The Sound of Music” in 1965, famous opera material was repeatedly filmed. “Carmen” by George Bizet was filmed five times between 1918 and 1983.

The seventies and eighties brought a huge innovation boost in film and animation technology. Particularly noteworthy and representative of the film music is John Williams’ music for the “Star Wars” films by Georg Lucas. It is characterized mainly by two clearly separated leitmotifs and in connection with the picture by a lot of Mickey Mousing.

Nowadays, there are a lot of film genres that almost equally exist side by side, so also in the film music, everything is possible, in addition to romantic music, there is action music as well as pensive and music, suitable for comedy. The range of representative film scores is therefore very large. Of particular note, I think, is the music for “Forest Gump” (1994, Alan Silvestri), “Pulp Fiction” (1994, music supervisor Karyn Rachtman) “Titanic” (1997, James Horner), “Cruel Intensions” (1999, various Interpreters) and “William Shakesspeare’s Romeo and Juliet” (1996, Neele Hopper).

c.3) The sound film and its techniques

In 1971, a new sound system was introduced with “A clockwork Orange”. DOLBY A suppressed the noise and improved the sound dynamics. In 1974, the DOLBY MATRIX, which released a 2-track audio signal in four separate playback channels (three behind the screen, one laterally). In 1987 came the Dolby Stereo SR system, whose new four-channel variant allowed even better dynamics.

The competition also worked hard. Currently the best and most expensive sound system on the market is the SDDS (Sony Digital Dynamic System). In total, there are eight separate channels (six behind the screen, two laterally) to create a very special listening experience.

On the other hand, there is the DTS (Digital Theater System), which at least comes up with six channels, the sound comes from a CD-Rom. Also the THX (Tomlinson Holman Crossover) works very well. It is a kind of acoustic tuning, which brings out the advantages of different systems and thus stands for the best possible reproduction.

Composers – short biographies:

Amber, Elmer

* 4/4/1922 in New York

Even as a child, he had artistic inclinations and at twelve was clear to him: Only music! After Aaron Copland recommended him to his own student, he completed his music education at the New York University with a major in music education. After his time in the army he began to write film music.

“When it comes to film music, I’m most concerned with the philosophical point of view. (…) Here are elements like taste, intelligence, and imagination in play, and these are things that can not be taught34. “32

Works (excerpt):

1960 The glorious seven,

1966 The shadow of the giants

1978 Animal House

1980 The incredible journey in a crazy plane

1983 The Lucky Knights, 1984 Ghostbusters

1991 Oscar, 1993 The second face

Goldsmith, Jerry

* 10.2.1929 in Los Angeles

Until the age of 12, he had no particular interest in music until he discovered the piano for himself. Although he wanted to become a concert pianist, he decided to do the composing. In 1960 he wrote music for series and in 1963 his first film score for the film “Stripper”.

“Good film music demands two things: it has to fit and have musical quality. The latter can be disputed, but with regard to the first, the composer must, in my opinion, realize that he does not have to dominate. ”

Works (excerpt):

1968 Planet of the Apes (also all sequels)

1974 Chinatown, 1997 Alien, Star Trek 1

1982 The secret of Nihm

1984 Gremlins, 1990 Total Recall, 1992 Basic Instinct

Hermann, Bernard

30.6.1911 New York – 24.12.1975

Even as a toddler, he was interested in music. After attending NYU to graduate in composing, he was hired in 1933 as the house conductor of the CBS Orchestra. Here he discovered a liking for dramatic composition and switched to the metier film music.

“Film music should be so coherent that no one can say whether the music advances the film or the film the music 36.” 34 

Works (excerpt):

1941 Citizen Cane, 1951 The day the earth stood still

1956 The man who knew too much, 1960 Psycho

, 1976 Taxi Driver

Horner, James

* 14.8.1953 London

He attended the Royal College of Music and is arguably one of the emerging composers of the 21st century.

Works (excerpt):

80’s star trek 2,

1985 Cocoon

1988 Willow, The Land Before Time,

Red Heat

1997 Titanic

Korngold, Erich Wolfgang

29.5.1897 Vienna -29.11.1957

He was already composing with three and was a musical prodigy that made his dramatic predisposition visible from the beginning. In 1934 he came to Hollywood and became the first composer of international importance. Despite his contract with the Warner Brothers, he wrote only 20 film scores. Already during his lifetime, he was a legend who, however, could not handle fame.

“I have often been asked if, when composing film music, I consider the taste and the current understanding of the music by the audience. I can answer the question with a clear NO37. “35 

Works (excerpt):

1935 A Midsummer Night’s Dream

1938 Robin Hood, the king of the vagabonds

1941 The Sea Wolf, 1946 Deception

Rózsa, Miklós

18.4.1907 Budapest-27.7.1995

At the age of five he had violin lessons and it soon became apparent that he was a musical wunderkind. After completing his studies at the Konservatorium Leibzig in 1937, he wrote his first film music. From 1945 to 1965 he taught technique and theory of film music at the University of Southern California.

“The challenge for the composer is huge and the responsibility huge. Film music reaches more audiences than any other form38. “36

Works (excerpt):

1942 The Jungle Book, 1951 Quo Vadis ?, 1959 Ben Hur

Toikin, Dimitri


He played the piano since childhood. While studying at the University of St. Petersburg, he worked as a pianist on silent film. After the October Revolution, he moved to Berlin and later to Paris. In 1925 he traveled as a tour pianist through America. He was discovered after the stock market crash in 1929 as a film music composer.

“The film is an artistic collective achievement that the composer has to promote but not dominate39.” 37

Works (excerpt):

1941 Meet John Doe, 1948 The Dude goes West

1959 giants, 1960 Alamo

Williams, John

Born 8.2.1932 in NY, Queens

From the age of seven he played the piano, trumpet, trombone and clarinet. During his time in the army played for Newman, who also discovered his talent.

“But film music has always been a wonderful means of expression for me, and I mean, despite all the troubles that musicians cause us, it allows us to do our best if we give our best and do not regard it as a musical stepchild.”

Works (excerpt):

1968 Heidi, 1971 Fiddle on the roof – Anatevka

1977 star wars (sequels, prequel)

1978 Jaws 2, Superman

1989 Iniana Jones and the last crusade

1994 Schindler’s list



Flower, Friedrich

The music in history and present; General Encyclopedia of Music; Bd. 4; Fede – Singing Pedagogy October 1989; Common paperback edition of the German Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG; Kassel Basel London

© 1955 Bärenreiter- Verlag, Kassel and Basel

Danuser, Hermann

The music of the 20th century, Bd. 7

Special edition 1996

© 1984 by Laaber Verlag, Laaber

Basement, Matthias

Stars and Sounds, film music – The third cinema dimension

© 1996 by Bärenreiter- Verlag Karl Vötterle GmbH & Co. KG, Kassel

© 1996 by Gustav Bosse GmbH & Co. KG, Kassel

The New Lexicon of Music: in four volumes; Bd. 2

[on the basis of the von Günther Massenkeil ed. Great Lexicons of Music (1978-82 / 1987), an adaptation of the Dictionnaire de la musique by Marc Honnegger (1976)] /

[Red. Bearb. The reissue: Ralf Noltensmeier (text); Gabriela Rothmund-Gaul (Fig.)] – Stuttgart; Weinmar; Metzler.

© 1996 J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung and Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH in Stuttgart

The Modern Lexicon in twenty volumes; Bd. 6

© Verlagsgruppe Bertelsmann GmbH / Bertelsmann Lexikon – Verlag Güthersloh Berlin 1971, 1976 V

Reichardt, Hans

What is what, Bd.63

Photo and film

© 1993 Tesslof Verlag, Nuremberg

Schmidt, Hans – Christian

Music currently; Analyzes, examples, comments;


For the secondary and study level

© 1982 by Bärenreiter- Verlag Kassel

See astonishment knowledge

Inventions: the fascinating history of technical progress – from the Stone Age Hand Drill to the supercomputer of our day

German Edition © 1991 Gerstenberg Verlag, Hildesheim

Thomas, Tony

Film music, the great film composers – their art and their technique

German first edition

Willhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich

© 1991 by Tony Thomas


Cinema. Europe’s largest film magazine; Kinoverlag GmbH

Libro Journal. Magazine for Music, Film, Literature & Multimedia; INMEDIA publishing and editorial office Ges. M. b. H.

Skip. The cinema magazine; METRO magazines GmbH

TV highlights; Media Publishing and Advertising Company m. b. H.

TV Media; Publishing Group NEWS Gesellschaft m. b. H.


Microsoft Encarta 1995

1 Out: Thomas, film music. S.8f

2 The rules Dogma95: 1. It may only be played on the scene. Sets and props are prohibited. 2. The sound should never be produced independently of the images and vice versa. 3. It is exclusively shot with handheld camera.

  1. The film must be turned in color. Special lighting is not accepted. 5. Optical gadgets and filters are prohibited.
  2. No superficial action. 7. No temporal alienations. After: SKIP February / 1999 page80

3 Off: Basement, Stars and Sounds. P. 109

4 The movie “Only two and a half hours” with Johny Depp takes exactly 2 1/2 hours.

5 However, the viewer may also find this disturbing because at the time of writing she does not fit in with the dramaturgy or does not suit the character

6 Off: Keller, Stars and Sound, p. 111

7 Off: also p. 111

8 It should be noted from my side that just this kitsch was almost revolutionary and that it still shapes our musical image of the early Christian period today.

9 Off: Basement, Stars and Sound. P. 93

10 “Robin Hood – King of Thieves” was one of the most successful movies in 1991.

11 Off: Basement, Stars and Sound. P. 122

12 Off: also p.122

13 A microphone transforms the actor’s voice into electromagnetic currents and leads them to a light control device, where it is converted into light fluctuations. The light is recorded as different sized spikes on the soundtrack, where it can later be read again.

14 The sound is recorded on a record (the temporal progression of the sound pressure is recorded with a stylus on the sound carrier) which is shown coupled with the filmstrip.

15 From: Schmidt, Musik aktuell. P. 39


17 16From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 187 Text by Nick, Edmund

18 17From: also p. 187


20 18From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 187 Text by Nick, Edmund

21 19From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 188 Text by Nick, Edmund

22 20: From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 193 Text by Nick, Edmund

23 21: Out: Microsoft Encarta 95

24 22: From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 190 Text by Nick, Edmund

25 23 also p.190

26 24From: Danuser, The Music of the 20th Century, Vol. 7. p. 276

27 25soso p.276

28 26 From: Blume, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol.4. P. 193 Text by Nick, Edmund

29 27 From: Danuser, The Music of the 20th Century, Vol. 7. p. 280

30 28 From: Microsoft Encarta 95

31 29 as well

32 30 This tactic is still very common today, just think of the title song “I do not want to miss a thing” by Aerosmith from the movie “Armageddon” (1998) or “You be in my heart” (2000) by Phil Collins from the Walt Disney movie “Tarzan” (2000).

33 31 From: Microsoft Encarta 95

34 32 From: Thomas, film music. P. 263

35 33 From: Thomas, film music. p.322

36 34 also p.195

37 35 From: Thomas, film music. P. 92

38 36 From: Thomas, film music. P. 38

39 37 as well140

40 38 also p. 374


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