One of my most cherished musical pleasures
is accompanying silent films. My drive for complete
authenticity when creating silent films scores is motivated by my deep love, appreciation, and
commitment to the artistic and musical culture of the silent film era.
To create my authentic silent film scores, I
draw upon my library of over 20,000 vintage pieces
of photoplay music composed for the purposes of perfectly accompanying any scene of any silent film.
The experience of watching a silent film
today is enhanced when the accompaniment reproduces
to the greatest extent possible the style of accompaniment that the film in question would have
received in its day by the best cinema musicians.
Accordingly, a film that was released in
December 1926, for instance, deserves to have a musical
accompaniment that is exactly like the accompaniment that a fine cinema pianist or organist would
have given it in December 1926. This means that all the music used in compiling the score will have
been published prior to December 1926. I find this approach deeply satisfying because it honors the
silent film and shows the deepest respect for the era in which the film was produced. This approach
enables modern audiences to imagine that they have been transported back in time. Thus, not only
can they enjoy the film on its own merits, but they can experience the added richness of a live
I compile scores for silent films exactly
the same way that cinema pianists and organists compiled
scores back in the days of silent films. The first step is to screen the movie carefully to create a cue sheet.
This is a breakdown of the film into individual scenes that have a unique emotional component.
Thus, in one film, there might be a love scene, followed by a chase scene, then a comedy scene, followed
by a scene of anguish, then of joy, and so forth. Each scene requires appropriate music that matches and conveys
the emotional contend of each scene.
in the 1920s, independent companies such as the Cameo Music Service Corporation of New York hired composers and
arrangers to produce ready-made thematic cue sheets for new movies. These thematic cue sheets told the pianist
what to play and when to play it. The "cue" in "cue sheet" was a point in the film that signaled the musician that it was time to
change the music in order to support effectively the shifting action on the screen. I am very fortunate
to have a large collection of original cue sheets for silent films. In those instances where I do not have
an original thematic cue sheet for a film that I have been hired to accompany, I create my own cue
sheet modeled on the same pattern used for published sheets, using a mixture of photoplay music, classical music,
semi-classical, and popular songs.
Here is an example of the first page of a
thematic cue sheet for the Paramount film The
which was released on 22 November 1926.
Popular songs in the compiled score had an
added significance because mass audiences during the
silent era would have been expected to recognize the song's title and to know its lyrics. The musician
could convey additional information to the audience through the clever selection of a popular tune for
a particular moment in the film. For instance, if the pianist starts to play the hit song "Too Many
Parties and Too Many Pals" when a particular lady enters the scene in the film, the audience instantly
knows what sort of lady this is.
Music publishers made the job of the cinema
accompanists simple by publishing each year great volumes
of generic film photoplay music to fit a variety of scenes and moods.
Composers who published such photoplay music include J.S. Zamecnik, Dr.
William Axt, Irenée Bergé,
David Mendoza, Erno Rapee, Hugo Riesenfeld, Gaston Borch, Maurice Baron, and Albert W. Ketelbey.
Many of these composers went on to compose scores for talking pictures and were considered the best
in the business. My music library includes almost everything published of this nature. It is enormously useful
in compiling authentic silent film scores.
In addition to these musical sources, music
publishers published songs that were intended to commemorate,
popularize, and figure into the accompaniment of silent films. Many of these songs were written by the
composer of the published compiled score. For instance, J.S. Zamecnik wrote the compiled score for the
1927 Paramount film Wings and also the popular song commemorating the film. When I accompany a
silent film, I always work into my compiled score any popular songs written for the film. These songs make
wonderfully appropriate opening numbers for the title sequence of a film.
These then, are the musical sources that I
use to compile an historically accurate, respectful, and
score for the silent films that I accompany.
Wings Restoration Project
I am very proud to have worked on the
restoration of the J.S. Zamecnik full score for Paramount's 1927
In 2012, Paramount Studios undertook a massive restoration project of this important film and contracted me to be part
of the team preparing the original symphonic score for recording and synchronization with the picture. The other leading
members of the musical restoration team were Paramount Studios archivist Jeannie Pool, film composer Dominik Hauser,
and Academy Award winning sound designer Ben Burtt. Our work was made easier because not only did I make my vast
library of photoplay music available for the project, I owned a copy of the 1927 conductor's part for the score that J.S.
Zamecnik composed and compiled for the original "road show" release of the film, and a copy of the original cue sheet issued
for the general release print of the film.
The print of the film that survives today is actually the reissue print from 1930 that was so significantly re-edited that
the original Zamecnik score no longer synchronizes with the film. Our task was to adjust the score to fit the existing print
in a way that honored the original score while simultaneously synchronizing perfectly with the film.
I was also honored to serve as the pianist on the symphonic sound track for the film.
In addition being heard on the DVD and
Blu-ray release of the restored film, the entire soundtrack has
been issued on CD:
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1206
The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray
through Amazon and all other retails of classic
Feature Length Film Scores
The Ace of Hearts (1921)
The Adventures of Tarzan (1921)
Aelita Queen Of Mars (1924)
Almost A Lady (1926)
Are Parents People (1925)
Arms and the Girl (1917)
The Bargain (1914)
The Battle of the Sexes (1928)
Battling Bunyan (1924)
Bed and Sofa [Третья Мещанская] (1927)
Behind the Front (1926)
Behind the Scenes (1914)
The Beloved Rogue (1927)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)
The Big Parade (1925)
Blind Husbands (1919)
Blind Wives (1920)
Blonde or Brunette (1927)
The Blot (1921)
Burglar By Proxy (1919)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
The Call of Cthulhu (2008)
The Canadian (1926)
Captain January (1924)
Castles for Two (1926)
The Cheat (1915)
The Circus (1928)
The Circus Man (1914)
Clash of the Wolves (1925)
The Coming Of Amos (1925)
The County Fair (1920)
Court Martial (1928)
The Covered Wagon (1923)
The Crackerjack (1925)
The Crowd (1928)
Cyrano de Bergerac (1925)
The Danger Game (1918)
The Deadlier Sex (1920)
Destiny [Der müde Tod] (1921)
The Devil Horse (1926)
The Docks Of New York (1928)
Dollars and Sense (1920)
Don Q, Son of Zorro 1925)
Down to the Sea in Ships (1922)
The Dragon Painter (1919)
Dr. Jack (1922)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
Drop Kick (1927)
The Duchess of Buffalo (1926)
Father Sergius (Отец Сергий) (1918)
Flesh and Blood (1922)
The Flying Ace (1926)
Foolish Wives (1921)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
Free to Love (1925)
The Freshman (1925)
The Garden Of Eden (1928)
The General (1926)
Girl Shy (1924)
A Girl's Folly (1917)
The Good Bad Man (1916)
Grandma's Boy (1922)
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926)
The Hands of Orlac [Orlacs Hände] (1924)
Hands Up! (1926)
The Haunted House (1922)
The Heart o’ the Hills (1919)
Hell's Hinges (1916)
The High Sign (1917)
Hold 'Em Yale (1928)
Hot Water (1924)
If I Were King (1920)
The Iron Horse (1924)
The Iron Mask (1929)
The Italian (1915)
Kentucky Price (1926)
Keno Bates, Liar (1915)
The Kid (1921)
The Kid Brother (1927)
The Kid Reporter (1923)
The King of Kings (1927)
Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath (1928)
The Last Man On Earth (1924)
The Last Warning (1929)
The Lighthouse By The Sea (1924)
Little Annie Rooney (1925)
The Lodger (1927)
The Lost Express (1926)
The Lost World (1925)
Love Never Dies (1921)
The Lucky Devil (1925)
Nanook of the North (1922)
Naughty Baby (1928)
The Navigator (1924)
Необычайные приключения мистера Веста в стране Большевиков [The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks] (1924)
The Night Cry (1926)
The Night Patrol (1926)
The Nut (1921)
Old Heidelberg (1927)
Old Ironsides (1926)
Old San Francisco (1927)
On the Night Stage (1915)
Orchids and Ermine (1927)
Orlacs Hände [The Hands of Orlac] (1924)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
Our Hospitality (1923)
Отец Сергий [Father Sergius] (1918)
Outside the Law (1921)
The Parson's Widow (1920)
Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro) (1933)
Paths To Paradise (1925)
The Patsy (1928)
Peck’s Bad Boy (1921)
The Penalty (1920
Peter Pan (1924)
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
The Pride of the Clan (1917)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1922)
Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917)
Reaching for the Moon (1919)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)
Reggie Mixes In (1916)
The Return of Draw Egan (1926)
Rip Van Winkle (1921)
The Roaring Road (1919)
A Romance Of The Redwoods (1917)
The Royal Pauper (1917)
Rubber Tires (1925)
Safety Last (1923)
The Scarlet Letter (1926)
The Secret Game (1917)
Sensation Seekers (1927)
The Sheik (1921)
Shoulder Arms (1918)
Show People (1928)
The Sign on the Door (1921)
Skinner's Dress Suit (1926)
Sky High (1922)
So Long Letty (1920)
So This Is Paris (1926)
Son of the Sheik (1926)
The Spieler (1928)
Spies [Spione] (1928)
Spione [Spies] (1928)
Square Deal Sanderson (1919)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
Stella Dallas (1925)
Storm over Asia (1928)
The Strong Man (1926)
Synthetic Sin (1929)
The Three Ages (1923)
Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
Tol'able David (1921)
The Toll Gate (1920)
Travelin' On (1922)
Третья Мещанская [Bed and Sofa] (1927)
Twenty Dollars A Week (1924)
Человек с киноаппаратом [The Man with a Movie Camera ] (1929)
The Unholy Three (1925)
The Unknown (1927)
The Unknown Soldier (1926)
The Untamed (1920)
Up The Ladder (1925)
The Valley of the Giants (1927)
Way Down East (1920)
What Price Glory (1926)
When the Clouds Roll by (1919)
Where the North Begins (1923)
The Whirl of Life (1915)
The Whistle (1921)
Wicked Darling (1919)
Wild and Wooly (1917)
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)
A Woman of Paris (1923)
A Woman of the World (1925)
The Wrecker (1929)
Young Romance (1915)
My Dust (1920) Score recorded December 2005 for DVD
issued by Unknown Video. Produced by Christopher Snowden.
Country Cupid (Biograph, July 24, 1911).
Directed by D.W. Griffith. Starring Blance Sweet and Edna Foster.
Of Billy (Biograph, October 19, 1911).
Directed by D.W. Griffith. Starring Donald Crisp and Edna Foster.
Of The Light Brigade (Edison, October 11, 1912).
Directed by J. Searle Dowley. Starring Ben Wilson.
Mummy (Vitagraph, December 16, 1914).
Directed by Lee Beegs. Starring Billy Quirk, Constance Talmadge, Lee Beggs, Joel Day.
The Tennessee Hills (Kay-Bee, February 12, 1915)
Produced by Thomas Ince. Directed by James Vincent. Starring Charles Ray, Enid Markey, Clyde Tracy.
Sentence (Essanay, February 13, 1915)
Directed by G.M. Anderson. Starring G.M. Anderson, Carl Stockdale, Virginia True Boardman.
Broncho Billy's Niles, California: Then and Now.
Eyes (Weiss Brothers Artclass, 1928).
Directed by Leslie Goodwins. Starring Ben Turpin, Billy Barty, and Helen Gilmore.
Along (Rolin Film Company, November 3, 1918).
Directed by Hal Roach. Starring Stan Laurel, Clarine Seymour, and Noah Young.
Janitor (Morris R. Schlank, 1918).
Starring Hank Mann and Madge Kirby
Up (Christie Film Company, January 10, 1920).
Starring Bobby Vernon and Helen Darling.
Dub (Reelcraft, January 1921)
Directed by Thomas La Rose. Starring Billy Franey
Idea (Hal Roach Studios, January 13, 1924)
Directed by George Jeske. Starring Snub Pollard, Blanche Mehaffey, George Rowe, and Billy Engle.
Prodigal Bridegroom (Mack Sennett Productions, September
Directed by Lloyd Bacon and Earle Rodney. Starring Ben Turpin, Thelma Hill, and Madeline Hurlock
A Lightning Round of Rare Ben Turpin Clips (1915-1932) and a Photo Gallery of Mugshots.