G8 U2 L – Silent Film Scores

Y E A R 8  U N I T 2 – S O U N D T R A C K S


Music is like a wordless language to which people respond emotionally. Because of this, it helps create an atmosphere for a film or TV programmes. It is used to put the audience in a certain mood.

Music can make people relax, feel frightened, or even love. This is why some public places have background music. Instead of finding it soothing, though, some people are irritated by it because it is often bland and predictable.

Film Music

A film often had a theme song at the beginning or end. The music paper sometimes accompanied the film and the pianist performed it LIVE. Music during the film, which is called incidental music, might contain variations of the theme. This helps give the film its own identity.

So, the theme music at the beginning would set the mood for the start of the film, while incidental music would help provide different atmospheres for the changing scenes, such as creating cheerful music to accompany a love scene.

Composing Film Music

The film director chooses a composer to write the music for a film. They discuss what sort of music would suit the film and which scenes will have music.

The composer needs to time the music so that it fits the action on the screen. A film has 24 frames per second.

The composer is given an early version of the film with each frame showing hours, minutes, seconds and frame number. This helps the composer work out how long a scene is so that they can time the music to fit it.

Music for Silent Movies

Films did not have soundtracks until the 1930’s. Before then, each cinema employed a pianist to improvise an accompaniment LIVE while watching the film. There were expected to create musical themes for love, fear and so on.

Listen to the following short silent film and take note of the piano accompaniment.

The Lion’s Cage – 3:25 min



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