The Development of Music in Early Cinema

         Music is defined from dictionary.com as, " the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre." Throughout cinema history, music has made a huge impact as well as special effects.

         One of the first cinematography films with music is D. W. Griffith's 1915 A Birth of a Nation. It had musical inferences with each scene that was shot. If there was a war-like scene, the music would be rough and had bands from the battles. Another instance of a musical inference is before the Camerons were sent to war and they were happy. The music was up beat and light. The music throughout the movie interpreted a narration because dialogue was not yet presented in films.

         As time progressed, music was not only the importance noise in silent films. Special effects were introduced to help narrate the movie. In Charlie Chaplin's 1925 movie Gold Rush, effects were dropped in at certain moments to help identify the mood or the actions of the characters. For instance, when Black Larsen (Tom Murray) sees the Little Fellow in the cabin, he enters and slams the door, causing the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) to spin around in alarm. A loud piano struck noise is given to represent the slam and provide humor to the action of the scene. The music still remains narrative but also the special effect noises are helpful to make the movie more 1nteresting.

         In the Leo McCarey 1933 movie Duck Soup, music is not narrative to the film. The movie actually withholds dialogue. However, the since the movie had dialogue, the musical genre was changed in the movie. The movie had musical scenes where the audience can hear the actors/actresses sing. Music was just dispersed throughout the movie rather than the entire film. They dance and sing to the music that is provided. The special effects are increased by the fact that they use actual sounds for narration. An example would be when the two politicians went to war, and cannons were dropped loudly and guns were fired. The noises of those sounds were the actual sounds and they were presented with high and lower volume intensities.

         In the first version of King Kong, directed in 1933 by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, technology was advanced to produce a higher quality film. Music had been once again changed to just narrate certain scenes but this time without a "music and dance" line. Music was presented to give the vibe of something bad that was going to happen or something surprising or happy. There was less singing and music was more focused for the intent plot. Special effects also made their way through by inventing Kong. Stop-motion photography was the basis of this movie to make the giant gorilla realistic. Other techniques were involved to the creation of Kong emerging through the jungle and the city. In rear projection previously shot footage is projected onto a translucent screen from the rear while additional action is photographed in front of the screen. This allows a model Tyrannosaurus Rex to menace Fay Wray as she sits in a full-sized tree in front of the screen. A miniature projection was also used to make the actors walk across the screen on the set. Many graphical techniques were used to allow this whole process to happen.

         Today, there are numerous special effects invented due to the advancement of technology. They vary from cartoon animation to 3-D digital animation. Music has advanced by using popular songs to give the vibe of the scene rather than for narration. There are so many techniques that film makers use to produce movies that they all cannot not be thought of by an average person.

Gina Fielder

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