Orchestral Film Music

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Long before the age of recorded sound in motion pictures, great effort was taken to provide suitable music for films, usually through the services of an in-house pianist or organist, and, in some cases, entire orchestras, typically given cue sheets as a guide. In the year 1914, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company sent full-length scores by Louis F. Gottschalk for their films.

Other good examples of this include Victor Herbert's score in 1915 to Fall of a Nation (a sequel to Birth of a Nation) and Camille Saint-Saëns' music for L'Assassinat du duc de Guise in 1908 — arguably the very first in movie history. It was preceded by Nathaniel D. Mann's score for The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays by four months, but that was a mixture of interrelated stage and film performance in the tradition of old magic lantern shows. Most accompaniments at this time, these examples notwithstanding, comprised pieces by famous composers, also including studies. These were often used to form catalogues of film music, which had different subsections broken down by 'mood' and/or genre: dark, sad, suspense, action, chase, etc.

This naturally made things much easier for the in-house pianists and orchestras to pick pieces that fitted the particular feel of a movie and its scenes.

German cinema, which was highly influential in the era of silent movies, provided some original scores. Fritz Lang's movies Die Nibelungen (1924) and Metropolis (1927) were accompanied by original full scale orchestral and leitmotific scores written by Gottfried Huppertz, who also wrote piano-versions of his music, so that it could be played in smaller cinemas, too. Friedrich W. Murnau's movies Nosferatu (1922 - music by Hans Erdmann) and Faust – eine deutsche Volkssage (1926 - music by Werner Richard Heymann) also had original scores written for them. Other films like Murnaus's Der letzte Mann contained a mixing of original compositions (in this case by Giuseppe Becce) and library music / folk tunes, which were artistically included into the score by the composer. Nevertheless fully developed original scores were quite rare in the silent movie era. It should also be noted that as soon as sound had come to movies, director Fritz Lang barely used musical scores in his movies anymore.

Apart of Peter Lorre whistling a short piece from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt, Lang's movie M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder was lacking musical accompaniment completely and Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse only included one original piece written for the movie by Hans Erdmann played at the very beginning and end of the movie. One of the rare occasions on which music occurs in the movie is a song one of the characters sings, that Lang uses to put emphasis on the man's insanity, quite similar to the use of the whistling in M.

A full film score widely regarded as the first made by a popular artist came in 1973 with the film Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, by Bob Dylan. However the album received very little acclaim from critics. This had not been done before in popular film history: any featured band had films written around the music (notably The Beatles with the animated film ; Yellow Submarine).