1st Edition

Composing for Silent Film

By Jack Curtis Dubowsky Copyright 2024
    144 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Composing for Silent Film offers insight, information, and techniques for contemporary composition, arrangement, and live score performance for period silent film. A specialized music composition guide, this book complements existing film scoring and contemporary music composition texts. This book helps today’s composers better understand and correctly interpret period silent film, and to create and perform live scores that align with films’ original intentions, so that audiences notice and grasp fine points of the original film.

    Composing for Silent Film analyzes period silent film and its conventions – from Delsarte acting gestures to period fascinations and subtexts. As a practical composition text, it weighs varying approaches, including improvisation, through-scoring, "mickey-mousing," handling dialogue, and dividing roles amongst players. It steers composers towards informed understanding of silent film, and encourages them to deploy contemporary styles and techniques in exciting ways.

    For clarity and concision, examples are limited to nine canonical silents: Metropolis, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Mark of Zorro, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, The Black Pirate, Nosferatu, The Phantom Carriage, Daisy Doodad’s Dial, and The Golem.

    Chapter 1. Silent Film Conventions Issues and cultural contexts of the silent period Intertitles Acting style Special effects Editing conventions Chapter 2. Preparation Techniques Watching in silence Repetitive viewing Formalist reading Apparatus theory Studying the cultural context of the film Chapter 3. Planning a Score: Approaches and Considerations Choice of ensemble Responsiveness and Mickey-mousing Incorporating improvisation Notation techniques Planning themes Dividing duties among players Chapter 4. Finding and Choosing Opportunities Exploiting or avoiding clichés Choosing what to play or hit Leading or not leading Environmental effects Emotional readings Comedy Chases The End Glossary


    Jack Curtis Dubowsky is a composer, author, music editor, educator, and filmmaker. Books include Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness and Easy Listening and Film Scoring 1948-78 (Routledge 2021). Dubowsky is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Recording Academy, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and a fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.