lovedoesnthavetohurt

Do you give silent films your own soundtrack?

8 posts in this topic

3 hours ago, lovedoesnthavetohurt said:

I mean, when watching versions of them which are flat-out silent and have no instrumental background, like is often the case with public-domain silent films on Wikipedia.

No. Actually I do the opposite. On films that have musical accompaniment, I mute the sound. To me, a silent film should be just that-- silent. The focus should be on the image, not on what someone else thinks the sounds should be.

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These days the silents I happen to catch are screened against a large blank wall inside a gastro-pub or wine bar or suchlike. There's the noise and chatter of the crowd and of course the music on the speakers as chosen by the bartenders.

Although I haven't been there in some time (and it might now be closed) Upper Manhattan once had a cocktail bar called 'Silver...' (something). 'Silver Screen'? and not only were there continuous looping silents projected, the entire lounge interior was done in 1930s glam art-deco style. It was really something. There's another similar one in GVil.

And in my university town I used to attend a swing dance bar which really went all out; people actually showed up in zoot-suits, women with pleated skirts and elbow-length gloves. Real swing dancing right before my very eyes.

Just happened to recall this whilst composing this post. The venue eventually burned down. :(

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I listen to whatever soundtrack comes with the film. These movies were usually done with accompaniment and that is the way I watch them. It does annoy me however when composers add completely different music that does not flow with the film. Sometimes the soundtrack used for the film shown on TCM will be too much and I mute it. I prefer when the soundtrack is something soothing and calm like Grieg, Bizet or other romantic era composers that are often selected from.

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It depends on the movie. Late-period silents were often exhibited with specific musical accompaniment intended by the filmmakers, including some original compositions. This often came in the form of sheet music that was sent along with the prints, but sometimes it included a phonograph cylinder or record. 

Silent films were very rarely actually shown silently. There was almost always at least a live piano accompanist, and often a 3-piece musical group, or even larger depending on the venue and the showing. Other theaters used phonographs to provide music, and later sound effect tracks that were sent with the print. 

Many silents available now use generic, public domain music that is often irritating and/or repetitive. If that's the case, I'll mute the sound and listen to something appropriate to the film.  

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Chaplin composed music for many of his films and his are probably my favorite themes/ soundtracks from the silent era. I never watch them with any public domain score and I don't even like the Gold Rush re-release with a jazz score.

 

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Sometimes I mute the sound on a film made during the sound era. Something well-known like GONE WITH THE WIND and watch it as a "silent" film. Getting rid of the sound helps me concentrate on the images. I think the most interesting sound films are the ones made by directors like King Vidor who started in silents and understood the power of the image. THE FOUNTAINHEAD is a great example of something that plays very well without the soundtrack.

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Most of the silents I've seen on TCM have musical accompaniments that enhance the visuals.  Piccadilly (1929) has a jazzy score that fits perfectly. The Freshman (1925) also.  TopBilled mentions King Vidor, and The Crowd (1928) is another case of the soundtrack adding rather subtracting. 

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