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Silent Film Sound
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Table of Contents

Part I: Methodology 1. The History of Silent Film Sound Past Attempts to Write the History of Silent Film Sound Assumptions and Limitations of the Current Project 2. Crisis Historiography A New Kind of History Anatomy of an Identity Crisis Part II: The Late-Nineteenth-Century Soundscape 3. The Musical Scene 4. Lecture Logic Part III: Early Film Sound 5. From Peep Show to Projection 6. Vaudeville Part IV: Nickelodeon Sound 7. The Crisis of the Late Aughts 8. Lectures, Sound Effects, and the Itinerant Exhibition Model 9. Films That Talk 10. The Nickelodeon Program 11. Nickelodeon Music Part V: The Campaign to Standardize Sound 12. Trade Press Discourse 13. Music for Films 14. Training Musicians, Training Audiences Part VI: The Golden Era of Silent Film Music 15. Moving Picture Orchestras Come of Age 16. New Roles for Keyboard Instruments 17. Cue Sheets and Photoplay Music 18. Musical Practices Conclusion

Promotional Information

Based on extensive original research and filled with gorgeous illustrations, Silent Film Sound reconsiders all aspects of sound practices during the silent film period in America. Beginning with sound accompaniment and continuing through to the more familiar sound practices of the 1920s, renowned film historian Rick Altman discusses the variety of sound strategies cinema exhibitors used to differentiate their products. During the nickelodeon period prior to 1910, this variety reached its zenith with carnival-like music, automatic pianos, small orchestras, lecturers, synchronized sound systems, and voices behind the screen. In the 1910s, musical accompaniment began to support a film's narrative and emotional content, with large theaters and blockbuster productions driving the development of new instruments, new music-publication projects, and a new style of film music. A monumental achievement, Silent Film Sound challenges common assumptions about this period and reveals the complex and swiftly changing nature of silent American cinema.

About the Author

Rick Altman is professor of cinema and comparative literature at the University of Iowa. He is the author of The American Film Musical and Film/Genre; the editor of Sound Theory Sound Practice; and the coeditor of The Sounds of Early Cinema.

Reviews

It is axiomatic that silent films were never really silent. But anyone who thinks that the totality of their sound was a tinkling piano will be proved wrong by Altman (cinema & comparative literature, Univ. of Iowa). His weighty and ambitious purpose is to "develop a new history of American cinema reconfigured through sound." Altman prefaces his text with an overview of the increasing presence of mechanically produced sounds in the human environment of the latter half of the 19th century. He then explains that before the development of film, pictures were projected on a screen via lantern slides and other mechanisms and were often accompanied by live speakers and music. As early as the 1880s, various efforts were made to synchronize sound and image, including rudimentary methods like placing actors behind the screen and failed systems like the tongue-twisting Phonocinematophone. Altman offers an extensive discussion of the music played with films, whether randomly selected or specially composed; the orchestras and even the types of instruments used in theaters; and a very useful history of the development of the nickelodeon. Altman may not have fully accomplished his goal, but this thoroughly researched and copiously illustrated book is recommended for large libraries and all cinema collections.-Roy Liebman, California State Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Weighty and ambitious...This thoroughly researched and copiously illustrated book is recommended for large libraries and all cinema collections." -- Library Journal " Silent Film Soundis a bible of reference information and vintage photos." -- Bookwatch "Edison's pioneering work...is given a large amount of space in a fascinating new book." -- Steve Ramm, Groove Magazine "Rather than reinventing the wheel or allowing for too many examples in his analysis, Altman successfully dispels notions of a homogenous turn-of-the-century soundscape and interweaves salient but ignored aspects of early cinema and its coinciding entertainments...Highly recommended." -- Choice "A magisterial effort of a type rarely seen in cinema today... Altman's history is precise, reflective, and human." -- Cinemas Journal "Rick Altman's Silent Film Sound is revisionist film history at its best." -- Marshall Deutelbaum, New Review of Film and Television "His groundbreaking, encyclopedic book represents a crucial contribution to the scholarly understanding not only of early film sound, but also of the full range of film history." -- Kecia D. McBride, Film Criticism, Spring 2006 "Rick Altman has given us a magnum opus... a stunningly original work of film history." -- Tom Gunning, Film Quarterly "[A] majestic book... Readable as the most complete account of early American cinema." -- Dana Polan, Screening The Past " Silent Film Sound is a superb contribution to many scholarly fields in addition to film history, including musicology, media studies, sound studies and American history." -- Katherine Spring, Film International "Silent Film Sound is a top pick for any serious college-level film library."

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