• Cue Sheets, Musical Suggestions, and Performance Practices for Hollywood Films, 1908–1927

    Kendra Leonard (see profile)
    American Musicological Society, Film Studies, Music Library Association, Society for Music Theory
    Musicology, Motion pictures, History, Motion picture music
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    silent film, Film history, Film music
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    Between 1908 and 1927, when sound film became standard, numerous American publications for both those involved in the film industry and the general public, such as Moving Picture World, Motion Picture News, and Exhibitors Herald, included regular columns by cinema conductors, composers, and arrangers like Samuel Berg, Ernst Luz, and Clarence Sinn for theatre accompanists on selecting and performing music for motion pictures. The earliest of these columns, dating from 1908, primarily argue for or against the inclusion of accompanimental music or discuss what kinds of music—classical instrumental, operatic, popular—for the cinema are most appropriate (or inappropriate) for the nascent art form. Later articles, however, offer suggestions—general recommendations of pieces to include in accompanying a specific film—and even full-fledged cue sheets, which provide musical references for each major scene in an individual motion picture. These led to the development of the studio-produced cue sheet, issued along with most major pictures. Yet despite claims that moving picture accompanists relied heavily on these cue sheets, archival materials suggest that they were more often used as jumping-off points for compiled scores created by accompanists, or were ignored altogether in favor of scores compiled from an accompanist’s or theatre’s existing music library or other resources. In this essay I examine the use of cue sheets found in several North American collections, demonstrating how cue sheets were actually used by accompanists at some of the largest motion picture palaces of the 1920s.
    Page proofs
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago


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