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Music to Silent Movie

The Lumiere Brothers

Auguste and Louis Lumiere born in France 1862 & 1864 and were amoung the first film makers in History. Their Father Claude-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911) ran a Photographic firm where the brothers worked in the early part of their carreers. Louis as physicist and Auguste as manager of the firm. Through out the first part of their film making career Louis made advances in photographic technology by improving the still-photograph process and notably the dry plate process which was an important step toward the capture of moving image.

It was not until 1892 when their father retired that the brothers began to create moving pictures and building on the advances of Muybridge some 15 years before. They patented a number of film processes leading up to the film camera. One in particular Film Perforations aka perfs which were the cuts made in to reels of film tape to keep each frame perfectly aligned with the projector made for advancing frames on a reel through the camera and projector, this technology is still used today.

In 1892 the first moving picture camera and projector called a “Cinmatographe” was invented by a Leon Bouly but was later patented by the Lumiere brother 12 Febuary 1893 because Bouly was unable to afford the rent on the patent to his invention. Although a much disputed topic of the time Louis Lumiere was the first to come up with the idea for capturing moving image and together the Lumiere Brothers shared the patent. In 1894 they produced their first film called “Sortie de l’usine Lumiere de Lyon” a film capturing workers leaving the Lumiere Factory. The film was publicly screened at L’Eden, the world’s first Cinema, located in La Ciotat in southeastern France, on September 28, 1895. This same year the brothers went on to produce 9 other short movies each lasting between 38 and 49 seconds and was publicly presented to an audience where people were charged to view on the 28th December 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Cafe in Paris.

See below the footage:

In 1896 the Lumiere Brothers went on tour with their Cinematographe machine and visited Bombay, London, New York and Buenos Aries. The movement of image had an immediate effect on popular culture and gave rise to the future of cinematography.

Steering away from the advancements in filming technology and the influence on popular culture we look toward the music that went with the silent movie.

Since the birth of motion picture in 1880 up until 1908 composers and musicians improvised with Pianos simply playing popular and or orchestral music of the time but in 1908 a composer called Camille Saint-Sans composed a score specifically for the use with film and gave rise to new methods of composition for this purpose, looking at melodic progressions to represent different moods, emotions and atmospheres.

In particular was the production of the “The Sam Fox Moving Picture Music Volumes” by J.S. Zamecnik.

A catalogue of musical scores used by Film producers and musicians to represent scene changes, their emotional impact and atmosphere.

J.S. Zamecnik (1872-1953)

John Stepan Zamecnik (ZAM-ishnick) was a remarkably prolific American composer of the early 20th century, and was a major composer of “photoplay music,” the vast, forgotten genre of music used by silent film theater orchestras. Zamecnik was born and raised in Cleveland, studied with Antonín Dvorák in Prague, and returned to America as a professional musician and composer. He composed music in many genres including songs, dances, salon music, and pieces to be used in compiled silent film scores, composed a few significant complete film scores, and retired not long after the arrival of sound movies.

Some examples of different melodic patterns that destinctively represent the mood.

The Hurry Sequence:


The Sailor Sequence:

The War sequence:

The Cowboy sequence:

The Hurry sequence:

It wasn’t until 1927 with Al Jonons film The Jazz Singer that sound was brought to film. Provided by Warner Bro’s this film involved singing, dancing, drama and most importantly synchronized sound.

It would lead the way for a new breed of movie.





During our lectures in Music for Digital Media we have begun to look at Film History and the evolution of sound to film. Looking back at early Silent Movies and how composer of the time came up with different melodic progressions to emphasize the different feelings and emotions portrayed in the film. In the early stages it was simply a case of composers improvising with what they saw on the big screen. Taking note of their surrounding and working with what they had. This was quickly overtaken by scoring to film and Cue points.

Before there was DVD, 3D cinema and all manner of exciting video progection that we see today, way back in the late 1800’s the very first methods of motion picture was invented.

A photographer called Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 invented a machine capable of taking lots of photo’s over distance very quickly, These photos could then be viewed back in quick sucession so an audience would see the movement as you would see it in real life. The first capture of movement to film was instigated by a query scientists and mathmeticians had been questioning at the time; does at any point a horse in full gallop leave the ground. Muybridge set out to answer this with aid of his Photographing technologies that were funded by the state. He lined up a number of Cameras side by side over over a set distance and devised a way to trigger of each camera in sequence using string pulls. He than had a Horse and Jockey ride past them in full gallop as he attempted to snapshot each point. Of course each photo could be view individually but Muybridge soon realised he could produce a means to view the photos in quick succession and recreate the phsyical movement of the Horses gallop and this as we know gave us the first recorded film.

See video below:



Music for Digital Media allows students the opportunity, with the aid of appropriate technology, to compose and realise original music to accompany a film. Students will become familiar with the different roles of music in audio post-production of film. They will develop an understanding of film cues, hit points, underscores, musical anticipation and heightening of dramatic tension. They will also begin to understand the narrative (diegetic) and atmospheric (when used non-diegetically) role of music. Students may either work with supplied material, or with other students undertaking complementary work within related media production modules. A range of techniques will be examined, together with a consideration of approaches to film music composition from selected commercial and noncommercial film composers. A related element of the course deals with the issues surrounding the creation of audio content for videogames. An exploration of the evolution of related technology and its aesthetic implications is complemented by practical explorations of audio and music for games. Interactive and Dynamic Audio are explored and students are guided through creative responses to key videogame genres. These approaches will be assessed by undertaking a series of practical exercises designed to acquaint students with a variety of film scoring techniques as well as an overview of contemporary trends in game audio. The module portfolio is accompanied by a brief critical evaluation that should place the student…s work in the context of current trends in film music writing as well as providing a basis for the student…s own criteria and judgement. The skills acquired in this module should provide a good basis for further exploration into the videogame industry which is now a significant employer of composers and sound designers.

This part of my degree is of the most interest to me, I’m keen to learn how sounds of orchestral and digital forms are used in the professional industries to create atmosphere, energy, suspense through out films and game. One particular video that I looked at during my last semester in Studio project describes some of the techniques and technologies used when scoring for the James Cameron film Avatar. Well worth watching:

Second to the musical part I’m also looking forward to introducing sound effects (sound of running steps, shots from a gun, the slam of door etc). Using software applications to map actions to sound etc. Check out:

Bring on the next 12 weeks of Music for Digital Media, Onwards and Upwards … DJ

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Today I reworked my track in the style of Frank Zappa. I took my 1st piece and mashed up the introductory parts with the middle part of my second track. I applied a number of polyphonic time-stretching techniques as well appropriately placed reversing and looping of the different parts.

In the image below you can see how I’ve time-stretched the audio of the one of my parts to sound over a longer period of time. The effect has granulated the sound which I feel adds to the mix and makes the track sound more interesting.

Notice the stereo track at the bottom of both images to the left and above (green) this is the introductory part of my 1st piece, notice how I stretched the length of one loop and reversed the signal on another. I’ve also applied some more volume automation to the drum track.

I aslo applied some time-stretching to the end of the piece as well as automating the volume to fade out for each part.

The final track can be seen below and the final audio bounce below that:



The final mix of my track I felt was relatively good and I had implemented the recording and production techniques of both Phil Spector and Frank Zappa but having listened to the work of my class mates I still feel I have a lot to learn about musicality, harmony, chord expression scales and keys. Originally I assumed it was as simple as taking a few notes from scale and putting them together with the same notes from different instruments but having gone through the production techniques, listened to all the different sections. I feel I could have done better, having said that, Im not a musician and this was a particularly difficult task for me.  Despite this I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed the module very much. I hope that you like what you hear in the final mix down and I look forward to studying more on this subject matter.

Daniel James. Onwards & Upwards…!


My final day in the recording studio, thankfully today I was able to finish the recording side of my 2nd assessed piece. Today I recorded Vocals, Synth and Lead guitar sections. Implementing the XY mic setup that I had not used as yet using 2 AKG 414 mics.

Having already opened my pro-tools session I proceeded to the loud-room to record Andy playing the Electric guitar. I first recorded into 2 mono tracks a Rhythm section and then a lead section, which both sounded very nice. I bounced these 4 tracks into 1 mono track. At this point I’d now used up my 4 track limit so I was going to have bounce more than one instrument together if I was going to be able to finish the piece successfully. Given the Lead and Bass sections were of similar tone it was at this point I knew they were going to be laid down together in the final mix down.

Next I recorded a Synth line using the Vacuum VST Synth in pro-tools and the midi keyboard provided. Using my 4 note scale, I played around with some sounds until I found something I liked. In the end I laid down a single note for the duration of the chorus. (Initially I planned to bounce both Synth and Electric-piano tracks together).

The image below represents how I have automated set controls within the Vacuum Synth to change through out a set duration. As you can see the filter controls cutoff and resonance are automated. The line is drawn by physically moving the control whilst the track is playing to do this make sure you have taken the read drop-down off and is now to write, deselect once set.

Next I recorded my vocal sections. Using 2 mono tracks for my left and right channels. I used the XY setup and laid down a high verse and a low humming chorus section.

Notice both verse and chorus parts, the pink track is bounce down of both.

Once I’d captured my 3 new parts I went on to bounce the different parts to appropriate mono tracks so I’m left with 4 mono tracks ready to be mastered into a stereo interleaved mix. Using channel buses, ins & outs. See the image below, I decided to bounce both Synth and Vocal tracks together because at this point I noticed my EPiano track was in need of some careful EQing otherwise I felt the Vocals weren’t going to sit in the mix compfortably this is a part.

The following Reverb effect was later applied to this Vocal/Synth track.

I also decided to bounce my Lead and Bass tracks together as they both held similar acoustic qualities.

At the beginning of the track the bass was unexpectedly clipping and creating a distorted tone, to stop this from clipping the master out on the final mix down I applied some automation to the volume on this track introducing the Bass and Lead section moments after it was initially meant to play.

I also moved the Drum track back to the start of the first Chorus section, also with an automated introduction, to fill out the drums mix I also applied a small amount of short delay.

I also applied a small amount of EQ to bring out the Snare so it was more punchy by boosting the mid-range and also reduced the hi so the hi-hats weren’t so sharp.

Once I was finished getting  the drums section to sound how I wanted. I then applied that EQing I mentioned before to the EPiano track to remove the hi and low end so I was left with only the mid range frequencies which I felt allowed room for the vocal/synth, Bass/Lead tracks

Each of the 4 tracks were applied with a small amount of compression to boost the output with out clipping the signal (distorting), by decreasing the threshold on each compressor a marginal increment and then increasing the output gain to compensate.

To finish the mix I also did some panning I moved the EPiano to the left and Vocal/Synth track to the right. Kept the Drums in the middle and panned the Bass/Lead to the left a small amount. This made the track sound considerably bigger than previous and each part also sat in the mix better.

To make the track sound as loud and powerful as possible I inserted two Mono Master faders to monitor both left and right output channels of the mix. Then I applied Maxim plugin to each which is a compressor designed for mastering a whole mix, boosting the volume of the whole track with out again clipping the signal causing distortion. I reduced the threshold by a -4.6 dB which made the track alot more impressive after I increased the volume faders on each of my 4 tracks.

The final Bounce before applying some Zappa techniques sounded like this:

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This coming Sunday I’ve got the studio booked all day. I currently have my Drums, Bass & EPiano parts recorded. On Sunday I’d like to have my Vocal, Lead Guitar and Synth parts laid down. I’d like to try and implement the Synth automation techniques we looked in class last week automating the cut-off, resonance and possibly LFO effects so the synth sound is a prominent as the EPiano within the mix. Continuing with the limitations of Phil Spectors recording techniques in the late 60’s I will still be using just 4 mono audio tracks. Given that I’ve already used 3 of them I’m going to have to record some of the new sections over some of the previous recordings. I think it would make most sense to record the Synth parts over the EPiano tracks as they are most likely to have similar sonic qualities. Similarly the Lead guitar sections over the Vocals section as they are also likely to have similar frequency ranges. Once I’ve got a 4 mono tracks that I am happy with I wll proceed to produce to the best of my ability applying mastering techniques that I know and understand were available to Spector in his time. Once finished with this second studio production, Mastered to a good standar I’d like to move on to do some chop up and rearrangement in the style of Frank Zappa. Using some of the effects available in Pro-tools and the use of my previous studio production create a piece which switches between the two productions in a similar way to that of  Zappa alternative works.

Taken from Wikipedia.org:

Frank Zappa b. 1940 – 1993 was an American composer, singer, electric guitarist, record producer , and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rockjazzelectronicorchestral, andmusique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.

Aside from working prestigoeus artists like ….

Zappa did some clever alternative work rearranging his own productions like a cut up DJ’s “2 Many DJ’s” or “Krafty Kuts”. The following youtube clip describes his work:

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