Friday, March 23, 2018

Radio show music

I have posted to my Google Drive a PDF file titled "Tables of Contents for Radio Show Music Collections": link.

This file has complete TOCs for the following volumes of sheet music, several of which (those by Feibel and Gart) have been discussed in blog posts in recent weeks.
1. Fred Feibel. Comedy Cues. NY: Emil Ascher, 1943.
2. Fred Feibel. Modern Improvisations for Radio Shows. NY: Emil Ascher, 1939.
3. John Gart. At the Console: Organ Themes. NY: Emil Ascher, 1942.
4. John Gart. Network Themes: Music for Radio Shows. NY: Emil Ascher, 1942.
5. John Gart. Serial Moods: A Collection of 54 Dramatic Cues for Radio Shows. NY: Emil Ascher. 1946.
6. Louis Katzman and Milton Rettenberg. Bridges, Moods, Interludes: Original, Incidental and Background Music for Radio, Drama and Professional or Amateur Theatrical Productions. NY: Broadcast Music, 1943.
7. Lew White. Script Themes. NY: Emil Ascher, 1942.
Katzman and Rettenberg's volume is of interest because it reveals that traditional ideas of the compatibility of music in theatre and film remained strong at least into the 1940s. In Hearing the Movies we write that "it’s easy to forget that melodrama and serious dramatic stage plays in the late 1800s routinely had music, too. For example, one of the most familiar pieces of nineteenth-century concert music—the two Peer Gynt suites of Edvard Grieg—originated as incidental music for Ibsen’s play of that name" (Introduction to Part II, p. 89). In Katzman and Rettenberg's subtitle notice the easy linkage of "incidental" and "background."

The authors, as they assert in their Foreword, had worked in radio from its beginnings as a viable commercial entity in the 1920s, so that we can take seriously this statement about the flexibility needed in live musical performance: "It is obviously not necessary to adhere strictly to the indicated dynamics and tempi, since variations in treatment may add to the value of the music for individual scripts or scenes."

Friday, March 16, 2018

Theatre and radio organists: John Gart

John Gart (1905 Russia/Poland-1989  Florida) was a colleague of Fred Feibel's at CBS. Gart (whose name, incidentally, is sometimes misspelled as "Gant" or "Gait") began as a theatre organist, then became a conductor in Loew's New York theatre. At CBS, Gart was musical director, arranger, and conductor for radio shows, and then, like Feibel, moved to work in television in the late 1940s. He was closely associated with the Robert Montgomery Presents as musical director and organist through all 322 of its episodes (NBC, 1950-1957).

In the 1940s, Gart published at least three volumes of organ music for radio: At the Console: Organ Themes (NY: Emil Ascher, 1942); Network Themes: Music for Radio Shows (NY: Emil Ascher, 1942); and Serial Moods: A Collection of 54 Dramatic Cues for Radio Shows (NY: Emil Ascher, 1946).

The design of the three volumes is close to that of Feibel's discussed last week. Network Themes is interesting because its contents are arranged under topical headings. Here below are all of those headings. (The volume has 65 individual pieces.) Note the attention given to "Curtain" music, the wind up, or "play-off" as Feibel called it, that is so prominent in old radio shows.


Of interest are the transition headings, such as "Dramatic Leading to Happy." There is only piece, "Dawn," under that heading. Here it is (same conditions of copyright apply as with Feibel; see last week's post). Given the extreme compression of background music in radio shows, "leading" is less apt than "jumping" perhaps, as bar 3 moves to bar 4. Note that bar 3 deploys harmonic acceleration (chords change faster), pushing the music to "drop" into the strongly accented long chord in bar 4.

Much the same—but in reverse—is true of the one entry under "Light to Drama." The playful [scherzando] opening gives way to slower chord changes in bars 5-6 and then the dramatic fortissimo, marked "Broadly," follows.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Theatre and radio organists: Fred Feibel

Fred Feibel (1906-1978) was organist at the Paramount Theatre in New York City from 1928-1935, then staff organist for CBS Radio. In that capacity, he also created music for early CBS television shows, including episodes in Starlight Theatre (1950-1951).

In addition to sheet music arrangements and original compositions, Feibel published two volumes of music specifically for use in radio shows, which extended silent-film era music practices insofar as the shows were performed live. Modern Improvisations for Radio Shows (NY: Emil Ascher, 1939) is organized in the familiar arrangement of musical topics and functions: "Love Motifs," "Neutral Dramatic leading to Dramatic," "Agitato," "In a Rustic Setting," etc.,

Modern Improvisations also includes a category "Play-Off," short snippets of music to finish off the show, analogous to a film's "end credits" music. Here are the items in that section, nos. 86-100 in the volume:

86. No. 1 - "Neutral Conclusion" – p.46
87. No. 2 - "Tragic Result" – p.46
88. No. 3 - "Incidental Pause" – p.46
89. No. 4 - "Romantic Finis" – p.46
90. No. 5 -"Expiration" – p.46
91. No. 6 - "Outcome of Events" – p.47
92. No. 7 - "A Happy Ending– p.47
93. No. 8 -"Coda Modeme" – p.47
94. No. 9 - "Completion" – p.47
95. No. 10 - "Consumation" – p.47
96. No. 11 - "Dramatic Wind·up" – p.46
97. No. 12 - "Melodic Termination" – p.46
98. No. 13 - "Brief Appassionato" – p.46
99. No. 14 - "Emotional Finale" – p.46
100. No. 15 - "Dramatic Close" – p.46

And here are two examples:

(In case you're wondering, the volume was copyrighted by the publisher in the United States in 1939. That means the copyright would have to have been renewed no more than 28 years later. I found no record of it in U.S. Copyright Renewals 1950 - 1977, text available through Project Gutenberg, and therefore conclude that the music is in the public domain.)

Feibel's second volume of music is titled Comedy Cues (NY: Emil Ascher, 1943) and consists of 25 short compositions with titles like "Playful," "Sneaking," "Insignificant Fugue," and even "Fido on Holiday." Here are the final two entries:

Fred Feibel: from
"Sounds of American Organs": also on Audio from recordings, but also interesting photographs of instruments and theatres, including the Chicago Theatre and the Paramount Theatre, New York.

Footnote: The publisher, run by the founder's children as Emil Ascher Inc., later became a major player in stock music recordings for television, starting with Superman, "the first TV show to use Ascher music as its theme" (Billboard, 24 May 1969, "Ad Notes"). Their recordings were also used in "Hallmark Hall of Fame," soap operas such as "Love of Life" and "Edge of Night," and in commercials. By the time of Billboard's article the company was said to have "more than 300 hours on tap."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Harmony series 4, The Uninvited and Stella by Starlight

Here is a suggestion for a project/assignment that a student with jazz background might undertake. Victor Young composed the standard "Stella by Starlight" for the film The Uninvited (Paramount, 1944). This theme is treated in a number of different ways in the film, and charting and analyzing them can lead productively to interpretation.

As part of the backstory:
What the student will immediately realize is that "Stella" is not a song—it's a piano composition that is often treated like a concerto. In fact, Young himself created a 5-minute piano concerto version and recorded it in 1945 for Decca, with whom he had a long-term contract. Even after lyrics were added by Ned Washington, a song version was published in 1946, and then recorded by several well-known singers, "Stella" didn't really catch on (it was always on the B-side of the record). It was after John Coltrane included it in an album that it really took off, but still mostly with jazz instrumentalists. The best known set of changes for "Stella" are by Miles Davis. An interesting part of the project might be to compare Young's original harmonies with Davis's version (hint, though: they're surprisingly similar).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Changes in the Tags (Labels)

I have revised the blog's "Chapter" tags.

If you look at the right-hand side of the screen, below "Blog Archive," you'll find our long list of "Tags." Some of them identify topics ("film form", "leitmotif", "home studio"), others name films discussed (Glory, Prisoner of Zenda), name people ("Victor Herbert", "Katharine Hepburn"), or name institutions, things, and places ("theaters", "cue sheets", "Kinetophone", "Berlin").

Early in the blog's history we used a tag called "pedagogy" to call attention to material particularly suitable for classroom use. That tag is still in the list, but I have rewritten another set, "Chapters," to pinpoint information by chapter. The "1e-" tags refer to the first edition; "2e-" tags refer to the second edition.

Note: I did not attempt to label the large number of posts containing a variety of documentary materials. These are concentrated in the period from July 2009 to March 2010; they are relevant mainly to Chapters 4 and 5 (early film sound and music practices; the transition period). The tags "early cinema," "exhibition," "music for the picture," "source material," and "talking pictures" are efficient ways to get at certain aspects of this material.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Movie trailer assignment or project

In a post early last year (link) we drew attention to Frank Lehman's discussion of recent Star Wars trailers (link to his post on Musicology Now). I can't say that I am overly fond of comments threads in general, but the conversation in Frank's post is interesting and informative. James Deaville's subsequent post about trailers to Musicology Now is definitely also worth a look: link.

Between them, these materials could provide suitable background for a class assignment or a student paper project on film trailers. The trailer might make an interesting twist on the screening report (Chapter 6), for example, or on the compare-contrast paper assignment (Chapter 10).

Since trailers are now readily available for a wide range of films, both historical and contemporary, they could be incorporated almost anywhere in the chronological sequence from the classical period onward. Caution: in the transition period, what you will find labeled "trailer" online (even on the most respectable sites like Turner Classic Movies) is often just a clip of one of the film's song performances.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the Beach (1959)

On the Beach (MGM 1959; dir. Stanley Kramer; underscore by Ernest Gold) might be a good project for the general student—one who doesn't read music—because its music, both underscore and source, makes significant use of the familiar tune "Waltzing Matilda." Gold's treatment of it is very professional, varied, and creative—in addition to which its different aspects are quite accessible: no one can miss his extraordinary re-harmonizations or changes of instrumentation.

Some useful sources for information about the song and its history: Wikipedia articleTrishan's site [among most popular Australian sites about the song].

I have created a PDF file with a detailed set of music notes; access here on my Google Drive: link.

Students might also be intrigued by the very atypical roles played by the several leads—of them, only Gregory Peck is his usual upright, not that talkative but still vulnerable self. Ava Gardner and an aging Fred Astaire are the "town drunks," as she puts it. He is a scientist turned hobby race car driver. And Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) is a devoted husband and father, lieutenant in the navy.

After a short prologue without music, during which the submarine rises to the surface off Melbourne, Australia, the main titles give the first complete rendition of "Waltzing Matilda." Here is the version we hear during that scene:

Note that the alternate ending has the melody going up rather than down to end. That doesn't happen in the main title sequence. It happens in four later places and is associated with the relationship of Dwight (Gregory Peck) and Moira (Ava Gardner).  An interesting class activity might be to analyze why the final statement (within 30 seconds of the end of the film) is so immediately striking.

Another possibility is to try to label the style topics expressed in the several differing arrangements of "Matilda." Most should be obvious (for example, a whimsical march version for Dwight's first meeting with Moira (at 20:05)).