In the late silent era, it was popular to pair films with an already-recorded score. Don Juan (1926) with John Barrymore and Mary Astor was the first to do so. I’m usually not a fan of these scores, as the primitive sound technology is not always pleasant to listen to and they sometimes include vocal tracks which feel intrusive, but I really enjoyed the score recorded for the otherwise lackluster western, Trail of ‘98 (1928). Unfortunately, this video only contains instances of the central romantic theme, “I Found Gold When I Found You,” but it’s still a nice piece.
Soundtrack Suite to Metropolis (1927, Germany) - composed by Gottfried Huppertz; performed by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Frank Strobel; video edited by Frederik Riesberg
In a rare development for a silent film, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was gifted with an enormous original score composed by Gottfried Huppertz - whose work must be placed in the conversation in debating the greatest film scores of all time. This score did not accompany Metropolis until a 2001 DVD release. This particular recording can be found on the 2010 DVD/Blu-Ray release with restored footage.
This film remains one of the most influential experimental works in the history of cinema. The only film made directly by the artist Fernand Léger, it demonstrates his concern during this period—shared with many other artists of the 1920s—with the mechanical world. In Léger’s vision, however, this mechanical universe has a very human face. […] In Ballet méchanique, repetition, movement, and multiple imagery combine to animate and give an aesthetic raison d’être to the clockwork structure of everyday life. The visual pleasures of kitchenware—wire whisks and funnels, copper pots and lids, tinned and fluted baking pans—are combined with images of a woman carrying a heavy sack on her shoulder, condemned like Sisyphus (but through a cinematic sense of wit) to climb and reclimb a steep flight of stairs on a Paris street.
Anthiel was the one musician whom the Surrealists accepted. He said, “The Surrealist movement had, from the very beginning, been my friend. In one of its manifestoes it had been declared that all music was unbearable – excepting, possibly, mine – a beautiful and appreciated condescension.”1 Anthiel’s score was intended to accompany the film; however, the score was thirty minutes long, while the film was about nineteen. The premier of the film didn’t include the score. It was never shown with Anthiel’s music until the 1990s.
George Anthiel, Bad Boy of Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981), 300; quoted in Anne LeBaron, “Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Music,” Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture: Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought 4 (2002), 31. ↩