Lichtspiel und Lichtspielmusik

Up to now, thoughts on how to elevate the culture of cinema concerning its aesthetic, educational and social functions have neither been officially encouraged nor realized. Instead, the cinematic culture sees itself confronted with the predominance of capital, which ignores moral and artistic values. On the one hand, cinema offers low entry prices, claiming to be affordable for customers of all social classes. On the other, by imitating the furnishing of theaters, borrowing well-known film plots and characters, or hiring famous movie stars, it pretends to provide “high” art. As a result, stereotypical and paltry pseudo-dramas blunt the audience (as do other entertainment activities for common people), while the screenings of great composers’ symphonies desecrate art music. Moreover, especially in rural areas, the quality of cinematic orchestras has reached its lowest point, because of the oversupply and exploitation of the (mostly less gifted) musicians.
Cinema and the music performed there are both worth dealing with; nevertheless, they have been missing any artistic claim by now.
The “libretto” is usually nothing more than a patchwork of familiar dramatic plots, while any adaptation causes a loss of quality. However, there are several requirements before even trying to create a genuinely cinematic script. First, the deficient projectors need to be improved. Second, there is a need for “breathing space for the eye”: no artwork can flourish when the illusion is destroyed. This also applies to the accompaniment music. By now, music has rather served the technically more advanced cinematic medium, covering the noise of the projectors and relating to the film action almost superficially. The “kitsch and trash” music of the movie theaters has an adverse impact on culture: it inhibits the elevation of the general taste in music, which has been attempted by disseminating high-quality compositions. Instead of a continuous overlapping of music and images, film music should rather consist of short preludes, interludes, and postludes. It should also provide interior conjunctions between two or more scenes and replace the intertitles, which inevitably disrupt the sense of illusion.
Film music is not opera music. In a film, there is no time for unfolding and illustrating (or even commentating) the rapid action. It would be doomed to failure composing a score that claims to fit precisely to a preexisting movie, and that requires the music to be brought into absolute accordance by the music director. In the ideal (though utopian) situation, the capabilities of screenwriter, film director, and music director should be unified in the person of the composer – in light of a “total cinematic artwork”. Basically, however, one should stay away from accompanying serious films through renowned art-music compositions. Instead, one should turn toward light movies with ambitious entertainment music and hence contribute to the education of the general public and the elevation of its musical taste.

Paul Marsop, “Lichtspiel und Lichtspielmusik”, Die Musik, 1924, 16/5, pp. 328–339 (Abstract).