Throughout the 1920s, German-language film journalism addressed fundamental questions about the encounter between music and cinema. Prominent composers, musicologists, and film theorists contributed to this broad discussion on the proper role and design of silent film music, encompass- ing a wide range of arguments and perspectives. This article outlines the development of the film music debate on the film journal Reichsfilmblatt from 1924 to 1929, with special focus on the di- alectical interplay between theoretical concerns and compositional issues.
Starting from the mid-1920s, Reichsfilmblatt encouraged composers and music directors to con- tribute their opinions concerning the art of film music composition at large, ranging from compila- tion guides to accompaniment practices, and from illustrative techniques to dramaturgic strategies. Particular attention to compositional issues is evident from the presence of regular columns by mu- sic critics. Film music theoreticians like Hans Erdmann or Ludwig Brav, however, reached well be- yond the horizon of a film music criticism, even theorising new compositional approaches to film composition.
Thanks to the contributions of film music specialists, such as Giuseppe Becce, Paul Dessau, and Friedrich Holländer, among others, Reichsfilmblatt also dealt with a large number of questions re- lated to the execution of musical accompaniments. Journalistic criticism debated the techniques of conducting film music and evaluated the basic configuration of a salon orchestra, as well as the pe- culiarities of certain instruments. From 1927, Reichsfilmblatt finally confronted the question of the mechanisation of music performance: a large number of articles discussed the revolution provoked by the discovery of recorded sound on both theoretical and practical levels.
Francesco Finocchiaro, “In the Mirror of Criticism”: The Film-Music Debate on ‘Reichsfilmblatt’ from 1924 to 1929 (with a Source Catalogue), «Fontes Artis Musicae», LXVII n. 1, January-March 2020, pp. 34–6 (read it on Academia.edu).