Musical Modernism and German Cinema from 1913 to 1933

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The English-language monograph Musical Modernism and German Cinema from 1913 to 1933 has been published in the book series “Film and Television Studies” by Palgrave Macmillan, UK.

Finocchiaro’s study delivers compelling insights into the relationship between Musical Modernism and German silent and early sound cinema. Approaching cinema from the vantage point of its engagement with modernist composers manages to move beyond the boundaries between “high” and “low” art, opening up the wider field of the cultural status of cinema in relation to coexisting art forms at a crucial historical moment.
Anna K. Windisch, University of Salzburg, Austria. Co-Editor of The Sounds of Silent Films. New Perspectives on History, Theory and Practice, 2014

Francesco Finocchiaro, Musical Modernism and German Cinema from 1913 to 1933, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

International Music Theory Conference 2017


During the silent era, as known, the accompaniment music for film projections was in an extremely precarious state. Nevertheless, film theory assigned to music an essential role, often describing the ‘tenth Muse’ as a daughter of the more ancient and noble ‘art of sounds.’ The idea of an ‘elective affinity’ between music and cinema found a theoretical systematization within the writings by Georg Otto Stindt (1924), Béla Balázs (1924), and Hans Erdmann (1927), who identified the rhythmic dimension as the trait d’union between these two forms of art.

Francesco Finocchiaro, “Im Anfang war der Rhythmus”. Aesthetic Abstractions in the Film Music Composition of the 1920s, 17th International Music Theory Conference, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius, November 8–10, 2017.

Transnational Opera Studies Conference 2017

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The FMJ research project has been represented at the recent Transnational Opera Studies Conference in Bern, on July 5-7, 2017.
Dr. Francesco Finocchiaro reported on ‘Cinema and Musical Theatre in the Weimar Republic’, elaborating on Kurt Weill’s Royal Palace and Alban Berg’s Lulu as two paradigmatic instances of medial combination.
The paper focused on dramaturgical and aesthetical issues related to the cross-pollination between old and new medial languages in the Weimar era theatre.

F. Finocchiaro, Cinema and Musical Theatre in the Weimar Republic: Two Case Studies, 2nd Transnational Opera Studies Conference, Bern, July 5-7, 2017

When Jazz Meets Cinema

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At the recent conference When Jazz Meets Cinema (Lovere, May 5-7, 2017), Francesco Finocchiaro and Leo Izzo held a lecture on jazz numbers in Gottfried Huppertz’s score for Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang. The paper gave rise to a lively discussion that addressed many issues concerning the reception of the jazz music in Europe between the two world wars.

Francesco Finocchiaro & Leo Izzo, Metropolis’ di Fritz Lang: la città del futuro nell’età del jazz, International Conference “When Jazz Meets Cinema”, May 5-7, 2017, Lovere (BG)

Metropolis in the Jazz Era

Metropolis-new-tower-of-babelAt the forthcoming International Conference When Jazz Meets Cinema, May 5-7, Lovere (BG), Project Leader Francesco Finocchiaro, together with jazz scholar Leo Izzo, will give a lecture on Gottfried Huppertz’s original score for Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang.
In their four-hand paper, Finocchiaro and Izzo will deal with two remarkable film scenes accompanied by jazz music. The analysis will focus on the symbolical meaning associated with jazzy sound and language in the music accompaniment for silent movies.

Organic-mechanical metaphors in the musical discussion between the two World Wars


The discussion on music’s mechanization exploded in German print journalism between the two World Wars, when a series of technological innovations (radio, phonograph, cinematograph and sound cinema) caught the attention of the public and swept through the music world, shaking its very foundations.

In this sharply polemical debate, the metaphorical antithesis “organism-mechanism” reflected the contraposition between different thought systems and structured a generational opposition.

In other words, “organic music” was the music of the Nineteenth Century and that of the followers of the Classical-Romantic tradition; by contrast, “mechanical music” was the music of radiophonic, electro-acoustic and cinematic experiments, carried out by the new generation of composers at the Baden-Baden Festival.

In the framework of this ideological debate, the organic-mechanical metaphors constitute the point of connection between compositional structures, music analytical categories, and exegetical processes. Metaphors represent the hinge, the element of mediation between the categorization of the compositional structures and the hermeneutic processes that forge the aesthetic discourse. They mediate between the territories of poetics and aesthetics, where the verbal discourse has the central role, and the immanent structures.

Francesco Finocchiaro, “Musica organica versus musica meccanica”. Un’antitesi metaforica nel dibattito musicale fra le due guerre, in Musica e metafora: storia analisi ermeneutica, edited by F. Finocchiaro and M. Giani, Torino, Accademia University Press, 2016, pp. 117-154 (Biblioteca di Athena Musica, 1) (Read it on

Modernismo musicale e cinema tedesco nel Primo Novecento, 2017


Interrogare i rapporti tra il modernismo musicale e il cinema tedesco significa additare una via di ricerca non ortodossa: non una delle direttrici principali, certo, ma un sentiero finora poco esplorato. In realtà, i rappresentanti del modernismo musicale, da Alban Berg a Paul Hindemith, da Kurt Weill a Hanns Eisler, un rapporto con il cinema lo ebbero, eccome. Fu, sì, un rapporto complesso e contraddittorio, nel quale il cinema figura talora più come riferimento estetico che come realtà fattuale: in ogni caso, ricca di conseguenze fu la recezione in ambito musicale del linguaggio e dell’estetica del medium cinematografico. La scoperta del cinema assume in ciò la pregnanza e la coerenza di un vero e proprio paradigma estetico, che sostiene il progetto modernista nella sua intima essenza. Il confronto con il medium d’avanguardia per eccellenza rappresenta un vettore del modernismo musicale: un nuovo paradigma estetico per quel processo di travisamento volontario, di revisionismo creativo, quando non di deliberata sovversione della tradizione musicale classico-romantica, in cui si realizzò storicamente il “sogno dell’Alterità” della generazione modernista.

Francesco Finocchiaro, Modernismo musicale e cinema tedesco nel Primo Novecento, Lucca, LIM, 2017.

Music and the Moving Image, 2016/3


The Vindobona series by Universal Edition is a unique case among mood music collections for “silent” film accompaniment. It is a collection that, starting in 1927, published salon orchestra adaptations of music by, to name but a few, Strauss, Mahler, Schreker, Janácek, Bartók, Křenek, Weill, and Zemlinsky. This list by itself is enough to make it a document of undoubted historical value—a document that helps us understand the specificities, as well as the limitations, of musical Modernism’s reception in the practice of the musical accompaniment for moving pictures in German-speaking countries.
When it was launched in 1927, the Vindobona was emphatically introduced by its publisher as the first collection of modern music by modern composers for film use. Its importance is limited as far as actual musical practice is concerned on account of evident miscalculations in its editorial design. Nonetheless, the Vindobona Collection has much to tell us. Its analysis allows us to infer, at least indirectly, important information about the routine of music for cinema. The Vindobona project reflects, at least in its approach, a series of significant changes in the aesthetics of cinema presentation and, in general, of the social dimension of cinema.
This essay considers first of all the structure of the collection and its genesis, on the basis of unpublished archive materials from the Department of Music of the Austrian National Library and the Historical Archive of the Universal Edition. It then moves on to analyze the collection’s editorial goals, before finally evaluating its particularly problematic relationship with the contemporary practices and aesthetics of cinematic music.

Francesco Finocchiaro, The ‘Vindobona-Collection’ of the Universal Edition, “Music and the Moving Image”, IX n. 3, Fall 2016, pp. 38-56 (Read it on