Silent Film Accompaniments

Posted by


1) “TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE” (A Mack Sennett Silent Film – 1916) music arr. by William Cahn (b.1946)

Mack Sennett’s great silent comedy, Teddy At The Throttle, was made at the height of the silent film era. Between the years 1915 and 1930 many musicians were employed by movie theaters – large and small – to provide musical accompaniments to the silent films. Orchestras, small ensembles, organists, and pianists were necessary to add an important emotional background for the visual action on the screen.

Teddy At The Throttle stars Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, Bobby Vernon, and “Keystone Teddy” the dog. When Henry Black (played by Wallace Beery) plots with his sister to manipulate Gloria in order to get his hands on the inheritance of Bobby Knight (played by Bobby Vernon), the action builds to the point where it’s “on track”, and then it’s Teddy to the rescue!

The action on the silver screen in Teddy At The Throttle is accompanied by lively original compositions from the silent film era which have been arranged by Bill Cahn. Included are the following pieces:
“The Wizard of the Nile” (1896) by Victor Herbert
“Dainty Dames” (1915) by Charlotte Blake
“Cupid’s Garden” (1901) by Max C. Eugene
“Zephyr” (1916) by George J. Trinkhaus
“Photoplay” generic film music (ca. 1915) composed by Ernst Luz

2) “A PAGE OF MADNESS” (a film by Teinosuke Kinugasa – 1926)
music composed by William Cahn (b.1946)

This pioneering Japanese silent film is set in an insane asylum. Kinugasa’s story is charged with psychological and emotional drama. By the mid-1920s he was already familiar with the art form of film, and he was likely influenced by films such as the German Expressionist “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919). According to Kinugasa, the idea of producing a film on the subject of insanity occurred to him after he visited the Matsuzawa Mental Hospital at Setagaya in Tokyo. Though it may occasionally try to create what it feels like to be one of the characters, this film is much more concerned with the impression the creator himself felt when confronted with his subject matter. He picks and chooses scenes, the sum total of which is an impression of the emotion itself. The music was composed for NEXUS by William Cahn to be performed live on a special selection of percussion instruments collected by the ensemble from around the world.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x