Happy Christmas, dearest readers!
This 1909 article from Telephony magazine details services offered by a company called Tel-Musici in Wilmington, Delaware.
The idea was simple: a special phone receiver was installed at the subscriber’s home and the subscriber was given a telephone directory in which phone numbers were assigned to pieces of music. The subscriber could then, for a fee of three cents per piece (or seven cents for grand opera!), dial up the desired music and a switchboard operator would play the appropriate record on a phonograph, transmitting the sound over the telephone line to the subscriber’s home. A megaphone attachment was provided for the home receiver in case more volume was needed. Tel-Musici boasted of superior sound quality free of “metallic, rasping, and grating features.”
Arnold Newman took a series of photographs of the elderly Stravinsky at work with his scissors, snipping out short musical phrases and piecing them in place; he also snapped something that must be unique in the history of photographs of composers, a picture of Stravinsky erasing a note – perhaps the most Stravinskian gesture of all.
So music has a fiction in that kind of film, but in most films, music is only present to fill in emotions that are lacking. Most films claim to be realistic and the use of music in them is therefore a lie. In real life we never hear music in our lives unless it’s played on the radio or television or a musician is present. But music is used then to make up for lack of tension that the director hasn’t managed to create. I have nothing against musicals—for example, I love the films of Fred Astaire and the films of Hitchcock, but those aren’t realistic films. The use of music in conventional cinema is usually used or almost always used to make up for what’s lacking in emotion because the director has not done his job properly.