Toward a Prehistory of Film Music

Hans Erdmann's Score for Nosferatu and the Idea of Modular Form

Authors

  • Janina Müller Humboldt-Universität Berlin
  • Tobias Plebuch Humboldt University Berlin

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.v6i1.31

Keywords:

melodrama, motion picture music, musical form, silent cinema

Abstract

Photoplay music is a genre that took shape during the “silent” period of cinema when extended narrative films became mass entertainment. Many photoplay pieces exhibit certain structural features that we propose to conceptualize as modular form: They consist of several brief segments (often indicated by double barlines and numbers) that are easy to rearrange and flexible in themselves. Hans Erdmann’s Fantastisch-romantische Suite, derived from his original Nosferatu score, is such a set of musical modules designed to accompany various films in ad hoc arrangements–a purpose supported not only by numerous breaking points but also by their harmonic, syntactic and textural design. While modular techniques persisted in the era of sound film well after 1930, they also continued certain practices of theatrical music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as compilation and quick arrangement of stock pieces in ballet, vaudeville, pantomime, and spoken drama.

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Published

2015-01-12

How to Cite

Müller, J., & Plebuch, T. (2015). Toward a Prehistory of Film Music: Hans Erdmann’s Score for Nosferatu and the Idea of Modular Form. Journal of Film Music, 6(1), 31–48. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.v6i1.31

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