READING: The Silence of the Silents

The article’s argument is clearly laid out throughout. Silent films were actually sometimes one hundred percent silent. There was a period of time in which music was not an inherent accompaniment to the cinematic image. What I found especially interesting was Altman’s conclusion that the existence of pure silence meant a lull in theatrical music accompaniment, therefore debunking the theory that music underwent a linear progression from Vaudeville to theatre to the movies. Altman instead claims that film music did not immediately develop from its predecessors but instead had to reinvent itself from silence. It may have been influenced by the past, but was not a growth budding uglily from its body of works, or a mere elaboration upon its former themes and tunes. Another aspect of Altman’s discussion which I enjoyed was the idea of ambiance music versus sounds that Mickey-moused the onscreen action. In other words, Altman viewed film’s period of true silence as influencing our eventual use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Although probably primitive at first, I can imagine the excitement that must have come along with the development of this new narrative balance, between silence and sound, an audience that is accustomed to silence and yet comprehends musical cues, and, lastly, the balance between story and the on-goings of real life and what must have been going on in these nickelodeons. Looking back upon the time period, the prospect of being a music accompanist would have been an adventure and an experiment well worth the passing silence.