Before sound came, film was a disquieting medium. The pale, spectral images were unnerving to viewers in their silence. Music, usually in the guise of live pianists, organists and the occasional cinema orchestra, transformed film and added life and warmth. ‘Ghostly shadows, as volatile as clouds, thus become trustworthy shapes,’ wrote the influential German film theorist Siegfried Kracauer in his book, Theory of Film (1960). Yet film music was always more than simple comfort for phantasmagoric illusions. Like the aphorism often attributed to Jean Cocteau, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the music is propelling the film, or if the film is propelling the music. In film, music talks.
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