Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Condon, Denis
Complementing or Competing with the Images on Screen? Irish Cinema Music in the 1910s
Music and Visual Cultures
Maynooth University
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
This paper will examine the importance of music to the development of cinema in Ireland in the 1910s from a novel attraction to the dominant entertainment medium. From its emergence in the 1890s, silent cinema had always been an intermedial form, combining live and recorded performances that consisted of the projection of filmed images to the accompaniment of music played live. With the boom in building dedicated Irish picture houses between 1910 and the outbreak of World War I, cinema owners competed to lure the higher-paying middle-class patrons to their increasingly luxuriously decorated premises by offering both the most desirable films and the most spectacular musical attractions. Initially, competition focused on the number of musicians in a picture house’s orchestra and the leadership of a professional musical director. By 1915, however, audiences in Dublin were being tempted by the added attraction of renowned concert musicians, whose names and solos were advertised along with the film titles. The production of Carmen (US: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, 1915) at the Bohemian Picture Theatre in August 1916 perhaps epitomizes the sophistication to which competition between cinemas in Dublin had brought cinema music by the mid-1910s. That a purportedly silent cultural form should attempt opera may seem counterintuitive, but filmed operas were as old as cinema itself. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Carmen’s recorded images featured Geraldine Farrar, star of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, alongside film star Wallace Reid as Don José. These international attractions may have been overwhelmed rather than complemented by the locally produced live music provided by the Bohemian’s orchestra supplemented by featured instrumentalists and vocalists.