Compiled scores by Paul Norman

SFSMA is delighted to announce the digitization of three full scores for silent films: Ella Cinders (1926) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) compiled and composed by Paul Norman; and La Boheme (1926) by Willian Axt. These are important and fascinating scores that tell us more about musicians’ practices in creating compiled scores and in creating scores for films of opera. We’re grateful to SFSMA supporter and contributor Ben Model for allowing us to digitize these items from his personal collection.

Of these scores, Ben writes, “They were in the collection of Don Lee, whose father Bob Lee ran Essex Films for many years. Essex was a 16mm distributor (dupes of dupes) in the 1960s and maybe 1970s, and sold prints with scores (sometimes on the print, sometimes on cassettes) of scores by Stuart Oderman. Mark Roth of ReelclassicDVD has issued several of these prints with Stuart’s tracks on them on his DVD label. Don gave these two compiled scores to Mark, who sent them to me.”

Ella Cinders and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were scored by Norman using a mixture of pre-existing pieces and his own compositions. It’s relatively rare to find a complete compiled score–often such scores, comprised of multiple published pieces by different composers and original material by the compiler–were taken apart so that the music could be used for other films. These two scores also stand out in the inclusion of music composed by Norman for the films. Frequently, cinema musicians would improvise or compose segues between pre-existing pieces when they played a compiled score; in Norman’s scores, there is extensive new music mixed in with the pre-existing pieces, and it is beautifully presented in clear manuscript. In this excerpt from Ella Cinders, you can see how Norman has continued on from a pre-existing piece:

Printed music glued to a page of staff paper is given a different ending in manuscript.




Norman began his career as a cinema pianist and continued to accompany silent films into the 1960s, while also pursuing a career as an organist and composer of mostly sacred music. Norman supposedly gave his library of silent film scores to Arthur Kleiner (Gray), but a search of the Kleiner Collection at the University of Minnesota turns up nothing by or about Norman. If you have any information to add on Norman, we’d love to know. Send us a line at

Adaptations of operas for silent film may seem oxymoronic, but they were very popular. The fans of opera singers–like the “Gerryflappers” who adored singer Geraldine Ferrar–encouraged studios to make films starring opera singers or to make films that follow the plot of an opera with popular actors. In La Boheme, which stars Lillian Gish and John Gilbert, the film uses the opera’s plot scene by scene, but uses “original compositions by William Axt, synchronized by David Mendoza and William Axt.” Oddly, though, it includes few tempo markings for the cues and no actual timings for each cue.

These scores should be of interest to researchers working on compiled scores and performers looking for full scores for accompanying these films. If you use these scores–or any other material on SFSMA–let us know! We’d love to feature you in a post.

Works Cited
Gray, Susan. “Kleiner Silent Film Music Collection.” PRX, 2010.

Further Reading on Compiled Scores and Opera in Silent Film
American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. “Compiling Silent Film Scores from Historic Photoplay Music with Rodney Sauer.” June 12, 2021.

Citron, Marcia J. When Opera Meets Film. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Citron, Marcia J.. Opera on Screen. Yale University Press, 2000.

Fawkes, Richard. “Paul Fryer, the Opera Singer and the Silent Film.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 3.2 (2009): 261-266.

Esse, Melina, and Karen Henson. “The Silent Diva: Farrar’s Carmen.” Technology and the Diva: Sopranos, Opera and Media from Romanticism to the Digital Age, ed. Karen Henson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 89-103.

Fawkes, Richard. “The Opera Singer and the Silent Film, and: Carmen on Film: A Cultural History.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 3.2 (2009): 261-265.

Grover-Friedlander, Michal. Vocal Apparitions: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera. Princeton University Press, 2005.

Joe, Jeongwon, and Rose Theresa, eds. Between Opera and Cinema. Routledge, 2012.

Leonard, Kendra Preston. “Women’s Compiled Scores in Early Film Music,” in Hidden Harmonies: Women and Music in Popular Entertainment, ed. Paula J. Bishop and Kendra Preston Leonard (University Press of Mississippi, 2023): 53 – 70.

Leonard, Kendra Preston. “Using Resources for Silent Film Music.” Fontes Artis Musicae 63.4 (2016): 259-276.

Mosconi, Elena. “Silent Singers. The Legacy of Opera and Female Stars in Early Italian Cinema.” (2013): 334-352.

Sauer, Rodney. “Photoplay Music: a Reusable Repertory for Silent Film Scoring, 1914-1929.” Americas: A Hemispheric Music Journal 8 (1998): 55.

Schroeder, David. Cinema’s Illusions, Opera’s Allure: the Operatic Impulse in Film. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Whitmer, Mariana. “Silent Westerns: Hugo Riesenfeld’s Compiled Score for The Covered Wagon (1923).” American Music 36, No. 1, (Spring 2018), 70-101.

Wolf, Stephanie. “Q & A: Mont Alto Orchestra’s Rodney Sauer on Scoring Silent Films.” CPR News, Oct. 30, 2014.

Music for Man with a Movie Camera

For over a year film historian Richard Bossons has been collaborating with the composer Leo Geyer on a project to recreate the only known score for Dziga Vertov’s film Man with a Movie Camera. In 1995, film scholar Yuri Tsivian published his translation of a set of hand-written notes by Vertov detailing the accompaniment he wanted for his film. Tsivian also translated typewritten cue sheets, thought to have been based on Vertov’s notes, created by three composers–A Grin, N Vaisbain, and V. Jenczijevsky–commissioned by the state cinema organisation Sovkino to create a Conspectus–or cue sheet–for the 1929 premiere. Like cue sheets used in the West, this one contained small snippets of music from the ballet, symphonic, and opera repertoire, and it differs from Vertov’s notes considerably. Nonetheless, the cue sheets offer an important glimpse into Soviet silent film scoring practices, and Bossons’ and Geyer’s score will be a great contribution to the scholarship of silent film music.

Bossons and I have corresponded quite a bit about his project, and has given me permission to share what what he and Geyer have done so far. Bossons writes:

In 1995, Yuri Tsivian published his translation of two documents discovered in the Dziga Vertov archive in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, Moscow, in Griffithiana No. 54 (October). Document 1 consists of hand- written notes by Vertov of a ‘Music Scenario’ for the accompaniment of his film.

Document 1 by Yuri Tsivian, showing Vertov’s intentions for music accompanying Man with a Movie Camera

The second document comprises typewritten cue sheets by three composers seemingly based on Vertov’s notes. Sovkino approved this ‘Musical Conspectus’ a week before the first screening of the film in Moscow so it was presumably intended for the orchestras in the two cinemas used for the premiere on April 9, 1929.

There have been many attempts to provide a score for Man with a Movie Camera, but this is the only documented accompaniment to the film. Surprisingly, it has not been recreated before now. Composer Leo Geyer and film historian Richard Bossons have collaborated to turn the cue sheets into a score to mark the 95th anniversary of the premiere in 2024.

Document 2 by Yuri Tsivian showing the music arranged by other composers for Man with a Movie Camera’s Moscow premiere

Bossons wrote a comparison between the musical cues suggested by the official composers and what Vertov wanted. One example:



Silent orchestra, the booth, the projectionist is ready, the film starts running.


MUSICAL CHARACTER (movement, dynamics)

Silence, pause for the piano player, who must depict rhythmically the striking of a clock.


Complete pause.


  1. The silent orchestra. No music is heard. Only the tick-tock of a clock.


Vertov doesn’t specify what should be used to create the clock sound. The Conspectus calls for a piano, which isn’t a suitable instrument to make this sound. As the Goskino #1 orchestra does not include a piano (not visible in the film) the clock is depicted by the sound of two different size wooden blocks.




The conductor waves his baton, the orchestra starts playing.


MUSICAL CHARACTER (movement, dynamics)



Continue the last 6/8 from the Overture to ‘Giralda’.

VERTOV’S NOTES FOR SEQUENCE 3 (his sequence 4)

  1. [From the moment] the orchestra starts playing – up to [the end of the shot showing] the figure ‘1’ rising. Cheerful music welcomes the entrance of the figure ‘1’.


The Conspectus ends the music before the ‘1’ starts rising. The beginning and end of this excerpt from ‘Giralda’ was arranged to suit the action of the conductor (though the timing is different to the unknown music being played by the orchestra).

Bossons wrote me recently to say that they had “managed to track down all the pieces except the Miceli and an unknown composer Dorsini.” For the missing works, they are using similar materials for the reconstruction.

We are following the Conspectus closely, but inevitably most of the suggested pieces are either too short (needing additional music ‘in the style of’), or too long (needing an appropriate excerpt to suit the film sequence, and a modified beginning and end). Even the Bodleian has been unable to source some of the more obscure pieces so Leo is having to compose music based on other scores by the composer (eg the Miceli at the end of Reel 1). Additionally, the Massenet, for example, had to be re-arranged to suit the action on screen as it was unsuitable otherwise.

“To avoid copyright on recordings,” Bossons writes, “we are scanning sheet music to get the notation electronically which is reflected in the sound quality (best to listen through headphones or via good speakers!). This means that we can readily obtain the scores for live performance and recording, which is our intention.”

We have completed Reel 1 and half of Reel 2 and I thought you might like to hear what we have done so far. Some of the timing needs to be adjusted, and the sound quality is due to the files being compressed for easier uploading. There is a possibility that we can record the score with an live orchestra in due course. So far, to our surprise, this attempt by three official composers (largely ignoring Vertov’s instructions) works quite well, and adds a period charm to the film. I hope you enjoy it, and I would welcome any comments!

You can listen to the reconstructed score here:
Bossons writes, “Please note that This is a ‘working model’ based on the Lobster Films restoration of the film, and is not intended to be released. The score will be recorded by an orchestra and published with a new restoration of the film by Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam.”

I can’t wait to hear it!

Library of Congress silent film music digitized

SFSMA board member Paul Allen Sommerfeld has been leading this project to digitize the Silent Film Scores and Arrangements Collection at the Library of Congress! It’s a great new resource for silent film music. Here’s what the library writes:

About this Collection

Music and sound have always served an integral role in film, and the Silent Film Scores and Arrangements digital collection offers unique insight into that development. The collection includes over 3,000 items published or created for use in silent film accompaniment between 1904 – 1927. These items include scores written for specific films, cue sheets that compile melodies for use at certain moments in specific films, and stock music composed or arranged for general use in silent film. Scores and arrangements included in this collection include piano scores, full or reduced orchestral scores, instrumental parts, or just melodic incipits. The majority of the items come from music publishers based in the United States and Europe, but some arrived as copyright submissions by everyday citizens. Composers from the famous to the obscure (many used pseudonyms) appear throughout the collection.

Items in this collection came from copyright submissions, the Jack Butterworth collection, and a gift from Mrs. Charles Moore. Also included, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), are microfilm scans of over 800 items physically held by the museum.

Some additional materials still protected by copyright are available to visitors onsite in the Library’s restricted Stacks website. They will be added to this digital collection as they enter the public domain.

CONTENT WARNING: Some titles and terminology used in this digital collection may reflect racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes that were deemed acceptable at the time of their publication.

Digitizing the Grauman Collection

I’m delighted to announce that SFSMA will be working with the American Music Research Center (AMRC) at the University of Colorado Boulder and the CU Libraries to digitize the Grauman Theatre Scores Collection and its 3,854 scores available online. This work is supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. As the AMRC digitizes and uploads pieces, SFSMA will create links to those works, thus helping SFSMA users find items in the CU online collection. I’ll post more details about this partnership as the project gets underway.

CU’s Press release (read original here):

AMRC to Preserve Grauman Film Score Collection
by Charles Wofford

Between 1900 and 1929, when Sid Grauman ran silent films with live orchestral accompaniment in his Hollywood “movie palaces,” he probably never imagined that the thousands of orchestral scores used by his musicians would be recognized as important Americana in their own right. A century later—with a $116,916 grant from the  (NHPRC)—the University of Colorado Boulder’s American Music Research Center (AMRC) is creating a comprehensive digital archive of the Grauman Theatre Scores Collection.

In collaboration with CU Libraries and the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive, the 3,854 scores of the collection will be digitized in multiple high-resolution, full-color formats and made available online at no charge to the public. An additional 192,700 preservation images will help preserve the particularities of the scores, such as handwritten markings from musicians and conductors. “[The Grauman Silent Film Scores Collection] is one of the most important collections anywhere,” says AMRC Director and Professor of Musicology Susan Thomas. “Because of the Grauman Theatre’s centrality in Los Angeles and U.S. film history, these scores can be considered foundational documents—not only for the cultural history of the United States, but also for the sonic construction of U.S. identity in the 20th century.”

The musical representations found in the Grauman collection inspired film composers of the following generation, such as Max Steiner and Alfred Newman; they, in turn, influenced famous film composers from Jerry Goldsmith and Henry Mancini to today’s superstars, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer and others. The collection was donated to the AMRC in 2019 by Rodney Sauer. A pianist, accordionist and director of the Monto Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Sauer drove the roughly 5,000 pounds of sheet music from Los Angeles to his Louisville, Colorado, home in 2013, narrowly averting catastrophe in the 2013 Boulder County floods. “I want to use this music, I don’t necessarily want to own it,” Sauer previously stated in theColoradan Alumni Magazine.

The AMRC is partnering with Sauer to produce video tutorials to guide performance-oriented musicians on everything from genre selection to timing and period aesthetics. The AMRC is also working to produce music packets for K-12 musicians, especially high school orchestras, who will be able to create their own scores for specific films. “This project is not about moving the music from one dusty attic to another,” says AMRC Assistant Director and Archivist Jessie de la Cruz. “This archive will be a living part of the community.”

Grant from the Victor Herbert Foundation

I’m delighted to announce that SFSMA has received a grant from the Victor Herbert Foundation to assist with the transcribing, cataloguing, and uploading of the Carl Braun Collection. We’re grateful for this assistance, which will enable us to have the Braun Collection fully posted to the Archive by the end of Summer 2021.

Countless individual pieces by and excerpts from larger works by Victor Herbert were published as music for silent film. Works by Herbert are also heavily referenced in cue sheets, in which arrangers would list each scene of the film and make a corresponding recommendation for a piece to play with it, providing the title, composer, and melody line. Herbert works like “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life,” “Punch and Judy,” and the “Habanera” and “Vaquero’s Song” from Natoma are already part of SFSMA’s collection; and works by Herbert appear on several cue sheets already in the Archive. The Braun collection contains numerous works by Herbert—so far we’ve located more than 40 individual pieces referenced in the Collection’s cue sheets. Many of these are used more than once in the same film, functioning as a film’s major themes.


Erno Rapee, Motion Picture Moods

I am delighted to announce that at last we have a beautiful and clean scan of Erno Rapee’s Motion Picture Moods. This was scanned by Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, who generously donated his scan to SFSMA. You can now find the complete contents of this landmark reference for silent film accompaniment here. Because of the size of the book, we’ve had to break it into smaller components for downloading. If you want to combine these files into one large PDF, we recommend EasyPDF, a free resource.

SFSMA in the Journal of the Society for American Music

SFSMA’s gotten a great review by Erin M. Brooks in The Journal of the Society for American Music! Download it as a PDF here, or read the full text below.

Journal of the Society for American Music (2020), Volume 14, Number 4, pp. 522–524

Silent Film Sound & Music Archive: A Digital Repository. In fall 1929, letters to the editor of Photoplay hotly debated pros and cons of the new “talkies.” Reactions ran the gamut, from a movie musician who claimed talkies would save her from apathetically “sawing through thousands of performances” to a spectator who expressed her intense annoyance with the new “canned music” replacing live theater organs and orchestras.[1] These exchanges offer a glimpse into the radical shifts in film music practice around 1930; prior to this, so-called “silent films” were accompanied by a huge variety of sounds, from generic mood music and cue sheets to compilation scores and original (“special”) scores.[2] As the movie industry transitioned to the sound era, many of these early musical resources were destroyed, stashed away, or gradually amassed in archives. Yet the work of silent film advocates, investments in silent film collections by research institutions, and the resurgence of silent film screenings accompanied by live music have all increased the prominence of silent film sound in recent years.[3]

The Silent Film Sound & Music Archive (hereafter SFSMA) preserves and disseminates music of the silent era (ca. 1895–1930). Established in 2014, SFSMA is headed by founder and executive director Kendra Preston Leonard, a musicologist whose work includes a focus on silent film music archives. Scholars specializing in a variety of film musics serve as SFSMA directors and officers. The archive is a 501(c)(3) organization supported by donations, ranging from individual and institutional gifts of silent film materials to operational grants from both people and
entities such as the Grammy Foundation and the Society for American Music. SFSMA’s nonprofit status underscores the archive’s mission to make silent film musics freely available to scholars, performers, and other individuals; all works are posted under an Open Data Commons Attribution license. The archive is very much an ongoing project. New materials continue to be uploaded to the website, usually announced via the News tab as well as SFSMA’s social media accounts.[4] To use the archive, visitors enter text into a search box to peruse by criteria such as composer/arranger/editor, title, date, publisher, and instrumentation. The search function also pulls up music associated with the various “moods” of silent film music; entering “hurry” or “misterioso,” for example, yields dozens of results. Users can likewise dip into different formats—such as sheet music or cue sheets—or browse tagged items. The music is well cataloged, typically with detailed bibliographic information and sometimes OCLC numbers.

As a cursory tour through a few SFSMA holdings, a 2016 “Sight and Sound” subvention from the Society for American Music funded twenty-five recordings by silent film accompanist Ethan Uslan.[5] The recordings, drawn from SFSMA sheet music, are excellent resources for class or public lectures. Other items assist performers by including orchestral parts (rare in most theater and film music collections).[6] Some works within the archive are heavily marked with performance indications, offering insight into silent film performance practice. Items from specific performers, such as cinema accompanists Claire Hamack and Adele V. Sullivan, offer tantalizing research opportunities; these collections both highlight the central role of women as motion picture accompanists and invite case studies of individual musicians and theatrical scenes. Indeed, while SFSMA broadly focuses on preserving printed music, the archive’s rich materials assist with crafting historiographies focusing on gender, sexuality, race, and class. Moreover, archive holdings provide a refreshingly decentralized view of film music in the United States through examples from places other than New York or Chicago.[7]

The archive is aimed at a broad swath of users, including researchers, performers, and educators. There is a small amount of specifically pedagogical content, from a guide to citing the archive to a short essay on music for silent film. The archive’s research value is abundantly clear, and it is likewise easy to envision students using materials from the archive. The pedagogical utility could be expanded, how- ever, by adding a tab with additional guidance for newcomers to silent film music— many users may need more help in deciding what to search for or in comprehending the context of collections such as Erno Rapee’s Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures or the four-volume Sam Fox Moving Picture Music.

There is plenty of potential to expand the archive. Although the recordings by Uslan are a good resource, increasing video and audio materials seems both a natural fit for silent film and a means of increasing the attractiveness of the site. Continuing to add images, multimedia posts, and essays would greatly enhance the overall user experience of this excellent repository. Such projects may already be underway; the webpage notes initial work in digitizing period recordings ofSFSMA sheet music holdings. Of course, adding to the site necessitates donations of materials, money, and time. Hopefully SFSMA will attract a burgeoning number of individuals and organizations willing to support this work. An expansive, openly-accessible online archive of silent film scores would be an incredibly valuable resource. Although its digitized collections already showcase a compelling sample of silent film sound, SFSMA has the potential to serve as a pivotal gateway to this material if the repository continues to grow and forge partnerships with other institutions.

Erin M. Brooks

[1] “Brickbats and Bouquets,” Photoplay, August 1929, 10, and September 1929, 142. These were by no means the only viewpoints; later that fall Photoplay published a letter from a theater organist heartily defending his profession.
[2] Many scholarly works discuss early film accompaniment styles in detail; for example, see Martin Miller Marks, Music and the Silent Film: Contexts and Case Studies, 1895–1924 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
[3] For a summary of archival resources for silent film music, see Kendra Preston Leonard, “Using Resources for Silent Film Music,” Fontes Artis Musicae 63, no. 4 (October–December 2016): 259–76, or the longer guide in Leonard, Music for Silent Film: A Guide to North American Resources (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2016).
[4] SFSMA has an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. These accounts regularly feature posts on both the archive and other news related to silent film music. The Twitter feed is also accessible as a sidebar on the SFSMA website.
[5] For more information, see Kendra Leonard, “New Audio Recordings by Ethan Uslan,” Silent Film Sound & Music Archive, last modified July 26, 2016, audio-recordings-by-ethan-uslan/.
[6] For example, see roughly three hundred pieces and around 2,300 instrumental parts within The Silent Cinema Presentations, Inc./Ben Model collection, digitized thanks to a grant from the Grammy Foundation. On how to locate these items, see From the Director, “New Posts Going Up,” Silent Film Sound & Music Archive, last modified October 13, 2016, posts-going-up/.
[7] At the moment, SFSMA seems to primarily include sources connected to the United States film industry. Problems with a narrow focus on New York (“gothamcentrism”) in theater or film studies have been discussed by Robert C. Allen, “Decentering Historical Audience Studies: A Modest Proposal,” in Hollywood in the Neighborhood: Historical Case Studies of Local Moviegoing, ed. Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 20–33.

Black Lives Matter

The Board of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive condemns the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and far too many other Black people. We stand with communities that have been subjected to violence and discrimination. SFSMA acknowledges that many of its holdings were created in support of white supremacy and bigotry and that racism is endemic in early film and its music, and that the disciplines that study these materials have engaged in perpetuating white supremacy. We support Black Lives Matter, and we ask those who use our Archive to consider and reflect on the legacy of racism in early film. As a Board and as individuals, we are committed to taking anti-racist actions that will help create a more equitable world.  

New Acquisitions

SFSMA is delighted to announce the acquisition of three new collections for the Archive. We’ll be scanning materials and creating database entries for these over the next several months. If you’re interested in helping out by doing cue sheet transcription or record creation, contact Executive Director Kendra Leonard at–we can always use the help!

Coming soon:

The Judith Brunvand Collection, a small collection of sheet music and albums from a theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Eric Grayson Collection, several hundred scores and other materials, some from the Library of Congress.

The Carl L. Braun Collection, including more than 500 cue sheets and other heavily marked sheet music, representing the entire collection of Braun, who was a cinema accompanist in New Haven, CT at the Paramount Theater.


New: Cue Sheets from the Adele V. Sullivan Collection

We’ve just added 41 cue sheets from the collection of Adele V. Sullivan, a Colorado cinema accompanist whose papers are part of the Silent Film Music Collection at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Sullivan’s papers are unique in that her work bridged the transition to sound. She performed from cue sheets for silent and part-talkie movies, then became responsible for synching up phonographs with films. The cues for the phonographs are fascinating and we’ll be posting them soon.

For today, though, we’ve catalogued the traditional cue sheets from her collection, which include cues for a number of lost films such as The Chinese Parrot, Code of the Scarlet, The Magnificent Flirt, and Shanghai Bound.

SFSMA on NewMusicBox!

SFSMA Executive Director Kendra Leonard has authored four articles for NewMusicBox on music for silent films old and new! Check out the first installment of this series at New Music for a New Art Form: Photoplay Music, which includes information on music for early cinema, excerpts from SFSMA-held scores, and recordings by Ethan Uslan.

Future articles will be on topics including how accompanists used (and altered and ignored) cue sheets; scoring silent films today using yesterday’s music; and new music for silent film.

#GivingTuesday Thank-Yous!

Thank you to those of you who donated to SFSMA on #GivingTuesday in support of digitizing Erno Rapee’s Motion Picture Moods! We raised $375.00. We are planning on one more round of fundraising in the spring and will digitize the book over the summer of 2018.

Donors (in alphabetical order):

Dr. Paula Bishop

Dr. Maribeth Clark

Dr. James Doering

Dr. Samuel N Dorf and Dr. Maria Kisel

Dr. Naomi Graber

Dan Sanderson


Help SFSMA on #GivingTuesday 2017!

Are you ready for #GivingTuesday? Want to help SFSMA bring more music to the world?

SFSMA wants to raise $750 to fund the digitization of Erno Rapee’s classic 1924 anthology of silent film music, Motion Picture Moods!

Motion Picture Moods contains more than 500 pieces of music organized by mood and by composers who both pre-date the silent film era and those who wrote specifically for the screen.

A benefactor has donated an original copy of the book to SFSMA, but we need to digitize it and add it to the catalogue, and that takes people power.

Help us fund this digitization! SFSMA will include all donor names on the main SFSMA website and on the catalogue page for the volume, and will send every donor a special SFSMA decal as a thank you!

You can donate directly at You do not need a PayPal account to donate! Tag your donation with #givingTuesday so we can properly acknowledge your gift.

Thank you!

The Chuck Berg Silent Film Music Collection

Dr. Colin Roust, Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Kansas School of Music, has been awarded an in-house General Research Fund grant to digitize the Chuck Berg Silent Film Music Collection. Working in conjunction with the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive (, of which he is an officer, Roust will supervise and assist two University doctoral students, Brent Ferguson and Justin Sextro, in cataloguing, digitizing, and uploading the collection to over the summer.


Charles “Chuck” Berg (1941–2016), who taught film and media studies at the University of Kansas staring in 1977, donated his substantial music collections to KU’s Gorton Music and Dance Library in 2000. The Berg Collection includes the film music library of the Grand Opera House in Dubuque, IA. Built in 1890, the Grand was the premiere opera theatre in eastern Iowa at the turn of the century. In 1915, the theatre began showing silent films, a profitable decision that in 1928 led to its conversion into a full-time movie theatre. During the 14 years in which it screened silent films, the Grand’s music staff amassed a sizeable collection of pieces written specifically for accompanying silent films, often known as photoplay music. The Berg Collection’s photoplay music is especially valuable for researchers and present-day accompanists because it includes not just music for a single piano player, but full orchestral parts, which have been preserved in good condition and which feature a number of rehearsal and conducting notes that shed light on how the music was actually used.


The Silent Film Sound and Music Archive is delighted to have a hand in bringing this important collection to a wider audience and hopes to have the project completed by December 2017.


For further information, please contact:
Dr. Colin Roust, Assistant Professor, Musicology, KU, croust [at]

Dr. Kendra Leonard, executive director of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive, director [at]

SFSMA and Music for Villains at Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura writer Cara Giamio has been tracking down a cue for villains that earned its fame through parody. She contacted SFSMA director Kendra Leonard, SFSMA patron Ben Model, and Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra on her way to the truth!

Full article at:

New Music on SFSMA!

SFSMA is delighted to announce that it has completed adding more than 300 pieces and 2300 instrumental parts to the Archive, thanks to the GRAMMY Foundation and Ben Model/Silent Cinema Presentations, Inc. You can find these pieces by searching under “Grammy”–enjoy!

New posts going up

Posts of the c. 300 pieces from the Silent Cinema Presentations, Inc./Ben Model collection have begun going up here on SFSMA thanks to our Grammy Foundation Preservation grant! You can search for these using “Grammy” in the search box. Almost all of these new entries into the SFSMA database have full orchestral parts, many of which were used in performance. Do you know what films any of this repertoire might have accompanied? Let us know if you have silent cinema programs, news clippings, or other information documenting the use of these works in the cinema!

Now available! Music for Silent Film: A Guide to North American Resources

Music for Silent Film: A Guide to North American Resources by SFSMA director Kendra Leonard is now in print!

Music for Silent Film: A Guide to North American Resources is a unique resource on North American archives and English-language materials available in for those interested in this repertoire. Part I contains information about archives of primary source materials including full and compiled scores, sheet music, published anthologies of music, interviews with cinema musicians, periodicals, and instruction books. Part II surveys the English-language scholarship on silent film music in articles, book chapters, essay collections, and monographs through 2015. The book is fully indexed for ease of access to these important sources on film music.





Part 1: Primary Sources

1. Archival Collections

2. Rental and Lending Libraries

3. Instruction Books

4. Photoplay Albums

5. Interviews

6. Books

7. Articles

Part 2: Secondary Sources

8. Scholarly Books

9. Scholarly Articles

Name Index

Title Index

Film Title Index

Subject Index

New audio recordings by Ethan Uslan

I’m delighted to announce that SFSMA now has recordings of more than twenty individual pieces as well as multiple cues from three film scores available in addition to sheet music, instruction books, and other materials. Thanks to the Society for American Music’s 2016 Sight and Sound Award, SFSMA was able to commission silent film pianist Ethan Uslan to record and engineer a selection of published works by prominent silent film composers. Audio files are presented in .aif format, which offer outstanding uncompressed sound and is playable with Windows Media Player, iTunes, VLC, QuickTime, and other audio programs. All of the recordings are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

SFSMA would love to add to this collection of audio recordings. If you are interested in sponsoring or helping support our next recording project, please contact me at director [at] sfsma [dot] org.

To listen to the recordings, follow the links below to each piece, or search SFSMA using keyword: “audio.”


Kendra Leonard, Director of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive

Score Selections

  1. Colburn, George. Antony and Cleopatra, Nos. 7-10, “7. Cleopatra, ‘Behold Noble Antony;” “8. Having gained Antony’s consent;” “9. Cleopatra prepares for Antony’s visit;” and “10. The Eternal Feminine” (Chicago: George Kleine Productions, 1914). 
  2. Hinrichs, George, and Max (Moe) Winkler. The Phantom of the Opera, Nos. 2; 13-14, “Meanwhile in Christine’s Dressing Room” and “I Shall Sing for You” (New York: Belwin, 1925).
  3. Hoffman, Michael. The Sea Beast, Nos. 9 and 12, “Down Rope” and “A Hundred Leagues.” (New York: Descriptive Film Music Co., 1926).

Individual pieces

  1. Allen, Thomas S. “Dance of the Lunatics,” Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Schottisches and Caprices, No. 2 (Boston: Walter Jacobs, Inc., 1921).
  2. Baron, Maurice. “Radio Message,” Belwin Folio of Galops (New York: Belwin, 1917).
  3. Berge, Irenee. “Pizzicato (Petit Ballet),” PianOrgaN Film Books of Incidental Music, Vol. 1: Animal Cartoonix (New York: Belwin, 1925).
  4. Boehnlein, Victor G. “Fairy Flirtations,” Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Schottisches and Caprices, No. 1 (Boston: Walter Jacobs, Inc., 1921).
  5. Borch, Gaston. “Misterioso Infernale,” Schirmer’s Photoplay Series Vol. 4 (New York: G. Schirmer, 1918).
  6. Breil, Joseph Carl. “Molto Agitato (for storms, battles fires, explosions, and consequent mob excitement, followed by victory or rescue),” Joseph Carl Breil’s Original Collection of Dramatic Music for Motion Picture Plays (New York: Chappell, 1917).
  7. Cobb, George L. “Sing ling ting,” Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Oriental, Spanish, and Indian Music, No. 1 (Boston: Walter Jacobs, Inc., 1921).
  8. Lake, M. L. and Lester Brockton. “Hurry (for general use),” Carl Fischer’s Loose Leaf Motion Picture Collection (New York: Carl Fischer, 1915).
  9. ———. “Agitato (sudden or impending danger).” Carl Fischer’s Loose Leaf Motion Picture Collection (New York: Carl Fischer, 1915).
  10. ———. “Lamento (Scenes of grief and sadness).” Carl Fischer’s Loose Leaf Motion Picture Collection (New York: Carl Fischer, 1915).
  11. Leigh, Norman. “Woodland Dance,” Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Novelettes, No. 6 (Boston: Walter Jacobs, Inc., 1921).
  12. Luz, Ernst. “Storm Scene,” A.B.C. Dramatic Set No.9 (New York: Photoplay Music Co., 1915).
  13. ———. “Western Scene,” A.B.C. Dramatic Set No.11 (New York: Photoplay Music Co., 1915).
  14. ———. “Hungarian or mythical foreign scene,” A.B.C. Dramatic Set No.18 (New York: Photoplay Music Co., 1916).
  15. Rapée, Erno. “Three Grotesque Themes,” PianOrgaN Film Books of Incidental Music, Vol. 1: Grotesque and Comedy Music (New York: Belwin, 1925).
  16. Winkler, Max (Moe.) “Dramatic Suspense,” PianOrgaN Film Books of Incidental Music, Vol. 1: Book of Dramatic Tensions (New York: Belwin, 1925).
  17. Wright, N. Louise. “Lullaby,” Motion Picture Moods, ed. Erno Rapée (G. Schirmer, New York, 1924).
  18. Zamecnik, J. S. “Misterioso (stealth, horror, dark scenes),” Sam Fox Photoplay Edition, Vol. 1 (Cleveland: Sam Fox Pub. Co., 1919).
  19. ———. “Varsity Cadets,” Sam Fox March Folio, Vol. 2 (Cleveland: Sam Fox Pub. Co., 1923).
  20. ———. “Love Came Calling,” Sam Fox Loose Leaf Collection of Select Song Themes for Orchestra, Vol. 1 (Cleveland: Sam Fox Pub. Co., 1924).

SFSMA wins a GRAMMY Preservation Grant

The GRAMMY Foundation® Grant Program has awarded the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive a 2016 Preservation Implementation grant.

The Silent Film Sound and Music Archive will digitize the Silent Cinema Presentations, Inc. Collection managed by Ben Model, an important private collection of silent film music, and make it freely accessible through an online repository of silent film music. The collection contains rare volumes of music from Europe and America, all of which offers insight into the composition and performance of music for silent films.

We at SFSMA are grateful to the GRAMMY Foundation for its support and are looking forward to getting the project underway.