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]