Film Scores and Technology

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Recording 101: Film Scores!
Did you notice that background music playing when you are watching Harry Potter? How about the songs they sing in the Lion King? Nobody could ever miss the Star Wars theme at the beginning of each movie! The music you hear in the background is the film score and multiple scores create the soundtrack. This music is incredibly important in the movie as it adds mood, setting and drama. According to Steven Spielberg, films without music are “dry and lifeless.” Have you ever been curious about the technology behind this music and how it’s recorded? How about what kinds of instruments are used to create such a masterpiece and how they are incorporated into the score? What studios are used to record such fine pieces? This essay will answer those questions.

Film scoring was first introduced back in the era of silent films when all you heard was music! The music in these select films would tell the story for you. During the era of silent film (1895-1929), the score was primarily played live with the film. Although this was the most common, technology to place sound on the film was still available. Getting the sound on these films was not easy. In 1902, the “first really serviceable system of mechanically synchronized sound was the Gaumont Chronophone.” (Buhler 279) This device was not successful in the United States, but had longer success in Europe. The device was incredibly expensive, being too expensive for most theaters. As time continued to move on, so did the technology. A device called the Vitaphone was invented by Western Electric, a device that “would prove to be the first commercially viable system for synchronized sound.” This disc-based system was used widely throughout the 1920s and by the beginning of 1927, films had successfully added sound to the films (both music and talking). The success of films such as The Jazz Singer further inspired work for films with voice and music recorded onto the film. By 1932, microphones,...
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