Book Review: The Music of the Silent Films

Ben Model the music of the silent films

Book Review by Lorraine Dmitrovic:
The Music of the Silent Films

It was a great pleasure to discover the distinguished hardcover music book “The Music of the Silent Films: 50 original pieces and arrangements for solo piano with authoritative text, film stills & photographs.”

Overall, it’s a thrilling compilation of music (by the original composers) and image selections curated and compiled by piano accompanist, Ben Model. An introduction by Graham Vickers, with additional text by Vickers, Glenn Young and Model, completes the presentation. (260 pages, including endpapers.)

My son as a dedicated keyboardist and piano player marvelled at a hardcover book that combined challenging sheet music, film history and photos of vintage film stills and vintage sheet music covers. At a higher than “hunt and peck level” ability, and with a first exposure to vintage silent film accompaniments, my son has found the arrangements to be “better than interesting” – and his interest has now been piqued, not only about the music, but the whole silent film era as well.

“The Music of the Silent Films” is also naturally educational, perhaps the perfect tool to introduce film music and film history to younger and the youngest generations. The film images and music evoke every emotion possible, crescendos with action, pauses with reflection, unfolds and follows romantically, decrescendos serenely, and sometimes charges forward at attack-pace. Teachers of music and other subjects will find this a delight and straightforward, with many applications, such as biography, music history, and film history, etc.

In light of it being a great learning experience in the sights and sounds of an earlier era, some of the greatest actors, actresses and composers are featured. We get the history, from the first dim lights appearing and then growing stronger, the famous actors, the gifted, the romantic players, the biographies of illustrious and lesser known composers. It’s a treasure chest topped with gold; one then discovers that the compilation is gold all the way through. The excellence could only be surpassed if the same team researches, writes and issues a Part II volume.

“The Music of the Silent Films” is a book worth its weight, icing classic film music with authenticity and appeal for the modern day. It also has the potential to one day be loved by your grandchildren’s grandchildren. An heirloom to be loved and passed on to the next piano player/film lover in the family.

Ben Model has truly contributed to a masterpiece here. The music and photos belonged to each other in the misty past of cinema. He has faithfully helped resurrect the best of that past, and has introduced it to, and simultaneously created a niche for it in, the contemporary world of film and music. Once again, and especially if played on the instrument(s) of the time, the silent screen images and music of early movie parlours and palaces will reign timeless and with renewed sparkle.

Definitely “Bravo!” and “Bravi!” to Ben Model and the other authors and contributors.

Copyright © June 2016: Lorraine Dmitrovic

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