Title: The Relations between Sound and AvantGarde Film in the Silent Era
The ‘silent’ era of cinema is a deceiving title; while there may not have been spoken words, sound played a key role in the avantgarde films of the age. Although many films during the silent era of film did not pay much attention to sound (instead focusing on visual cinematic stimuli) the choice of music for other films was extremely important. The relationship between sound and the avantgarde films, however, could be extremely close, and extremely important to the overall meaning of the picture.
Music and film during the silent era came in many forms. The closest relation of sound and film came in an experimental form developed by several silent era directors. These directors thought of their musical scores and visual media as acting in the same rhythm. In fact, many of them thought that their films were a visual portrayal of music itself; they had rhythm, highs, lows and bold images meant to imitate the fluctuations of a musical score. Many films, as a result, were crafted to directly relate to their accompanying music. However, this style of filming sometimes could also create a chasm between sound and film. Sometimes, directors would avidly oppose using sound and music at all in their avantgarde films. The reasoning behind this was that the directors did not want the influence of auditory music on their cinema. They wished the ‘musical’ film to speak for itself – to provide an undeniable sense of musicality without any music actually present. In this way, a lack of sound actually supported the messages and emotions of some avantgarde films.
In some avantgarde films, original tracks and pieces were crafted to specifically fit the film’s content. While a somewhat rare occurrence, it was still a powerful one. In these films, sound and cinema worked together to create a unified piece with a singular message, story or impact. Some directors and producers even experimented with sounds that were not musical, though this was far less common. Synchronizing music with action was how many directors further emphasized the feelings, narratives and artistic merits of a film, even though there was often no speech to accompany it. Many of these tracks have been lost, but those that remain are stunning to hear in sync with their films. Though coined the ‘silent era,’ this period of avantgarde filmmaking was, for many, anything but silent. Through the use (or lack of use) of sound, the stories played out in the visual medium became more vibrant and emphatic on their audience.