From the Guardian, UK: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in Birmingham
Hundreds of musical scores used to accompany silent films in cinemas more than 80 years ago have been discovered in the collection of Birmingham city council's music library, including a theme tune used in early Charlie Chaplin films.
About 500 scores have been uncovered, many including the full parts for small orchestras of between seven and 11 players, not just a pianist. Judging by the titles, the often-fragmentary pieces were selected thematically to accompany similar plotlines. They are frequently self-explanatory: the mysterious manor house, exciting-dramatic, harrowing, creepy-creeps, wild chase, supreme peril, the poisoned cup and mounted police gallop.
"We don't actually know where they came from as they were in separate collections," explained Ali Joyce, the head of the music library. "They seem to have been in our basement for 30 to 40 years.
"We think groups of musicians would travel round cinemas and match the music to the situations in the films."
The Chaplin theme – Marche Grotesque – appears to be a unique example of a score written for a particular artist. It dates from 1916 at the height of the British-born actor's early fame as a worldwide star and was for use when his tramp character appeared on screen. It was composed by Cyril Thorne, a long-forgotten musician who wrote mood music.
The scores have the names of Louis Benson and HT Saunders stamped on them, the latter thought to have been a musical director at cinemas in Glasgow.
Neil Brand, an early film historian said: "This collection gives us our first proper overview of the music of the silent cinema in the UK from 1914 to the coming of sound. Its enormous size not only gives us insights into what the bands sounded like and how they worked with film [but also] the working methods of musical directors. Above all, it gives the lie to the long-cherished belief that silent films were accompanied on solo piano by little old ladies who only knew one tune. When they are played we will hear the authentic sound the audiences of the time would have heard."
Some of the tunes will be heard for the first time in 80 years next Tuesday – not even the librarians have heard them yet – at the launch of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's film music festival, when they will be performed at a free pre-concert event by Ben Dawson, the CBSO's pianist.