Reaction to comments on the MTO 0.1 essay

David Neumeyer

REFERENCE: mto.93.0.1.neumeyer.php

Volume 0, Number 2, April 1993
Copyright © 1993 Society for Music Theory

[1] Many thanks to Bob Kosovsky and Steve Smoliar for the Schoenberg/film-music leads. Nosferatu, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, do seem such obvious choices for Schoenberg’s Op. 34 that I will indeed spend some time hunting up releases (or performances).

[2] As to the Schoenberg/MGM story, this has been confused so many times over the years with a similar Stravinsky/MGM story (Stravinsky wanted $100,000 and a year to compose his score—the money was no problem; it was the schedule that killed the deal) that many skeptics—including myself—have assumed that only one of them is true. William Rosar (in Clifford McCarty’s Film Music I) has documented the Stravinsky story very thoroughly, but, if Bob’s statement about Schoenberg sketches for The Good Earth is correct, it would appear that perhaps BOTH stories are in fact true. Rosar does discuss MGM’s motivations for approaching well-known “serious” composers—they were quite similar to Warners’ reasons for hiring Erich Korngold: to bring in a prestige name (read “European concert composer”) at a time when extensive symphonic underscoring was very fashionable. Which plays into the “tinsel” question, no?

[3] And, a footnote/correction: David Broekman was music director for Universal and it’s well known that he did not write some of the music that is credited to him (this was quite common in the early 30’s—and at some studios (including Paramount and 20th Century Fox) much later). The music for Frankenstein is not credited and I took the word of one usually reliable source that Broekman wrote the music for the main titles. But in fact he didn’t—William Rosar again (quoted in Randall Larson’s Musique Fantastique) has found that it was Bernard Kaun, who was the son of Hugo Kaun and is best known as an orchestrator (he worked with Max Steiner quite a bit).

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David Neumeyer

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