• Performing Spiritualism in the Silent Cinema

    Author(s):
    Kendra Leonard (see profile)
    Date:
    2018
    Group(s):
    American Musicological Society, Film Studies, MS Screen Arts and Culture, Music Library Association
    Subject(s):
    Musicology, Film music, Film history, Music, Religion
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6BC3SX0S
    Abstract:
    The silent film era, usually defined as 1895-1927, coincided with a revival of belief in spiritualism in America. Desperate to find meaning in the deaths of the Great War and the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, the bereaved sought contact with the dead and evidence of an afterlife. Given this fascination with spiritualism, it is not surprising that the topic quickly became a favorite for filmmakers. This resulted in numerous moving pictures that featured the presence of spirits, which in turn required musical accompaniment suited to the subject. Cinema musicians borrowed from the aural atmosphere of the Spiritualist Church, private and public séances, and other entertainments and experiences involving the supernatural. Both professions were ones in which women could not only fully participate, but were thought by many to be better suited than men for the work at hand. The highly gendered musical and moral educations and expectations for women in the nineteenth century, which were intended to prepare women for domesticity, were exactly the training they needed to succeed as professional mediums and cinema accompanists. The code of morals that held up accomplished women as respectable models provided mediums and accompanists with considerable power in determining the aesthetics and practices of their workplaces.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    2 months ago
    License:
    Attribution-NonCommercial
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