A survey of film music by William Hamilton Webber written for the feature films of Ken G. Hall 1932 - 1939
AffiliationVCA & MCM Collected Works
Document TypeMasters Coursework thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2004 Mark Buys
This paper addresses the music compiled by William Hamilton Webber for use in the early sound films of Australian filmmaker Ken G. Hall. Webber’s music, though primarily, but not exclusively, compiled from film library music catalogues is to be referred to as ‘scores’, falling under the second definition of this term described by George Beynon, in 1921: ‘original’, ‘compiled’ and ‘semi-original’. A compiled score being ‘merely the piecing together of published numbers that fit the various scenes and interpret the picture’(Beynon 1921:48). Illustrating is the contemporary term for compiling a score from pre-existing music, in Webber’s era this was referred to as the ‘art of cueing’ or else the art of ‘fitting’ music to the pictures. This art was in a sense analogous to the process of creating a fine garment, since it involved the sophisticated selection of music and fitting together of musical segments. Webber’s use of illustration (cueing), will be explained in depth shortly. Ken G. Hall, leading the creative team at Cinesound Productions, an arm of Greater Union theatres, from 1932 to 1941, produced a total of nineteen feature films in which he used various musical directors and arrangers. Webber was musical director for eleven of these films and conductor for another. This paper is limited exclusively to the work of William Hamilton Webber, thus, the work of his contemporaries is not referred to and Webber’s scores are to be considered on their own merits. In researching Webber’s methods, a connection can be found between his music for sound films and music for silent films in the late silent period. Webber’s involvement in providing music for live theatre and silent films equates to two thirds of his career, therefore it has been assumed that these experiences informed his later sound film work, foundation for this assumption will be explored further in research of his formative studies. Eleven film scores will be surveyed with significant segments or cues (see glossary) analysed for purpose and function. Orchestration and composition in Webber’s underscoring of these films is of less concern, as little of his material was original composition. Moreover, it is beyond the scope of this paper to detect original composition within the pastiche of film library music he used in his music. In researching Webber’s sound film score work as a primary resource, I have attempted to understand the techniques and craft of the earliest Australian sound film music. In doing so, by illuminating his methods of practice, it is hoped that some of the common misconceptions of this earliest form of sound film musical accompaniment can be dispelled.
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