Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Audissino, Emilio. “Gottfried Huppertz’s Metropolis: The Acme of ‘Cinema Music.’” In Today’s Sounds for Yesterday’s Films: Making Music for Silent Cinema, edited by K. J. Donnelly and Ann-Kristin Wallengren, 45-63. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

There is an inherent difference between music of silent films and sound films; the former, sometimes referred to as cinema music, is music performed in the cinema usually experienced as a filler for silence while the latter, sometimes referred to as film music, is music physically placed on the film and experienced with narrative function in mind. However, some silent film scores act as if they could have been composed for this latter, narrative period, such as Gottfried Huppertz’s score for Metropolis (1927), due to its orchestration, use of leitmotivic techniques, and manipulation of musical material.

Due to cuts upon the film’s American release, Huppertz’s original score was heavily edited and mostly forgotten, to the point where the original score was not used in the 1984 remastering of the film by Giorgio Moroder. However, in 2008, the closest version to the original film was rediscovered in an Argentinian archive, along with Huppertz’s sketches and timings. The reconstruction of this earlier, more complete version reveals that the score contained many of the narrative techniques now associated with later film music, mainly the leitmotiv technique. It also includes references to other works: the melodic and harmonic language is rooted in Wagner, Mahler, and Richard Strauss’s style, while the “Machine Theme” echoes similar music by George Antheil and Arthur Honegger. In addition to these stylistic allusions, Huppertz also uses outright quotation, including the Dies irae chant upon the deaths of the workers in the machine room and La Marseillaise when the False Maria leads the mob to destroy the machines. In the process, despite its earlier time period, Huppertz’s score takes on the qualities and ethos of later Hollywood film music.

Works: Gottfried Huppertz: Score to Metropolis (45-57).

Sources: Camille Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre (51); Anonymous: Dies irae (53); Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle: La Marseillaise (53).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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