Monday, October 6
On today's date in 1927, a landmark film entitled "The Jazz Singer" received its premiere showing at the Warner Theater in New York. "The Jazz Singer" starred Al Jolson and is usually credited with being the first "talkie"—the first motion picture to successfully incorporate prerecorded music and spoken dialogue.
The musical score for "The Jazz Singer" was a potpourri of melodies including Hebrew liturgical chant, pop tunes of the day, and bits of Tchaikovsky tossed in for good measure. Both the music and dialogue were recorded using the Vitaphone process, essentially a set of disc recordings synchronized for playback with the film's projector.
The previous year, the New York Philharmonic had participated in the first Vitaphone projects, recording Wagner's "Tannhauser" overture as the first-ever "music video," and performing the soundtrack for an otherwise silent drama entitled "Don Juan," starring John Barrymore. When those Vitaphone features premiered at the Warner Theater in August of 1926, for the first time loudspeakers replaced live musicians in the theater's orchestra pit.
Within a decade, Hollywood orchestras would be recording the classic film scores of European émigré composers like Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner, and within two decades American composers like Aaron Copland and Bernard Herrmann would be writing their memorable film scores as well.
But back in 1927, all that was well in the future, and, as one of Al Jolson's lines in "The Jazz Singer" so prophetically put it, "You ain't heard nothin' yet."
Music Played in Today's Program
Felix Arndt (1889 – 1918) An Operatic Nightmare (Desecration Rag No. 2) Paragon Ragtime Orchestra; Rick Benjamin, cond. Newport Classics 60039
Erich Wolfgang von Korngold (1897 – 1957) The Prince and the Pauper filmscore National Philharmonic; Charles Gerhardt, cond. RCA/BMG 0185