At the center of this project lies the Austrian music film of the silent and early sound era. Starting point for this research are the music numbers that are prevalent in myriad films not only in the sound era but also in silent cinema.
Our recently completed research on the sound and music in Viennese cinemas has yielded ample evidence that portrays Vienna’s cinemas as venues of music performance.
These results shall now be complemented by an approach that focuses on music numbers in Austrian silent and early sound films (1912–1933). The analysis of the films will be informed by the knowledge about their performative exhibition context. In this way, Austrian music films of the silent period will be rendered “audible” again, and some of the music numbers contained in such films only become identifiable through such an approach. The examination of these music numbers entails a number of questions that span the complex process of integrating music into film narratives, notions of stardom in film and musical theatre, and the visual staging of “mute performances” to the ideological subtexts of such numbers.
In the process, issues such as the musical performance in the film and their accompaniment will be explored as well as the reciprocal influences of film and the coexisting art forms operetta, Volkstheater and the Wienerlied.
Although most Austrian music films of that period are forgotten to date, their international influence can be detected in European and American cinema alike, most notably in the early Hollywood musical. By focusing on music numbers in silent films, this project will join in revising the notion that the film musical emerged first with the recorded sound film.
Thus, the aim of this project is to develop a new form of analysis of these films, based on extensive archival research and including the context of the musical live accompaniment of the film exhibition in the analysis.