Abstract. By focusing on pantomime and cinema music and on synchronization and timing practices, this article aims to change the idea that synchronized sound only arrived with the talking film. It compares the musical synchronization in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation with that in the filmed pantomime Histoire d’un Pierrot, and in an effort to identify other possible models for Griffith’s synchronization practices, traces the history of pantomime and pantomime ballet music in America from 1891 to 1916. Pavlova’s pantomime ballets and Max Reinhardt’s pantomime Sumurun emerge as potential models for Griffith and composer Joseph Carl Breil. Cabiria and Rothapfel’s presentation practices are also considered. To establish why Griffith may have emphasized pantomime in his publicity for The Birth of a Nation, the similarities in the developmental trajectory for cinema and pantomime are described, establishing for America what had been established for Europe by Carlo Picardi in “Pierrot at the Cinema.” A number of examples of stop watches being used to synchronize the music with the picture are documented, and the synchronization practices of Camille Saint- Saëns, Pietro Mascagni, Henry Gilbert, Louis Silvers, Joseph Carl Breil, and Mortimer Wilson are described. Finally, it is suggested that nondiegetic music is an archeological relic of cinema music’s origins in pantomime, where it did and still does have a hailing function, calling attention to the gestures, actions, facial expressions, and body language of the players and as such plays a much more important role in a moving picture’s plot development than has heretofore been acknowledged.

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