Les musiciens dans les programmes des salles de cinéma parisiennes entre 1906 et 1914

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Musicians in Parisian Cinema Programs Between 1906 and 1914

This contribution proposes to study the musicians’ practice in Parisian cinemas through the analysis of programs published between 1906 and 1914 and preserved by the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

As Rick Altman or, more recently, Martin Barnier have pointed out, it is difficult to have a precise idea of what musical accompaniment of film screenings in the so-called silent period was like, especially before the 1920s. In fact, while sound accompaniment helped define the cinema show through the prism of its uniqueness, few sources provide information on its musical content – a situation partly caused by the protean nature of film exhibition.

However, the shift to permanent venues primarily dedicated to film exhibition – which began in December 1906 in Paris with the construction of the Omnia-Pathé – seems to have led to the creation of a new profession, that of movie theater musician. Indeed, by emphasizing the musical character of film exhibition in these venues, the programs mention the musical accompaniment and name the musicians. The study of these rarely commented documents will thus be an opportunity to shed light on the different practices of musical accompaniment in Parisian theaters before the Great War and to individualize its actors. This approach will also allow us to see how the shift to permanent venues primarily dedicated to film exhibition did contribute to the advent of the new profession of film musician.

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Céline Pluquet (Université de Paris 8)

PhD Candidate in Film studies at the University of Paris 8 – Saint-Denis – Vincennes, Céline Pluquet is writing her thesis on L’accompagnement musical dans les salles parisiennes entre 1907 et 1929. Her research focuses on the history of silent cinema, music and cinema and programming. She is currently a teaching and research assistant at the Cinema Department of the University of Paris 8 – Saint-Denis – Vincennes.