Professor Julie Brown | Professor of Music
“My why... is to understand the history of the most powerful audio-visual media of today."
My current research focuses on the sounds and music that accompanied the screening of silent film in the early years of the cinema. I want to understand how and why these early audio-visual practices developed; practices that were to form the foundations of today’s movies, television and video games. It turns out that the popular image of a pianist improvising along to a silent film was by no means the norm. My work has uncovered a vast and fascinating range of musical practices; everything from live sound effects behind screens, or a lecturer explaining the film, to mood music based on pre-existing classical or light music. Not until quite late – mainly in the 1920s – did composers start putting these materials together in special scores. Writing an original score from scratch for a film was very rare until the talkies went global in the 1930s. Through this research, I’m really hoping to illuminate the history of music with moving pictures. Contemporary culture is saturated with audio-visual material. We sit at our computers, we watch televisions, we watch films, we play video games and this has a history. What I’m doing is digging up the pre-history of practices that now seem so familiar. My why is to understand the history of the most powerful audio-visual media of today.