Abstract to the German research Society (DFG) - Project

Theaterbilder und Musik

(Theatre Images and Music)

According to the Theatre Dictionary from 1839, a "picture" is a "product of imagination or the visible representation of an object made possible by the medium of colour and other materials". Following general standards this definition seems confusing. The modern connotation of the term "picture" implies the photographic impression, whereas older conceptions in fact conceive it - up to the 19th century - as a result of the recipient's imagination, caused by the ensemble of perspective, colour, form and music.

Apart from the main types of Musical Theatre (opera, melodrama, ballet, theatre plays with music) there are less common forms of the connection between the various arts in the 19th century: dioramas, panoramas, early shows of projection, and ‘tableaux vivants’ (living pictures), which represent genuine optical media, made use of music with self-evidence to create an overall event, a performance. This study is focused on the music which was linked to such extremly popular dramatical forms of visual worlds.

On common grounds, the year 1895 represents the initiation of film. The above mentioned pictorial media were preliminary technical forms of the film. Considering the general development, especially in view of the accoustic dimension, a fundamental continuity between those preliminary forms and modern film can be observed. The aesthetic function of the music that was performed together with the first movies since 1895 basically corresponds to the music which accompanied the various pictorial creations in the different arts and media of the 19th century. From this point of view the general topic including the early silent movies can be considered as "history" of film music between 1820 and about 1900.