WAS TCHAIKOVSKY THE ORIGINAL FILM SCORE COMPOSER?
Before there was film, there was programmatic music. Tchaikovsky’s ballets and operas have a clear visual content to follow, but not his beloved fantasy overtures such as Romeo and Juliet, and the 1812 Overture. Clearly he had a visual content that he was following, (a film that was playing in his mind’s eye.) There is a distinct “program” in Romeo and Juliet to follow in his composition, that brings the visions to listener, as we follow every blow of the sword fight where Romeo kills Tybalt to his tragic death with Juliet. Or the attack of Napoleon’s French soldiers in the 1812 Overture to their retreat and defeat as the triumphant Russians bells ring out. The same can be said of Tchaikovsky’s other programmatic works such as: The Tempest, The Storm, Hamlet, Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem, Sleeping Beauty, etc.
Music has always had a tendency to “borrow” from preceding great composers, whether credit was given, (such as Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini), or not. The current use of “temping” in film scores brings forth such criticisms such as John Williams is ripping off Korngold in Stars Wars, but who was Korngold ripping off? Until recently I thought the 1938 score to “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was using Tchaikovsky’s 4th and 6th symphonies as the score, until I discovered it was Korngold’s score. So where does it all begin?
Certainly we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Tchaikovsky himself was groomed by the “Russian Five” of whom both Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov are renowned for the programmatic tone poem “A Night on Bald Mountain.” There is always more to be gained by going to the source of something than by imitating an imitation. So where does it all begin? Do we stop at the very earliest films or should programmatic music count as “films” before there was even celluloid? If we do, then who was the best example of this type of composition? Who would be the original?
So I ask again: “WAS TCHAIKOVSKY THE ORIGINAL FILM SCORE COMPOSER?”