IN WHICH reference book is "fire-fighting" listed next to
"funeral", and you can, with a flick, get from "monotony" to
"orgy"? It is, of course, the compendious Motion Picture
Moods for Pianists and Organists, an anthology of
music compiled for cinema organists who were looking for material
to accompany silent films.
We were treated to examples of these and many other musical
moods, courtesy of Mark Kermode and his guest, the musician Neil
Brand, on Silent Film (Rado 2, Tuesday). Repeated from
February, this fascinating documentary comes as part of a season of
programmes, The Sound of Cinema, which is being aired across the
Kermode has a soft spot for silent cinema - one that the public
also developed when recently the film The Artist swept the
Oscars. In that film, the importance of music in projecting
emotional and dramatic information is obvious. But when the
responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of live musicians,
the theatrical nature of early cinema also becomes clearer.
Like the music, which is suffused with bowdlerised Wagner and
Rimsky-Korsakov, this documentary was full of entertaining titbits.
I, for one, had no idea that Charlie Chaplin composed the music for
many of his greatest films; or that musicians were employed on the
sets of silent films to create mood music for the actors.
That all this expertise was made redundant within the space of a
couple of years, when talkies arrived, reveals much about a medium
in which there is no place for the out-of-date. That the old is
abandoned as risible is a function of promoting the new, although
the studios originally adopted sound as a means of controlling what
music accompanied the films, not because they thought anybody would
be interested in hearing actors speak.
How did the evolution of the Hollywood dream factory influence
the way in which we think about dreams? It might have made an
interesting extra episode in Lucy Powell's weekday series on Radio
4 last week, Our Dreams: Our Selves, which took on the
task of narrating a history of dreams and dream psychology.
It is 100 years since Freud's The Interpretation of
Dreams was published. But the investigation of dreams is an
ancient pursuit which even Homer dabbled in, when he has Penelope
expostulate on the difference between truthful and wayward dreams
entering the consciousness through gates of horn and ivory.
For much of the time, the story is about the tussle be- tween
psychological and revelatory theories: Aristotle tells us that
dreams are irrational and biological; and various religious
traditions insist on their function as emanations of divine
Most recently, it looks as if Freud is back in the game. His
notion that dreams are all about wish-fulfilment, and that the
ultimate purpose of dreaming is to perpetuate sleep, is now
supported by the latest neurological research. Central to this is
the observation that people who do not dream suffer from a lower
quality of sleep. We need our dreams - however perverse or
frightening they might be.