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Miceli, Sergio
(ed. and transl. by Marco Alunno)


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Tant qu’il existera, par le fait des lois et des mœurs, une damnation sociale créant artificiellement, en pleine civilisation, des enfers, et compliquant d’une fatalité humaine la destinée qui est divine; tant que les trois problèmes du siècle, la dégradation de l’homme par le prolétariat, la déchéance de la femme par la faim, l’atrophie de l’enfant par la nuit, ne seront pas résolus; tant que, dans de certaines régions, l’asphyxie sociale sera possible; en d’autres termes, et à un point de vue plus étendu encore, tant qu’il y aura sur la terre ignorance et misère, des livres de la nature de celui-ci pourront ne pas être inutiles.1

[Préface] Hauteville-House, 1er janvier 1862


Note from the Editor

In order to avoid too many notes from part of the editor, emphases in italics as well as words in Chinese (simplified Mandarin), Cyrillic, English, French, German, ancient Greek, Japanese and Latin that belong to the original text have not been indicated. Hereafter, translations from/to Chinese (simplified), Cyrillic, German and Italian dialects are by the author, from Spanish and, of course, English are by the editor and from French are by both. Expressions in ancient Greek and Latin have been translated unless they are commonly used also in English. Explanations or translation added by the editor to a note by the author are found in a new line under the same note. Both these and translations of texts for which no published English translation exists are indicated with [EN] (Editor’s Note) or [ET] (Editor’s Translation).

Foreword I (First of all it is necessary to briefly elucidate some crucial and quite anomalous characteristics of this work)

Differently from my previous publications where every statement was motivated by one or more bibliographical references, in this work willingly there are not many (except for some required passages that could not be omitted). There are several reasons for such a ‘turn’ and I would rather not bore the reader by listing all of them. I will just say that my polemic position toward the Italian (and foreign) world of musicology is one of the main motivations for a change that, not surprisingly, occurred in a particular moment of my life. I will leave the reader who goes over the four parts of this work free to guess the other reasons. Despite the lack of bibliographical references that until now were used to support my texts, the reader will still find anyway a bibliography in the Appendix to Part IV. I feel urged, though, to stress an aspect I care a lot about: in a text on media the essential bibliographical references consists of audiovisual products and the webography. From this point of view, the only hindrance to a research is represented by the availability of a document, exactly as it could happen in any other field of study.

Even though the first motivation that brought me to write this essay is about the numerous multimedia versions of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables (1862), Part I will examine phenomena that apparently do not have anything in common with the main subject. However, they have indeed something in common: for example, as far as I know, they have never been either studied in musicological or anthropological terms, neither in other fields close to human sciences. If the reader is willing to read personal and more objective opinions, as it were a sort of parallel tale that might ‘reveal’ some analogies with the main theme, he/she is very welcome. Otherwise, it is possible to skip Part I without missing to the logical understanding of the other Parts (II, III and IV) where Les Misérables is always on the forefront.

Here is the subject of Part I: Very successful performances. From kitsch to artistic potentiality. Since the contraposition between kitsch and work of art now seems to be a little bit outdated, it will be necessary to briefly ‘update’ the aesthetic positions on the subject (in the Conclusions to Part IV). Moreover, the four parts of this text are the outcome of a drastic selection aiming, in my opinion, to focus on the most representative features of each genre or kind of show.

Finally, a few specific observations:
While speaking in Part I about military parades, traditional Russian music, Celtic Dance, military Tattoos, the Johann Strauss Orchestra, etc., the reader will find many remarks on women’s skirts’ length or on female clothes in general. Obviously, this is not due to a form of senile personal obsession. In fact, I think that, especially in military or pseudo-military contexts, the presence or lack of eroticism are ‘weapons’ whose potential has been very well calculated by the high offices of the army as well as by costume directors of other kinds of shows. And I do not think that one needs to be a costume historian to ascertain and underline a simple length. Yet, that length is important because is the hint to other kinds of intentions and, as such, I always pointed it out.

Now a confession (the first of a series that will follow). This should sound like a search for comprehension from the part of young and promising scholars around the world. Here it is: although, as a specialist on the XX century I felt obliged to get documented on Rock since its origins on, and despite the fact that this research made me aware of its great importance both in custom and culture, I have never been able to fall in love with it.

This work has been realized by a retired Italian musicologist (born in 1944) who taught Music History at the Florence Conservatory (for 35 years) and History of Film Music at the University of Florence and Rome “La Sapienza”. These data mean many different things: for example they mean that paradigmatic and influential figures belonging to my generation — Adorno, Benjamin, Eisler, Eco, Barthes, etc. — nowadays no longer influence anyone.2

2 Special thanks, in addition to those expressed in the Acknowledgements, goes to Renata Scognamiglio, former student of mine ten years ago in Rome and now highly esteemed colleague and affectionate friend. Being a very accurate and cultivated reader, she critically questioned my work. I agreed with some of her observations and if this text has improved since then I mainly owe it to her. Similar words apply to the editor of this work, Marco Alunno, whose confidence in me never failed.

Foreword II

This work aims to have both a didactic function and a pedagogical use. I hope that one day this will be accomplished, but it is not meant to provocatively overturn opinions and productive, well-established and frequently untouchable structures. An analytical work should contribute instead to the creation of a framework within which specialists may discuss with and even confront each other. The latter is undoubtedly a very ambitious goal, therefore let us move on without any expectations regarding its fulfillment.

The polemical tone often used in the present work is due to an unjustifiable position taken by many musicologists — especially Italians — starting with those dealing with the XX century. They manifest a prejudice toward phenomena that are extremely important but, perhaps, not ‘sophisticated’ enough to become part of their interests. They seem too often oriented toward epiphenomena that later become themes of eternal debates within a very limited group of specialists. All this might seem obvious or maybe not: it depends upon the freedom of the scholar.

Therefore, I will say it more clearly as a musicologist not in line with the others: from the musicologists’ side, especially the most distinguished ones, the cause of a generalized disinterest toward the subject examined here, is their ignorance, in the etymological sense of the word. Consequently, this unleashes a series of prejudices that lead the musicology world to a poor or totally absent attention to events that generates, be it right or wrong, the enthusiastic reaction of a very wide audience — something never seen in the world of educated music. Hence, these events cannot be ignored any longer. Unfortunately, the historiography of the other history of music and performing arts in the XX century (film music, opera in film, musical, musical comedy, radio and television music, that is, the largest part of applied music) will be plenty of gaps. I am not saying that we must speak well about it, but we need at least to speak about it!

Along with the lack of an unequivocal aesthetic evaluation — which is frequently implicit, ambiguously implicit (I will not come back on this) — there are two other factors that need a preliminary clarification: I) the persistent carelessness toward applied music on behalf of those who should be its privileged commentators; II) a sort of ramification in a variety of fields of study, namely, an apparently new traversal interest that may be able to overcome the barrier of specialism.3

3 I say ‘apparently new’ here as I am thinking of the historical vanguard movements of the XX century: Dadaism and Surrealism in France, Holland and, sporadically, other countries; Expressionism in Germany; Futurism, Suprematism and Constructivism in USSR; Futurism in Italy (but different from the Russian Futurism, also not a very clear-cut aesthetic current). For many of these movements, the concept of ‘genre’ seemed obsolete and they showed that both with facts and programmatic manifestos.

I. With regard to the persistence of carelessness, we should consider that in cinema alone — and keeping to the main subject of this work — there are something like 70 film versions of Les Misérables, all of them freely inspired to Victor Hugo’s novel. This fact has different meanings, one being the appropriation of Jean Valejean’s story by the masses, and the consequent interest the international production companies have had for it. Once we think that Hollywood in particular, but also many European production companies, have aimed for the show business for decades, it becomes obvious that first it was necessary to ‘interpret’ the audience’s taste. Then, in case of an uncertain indication, it was imperative to ‘educate’ the audience to like a certain genre. In my opinion, one of the most remarkable aspects of this situation is that an essentially mercantilist conception of art did not prevent the United States to produce important films, some of which became milestones in the history of the XX century. On the other hand, it is unquestionable that worldwide audiences have always had a special predilection for historical dramas. It has been even more so in Europe, the United Kingdom and France, mostly thanks to the Romantic mélo to which Les Misérables partially belongs.4

4 See Emilio Sala. L’opera senza canto, Il Mélo romantico e l’invenzione della colonna sonora (Venice: Marsilio 1995). See also the Éditon DVD 2001, La littérature populaire, une révolution culturelle (XIXe siècle et debut XXe siècle), Collection “Présence de la litterature“ © SCÉRÉN-CNDP, 2008. Two very short excerpts (“Qu’est-ce que la littérature populaire?” and “L’apogée du mélodrame au theater” are available also in Apple iTunes and iTunes U (in and (last accessed Jan. 2015).

Such an abnormal proliferation of films means that from 1907 to 2012 French directors mainly, but also North-American (of different origins), English, Italian, Scottish, Japanese, Mexican, Arabian, Indian, Turkish and Danish have been attracted to the same story by Hugo. They filmed it for cinema or television and, sometimes, the same production company released more than one version of it. Larry Larson said about the musical-theater version: “In 1985, a translated adaptation [from French] opened at the Barbizon Arts Center in London and later found its home at the Queen Theater in London”.5

5 Larry Larson, "Les Misérables" - On Stage with Larry Larson, 04/23/2010, Podcast in Apple iTunes (last accessed Feb. 2015).

II. Concerning instead the spreading of traversal interests in the study of applied music, let us recall that since the story of Jean Valejean is a drama that somehow can reach all humanity, it has been also the subject of radio dramas, silent films and non-musical sound films with acclaimed interpreters. Such apparently uniform phenomena should then be compared with the realizations on stage,6 which are also quite varied. Similarly varied are the didactic versions of Les Misérables that are made in Europe (particularly in the UK) and then distributed worldwide, as are the very impressive achievements coming from the Far East and the United States. The globally spread European versions found their counterpart in the numerous North-American (and sometimes South-American) adaptations. Surprisingly, even countries with long traditions in the performance arts such as China, Japan, and countries from the Arabian and African worlds showed interest in Les Misérables. In some cases they did it, though, because they sympathized ideologically with the subject of the novel. This point will be analyzed later on.

6 The reader will understand further on that the expression "on stage"; when referred to the most recent settings of Les Misérables, is used as a convenience. See Part IV.

What has been said so far refers to the documentation gathered for this essay and is valid at least up to the famous musical filmed in 2012: a work of Tom Hooper realized with great technical and expressive mastery. The fact that the Academy Award did not appreciate it enough is just another demonstration of how the major film competition in the world is artistically and aesthetically deceptive. Luckily, there are festivals where aesthetical and commercial principles fight against each other. They ignore, as much as they can, both the rules of a still practiced Good Neighbor Policy of Roosveltian nature,7 and the cultural ethnocentrism applied either consciously or accidentally, which would be even worse. It is better to pass over a very critical — obviously — appreciation of the Academy Award. Let us look at other festivals, instead: for example, as a partial countertrend, one can think to the Berlin or Cannes Film Festivals. There are more festivals that search for a compromise between commercial needs and pure filmic values: Locarno Film Festival, Moscow Festival, the Biennale d’Arte Cinematografica in Venice, etc. The latter has, for example, the merit of having awarded with the Golden Lion important films from Japan — i.e. Hana-bi [Fireworks] by Takeshi Kitano (1997) — and China (although in such an extremely wide and varied country we should distinguish among areas so different as for the language and traditions). The following is just as an example of recent Chinese movies premiered in venues other than Venice: Ba wang bie ji (Farewell My Concubine, dir. Kaige Chen, 1993), Dung Che Sai Duk (dir. KarWai Wong, 1994), Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, dir. Ang Lee, 2000), Fa yeung nin wa (In the mood for Love, dir. KarWai Wong, 2000), Sè, jiè (Lust, Cautions, dir. Ang Lee, 2007), Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (dir. Wen Jiang, 2007), and Yi jiu si er (Back to 1942, dir. Xiaogang Feng, 2012).8

7 As it is known, between 1937 and 1941 Franklin D. Roosvelt established different forms of international collaboration, especially with Brazil and Argentina where the danger of expanding Nazism was a real possibility. Walt Disney adhered to that policy and showed it with the realization of short films that mixed animation with real images: Saludos amigos (1941) and Three Caballeros (1944). In the present text, a reference to the Good Neighbor Policy should be intended as the metaphor of a dormant, usually political scope that hides behind the comforting content of a formally attractive facade. For a better contextualization see Sergio Miceli, Film Music. History, Aesthetic-Analysis, Typologies, trans. and ed. Marco Alunno e Braunwin Sheldrick (Milan: Ricordi, 2013), 750 ff. Cinema again has been the vehicle for a revival of the Good Neighbor Policy through the James Bond series and other movies. Source: many DVDs, Archive S. M., Florence.

8 One should always mention the place of production (omitted here for lack of space). In this specific case, for example, it would allow the reader to distinguish among those films that were produced in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan and Beijing. As a quick and useful reference one may consult Marco Dalla Gassa and Dario Tomasi, Il cinema dell'Estremo Oriente. Cina, Corea del Sud, Hong Kong, Taiwan, dagli anni Ottanta a oggi (Torino: UTET, 2010); and M. Müller and A. Nicosia, eds., Cento anni di cinema cinese 1905-2005, "Ombre elettriche" (Roma: Gangemi, 2005). Source: Archive S. M., Florence.

This concise description of point II cannot be complete without at least one more element: the traversal interests from part of different genres. The reader will see, in fact, that a Celtic dance might have something in common with the Tattoos that take place every year in many towns and countries all over the world. The virtuosity component associated to a sort of downplaying humor make these military numbers actual pieces of dance. But this is not all. These military parades, performed in China, South Korea, Russia and North-America in the presence of the highest public authorities, sometimes include performance features that have nothing to do with the parade itself. Some successful kinds of performances would not strictly enter the ‘show’ category, but in this text my arguments have often an anthropological standpoint, so that even a military parade can be judged as a sort of entertainment show (thus must be, at least, in the intention of the organizers and of those who attend it and intensely applaud it).

Every genre examined here has a pronounced multiformity that calls for other genres and, in some cases, the same musical piece is used more than once in genres of different kinds. The Gael — Promentory, better known as the ostinato Theme from The Last of the Mohicans (with Daniel Day-Lewis, dir. Michael Mann, music Trevor Jones, Randy Edelman and others, 1992), is a paradigmatic example. We can find it in live performances for violin and percussion (Jenny O’Connor and Circa Paleo at the Texas Renaissance Festival in Houston) or in promotional videos — e.g. the version by violinist Taylor Davis with the accompaniment played by a string orchestra — in a 2008 and 2010 Irish Tattoos, both performed by the Royal Edinburgh Military Band, and in a CD recorded in 1999 by the Royal Scots Dragon Guards (Highland Cathedral, Scotdisc, second tracks; there should be also a DVD release of it). In these kinds of ensembles, melody and harmony are typically played by bagpipes and the rhythmic section by military drums. The Gael has been performed also in some Irish dance shows,9 as well as in the version by Trevor Jones who, during a film music concert, conducted the Spanish RTVE Symphony Orchestra playing his10 music for The Last of the Mohicans. For the moment being, I think that no other examples of extreme multifariousness and genre assortment are necessary. In any case, more will be mentioned later. The conclusion is: even in folk shows it is possible to appreciate different grades of bad taste and Kitsch, although nowadays the definition of this concept has been frequently questioned. This means that it is possible to venture a critical evaluation also with regard to some artistic productions that the “official” musicology, in fact, ignores on principle or simply is not aware of.

9 However among the Irish Dance’s YouTube videos there is a fake realized by an active prankster. With regard to the difference between active and passive YouTube users read further on.

10 The composers of the music track for the film are three, plus several orchestrators. See Sergio Miceli, Film Music, 348, 361, 494.

To such traversal interests we must add two other characteristics concerning the stylistic (1) and the audience’s point of view (2). 1. The former entails the use of effects (light, smoke machines, synchronized bursts, etc.) initially created for rock concerts, but later adopted everywhere, including Les Misérables (military parades are an exception since are traditionally and necessarily performed en plein air)11. 2. In addition to this, we must not forget that the common denominator in these kinds of shows is the constant presence of very large audiences who always participate with an enthusiasm and an engagement unknown to ‘serious’ spectacles.

11 French expression for “outdoor” [EN].

One of the ambitions of this essay is to deal with phenomena that lay between culture and entertainment,12 the most important of which is animated cinema13 — quite often underused, as we shall see in Part III but also illustrated books, comics, etc., up to videogames and other means of expression typical of our times such as the Flash Mob.14 However, my analysis of Les Misérables could not be ‘complete’ without a quick review of transcriptions for small ensembles and reductions for one or two instruments (including karaoke) of the most memorable excerpts of the original score.

12 The difference between culture and entertainment entails a basic flaw that the present work should be able to dissipate. It should be clear, in fact, that the persistence and diffusion of entertainment phenomena may be considered, in retrospect, as attributes of a cultural reality, otherwise, just to make an example, a good deal of the historiography of musical theater from the XVII century onward would be worthless.

13 Not animated cinema in general but the animated cinema on the subject of Les Misérables.

14 Since it is a quite recent phenomenon (it seems that the first Flash Mob took place in New York in 2003), I think it is useful to provide a short explanation. The expression is composed of the word ‘flash’ (quick) and ‘mob’ (meant both as ‘public gathering’ and ‘mobile’, referring to cell phone). It consists in a short musical action with instruments or a prerecorded track realized by a number of people who gather in a public space apparently by chance. They ‘improvise’ a famous piece through dancing, singing and playing in an open or closed space — usually a square, a railway station or an airport. At the end of the performance everyone disperses as if nothing happened. Such a kind of show is used both for public events (celebrative or political) and private occasions (e.g. a marriage proposal). Source: YouTube 2013-2014.

On the other hand, it would have been necessary to dedicate a chapter to the review of the contemporary recording productions both in CD and online, which seems to be nowadays the most successful system of distribution since Apple iTunes (I refer in general to music with no physical frame). Some facets of LPs, VHSs, DVD-Data, or other devices such as the multimedia CD-ROMs that have been promptly outdone by new systems. Although Les Misérables has had a privileged seat in each one of these technological areas, there is not enough space to examine them thoroughly. Therefore, the reader should be ‘content’ with some information on the audiovisual materials taken as a reference and provided in the conclusion of each chapter. In any case, the largest amount of sources is found in DVDs/CDs and YouTube.

Why YouTube (and to a lesser extent Vimeo and others)? First of all, for its virtues: to my knowledge, there is no other comparably extensive video database in the world. YouTube is used by both passive users who just watch and sometimes download (even scholars have begun to understand how useful it is) and active users who upload videos (among them there are software, hardware and household appliances’ producers). Passive users can find videos for all tastes: comedy, games, pets, any sport, politics, softcore sex, serious panel discussions, satire, and amateur and professional, but not yet successful musicians who upload their homemade recordings for self-promotion. There are also big names of the show business ranging from old artists — the first to have been recorded — to newcomers. YouTube is also a market where promotion (arguably meaning true information) and support (instructional videos on “how to do it”) share the same video platform with ruthless amateurish and professional tests of the latest technological gadgets. YouTube’s success is supported also by its presence in many other important websites. Nonetheless, the most remarkable and profound aspect of this video-sharing website consists of its countless active users who, hiding sometimes behind a pseudonym or unintelligible languages, post what is interesting to them. Except for some skepticism, this mass of users deserves the gratitude of all passive users, including me, of course. The access is free so far, but, while I am writing these words (Winter-Spring 2015), I read about a project to be soon enforced that would offer two different kinds of access: a free one, as it is now, and a payment access with no advertisements.

Despite all I have said above, it is not accidental that in my quite long teaching experience I have always discouraged my students from a naive use of YouTube. In fact, with regard to film music, especially for silent films, one would frequently come across unacceptable post-synchronized copies that are sometimes put on the market by distributors who refused to pay the copyright fee for the use of the original music, which is often recorded on the occasion of the film restoration. Sometimes it is even worse: the post-synchronization is a homemade editing carried out by the user to juxtapose his/her beloved music to his/her beloved movie. This kind of user, whether or not he/she knows it, is a follower of Giorgio Moroder who, in 1984, evidently experiencing a prolonged sense of omnipotence, made a ‘History’ pastiche with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), even though the film possessed an original post-synchronized15 score by Gottfried Huppertz (1887-1937).16 But, how many were aware of that?

15 Post-synchronization, although didactically necessary, is a thorny question because a silent film is thus perceived as a sound event. This habit irremediably corrupted the psycho-perceptive and, hence, aesthetical sphere. In fact, post-synchronized silent film and sound film are totally different things. I briefly analyzed such a difference in Sergio Miceli, Musica e cinema nella cultura del Novecento, 3ª enlarged ed. (Rome: Bulzoni, 2010), 249-77).

16 Live version performed at the 60° Berlin Cinema Festival in 2010 in the Friedrichstadtpalast. Of the several versions available in the market, the best is undoubtedly The Complete Metropolis, 3 DVDs Bluray, with a 50-minute documentary on the film’s restoration by ALPHA-OMEGA (Munich, 2010) that includes 25 minutes of previously unreleased scenes found in Buenos Aires and other places. As a bonus, The Complete Metropolis’ s music is a performance of the original Huppertz’s score played by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and directed by Frank Strobel [and Otto Harzner] (Kino Lorber films, Transit, Murnau Stiftung, Warner Home Video, 100025938, 2011). See also Paolo Bertetto, Fritz Lang. Metropolis (Turin: Lindau, 1990). Sources: Archive S. M., Florence.

What should be particularly stressed is that those who are responsible for such juxtapositions and those who are so kind to upload on YouTube some rare video, too often do not quote their sources and provide the recording’s data. Therefore, once the searched video has been found, the scholar is now in front of a series of philological verifications. Likewise, information found on another very useful website such as Wikipedia needs to be always verified. From this point of view, the difference between YouTube and Wikipedia is that the latter openly states to be only partially or potentially reliable, while the former is left to the user to judge.

If it is true that one of YouTube’s strengths is being a bottomless repository of video information, is also true that its utmost anarchic soul is often irritating. For example, in a video performance of a piece from the Western repertoire of cultivated music (the so-called ‘classical music’: a slightly ethnocentric definition that should not be used) just the name of the interpreter is mentioned, while the composer — as it is typical — the orchestra, the conductor, the place and the year of production are completely neglected. Moreover, YouTube frequently offers very similar versions of the same video but with different titles. One might recognize them because of the video quality and/or the content of the images. On the other hand, philological analysis is not an option for the aficionados who might lack of the specific tools for that kind of approach. Therefore, the data they provide are often of no help to the specialist. One last observation regarding the data provided by the generous ‘donor’ concerns the language. Except for the main European languages that every scholar should know at least at an elementary level, comments in Cyrillic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or one of many Arabian dialects, catch any Western reader unprepared.

In the following second part of this Forward, I should go back to a subject that I mentioned at the beginning, but that I did not develop enough: the often implicit and only rarely explicit aesthetical belief that stands behind an analytical work. The exception is represented by some well-known scholars whose interests go beyond film music and whose aesthetic tendencies are evident both in their writings and in their entries in an encyclopedia. Therefore, my aesthetical judgment will be made explicit and, if it is not clear enough, will be openly revealed in the Conclusions to Part I. However, an answer will be mandatory; one that explains the reason for the aesthetic evaluations emerged from the brief analysis of each phenomenon. I will try, above all, to dodge the well-known, bad habit of implying but not stating one’s own aesthetic point of view. That point of view should always be declared as squarely as possible, even when the author is beset by terrible doubts about a necessarily clear-cut definition of his/her own aesthetic affinity. In this case the author should then declare what aesthetic areas are not viable or must be completely averted.17

17 When I am assaulted by these doubts I always recall a beloved poem (Non chiederci la parola — Don’t Ask Us for the Word) from Eugenio Montale’s Ossi di seppia (Cuttlefish Bones) (1920-1927). The last quatrain says: “Non domandarci la formula che mondi possa aprirti, / sì qualche storta sillaba secca come un ramo / Codesto solo oggi possiamo dirti, / ciò che non siamo, ciò che non vogliamo”, Eugenio Montale, L’opera in versi, Torino: Einaudi, 1980, p. 27. Source: Archive S. M., Firenze. “Don’t require from us the formula that can open worlds for you, / rather some syllable crooked and dry like a branch. / This alone today we can tell you, / what we are not, what we don’t want.” In A Selection of Modern Italian Poetry in Translation, ed. and trans. Roberta L. Payne (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004), 127 [EN].

I will end this introduction with some information that cannot be deduced from the Index. The timeline followed throughout this work is partially chronological, except for Part I, which is particularly sui generis. In other words, let us take a paradigmatic example regarding Part II: although the most ‘ancient’ media representation of Hugo’s novel is a silent film, I preferred to talk first about radiophony and, then, move straight to silent cinema and, eventually, sound cinema. Such a decision might seem due to a rational motivation, but behind it there is also a merely irrational one: paraphrasing the Bible, in the beginning was the radio.18 Since it is an irrational belief, it would be hard to explain it with a few words. I will just say that if cinema at the beginning of the XX century was, especially in Europe, still in search of its own identity (as it was lacking synchronized sound and montage), radio was far ahead. As early as the 1920s, radio could show a sort of enviable ‘completeness’, enhanced later by both the FM transmission (the same ultra-short wave technology used in television broadcasting) and stereophony , thus making the previous AM transmission (short and medium waves) obsolete. They are important technical improvements that can significantly ‘update’ the expressive possibilities and the listening qualities of the communication mean without affecting its substance. This has nothing to do with cinema and the progressive addition of new elements that, in a way, altered its nature: first of all montage (because, as I have already said, it is the most important characteristic of film language), then the transition from black & white to color (not everyone liked it), the widening of the screen from 4:3 to other aspect ratios (some exulted, other grumbled), and last but not least, the switch from silent to sound cinema. Just to mention the latter, let us remember that since 1926 many authoritative supporters of the ‘silent art’ complained about what was happening (we are talking of such figures as the artist Charlie Chaplin or the theorist Rudolph Arnheim).

18 It is just a wisecrack. The Bible (Genesis, 1.0) says: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Acknowledgments and Dedication

First of all, I want to thank my London friend Enrica Sciandrone for her essential help in finding several documents of absolute importance toward my research. Enrica has been generous and patient. I think one could not ask more to a friend. I thank also Mrs. Marie ( from Saint Médard en Jalles (France) for providing some old VHSs. Thanks from the bottom of my heart also to my friend Bai XueHui for her crucial help in solving linguistic problems in a variety of Eastern idioms and for checking my translations into Chinese and Japanese.

A special praise goes to my dear friend and colleague Marco Alunno. After having recently translated and edited almost 1000 pages of my manual Film Music, he accepted to put his uncommon competences to the service of the present work. For a review of his translation Marco was assisted by Mrs. Rhoda Di Stanislao.

I want to send a sign of deep gratitude to Alexander Chernyshov (Александр Чернышов), Editor in Chief of ESM Mediamusic and Maxim Bysko (Максим Бысько), Administrator and Deputy Editor of ESM Mediamusic. They showed willingness, confidence and cordiality in accepting my proposal and accompanying me in a quite long journey.

A lot of gratitude goes to my dear friend and colleague Renata Scognamiglio for having read the text of Part I in advance and having found the time to give me valuable suggestions, despite her numerous occupations.

Likewise, I would like to thank my friend and colleague Roberto Giuliani for having read a draft of the chapter on radiophony in Part II and my friend and colleague Maurizio Corbella for letting me cite his forthcoming work Il podio e lo schermo: La musica per film nella programmazione delle orchestre sinfoniche dell’EIAR e della RAI.

At this rate, though, I should thank many other friends-colleagues who did not materially help me but comforted me with their esteem and affection..

Finally, I especially thank my wife Rita Pagani and my daughter Chiara for the patience they had with my continuous and now proverbial mood swings during the writing of this essay.

This essay in four parts is dedicated to Bai XueHui of East Běijīng. It would have never seen the light without her gentle and delicate incitement. In other words, I owe her the initial engagement in a subject — Les Misérables — whose innumerable and exciting multimedia potentialities I have found out later on. In closing, it is my desire to summarize the concept in Chinese Mandarin, Bai’s mother tongue.


Florence, August 2015, S. M.

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