The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain

01. Conferences and Workshops


Conference I:  (London, 7-9 June 2009) - Textual, Material and Technological Sources

Sound Effects Workshop:  (Univ. of Edinburgh, Cameo Cinema, 13 October 2009)

Performance Workshop: (Royal Holloway, University of London, 27 October 2010)

Conference II:  (tbc, April 2011) - Performance, Realisation and Reception 

a: Conference II: Performance, Realisation and Reception


The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain: Performance, Realisation and Reception

Thursday 7th-Friday 8th April, 2011, at the Institute of Musical Research (IMR) and the Barbican Centre, London

Speakers include: Professor Rick Altman (University of Iowa), Gillian Anderson (Silent Film Historian and Conductor), Professor James Buhler (University of Texas, Austin)

This AHRC-funded Beyond Text Research Network conference shares its second day (8th April) with the 14th British Silent Film Festival (7th-10th April, 2011).

Film score reconstruction: Barbican Cinema, 8 April, 7.30pm                                                         Philip Ellis (Royal Birmingham Ballet) will conduct a reconstruction by Julie Brown (RHUL) of a score by British composer Frederick Laurence for Morozko (Father Frost) (dir. Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky, 1924), a rarely seen and delightful soviet film based on the well-known Russian fairy tale about a stepdaughter who is driven out to face the spirit of winter. Laurence's charming specially-composed score reflects aspects of 1920s musical modernism and has not been heard since it accompanied the film's London run in 1925.

SCHEDULE and BOOKING FORMS now available below:

The registration fee for Thursday 7th April (Senate House) includes catering (with/out supper), but the fee for Friday (Barbican) does NOT. There are several options for food/drinks at the Barbican.

A ticket for the remainder of the BSFF plus the Thursday evening screening may be booked through us at a special rate: £30. Otherwise, tickets for individual film screenings at the Barbican, including the one on Thursday evening, should be made via the Barbican box office: 

Please send your completed booking form to Valerie James, Institute of Musical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU ( by Monday 7 March, 2011. Cheques should be made payable to the University of London.  

The following downloads are available
Booking form for non-speakers
Word147.50 Kb
Conference schedule
Word30.00 Kb

b: Performance Workshop

Silent Film and Live Performance: a workshop

LOCATION: Royal Holloway, University of London, Wednesday 27th October 2010


* morning master class for students with silent film pianist Neil Brand (funding available: see below);

14.00-14.10    Welcome & introduction

14.15-16.15    Workshop 1:    Early live accompaniment

Stephen Horne                   verbal matching with popular songs/‘film funning'/Jackass music...

Actors + violinist & SH         voices behind the screen + music 

Erik Levi                             ‘The Phototune'

Stephen Horne                     cue sheets: use of existing music/photoplay music (Battle of the Ancre)

16.15-16.30    Tea break

16.30-18.30   Workshop 2:     Approaching Comin' thro' the Rye (1923)

Neil Brand                             tonal improvisation

Martin Parker                         contemporary soloist with laptop 

Ian Gardiner                            original score

Gilli Bush-Bailey, NB + actors   original live prologue (including Theme


18.30-19.30    Buffet dinner (Windsor Building)

19.30-21.45   Screening: Comin' Thro' the Rye (Cecil Hepworth, 1923)

                     Accompanied by Neil Brand (pianist)

* Watch this website for updated details.

PARTICIPATION IN MASTER CLASS: To apply to participate in the silent film accompaniment master class with Neil Brand, please state your name, university/college affiliation, address, email address, and include a 300-word statement outlining relevant experience and how participating will enhance your music studies or research. Preference will be given to instrumentalists willing to play live, but we will also consider participants who submit a recorded accompaniment. Successful applicants will be supplied with a short section of film to prepare in advance. Email Dr. Julie Brown by 5pm, Friday 24 September 2010.

RMA SCHOLARSHIP: at least two RMA Scholarships (towards travel to, and up to 2 nights' accommodation in, Egham) are available to facilitate a student's attendance and participation in the master class, or participation in the day as observer. To apply, please state your name, university affiliation, address, email address, estimated cost of travel and whether you will need accommodation, and include a 300-word statement outlining how participating in the day will enhance your music studies or research. If you have applied to participate in the master class, simply state clearly that you would also like to be considered for a scholarship.  Email Dr. Julie Brown by 5pm, Friday 24 September 2010.

c: Sound Effects Workshop The Sound of the Silents

Sound Effects Workshop The Sound of the Silents

Edinburgh University and Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh,

Tuesday 13th October 2009 


This is the first of our two workshop events. This aim of this workshop is to enable participants to explore the use of live sonic practices with silent film. During the course of the day, speakers will discuss approaches to, and the pragmatics of, these practices, in a variety of contexts. Our speakers:

“Sound effects in the silent era: historical evidence” – Dr Stephen Bottomore, film historian

“The Film Explainer”
'Professor' Mervyn Heard, cinema historian and lantern showman, explores the evolution, role and various dark arts of the describer in the early days of cinema.

“The Art of Foley Sound”
Caoimhe Doyle, foley artist, and Jean McGrath, foley recordist

Plus contemporary responses from Dr Martin Parker, Yann Seznec (aka The Amazing Rolo) and more.
The day will run from c. 9–5, and is aimed at postgraduate students of film, sound, and music (& related disciplines) and interested scholars. Due to limited availability, attendance must be booked in advance. We advise early booking to avoid disappointment (a booking form can be downloaded below).

Registration: £10 (to cover lunch and refreshments) - the fee for members of the Royal Musical Association is waived (see booking form).
For further information, please see the forms which may be downloaded below.

We are also organising a showcase of silent films with live accompaniment for the early evening in association with the Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh. Further details tbc shortly. Tickets: £3/£2 conc.

IMPORTANT! two Student BURSARIES (courtesy of the Royal Musical Association):
These cover the registration fee, and provide a contribution towards accommodation for up to two nights and travel. To apply, please state your name, university affiliation, address, email address, estimated cost of travel and whether you will need accommodation, and include a 300-word statement outlining how attending this sound effects workshop will enhance your research. Email to Dr. Annette Davison by 5pm, Friday 11 September 2009,

The following downloads are available
Workshop Information
PDF180.94 Kb
Booking Form
PDF161.88 Kb

d: Conference I Textual, Material and Technological Sources

Conference I Textual, Material and Technological Sources 

Institute of Musical Research (IMR) and the Barbican Centre, London
June 7th, 8th, 9th (Sun-Mon-Tues) 2009

FINAL SCHEDULE and ABSTRACTS (PDF available - see bottom of page)

Sun 7th June, 3pm: The Barbican, Cinema 1

Mon 8th June, 8pm: The Barbican, Cinema 1

Mon 8th-Tues 9th June, 9.00am-5.30pm, IMR (Senate House, Univ. of London)

This is the first of four events concerned with the variety of sonic and musical practices of “silent” film exhibition in Britain. Its particular focus is “sources” and includes presentations by archivists, curators, and facilitators as well as specialists in a number of areas, including film music and silent film.

This is an AHRC-funded Research Network event. It is nevertheless possible for a limited number of non-speakers to attend, paying a day registration fee of £40, including coffee and lunchtime refreshments (£20 student concession). Please note that the conference dinner on Sunday evening and the buffet dinner on Monday evening will be charged at £20 each. Non-speakers are very welcome to join us by booking and paying for either or both in advance).  *Please register in advance to avoid disappointment.*

Please email registration forms to: Mrs. Valerie James (
For local conference arrangements, please also contact Mrs. Valerie James

The following downloads are available
early_cinema__ramme_final.pdfPDF152.10 Kb

Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.