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Silent Film Scoring

In 1997, American Composer Maria Newman was approached by Timeline Films President, Hugh Munro Neely, then Director of the Mary Pickford Library, to score the 1919 Mary Pickford silent classic film, Daddy Long Legs. A highly noted film historian and documentarian, Mr. Neely was interested in the music of Maria Newman for its distinctive voice, ceaseless energy, thematic and melodic continuity, and rich imagery, feeling that it would lend itself well to the breathing of new life back into silent classics of our great American film history.

Firstly a composer of concert music, Newman was reticent to take on this initial task. Sensitive to Newman's bold aesthetics in her own field of music and music-making, Neely assured the composer that her musical voice would be utilized as a collaborative force in the restoration (and subsequent DVD release of the film), rather than as a subordinate, giving Newman the freedom to write to the film as though it were indeed a commission for the concert stage.

Seeing the project possibilities in a new light, Newman eagerly rose to this task, savoring the idea that the vintage silents could be viewed in a highly modern, operatic fashion. The composer was able to give herself artistic permission for the characters, storyline and thematic development, both musical and literary, to take on an equal partnership, with both the visual and musical forces working in tandem in a way that had not really been explored in the past.

Newman was further taken with the notion that, just as poetry could be construed very differently by various readers, then so could the emotions, motivations and feelings of the characters in silent film. The music would not need to be wallpaper, nor live inside a box. Rather it would liberated to make a statement, an interpretation, one living composer's vision of what was put to film nearly 100 years earlier.

Newman felt this was a great gift, and is to this day, honored to have the continued opportunity to compose music for the art of silent film. The Malibu Coast Silent Film Orchestra regularly performs Newman's fearless and vivid silent film works for delighted audiences throughout the United States, most of whom have never experienced silent films in the past.

Library of Vintage Silent Films Scored by Maria Newman

Daddy Long Legs (1919)
Mary Pickford (as Judy Abbott)
(Running Time: 85 minutes)
For Piano Quintet and Percussion
-or-  Full Chamber Orchestra
Commissioned by Timeline Films
Released by Milestone Films

The Heart O' the Hills (1919)
Mary Pickford (as Mavis Hawn)
(Running Time: 87 minutes)
Directed by Marshall Neilan
For String Quartet and Percussion
-or-  String Orchestra, Piano and Percussion
Commissioned by Timeline Films
Released by Milestone Films

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)
Mary Pickford (as Rebecca Randall)
(Running Time: 78 minutes)
Directed by Marshall Neilan
For Flute, Two Violins, Viola, Cello, Piano and Percussion
Commissioned by the Mary Pickford Institute and
Grand Performances, Los Angeles

The Love Light (1921)
Mary Pickford (as Angela)
(Running Time: 89 minutes)
Directed by Frances Marion
Produced by United Artists
For Piano Quartet
Commissioned by Timeline Films
Released by Milestone Films

Quality Street (1927)
Marion Davies
Conrad Nagel
(Running Time: 110 minutes)
Produced by Marion Davies
For Flute, Harp, Piano Quintet and Percussion
Commissioned by the Annenberg Foundation
Special Thanks to Robert Board

Tom Sawyer (1917)
Jack Pickford (as Tom)
(Running Time: 45 minutes)
For Flute, Violin and Percussion
-or-  String Quartet
Commissioned by the Library of Moving Images

Cinderella (1914)
Mary Pickford (as Cinderella)
Owen Moore (as Prince Charming)
(Running Time: 52 minutes)
Directed by James Kirkwood
Famous Players Film Co.
For Chamber Orchestra
-or-  Piano Quintet and Percussion
Commissioned by the Omaha Conservatory of Music

Mr. Wu (1927)
Lon Chaney (as Mr. Wu)
(Running Time: 92 minutes)
Produced by MGM
For Piano Quartet and Percussion
-or-  Chamber Orchestra
Commissioned by Turner Classic Movies

The Gibson Goddess (1909)
Marion Leonard (as the Gibson Goddess)
Mary Pickford (as an extra)
(Running Time: 9 minutes)
For Violin, Viola and Piano
-or-  Cello Quintet
-or-  String Orchestra
-or-  Chamber Orchestra
Commissioned by the Omaha Conservatory of Music

What the Daisy Said (1910)
Mary Pickford
Owen Moore
(Running Time: 12 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith for the
American Biograph Company
For String Quartet
-or-  Solo Piano
-or-  String Orchestra
-or-  Chamber Orchestra
Commissioned by the Icicle Creek Music Center
and Timeline Films
Released by Milestone Films

Ramona (1910)
Mary Pickford (as Ramona)
(Running Time: 17 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith
American Biograph Company
For Violin, Piano and Percussion
-or-  Viola, Piano and Percussion
-or-  Cello, Piano and Percussion
Released by Milestone Film and Video
Commissioned by Turner Classic Movies and
the Mary Pickford Institute

Willful Peggy (1910)
Mary Pickford (as Peggy)
(Running Time: 12 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith
American Biograph Company
For Piano Quartet
-or-  String Orchestra and Piano
Commissioned by the Young Musicians Foundation

As it is in Life (1910)
Mary Pickford
(Running Time: 12 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith
American Biograph Company
For Soprano, Flute, Viola, and Piano
-or-  Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano
Commissioned by the Family of Mary Lofdahl

Tender Hearts (1909)
Mary Pickford
(Running Time: 3 and 1/2 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith
American Biograph Company
For Violin, Viola, Piano and Percussion
-or-  Viola, Piano and Percussion
-or-  Cello, Piano and Percussion
Commissioned by the Malibu Friends of Music

They Would Elope (1909)
Mary Pickford
Billy Quirk
(Running Time: 12 minutes)
Directed by D.W. Griffith
American Biograph Company
For Piano Quartet and Percussion
Commissioned by the Malibu Friends of Music

The Dream (1911)
Mary Pickford (as Nell)
Owen Moore
(Running Time: 12 minutes)
Independent Moving Picture Company
(IMP)
For Wind Ensemble and Percussion
-or-  Chamber Orchestra, Piano and Percussion
-or-  Woodwind Quintet and Percussion
-or-  Piano, Violin, Viola and Percussion
Commissioned by the Sierra Symphony Orchestra

Sample Silent Film Scores

Maria Newman on Scoring Silent Film

Maria Newman Silent Film Scoring Featurete

"The Rainstorm" from Quality Street (1927)

"Threat of War" from Quality Street (1927)

"Happy Ending" from Quality Street (1927)