Birmingham & Black Country

Silent movie music discovered at Birmingham library

Selection of music scores
Image caption There are 500 scores and parts in the collection

Hidden musical scores dating back to the silent film era have been uncovered by staff at Birmingham's Central Library.

The unexpected treasures were found by staff preparing for the move to the city's new library in 2013.

The collection includes music used as a theme tune for Charlie Chaplin.

Councillor Mike Whitby, council leader, said the "unique" collection was "a real gem for silent music enthusiasts".

The council said the collection of 500 scores and parts represented silent movie music from between 1915 and 1929.

Mood music

It also gave an insight into the variety of music that was written for silent films.

Some scores would be short pieces composed to go with specific moods or action, for example romance or horror, which directors could match to scenes in films.

Other pieces of music were written especially for particular films.

The collection also includes an example of music being composed for the star rather than the action in the film.

'Marche Grotesque', a piece dating from 1916, was written to be played when Chaplin was on screen.

Neil Brand, a composer and early film historian, said: "This collection gives us our first proper overview of the music of the silent cinema in the UK from 1914 to the coming of sound.

"This is a hoard of considerable value for future scholars of music and performance technique which will reassess many forgotten British composers of light classical music and could fundamentally change our view of silent film music forever."

The council said most of the collection belonged to movie theatre musical directors Louis Benson and HT Saunders.

The new Library of Birmingham is being built in Centenary Square.

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