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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Music and the Films

The introduction of sound films in 1929 brought great changes. Audiences appreciated the greater reality of films such as The Jazz Singer and Broadway Melody and attendances at the cinema increased. On the other hand the sound films threw out of work a large number of musicians. The silent films needed some musical accompaniment, and, as early as 1906, the Royal Albert Hall in Auckland advertised “living pictures with Gaumont Chronophone Sound Accompaniment”. As the phonograph of the period was not sufficiently pleasant or powerful, most exhibitors relied on a pianist playing “mood music”. There was generally an “effects man” with a variety of devices such as wind machines, thunder sheets, and coconut shells to make the sound of horses' hoofs. The better cinemas provided orchestras, quartets, and singers of such quality that many patrons went to listen to the music rather than see the films. Fuller's Pictures in 1908 engaged the Edgar Collins Orchestral Band to accompany the films, and in 1912 for Hayward's Pictures in Wellington “the Adelphic Ladies' Orchestra discoursed sweet music”. Some silent films were distributed either with suggestions for appropriate music or with full music and effects scores which required competent professionals.

In the 1920s the cinema organ, the “mighty Wurlitzer”, with a wide range of effects, replaced some orchestras or supplemented them, but the standard of music in the cinemas continued to improve in all the larger cities until the advent of “talkies”. Amongst the best-known orchestras was that of Alfred Bunz, who conducted an orchestra of 23 players in the Crystal Palace, Christchurch, and the orchestra of Maurice Gutteridge, in the Regent Theatre, Auckland. From 1928 there was little employment for professional musicians, except in broadcasting and in the National Orchestra, which was established in 1951.

Next Part: Film Censorship