Mus. written to acc. action in documentary and feature films. In the days of silent films a pianist or small orch. in the cinema pit provided a mus. commentary on the action, usually by a selection of appropriate popular operatic and orch. items. But the first piece of ‘original’ film mus. was written by Saint‐Saëns (Op.128) for H. Lavedan's film L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise, 1908.
An ambitious development for its day was the silent film made in 1924–5 of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. For this, mus. from the opera was adapted for th. orch., with some additional items for extra scenes. With the advent of the ‘talkie’ and the development of the sound‐track, the opportunities for the use of illustrative mus. were gradually seized and exploited by composers. In Hollywood, the capital of the cinema industry, mus. for many films was written by Max Steiner and Erich Korngold and later by Miklós Rózsa, Dmitri Tiomkin, Alfred Newman, and André Previn. Distinguished film music was written by Bernard Herrmann for Welles's Citizen Kane and for a series of Hitchcock films, notably Psycho. Fr. composers such as Auric wrote for films, and in Britain practically all the leading composers—Britten, Walton, Berners, Vaughan Williams, Rawsthorne, Bax, Ireland, Alwyn, Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, and many others—have written film mus. Some of the greatest film mus. was written by Prokofiev for Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, and Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Milhaud, Honegger, and Copland also wrote effective film scores. Walton's Henry V and Vaughan Williams's Scott of the Antarctic are highly regarded. Mention should also be made of the scores by Michel Legrand, Maurice Jarre, John Barry, Henry Mancini, John Williams, and Burt Bacharach, while Addinsell's clever pastiche of a romantic pf. conc., the ‘Warsaw’ Conc. from Dangerous Moonlight, perhaps made a wider audience aware of the potency of film music. There have been examples of brilliant use in a film of mus. which was not written specially for it, e.g. Rachmaninov's C minor pf. conc. in Brief Encounter; Mozart's C major pf. conc. No.21, K467 (2nd movt.) in Elvira Madigan, the ‘Sunrise’ opening of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra in 2001—a Space Odyssey, and the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th sym. in Death in Venice. In a special category was Fantasia (1940), in which Walt Disney cartoons were used to illustrate mus. by Bach, Beethoven, Dukas, Ponchielli, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, and Stravinsky, played by the Philadelphia Orch., cond. Stokowski. And there is Schoenberg's Accompaniment to a Film Scene, Op.34 (1930), comp. for no particular film or scene.