The American Music Research Center and CU Boulder Libraries have acquired a vast trove of silent film musical scores that dramatically augments its existing collections and transforms CU Boulder into a premier center for the study of the live music that was a hallmark of early 20th-century moviegoing.
The vintage scores—more than 3,000 of them in 70 boxes—provide a window into a vivid and stylish corner of American popular culture and represent a major new resource for music and film scholars, students and performers alike.
The addition of the scores, most of which date from 1900 to 1929, means CU Boulder now has “one of the most important collections anywhere,” says Professor of Musicology Susan Thomas, who directs the AMRC.
Nearly all the sheet music once belonged to Los Angeles’ Grauman theater chain, which owned the famed Grauman Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and several other local movie houses. Alumnus Rodney Sauer (MS ’89) bought the scores in 2013 and donated them to CU Boulder this year.
“I would like this repertoire to be known in the same way the repertories of operas are known and plays are known,” says Sauer, who founded The Mont Alto Silent Film Orchestra, one of the nation’s top performers of silent film music.
Music in the silent film era, as today, prompted and intensified viewers’ emotional response to the screen action. The Grauman scores bear titles like “Storm Music,” “The Furious Mob,” and “A Simple Love Episode.”