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William E. Chaplin, Classical Forum: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Analyzing Classical Form: An Approach for the Classroom, William E. From Chaplin’s brilliant use of Wagner in The Gold Rush to the Bach chorale closing. Read “William E. Chaplin, Classical Forum: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Music.

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Charlie Chaplin : Chaplin as a Composer

The style is marked and individual. In similar fashion D. W Griffith also composed some musical themes for his pictures.

But perhaps of no other one man can it be said that he wrote, directed, acted, and scored a motion picture. Incidentally, Chaplin even conducted the orchestra, himself, during recordings, an added reason for the satisfying impression of wholeness in the Classkcal films. Chaplin rehearsing with the Abe Lyman Orchestra.

Chaplin as a Composer

When Chaplin was signed by the Essanay Company, he bought a violin on which he scraped for hours at night, to the annoyance of less wakeful actors when they all lived next to the studio at Niles, California. Chaplin plays the violin in The Vagabond, Chaplin playing the organ.

After Chaplin made his first million, he installed a pipe organ in his Beverly Hills mansion. In certain moods he is known to have fingered this expensive instrument for hours at a time.


Realizing the importance of musical accompaniment to the silent film, Chaplin sought to have it reproduced in every theatre exactly as he wished it. But the melodies, with the exceptions noted above, chapliin for the associations they would evoke, were composed by Chaplin. At least twenty numbers in the score could be published as separate and original works.

As was vorm in the scoring for silent pictures, the Wagnerian leitmotiv system was followed — a distinctive musical theme associated with which character and idea. A fanfare on trumpets, over a night scene, opens the picture proper.

It is heard again as a sort of fate theme at moments of crises, such as the count over Charlie in the boxing ring, and his capture and imprisonment. Saxophone bleating, in slightly off synchronization with the lips, mimics the speakers at the unveiling of the moment. This shrill classicak is used not only as a comic note itself, but as a burlesque of the talkies. The theme is repeated seven times when he is in hopeful moods. She had two subsidiary themes, one a pathetique for scenes in her slum room, and the other a violin caprice, for her wistful moments.

The Tramp and the Millionaire, City Lights, A dramatic theme introduces him and is followed by an over-dramatic agitato as he ties the suicide noose. A rumba-like number accompanies the party scene where the tramp swallows the whistle.


Played also behind the tragic of the picture, with its grim and fateful chords, the second has a distinct Puccini flavor. It is true that one or two of the minor numbers are reminiscent.

The famous apache dance is a paraphrase. The ending of City Lights, The tramp, let out of prison, searches for the blind girl. Tramp comes to corner where Girl used to sell flowers Music: Tramp wanders the streets… Music: Tramp Theme played slowly and tragically. Tramp finds flowers in classcal Music: He turns to the girl in the window of her shop laughing at him… Music: Violin Caprice secondary girl theme. Girl touches hand of tramp… Music: Actually, from on, every town of five thousand or over had at least a three-piece orchestra — or an organ.

Nor does Chaplin possess the virtuosity and present grandiose manner of Steiner, where too often sheer bombast attempts to make up for the emotional vacuity in the picture itself. But who, better than Chaplin, could point up musically the tragic-comic adventures of the tramp character he himself created?