Arthur Honegger composed his first sound film scores in 1933–34. For Les misérables, Raymond Bernard, who was under contract at Pathé-Natan to direct big-budget theatrical films that would compete with Paramount's French-language productions, expected Honegger to provide intermittent orchestral underscoring for already filmed sequences that privileged dialogue over music. For Rapt, the musically trained Dimitri Kirsanoff used independent financing to collaborate from the start with Honegger and Arthur Hoérée on what the director called “a hybrid form … in which music, image, and dialogue work together.” The innovative electroacoustic and sound editing techniques in the soundtrack for Rapt have, I argue, overshadowed the strikingly reciprocal relationship between the soundtrack's more conventional instrumental underscoring and the images on screen. Honegger theorized in 1931 that, in sound film, music's “autonomy” would free it from the burden of mimesis. Instead, the images on screen would teach listeners about music's abstract “reality.” In practice, however, in Rapt, mimetic music and musicalized sound effects bridge the gap between aesthetic goals of hybridity and practical demands for intelligible dialogue. My analysis of the abduction, washhouse, storm, and dream sequences in Rapt demonstrates that a successful hybrid of sound and image ultimately has the potential not just to use images to pin down music's elusive “reality,” but also to use music's mimetic possibilities to influence our reading of ambiguous imagery. It also shows that music does not need to be in itself groundbreaking in order to contribute to groundbreaking innovations in sound film.

Arthur Honegger seems to have left a false impression of his film music. For it is not the epic commentaries of Les misérables or Mermoz, so prized by music critics, that will stand the test of time, but rather the discreet, intelligent, and overlooked scores, such as those of L'idée and Rapt.

François Porcile1 

Arthur Honegger was one among many composers to earn critical and popular renown for both film scores and concert music in interwar France. Writing music for sound film provided composers with much-needed income during an era of economic crisis and aesthetic retrenchment in leading orchestral and operatic venues. Several of them, Honegger included, also supplemented their income with regular contributions to the French press, reviewing rare performances of new works while lamenting what they saw as the cowardice of concert societies who programmed canonical works at the expense of contemporary music. Honegger, however, saw composing music for films as more than just a stopgap economic necessity. In his view, it was also a crucial opportunity for composers to reach new audiences while, at the same time, using the synchronization of music and image to teach them how to listen to the contemporary music that they were said to disdain.

In two seminal articles of 1931, “From Sound Cinema to Real Music” and “Taking Leave,” Honegger theorized about the relationship between sound film and what he termed music's “reality.”2 He had long objected to the interpretation of his symphonic works, such as Pacific 231 (1923), as realistically imitating nonmusical sounds.3 In one of his 1931 articles on sound film he specified that

if the goal of the art of music were to be a sort of photography of sounds, it would not be justified. This sort of sonic reportage, albeit moving and rich in possibilities, is the domain of the radio and to an extent of the cinema, more than that of the composer. What I wish to express is not the sonic reality of a spectacle, a machine, or a human drama, but its spiritual significance in the artistic mode that suits me best.4 

Pacific 231 “was never an onomatopoeia of a locomotive,” Honegger declared, mocking a “well-intentioned” critic who “praised me for having powerfully evoked the sea, believing, on the evidence of the title, that my topic was the Pacific Ocean and not the locomotive.” In his view, the ideal listener “could and should have recognized that most classical and most austere of musical forms: that of the chorale prelude of Bach, which was the model on which this work was constructed.”5 According to Honegger, music's abstract nature was to blame: “Music has no representation that is real, concrete, and perceptible in an identical fashion for all listeners.”6 His solution? Sound film. With this new technology, he argued, “the musician would be able to transmit to the understanding of the listener, who translates everything into images, not those created by that listener's imagination, but the concrete images of the composer's own work, fixed with clarity and unity.”7 

Honegger first wrote music for sound film in 1933–34, composing scores for two very different films: Raymond Bernard's Les misérables, a big-budget commercial epic for the French production company Pathé-Natan,8 and Dimitri Kirsanoff's Rapt (known in English as The Kidnapping), an independently financed “prestige project” by a pioneering director of the French cinematic avant-garde.9 In general, the prevailing model for commercial sound film in France as well as in Hollywood in the early 1930s was the spoken theater, a “worldwide phenomenon,” as Dudley Andrew has noted, that “was particularly prevalent in Paris, a city abundant with international theater talent, a city that was in fact arguably the European capital of both media.”10 Many scholars agree that the coming of sound brought with it a fascination with dialogue; innovations such as directional microphones, increased fidelity, and ultraviolet recording met the demand in sound film for clarity in the delivery of dialogue.11 David Bordwell writes that “the chief difference between silent and sound film composing was quantitative, in that less music was needed for the dialogue film.”12 Accordingly, music's role in early sound film was often akin to that of incidental music in spoken theater: instrumental preludes and interludes to establish time and place, and intermittent dramatic underscoring whose volume was carefully calibrated so as not to compete with the dialogue.

Bernard ambitiously envisioned Les misérables as three feature-length films to be shown in separate screenings, and this was reflected in the way the film was premiered in three segments over a three-week period in February 1934.13 In accordance with the prevailing theatrical model for sound film, Les misérables showcases the onscreen performances of the acclaimed French theater actors Harry Baur (Jean Valjean), Charles Vanel (Javert), Charles Dullin (Monsieur Thénardier), and Marguerite Moreno (Madame Thénardier), using direct sound to pick up the nuances of their delivery. The sheer length of Bernard's original 281-minute adaptation of Victor Hugo's celebrated novel resulted in a score of approximately sixty minutes of music, an impressive total that nevertheless amounted to only one-fifth of the duration of Bernard's film.

By contrast, Rapt exemplifies the ways in which the transition to sound film in France differed from that in Hollywood.14 Vertically integrated corporations such as Pathé-Natan were the exception rather than the norm in 1930s France. Many French films were produced by small, owner-managed production companies that hired freelance workers anew for each film, an approach that worked against the formation of generic conventions that prevailed in Hollywood. In the case of Rapt, an individual investor named Stefan Markus founded Mentor-Films in Paris with a capital of only 20,000 francs for the purpose of producing Kirsanoff's first sound film, signing on to the project as “artistic director.”15 In addition, a high percentage of people who worked in early sound film in France were trained not in the theater but in the fine arts, with a strong tendency toward modernism and the avant-garde.16 Those involved in Rapt included not only director Kirsanoff and composer Honegger, but also Honegger's co-composer, Arthur Hoérée, and the film's screenwriter, the Romanian-born poet Benjamin Fondane. Honegger later argued that it was Kirsanoff's brief early career as a professional musician in silent film orchestras that had predisposed him to place a high value on the role of music in Rapt.17 For his part, Honegger composed only twelve minutes of music for Rapt, the rest of the score's cues being supplied by Hoérée, the composer to whom Honegger often turned for assistance on film scores when he was short on time. Despite the relative brevity of his musical contribution to the film, Rapt provided Honegger with an ideal test case for putting into practice his 1931 theories about sound film and its potential to revolutionize the relationship between composer and listener in contemporary concert music.

Set in the rural Swiss Alps, Rapt tells the story of the calamitous consequences of an impulsive decision by Firmin (Geymond Vital), a French Catholic shepherd, to kidnap Elsi (Dita Parlo), a shepherdess from the neighboring Bernese Protestant village, in retaliation for her fiancé's callous stoning of his dog. The film is loosely based on Swiss novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz's novel La séparation des races (1923), and was the first film adaptation of the fiction of Ramuz, who appears on screen in Rapt in a minor speaking role.18 Kirsanoff, Ramuz, and Markus collaborated with screenwriter Fondane to transform the novel's stark opposition between two neighboring cultures into a more cinematically conventional love triangle by inventing the character of Jeanne, the fiancée whom Firmin discards after kidnapping Elsi.19 For the part of Jeanne, Kirsanoff cast Nadia Sibirskaïa, the leading lady for almost all his silent films, most notably Ménilmontant (1926), an oft-cited classic of French cinematic impressionism.20 

Close-up shots of Sibirskaïa's expressive face were far from the only sign of continuity between Kirsanoff's silent and sound film styles. Dialogue is noticeably sparse in a seventy-seven-minute film that boasts a remarkably abundant fifty-eight minutes of music.21 Indeed, Andrew has described Rapt as “a singular attempt to recover for the sound film the aesthetic of cinematic impressionism,” particularly in the allegorical nature of the plot, the prominence of the mountainous landscape, and the experimental approach to camera angles and lighting effects.22 Similarly, when reviewing Rapt in 1935, Valhéry Jahier commented crisply that “the traces of an aesthetic closely linked to a certain school of silent film [i.e., cinematic impressionism] lead me to believe that the director wishes to see sound film as but a means of obtaining a musical accompaniment ne varietur, neglecting all the uniquely cinematographic issues that have arisen since 1928” and that Rapt is, “in short, a work of rare artistic integrity but one whose author, I am certain, must think nostalgically of the years when sound film did not exist.”23 

What was stunningly original in Rapt was its soundtrack. In contrast to the rapid establishment of new conventions in sound film in Hollywood, French directors such as Kirsanoff, Jean Vigo, and Jean Grémillon were still experimenting with divergent approaches well into the mid-1930s.24 Kirsanoff saw in sound film the potential for “a hybrid form … in which music, image, and dialogue work together.”25 By all accounts, Kirsanoff, Honegger, and Hoérée worked collaboratively, producing a film in which Kirsanoff's avant-garde silent film visual style was paired with a soundtrack that eschews Hollywood's obsession with exact synchronization between lips and voice, privileges music over dialogue, and blurs the boundaries between music, dialogue, and sound effect. What little scholarly attention Rapt's soundtrack has received has focused on Hoérée's technological innovations, such as zaponage (drawing with black ink directly on the soundtrack of optical film) and son à l'envers (playing in reverse a recording of music performed backward), strategies the composer himself discussed in great detail in an article for a special issue of the Revue musicale devoted to music and sound film that appeared in the same month as Rapt's December 1934 Paris release.26 The one exception is a monograph on Kirsanoff by Jürg Stenzl, who also analyzes Hoérée's orchestral contributions, especially his manipulation of musical themes representing the film's protagonists in passages such as the overture and the abduction scene.27 In the scenes I analyze, however, it is primarily the simpler instrumental passages by Honegger (which Stenzl describes, not inaccurately, as “character pieces”)28 that interest me, not merely as objects of musical analysis, but for their complicated, reciprocal relationship with the images on screen.

In this article, I examine how Honegger's 1931 theories on music and sound film, and the fundamental relationship between music and image, were put to the test in the music he composed for Les misérables and Rapt in 1933–34. The two films allow us to evaluate the extent to which theory matched up with practice in Honegger's collaboration with two different directors in two fundamentally different contexts: Bernard, backed by the enormous resources and equally enormous revenue expectations of a major commercial studio, and Kirsanoff, funded by a sympathetic producer-cum-patron who gave him free rein in making his first sound film. I begin by comparing scenes from Les misérables and Rapt that largely substitute onscreen vocal music for dialogue, in order to juxtapose the two directors' different approaches to synchronization between sound and image. Next, I consider how, in contrast to Bernard's conventional foregrounding of dialogue in Les misérables, Kirsanoff made room for complex musical forms such as fugue and figured chorale in the soundtrack for Rapt by eliminating dialogue from several critical early scenes. Lastly, I analyze the ways in which Kirsanoff, Honegger, and Hoérée worked together in Rapt to create innovative solutions to the sonic competition between music, dialogue, and sound effect in sound film.

Honegger theorized in 1931 that, in sound film, music's “autonomy” would free it from the burden of mimesis. Instead, the images on screen would teach listeners about music's abstract “reality.” However, his music for Rapt not only features the mimesis he dismissed in 1931; the soundtrack's interaction with the film's images also highlights the major weakness in Honegger's theories: namely, his assumption that in sound film the meaning of the image is stable whereas that of the music is not. In Audio-Vision, Michel Chion argues powerfully to the contrary that, in film, it is sound—and by extension, music—that speaks to us more directly than images do: “There is always something about sound that overwhelms and surprises us no matter what—especially when we refuse to lend it our conscious attention; and thus sound interferes with our perception, affects it. … [Sound] interprets the meaning of the image, and makes us see in the image what we would not otherwise see, or would see differently.”29 My analysis of the abduction, washhouse, storm, and dream sequences in Rapt demonstrates that a successful hybrid of sound and image ultimately has the potential not just to use images to pin down music's elusive “reality,” but also to use music's mimetic possibilities to influence our reading of ambiguous imagery. It also shows that music does not need to be in itself groundbreaking in order to contribute to groundbreaking innovations in sound film.

Filming the Act of Singing in Les misérables and Rapt

Singing permeates early sound film. Common in both Hollywood and France was the practice of “song plugging,” in which filmed performances of popular songs were intended as cross-promotions of both song and film; not infrequently, commercial considerations took precedence over plot.30 In Les misérables and Rapt, however, there are no plugged songs; the onscreen singing of a noncommercial folksong that occurs near the beginning of each film is integrated into the film's plot. In Les misérables, the screenplay adheres closely to the passage of Hugo's novel that describes Jean Valjean crossing paths with a boy idly singing a folksong, while in Rapt, Elsi appears to be singing her own folksong as she wanders in the mountains, unaware of the danger she faces from Firmin as he quietly stalks her from below. In both cases, the sequence of onscreen singing provides valuable information about the characters who sing, those who hear them sing, and the setting of the narrative. It also temporarily suspends dialogue, giving music pride of place in the film's soundtrack.

In filming a musical performance, the simplest choice for a director is to shoot at eye level, the camera thereby acting as a stand-in for the eyes of a concertgoer. The Vitaphone shorts of 1926–31 provided a model of sound film that aimed to reproduce, as faithfully as possible, attendance at a live musical performance, with little to no visual editing by the director. The sight of a singing character on screen also highlighted the technology of synchronized sound that, as Chion reminds us, “was still something magical” in the early 1930s, “an enchanted encounter between two entities that produced the spark of life.”31 Moreover, Rick Altman pinpoints the common sight of “lips moving in time with the soundtrack” as preserving that sense of magic by masking the technology that is the actual source of the sound, the loudspeaker: “pointing the camera at the [person speaking] disguises the source of the words, dissembling the work of production and technology.”32 Edge numbering for the soundtrack as well as for the image track allowed filmmakers to engineer meticulous synchronization between the sound of a voice and the image of a singing face, whether the singing was recorded on set simultaneously with the shooting of the images or recorded afterward in postproduction.33 

Less than ten minutes into Bernard's Les misérables, we hear Honegger's music for the first time since the orchestral underscoring for the film's opening credits. On screen, Jean Valjean is seen walking through the French countryside on his way to the village of Digne, his first stop after his release from prison (see Video Example 1). He does not sing in this scene; indeed, there is no onscreen source for the jaunty melody we hear in the alto saxophone as we see Valjean march across the screen (see Example 1).34 Strikingly, the instrumental music is all we hear at this point. Instead of sound effects providing the sound of Valjean's footsteps on the gravel road, we hear the steady plodding of quarter notes in the accompaniment (piano, pizzicato cello) that seemingly regulate the pace of Valjean's steps: he is marching to music he cannot hear. This, of course, is Mickey-Mousing, which, no less than onscreen song performances, demonstrated the novelty of synchronized sound and image, only this time with nondiegetic instrumental music. In one of his 1931 articles on sound film, Honegger praised Mickey-Mousing as “a curious art that addresses itself at the same time and in equal measure to two senses. … In Mickey-Mousing it is clear that it is the music's very rhythm that gives birth to the images.”35 What happens next in Les misérables, however, undermines the assumptions Honegger made in his enthusiastic theoretical embrace of Mickey-Mousing. The instrumental underscoring's dominance of the soundtrack lasts for less than thirty seconds, just time enough to hear two measures of the accompaniment alone followed by a full statement of the eleven-measure melody. At the exact moment at which the violins begin to repeat the melody (m. 13), now harmonized in the strings and flute, Valjean's feet disappear at the bottom of the screen. We now hear his footsteps as a heightened sound effect: the scraping sound of his boots against the gravel road creates its own counterpoint to the violin's melody. As the repeated melody comes to a close, the volume of the music decreases rapidly to make way for the third element of a sound film's soundtrack: dialogue. “Is that Digne, that village, over there?” (“C'est Digne, ce village, là-bas?”), Valjean calls to some passing farmers, segueing to both the end of the scene and the end of the musical phrase.

Video Example 1

Valjean's march to Digne in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 1, part 1 (8:41–9:51)

Video Example 1

Valjean's march to Digne in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 1, part 1 (8:41–9:51)

Example 1

Example 1

Arthur Honegger, Les misérables, “Jean Valjean sur la route” (Jean Valjean on the road), mm. 3–13 (Video Example 1: 0:05–0:31)

The admiration for Mickey-Mousing that Honegger expresses in his 1931 article clearly relates to cases in which “the music's very rhythm … gives birth to the images.” Valjean's march to Digne illustrates the opposite approach: the images were shot and edited first, after which Honegger wrote music to fit the scene's seventy-second length, which he did, artfully, by composing a melody that, with a two-measure introduction and one repetition, would match the scene's duration. It is true that music briefly displaces sound effects in the opening of the scene. However, given that the Mickey-Mousing itself lasts for only thirty of the scene's seventy seconds, the film only “addresses itself at the same time and in equal measure to two senses” for an even shorter time than the scene's already short length. What is more, Honegger uses music's most basic topical associations to tell us about Valjean's mood. Valjean's optimistic (and ultimately unrealistic) expectation that, having served his prison sentence, he will now be able to rejoin society is suggested by the upbeat tempo, the major mode, and the confident, somewhat unconventional harmonic progression of the music. Just as the duration of the scene determined the length of Honegger's melody, so the mood of the character determined the topic of the music.

The onscreen song performance comes two scenes later, when, the following morning, Valjean takes to the road in a frustrated and angry mood (see Video Example 2). Having been shunned as an ex-convict by the villagers of Digne the previous night, he had been given dinner and a place to sleep by a kindly bishop, but had risked a return to prison by stealing the bishop's silver. In the novel, Hugo describes Valjean's tormented state of mind during his morning walk as he ponders several things at once: the injustice of his treatment by the villagers (and, by extension, the injustice of his initial imprisonment); the forgiveness of the bishop (who told the police that he had given Valjean the valuables found in his possession); and the “almost insupportable” memories of his childhood evoked by the smell of wildflowers along his path. “In the midst of this meditation,” Hugo writes, “[Valjean] heard a joyous sound. He turned his head, and saw coming along the path a little Savoyard, a dozen years old, singing, with his hurdygurdy at his side, and his marmot box on his back.”36 In the film, Valjean, now painfully aware of the harsh reality of his lot, takes to the road again to the accompaniment not of a jaunty instrumental melody, but of only the starkly realistic ambient sounds of footsteps and birdsong. Gradually, he becomes aware of the sound of a boy singing a folksong, slowly increasing in volume. When Valjean stops to rest, the singing boy appears on screen with a six-string vielle à roue, or hurdy-gurdy, on his back (see Figure 1). The silence in the soundtrack after the boy leaves the scene adds pathos, as we watch the tired and hungry ex-con (“He had not eaten during the day; probably he had some fever,” recounts Hugo)37 discover that he had been standing on the coin the boy was carelessly tossing as he sang. Valjean calls desperately, “Eh! Petit! Oh!” into the silent and empty surroundings in an unsuccessful attempt to redeem himself from yet another theft.

Video Example 2

Valjean's march from Digne in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 1, part 1 (23:41–27:42)

Video Example 2

Valjean's march from Digne in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 1, part 1 (23:41–27:42)

Figure 1

Figure 1

Jean Valjean (Harry Baur) and the singing boy. Screen capture from Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), DVD, disc 1, part 1 (26:14).

In the first of the scenes described above, cinematic conventions—namely, Mickey-Mousing and musical topics—that treat Honegger's underscoring as theatrical accessory trump both realism and Honegger's desire for music to play an equal role to that of image in sound film. In the second, realism takes over as Honegger's services are not even required, for all we hear are sound effects and a boy's voice singing an anonymous, unaccompanied folksong, with clear eye-level shots of the boy's body and face providing meticulously synchronized images of the music's onscreen source. What is more, the camera's attentiveness to Baur's expressive face and body, together with the nearly exclusive focus on dialogue in the soundtrack, exemplifies the theatrical approach that dominated 1930s filmmaking.

In Rapt, by contrast, the treatment of onscreen singing in the pivotal abduction scene of the film's title demonstrates the extent to which Kirsanoff, Honegger, and Hoérée abandoned both realism and the cinematic adoption of theatrical conventions in order to radically expand the role of music. In rejecting theater as a model for sound film in Rapt, Kirsanoff was joining an ongoing debate among French silent film directors over how best to preserve the uniqueness of the silent film experience in the new world of synchronized sound. René Clair famously insisted in 1929 that “cinema music remain visual at all costs. … In the theater, what is seen exists only to serve what the actors say, their words; in the talking cinema, it's the opposite: the word gains it[s] power only in relation to the image.”38 In the 1934 special issue of the Revue musicale, Kirsanoff complained that “the cinema in recent years has, for the most part, been nothing more than filmed theater. … This type of cinema can make no better use of music than theater illustrated by incidental music. The role of music becomes that of a superfluous accessory, if not a luxury item: music decorates a scene, it romanticizes dialogue, or it simply takes on the role of an attendant to offstage noise.”39 Instead, he argued, a director and a composer should make collaborative decisions about music and sound even before filming begins, which, he pointed out, was already common practice for camera angles and lighting.40 

In the abduction scene in Rapt, we hear a theme that had dominated the overture accompanying the film's credits, paired now with images of Elsi as she emerges from her mountain hut shortly after dawn (see Video Example 3). It begins one second after we see a close-up shot of Elsi's pensive face (see Figure 2). Elsi's theme is a folksong consisting of two stanzas, the first in the minor mode and the second in the major, sung in German by a female voice.41 (The melody is shown in Examples 2a and 2b.) Whereas the melody itself was jointly written by Honegger and Hoérée, the orchestral underscoring for the scene was composed by Hoérée. It would be perfectly in keeping with the setting and plot for Elsi, clad in a traditional Berner Tracht, to be idly singing a folksong to herself as she takes an early morning walk, even if the use of a nondiegetic orchestra to accompany a character singing in the diegesis is more akin to the conventions of a film musical than to that of an onscreen song performance in a narrative film, in which song and accompaniment are typically both diegetic. If it is indeed Elsi who is singing, however, she sings only in her head, since whenever we see her face during the two minutes of the folksong, her mouth remains closed. To add to the confusion as to whether the song is sung out loud or merely in Elsi's imagination, the sound of her singing appears to spur Firmin to action, and stops abruptly when he grabs her, replaced by the sounds of a woman's panicked shrieks. Yet even as we hear the shrieking, the shots of Elsi's mouth still lack clear signs of synchronization: her lips do part, but only slightly, and they do not move in coordination with the timing of the screams. It is not even the actress's voice we hear singing and shrieking on the soundtrack for this scene, but that of Régine de Lormoy, Hoérée's wife. In addition, the soundtrack for the sequence remains strikingly anempathetic, as the carefree singing and folk-like orchestral accompaniment continue throughout the two-minute song, even as we watch close-up images of Firmin literally crawling over the camera as he sneaks up behind Elsi (see Figure 3). In other words, none of Firmin's emotions but all of Elsi's (carefree in the early morning, terror at being abducted) are reflected in the soundtrack, even if the singing voice is not synchronized with her onscreen image.

Video Example 3

The abduction scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (8:55–10:42)

Video Example 3

The abduction scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (8:55–10:42)

Figure 2

Figure 2

Elsi (Dita Parlo) “singing” on a morning walk. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (8:55).

Example 2a

Example 2a

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, “Chanson d'Elsi” (melody jointly written with Honegger), mm. 1–16 (first stanza) (Video Example 3: 0:00–0:41)

Example 2b

Example 2b

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, “Chanson d'Elsi” (melody jointly written with Honegger), mm. 21–36 (second stanza) (Video Example 3: 0:48–1:17)

Figure 3

Figure 3

Firmin (Geymond Vital) crawling over the camera. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (10:13).

By pairing the sounds of a female vocalist who sings when Elsi is carefree and shrieks when she is alarmed with close-up shots of Elsi's mouth visibly not emitting any sounds, Kirsanoff deliberately rejected synchronization, and, with it, the cinematic convention whereby sounds from the soundtrack are anchored to a visual source. As Altman has noted, “‘pointing the camera at the speaker’ is only a special case of the more general pressure in classical narrative cinema to identify visually the source of a sound.” Altman compares the so-called “redundancy” of sound and image in sound film to the artifice of ventriloquism: “we are so disconcerted by a sourceless sound that we would rather attribute the sound to a dummy or a shadow than face the mystery of its sourcelessness or the scandal of its production by a non-vocal (technological or ‘ventral’) apparatus.”42 Altman poses the obvious question: Why do ventriloquists go to such great lengths to visually disguise their agency in producing the sounds their dummies appear to emit? He finds the answer in a ventriloquism manual: “According to Freud, all of us have hidden desires that we suppress. The most successful ventriloquists have let these hidden desires be expressed in the personality of their dummies.”43 Sound, Altman concludes, is “the image's repressed.” The sound-image relationship is not one of redundancy. Instead, “the two are locked in a dialectic where each is alternately master and slave to the other.”44 

The experience of listening to a woman's voice singing a folksong as the mouth of the woman we are watching on screen does not open is indeed jarring, especially given the match between the alpine setting and costume and the music's affect. But it is precisely the lack of synchronization and the resulting mystery of the singing voice's actual source that signal to us that something is wrong in the seemingly tranquil pastoral scene before us. Rather, the beauty and calm of the mountains in the early morning light mask disturbing emotional undercurrents that propel Firmin to commit a crime that is as incomprehensible as it is violent. By making the ventriloquist deliberately inept, Kirsanoff is warning us not to trust the dummy.

In contrast to the alarming lack of synchronization between the singing voice and the immobile mouth, Hoérée's music seems to give nothing away. It is overladen with pastoral topics: a simple, repetitive folk melody in triple meter, with two sixteen-measure stanzas and regular four-measure phrases; the rustic sounds of the clarinet, English horn, and trumpet over strings; even the singer's replacement of the words of the second stanza with “la-la-la” on its repeat. Despite its anodyne affect, however, the music for the abduction scene fulfills Honegger's 1931 theories about music and sound film in two respects. First, the lack of synchronization between music and image frees the composers from having to provide “a sort of photography of sounds” for this scene.45 We may be watching a montage juxtaposing Elsi wandering among the mountain cliffs and Firmin scaling them with malicious determination, but instead of hearing music that either reflects the contrast between their two emotional states or imitates their physical displacement on the mountainside, we listen to an autonomous evocation of the pastoral scene translated into distinctively musical terms, or, in Honegger's words, “its spiritual significance in the artistic mode that suits [the composer] best.”46 Second, the very autonomy of the music that is continuous—and continuously oblivious—beneath the visual montage is what sets up the powerful disruptiveness of the abduction. For the only moment at which musical phrasing and images coincide in this scene is that of the abduction itself. On screen, Firmin grabs Elsi at the precise moment at which her theme reaches the downbeat of its final cadence at the end of the repeat of the second stanza (10:36; Video Example 3: 1:41). Significantly, however, it is a deceptive cadence, to ♭VI rather than I. The regularity of the theme's phrase structure, when allowed to play out unencumbered by any associations with the content or structure of the visual montage, sets us up for the deceptive cadence's trademark surprise. Chion has written about the way in which, in sound film, the phenomenon of “patterns of change and repetition that create in the spectator a sense of hope, expectation, and plenitude” is most familiar in music but can also encompass both components of an audiovisual sequence. We anticipate, for instance, that two characters whom we see approaching each other will meet, and we anticipate that there will also be a simultaneous pattern completion in sound to underscore that meeting: a cadence, or an accented chord, or even a moment of silence. Chion points out, however, that “it is often more interesting when the expectation is subverted.”47 In this case, the visual expectation that Firmin will complete his stealthy approach by grabbing Elsi is fulfilled when a visual pattern completion is layered over a musical pattern being broken. The cadence happens right when we expect it, musically and visually, but it is not the type of cadence that we expect. It also marks the first time in the abduction scene that the music acknowledges Firmin's presence, for the moment of the deceptive cadence coincides with the sudden intrusion of Firmin's theme, as shown in Example 3, in the brass fanfare first heard in the overture.

Example 3

Example 3

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, “Prélude,” mm. 29–31, Firmin's theme, repeated at the moment of the abduction (Video Example 3: 1:42–1:47)

In Les misérables, Honegger composed a melody that would be timed to fit the already established length of a visual montage of Valjean walking in the countryside, thus working within the prevailing model of filmmaking in which the composer was the last person to work on a nearly finished film once the director had shot and edited the images. Maurice Jaubert, himself an experienced film music composer and conductor, asserted in 1936 that coming second was music's rightful place: “Music should not command images but serve them: it is no more than one element of a common project, perhaps the least malleable.”48 In the article that he and Hoérée contributed to the 1934 special issue of the Revue musicale, Honegger vehemently disagreed. He railed against the director of “filmed theater [théâtre filmé]” who “has no sense of the importance music might have for the intimate structure of a film,” treating a film's composer “like a decorator who comes to measure surfaces he has played no role in designing, but who is tolerated for covering them with some insignificant fabric.”49 Although he did not name Bernard directly, the contrast with his effusive praise of Kirsanoff in the very next paragraph is stark. Describing Kirsanoff as “a complete artist who was, moreover, a professional musician,” he declared that “his screenplay … gave music an essential role” in the film; “at our request he always tried to reconcile the symphonic demands [of the music] with those of his editing.”50 Correspondingly, in the abduction scene of Rapt, Kirsanoff gave the structure of the music precedence over the timing of the images, allowing the length of the melody to determine that of the montage and the editing that places Firmin's physical attack on Elsi precisely at the end of the repeat of the second sixteen-measure stanza. By granting music freedom from the obligation to reflect the content of every shot of those images, Kirsanoff made room for Hoérée to use one of the most hackneyed but also most effective ways to render surprise in purely musical terms. And the only way to make this surprise effective was to release the music from the need to reflect anything other than the images' pastoral content for a long enough time to set up the predictable pattern of sixteen-measure stanzas that the deceptive cadence disrupts. Just as Honegger had advised in 1931, the director here needed to defer to the composer: “At first, of course, the director and the composer must agree on the initial sequence, but when it is time for editing, it is the director who must have the most flexibility in tailoring his cuts to the necessary development of the melodic line.” In this way, he argued, “music compensates as much as possible for the inevitably conventional nature of film.”51 

Rapt and Music's Autonomy in Sound Film

The deliberate lack of synchronization between sound and image in the presentation of Elsi's singing (and screaming) during the abduction scene is arguably the most extreme way in which the director and composers made room for sound to play an equal role to that of image in Rapt. But they used this technique only once in the film. The scene's lack of dialogue, on the other hand, is pervasive in Rapt, and when dialogue occurs, it is in one of two languages, French and German, almost always without translation.52 Restricting dialogue was a risky approach to take in sound film in the early 1930s, when the norm in commercial film was to foreground dialogue by restricting all other sounds as soon as dialogue occurred. Hoérée later complained that, in the 1930s, “in general, directors and producers wanted to hear dialogue and they were absolutely right. But they almost always found that the music was too loud, so they faded, and they faded, and they faded some more. In the end you couldn't hear a thing.”53 Indeed, Kirsanoff's unconventional limiting of dialogue and use of multiple languages had already cost him his first attempt at making a sound film, in May 1931, after Paramount had hired him to direct the French-language version of Les nuits de Port-Saïd but canceled after only a few weeks of shooting. Paramount had created its Paris branch, nicknamed “Babel-sur-Seine,” in 1930 precisely to deal with the new problem that synchronized dialogue presented for international distribution: language comprehension. At its Paris studio, Paramount made up to fourteen different versions of the same film, each in a different language, for distribution across Europe until dubbing processes improved in late 1931, at which point the studio became the dubbing headquarters for Europe.54 Paramount dominated the French market, producing twenty-five French-language films in a year in which Pathé-Natan, the largest French company, released only twenty.55 Kirsanoff's footage for Les nuits de Port-Saïd is lost, but the reason for Paramount's cancellation can be gleaned from a newspaper interview given by Kirsanoff during the shooting, in which he admitted that, “of course, people will talk, but as little as possible,” and that each actor would speak in his or her respective native tongue.56 Paramount found a new director and released separately filmed French, German, and Spanish versions in 1932.57 

Whereas the prominence of dialogue in early Hollywood sound film, in Bordwell's analysis, “limited the formal inventiveness of the composer,” Kirsanoff's drastic limits on dialogue in Rapt freed the film's composers to explore a wide array of formal options.58 In the article on Rapt that he published with Hoérée in 1934, Honegger described their innovative approach to “musical structure” as the avoidance of “symphonic development” or “descriptive harmony” in favor of “classical forms—that is, [forms] whose development comes from their own musical material rather than being subservient to literary or psychological considerations.” They had chosen, he explained, “to preserve the score's autonomy so that it never encroaches upon the domain of the screen or vice versa.” He listed three such “classical forms” in the soundtrack to Rapt: an overture (“Prélude”) that accompanies the credits, which is “built on the theme of each of the main characters”; a two-voice fugue to underscore the fateful chase between Firmin's dog and Hans's sheep that motivates the abduction, since “everyone knows that [a fugue] represents a musical chase (in Italian, ‘fugare’ = to chase)”; and a figured chorale for the two-minute sequence immediately following the abduction, in which we watch Firmin's descent from the summit with the unconscious Elsi.59 In these three sequences, not only is music independent of the images; Kirsanoff and his two composer colleagues have also minimized the distraction of dialogue and sound effects. This approach makes room for instrumental underscoring that is composed using complex, abstract forms, but only at the expense of the very innovations—synchronized dialogue and intricate coordination between music and image—that distinguished sound film from its silent predecessor.

Take, for example, the sequence that uses a figured chorale composed by Hoérée to underscore Firmin's march down the mountain (see Video Example 4). In a Baroque figured chorale, the “figure” is a contrasting motive used in counterpoint to the chorale cantus firmus.60 In this sequence, as Honegger explained, the cantus firmus consists of the first sixteen measures of Elsi's theme, now “reborn in interrupted fragments (such is the device of the figured chorale) like an echo of the song tragically cut short,”61 and played by the ondes Martenot. The figure consists of the first thirteen notes of Firmin's theme from the overture (see Example 3), now transposed down a minor tenth, changed from major to minor mode, and played in a march-like rhythm in pizzicato cello and the helicon, a brass tuba popular in Central European folk music (see Example 4, mm. 1–3). Hoérée repeats the figure every eight measures, in imitation for one statement (mm. 25–27) and in inversion for two others, including the sixth and final statement (mm. 17–19 and 41–43). The music is “autonomous” in terms of the lack of synchronization between the visual editing of the montage and the musical phrasing of the figured chorale in the instrumental underscoring. The instrumentation, too, is alienated from what we see in the images, in that a recently invented electroacoustic instrument is used for Elsi's fragmented folksong, rather than the more realistic folk timbre of clarinet or English horn. On screen, the montage alternates between shots of Firmin carrying Elsi and shots of Elsi's younger brother, Gottfried, frantically searching for her after being alerted to her absence by the brief sound of a dog barking—the sequence's only sound effect. Apart from Gottfried's one unsuccessful attempt to awaken Elsi's fiancé (to his insistent “Elsi is not here!” (“Elsi ist nicht da”) the sleepy Hans growls, “Leave me alone” (“Lass mich”)), the only spoken word we hear is Gottfried repeatedly calling his sister's name. In contrast to Bernard's faithfulness to the dialogue of Hugo's original text in Les misérables, the lack of dialogue that makes room for abstract contrapuntal music in the abduction scene in Rapt constitutes another major departure from Ramuz's novel, in which we learn about the abduction only through the dialogue of Firmin's comrades.62 In Rapt, the only onscreen eyewitness to the abduction is a single shepherd lying sleepily on the grass, who lifts his head as Firmin passes and makes eye contact with him, but then lies back down again, replacing his hat over his face without uttering a word (see Figure 4).

Video Example 4

Firmin's descent (beginning) in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (10:56–12:26)

Video Example 4

Firmin's descent (beginning) in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (10:56–12:26)

Example 4

Figure 4

Figure 4

Firmin (Geymond Vital) and the silent shepherd. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (12:22).

In theory, Honegger's advocacy for music's autonomy in sound film has several advantages. For composers, it allows for the greater musical complexity of abstract contrapuntal forms; it also frees them to write music that does not mimic the sounds made by objects seen on screen. They can thus avoid providing the sort of “sonic reportage” denigrated by Honegger in his 1931 articles on sound film, rendering instead the “spiritual significance” of the onscreen images “in the artistic mode that suits [them] best.”63 In the scene just described, for instance, the march-like version of Firmin's theme does not set the pace of Firmin's strides down the mountainside, nor does the music imitate any natural sounds of the scenery we see. Rather, the presentation of Elsi's theme as a fragmented cantus firmus alternating with repeated statements of Firmin's theme in the bass serves a quasi-didactic function for the film's audience. As Honegger pointed out, the images teach us how to listen to a composition written in the abstract form of a figured chorale by providing a visual analogy for the fragments of a now-familiar cantus firmus whose pace in the music is governed by the intrusion of a relentless walking bass figure. The loose coordination of sound and image operating in parallel thus aims to fulfill what Honegger had hoped in 1931: that “sound film may very well finalize music, completing it by giving it a real meaning” instead of leaving the interpretation of music to individual listeners.64 

At the same time, the composer of an independent musical score was free to provide continuity for a montage of two contrasting images by vertically superimposing two musical components that symbolically correspond to those images—Firmin's determination being reflected in the use of his theme as a marching bass figure, and Elsi's incapacitated presence in the fragmentation of her theme as a cantus firmus in the treble. Honegger had proposed this very solution in 1931 when he contrasted the nature of music and that of montage: “[Musical composition] belongs to the realm of continuity, it requires logical development. Cinematographic montage belongs to that of contrasts and oppositions.” According to Honegger, a successful film composer needed to make use of “the unlimited resources offered by musical technique and, especially, the superimposition of themes,” in order to create music that is “adapted to the film.”65 In imagining a hypothetical montage that might juxtapose an image of a storm with a close-up of the anxious faces of a sailor's parents, back and forth six times, Honegger mocked the musical solution of alternating six times between brief excerpts from the overture to Wagner's Flying Dutchman and Beethoven's “Pathétique” Sonata.66 He instead proposed underscoring such a montage with a wholly original composition that juxtaposed a repeated bass line representing the storm with a melody suggesting fear and sadness, the ensuing musical continuity capturing the fact that the two juxtaposed images depict events occurring simultaneously, albeit in two different locations.67 

In practice, however, few directors in 1930s France were willing to provide composers with extended sequences that radically minimized dialogue and sound effects, let alone abandon synchronization between sound and image, as was necessary if such autonomous musical forms were to be accommodated in the soundtrack. Take, for example, the momentous scene in Bernard's Les misérables in which Valjean attempts to escape from Inspector Javert by wading through the murky waters of the Paris sewers (see Figure 5). On screen, Bernard alternated images of Valjean carrying the unconscious Marius underground in the sewers with those of Javert and his fellow policemen above ground on the banks of the Seine (see Video Example 5). Instead of superimposing two layers in the music to represent the two adversaries, Honegger wrote two separate passages: for Valjean, a sequence of plodding quarter-note sighs in the minor mode, which Hoérée later read as “expressing the fatigue and suffocation of the escaped convict”;68 and for Javert, two brass stinger chords featuring prominent minor seconds, reflecting his plan to take Valjean by surprise at the sewer's only egress.69 (Example 5 shows these passages as they are scored for the central part of this scene.) The contrast between the plodding sighs and the brass stinger chords is sufficiently obvious for the viewer to associate each gesture with the correct character, even though the corresponding music and images are not consistently paired. The decision to alternate between the two musical ideas rather than superimpose them expanded the range of musical means at Honegger's disposal for representing the two men; it also provides welcome musical contrast during a sequence that is over six minutes long. Regrettably for the audibility of Honegger's carefully composed music, however, the climax of the underscoring in measure 36 arrives only two seconds after Valjean enters the water, initiating the splashing sound effects in the soundtrack. In measures 36–37, the music, at its loudest, overpowers the water sounds, but at the diminuendo in measure 38 the volume of the music drops precipitously while the volume of the water sounds remains constant. Hoérée lamented the way in which the film's sound engineers had overinterpreted the diminuendo: “Through the process of ‘mixing’ or blending, the music was ‘faded out’ so that the lapping of the water might be heard: the instrumental gradation was entirely lost.”70 Admittedly, the slight increase in volume midway through measure 40 and the sharp brass accents of the stinger chords in measures 41 and 43 help the music to compete with the sound effects, but the volume of the music stays low when these effects are replaced by dialogue between Javert and his deputy after the scene shifts from Valjean in the watery sewers to the two men standing on dry cobblestones.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Jean Valjean (Harry Baur) in the Paris sewers. Screen capture from Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), DVD, disc 2, part 3 (58:45).

Video Example 5

Valjean in the Paris sewers in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 2, part 3 (56:01–59:41)

Video Example 5

Valjean in the Paris sewers in Les misérables, directed by Raymond Bernard (1934), New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD, disc 2, part 3 (56:01–59:41)

Example 5

Example 5

Arthur Honegger, Les misérables, “Dans les égouts” (In the sewers), mm. 36–43 (Video Example 5: 2:17–3:02)

In fact, Honegger's reference to the autonomy of the music of the figured chorale in the sequence showing Firmin's descent from the mountain in Rapt does not tell the whole story either. Upon closer inspection, the ending of the sequence shows that Kirsanoff's interest in a hybrid of music and image resulted in the independence of underscoring and montage only on some occasions; on others, the timing of the music cleaves to the editing of the images. Recall that, when heard at the beginning of the abduction scene, the first stanza of Elsi's theme was in the minor mode and the second stanza in the major (Examples 2a and 2b). While Hoérée's figured chorale setting of the first stanza, which transposes the melody from C minor to D minor, respects the theme's original mode and length, the setting of the second stanza does not. Not only is the stanza truncated, from sixteen measures to eight, to fit the length of the scene, but the original major mode gives way to an alternation between D major and D minor, in both the melody (here played by the French horn) and its harmonization (by the trombone) (see Examples 6a and 6b). Thus, for the second half of the figured chorale, the original theme has been recomposed to fit what we see in the film (see Video Example 6). On screen, Gottfried's discovery of the filigree from Elsi's dress on the rocks at his feet spurs him to action, his face hopeful as he scampers along a cliff. Images of Gottfried's hope alternate, however, with grimmer images of Firmin, back at the shepherds' chalet, lashing Elsi's unconscious body to a mule. The minor inflections of the revised theme and accompaniment also foreshadow the next tragedy: Gottfried's fall from the cliff to his death. Moreover, the underscoring of his fall uses a technique of subordinating music to image that is even more conventional than that of altering a theme's mode and length: a stinger chord played by violins and brass just as Gottfried loses his footing on the steep rocks.

Example 6a

Example 6a

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, “Chanson d'Elsi,” mm. 21–36 (second stanza). The brackets mark the phrases that are reused in the “Choral figuré.” (Video Example 3: 0:48–1:17)

Example 6b

Example 6b

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, “Choral figuré,” mm. 37–48, truncated second stanza of the melody of “Chanson d'Elsi” as played by French horn and trombone (Video Example 6: 0:00–0:36)

Video Example 6

Firmin's descent (ending) in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (12:40–13:30)

Video Example 6

Firmin's descent (ending) in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (12:40–13:30)

In the next sequence, however, the balance of power between music and image is restored through the wholesale repetition of the music in the soundtrack. A decision by the director to repeat the figured chorale meant that the images had to be edited to fit the preexisting music, particularly during the passage in which the original theme had been altered to fit the images the first time through. Whereas the music is first used to underscore a montage in which Firmin's determined descent alternates with Gottfried's panicked search for his sister, on its repeat we see Hans searching and calling for his fiancée in alternation with Firmin. The first time, the hopeful sight of Gottfried's discovery of Elsi's filigree on the rocks, tempered by shots of Firmin's descent, motivates the truncation of the second stanza of the original theme from sixteen measures to eight and the mixing of major and minor modes. The second time, the truncated music controls the pace of parallel images that now mix Hans's anger with Firmin's obstinacy. On the one hand, we see Hans discovering the same filigree in the dead Gottfried's grasp (see Figure 6), while on the other, we see Firmin arriving home with Elsi, strapped to the back of a mule and beginning to regain consciousness. The only change made to the music on its repeat is in its instrumentation. Ironically, the replacement of the ondes Martenot by the English horn (and the addition of cowbells) renders the soundtrack more conventionally pastoral only minutes before the setting shifts from wide-open mountain landscapes to the hemmed-in spaces of Firmin's village home.

Figure 6

Figure 6

Hans (Dyk Rudens) discovering Gottfried's body. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (15:48).

Musicalized Sound Effects and “Sonic Reportage” in Honegger's Music for Rapt

Kirsanoff had originally hired only Honegger to write the music for Rapt, but Honegger's work on Les misérables limited his availability. In a letter to Ramuz of September 1933 (Rapt was filmed in September–October), Honegger explained that “it was impossible for me to do all the work in the time available and I had to appoint a collaborator, Arthur Hoérée, who is an excellent musician.”71 Hoérée later described his working relationship with Honegger for the nine films on which they collaborated: “When we had the script in hand, we read it, Honegger marked off the sequences that he could do, generally not more than ten or fifteen minutes of music, and said to me, ‘I cannot do more.’ So I did all the rest and that's how we got along.”72 For Rapt, Hoérée described the division of labor between himself and Honegger as thematic: he provided music for the “passionate” sequences, whereas Honegger underscored the “bucolic scenes: the morning, the washhouse, the village dance.”73 It is striking, however, that Hoérée's categorization overlooks Honegger's contribution to a scene that is not only one of the film's most “passionate,” but also one of its most sonically innovative—the dream sequence near the end of the film. In this sequence, Honegger and Hoérée were able to solve the problem that bedeviled Honegger's underscoring in the sewer scene in Les misérables, finding a way of maintaining music's autonomy throughout an extended sequence of images, not by silencing the dialogue and sound effects that were the very hallmarks of sound film, as Kirsanoff had done in the abduction scene, but by harnessing them to complement rather than drown out the music.

Bordwell has characterized the effects of the coming of sound on the visual style of Hollywood films as consisting of “small-scale differences.” In early sound films, he notes, actors' performances were less mobile than in silent ones, with more attention paid to voice than to facial expression; shots were longer “to accommodate the speaking of lines”; there were fewer shots overall; and the camera used more panning and tracking motion.74 However, Kirsanoff's visual techniques in the dream sequence of Rapt not only closely resemble those he had developed to depict moments of extreme subjectivity in Ménilmontant in 1926; they also conflict with Bordwell's analysis of the way sound film evolved from silent film practices, confirming film critic Jahier's 1935 assessment that Kirsanoff had “neglected” to update his silent film style and retained “traces” of cinematic impressionism in his reluctant transition to sound film.75 

Andrew singles out Ménilmontant among cinematic impressionist films as “a tale told completely through the eloquence of its images.”76 In this film, Kirsanoff used revolutionary editing techniques to create visual representations of his characters' subjective realities; he also eschewed intertitles, proclaiming in a musical analogy that “intertitles are film's bête noire. … You don't explain a symphony with words. A film should be understood in itself.”77,Ménilmontant opens with the brutal murder, on screen, of the parents of two young girls in a small French town, and then follows the orphans' subsequent struggles to survive in the rough Parisian neighborhood of the film's title.78 Richard Prouty interprets the fragmentation of the visual narrative that results from Kirsanoff's techniques in Ménilmontant as a visual expression of trauma: “certain social experiences cannot be narrativized according to conventional forms.”79 In this case, the core trauma of the younger sister (played by Sibirskaïa) is her discovery of the mutilated corpses of her murdered parents. In one representative sequence, this same sister, now a young adult, wanders the streets of Paris in suicidal despair, her newborn baby in her arms (see Video Example 7). The odd angles of the shots, filmed with a swiftly moving hand-held camera, mirror the direction of the woman's gaze. Kirsanoff mixes close-up shots of the woman's and baby's faces, medium shots of the Seine, and longer multiple-exposure shots that layer static shots of Sibirskaïa's face over moving shots of busy urban thoroughfares; there is also one virtuoso multiple exposure that layers two different moving shots (26:36; Video Example 7: 1:18). The result is a visual representation of the woman's traumatized and suicidal alienation from a city that is indifferent to her plight (see Figure 7). The sequence ends with three shots of a young man's impassive face from different angles (the man is the baby's father): an eye-level shot of his right profile as he looks at the river, a low-angle shot, and an eye-level shot of his left profile. The close attention Kirsanoff pays to the reflection of light (on the river's waves, on the man's flat cap) is one of cinematic impressionism's central concerns.80 

Video Example 7

Multiple exposures (Sibirskaïa) in Ménilmontant, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1926), from Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s, New York: Kino International, 2005, DVD, disc 1, chapter 7 (25:18–27:21)

Video Example 7

Multiple exposures (Sibirskaïa) in Ménilmontant, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1926), from Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s, New York: Kino International, 2005, DVD, disc 1, chapter 7 (25:18–27:21)

Figure 7

Figure 7

Multiple exposures, with Nadia Sibirskaïa's face. Screen capture from Ménilmontant, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1926), DVD, disc 1, chapter 7 (26:49).

For the dream sequence in Rapt, Kirsanoff retained from Ménilmontant his close attention to the interplay of light and shadows, his experimental approach to camera angles, and his use of very brief shots. Both films also feature very little movement by the actors, not in order to focus on their voices but rather to scrutinize their facial expressions. In both films, the protagonists are not dreaming so much as experiencing near-hallucinatory states: in Rapt, sound and image depict Firmin in the throes of a waking nightmare in which his tortured inner emotions distort his ability to process his surroundings. Nonetheless, the mere presence of a dreamlike sequence in Rapt is a holdover from the 1920s, when French directors frequently used silent film to create visual evocations of subjective states, such as dream or hallucination, in moving images.81 Kirsanoff's one concession to the medium of sound film in Rapt is the strategic use of lengthy shots: whereas the average length of most shots in the dream sequence is 4.2 seconds (compared to 4.7 seconds in the above-discussed sequence in Ménilmontant), three of the shots last 11, 18, and 72 seconds respectively.82 These shots are lengthened not “to accommodate the speaking of lines,” as Bordwell observes for Hollywood films, but rather to accommodate a dense network of music, voice-over, and musicalized sound effects.

The dream sequence follows Elsi's calculated decision to appear willing to marry Firmin on condition that they live in her village rather than his (see Video Example 8). It largely consists of static camera shots of Firmin standing or sitting in his mother's kitchen, framed at times as if from inside the fireplace on the opposite side of the room, a technique that juxtaposes the darkness of the fireplace with the brightly lit kitchen. The dramatic lighting effects create looming shadows of Firmin's torso on the wall behind him, the camera framing his head and shoulders in the lower part of the screen so that his shadow takes up most of the shot (see Figure 8). In a filmed double-take of Firmin in the act of sitting down, we see successive eye-level and high-angle shots of him, echoing Kirsanoff's three-angle filming of the baby's father in Ménilmontant. Honegger's music for this sequence draws on familiar chromatic motives and timbres associated with inner psychological torment. It begins with the somber sound of a bass clarinet in a solo that includes the three-note motive from “Nacht” in Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire (at the same pitch and played by the same instrument), joined at measure 9 by an accompaniment of cello and harp (see Examples 7a and 7b).83 The unaccompanied part of the solo, which lasts for thirty-one seconds, underscores several shots of a brooding Firmin, including the first of the sequence's three extended shots: eleven seconds of Firmin standing, then sitting, by the kitchen window. The full clarinet melody is then echoed in a passage for ondes Martenot, tremolo violins, and flute playing in parallel thirds and fourths (mm. 15–26).

Video Example 8

The dream sequence in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (1:01:11–1:03:21)

Video Example 8

The dream sequence in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (1:01:11–1:03:21)

Figure 8

Figure 8

Firmin (Geymond Vital) in the dream sequence. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (1:02:37).

Example 7a

Example 7b

Example 7b

Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire, “Nacht” (Night), mm. 1–5

Whereas Honegger disagreed with fellow film composer Jaubert on the proper role for music in sound film generally, when it came to filming a disruption to the main narrative, such as a flashback, a dramatic change of time or place, or a dream, they were of one mind. “Here,” Jaubert conceded, “the music has something to say: its very presence will signal to the spectator that the style of the film is changing momentarily for dramatic reasons. All of its power of suggestion will accentuate and prolong the impression of displacement, of a rupture with photographic reality, that the director seeks.” Jaubert also strongly recommended using experiments with recording and playback in these moments in order to take full advantage of the new possibilities of sound film.84 Although the music Honegger wrote for this scene uses conventional means to portray psychological torment, the sound was produced in an unconventional way: the score and parts were notated and recorded in retrograde and the recorded sound then played in reverse, so that while the pitches were produced in the correct order, the reverberation of each note would precede the attack. This procedure created what Honegger and Hoérée described as “a sort of sonorous halo” for each note, so as “to evoke the mysterious atmosphere of a dream.”85 It had been used twice before in France—by Claude Roland-Manuel in Grémillon's first sound film, La petite Lise (1930), and by Jaubert in Vigo's Zéro de conduite (1933).86 In all three instances, the use of retrograde sound signals some sort of departure from everyday consciousness: Lise's guilty conscience takes her away from the café where she is sitting and into her obsessive thoughts; the rebellious boys in Zéro de conduite defy the strict rules of the headmaster whose horrified face appears immediately before the sound reverses; and Firmin's waking nightmare of tormented thoughts leaves him seemingly unable to recognize the familiar surroundings of his own home.

Even more innovative is the way in which Honegger and Hoérée mixed the retrograde sound recording of instruments and voice with carefully timed dialogue and sound effect.87 As shown in Example 7a, after fourteen measures of clarinet solo, a similar passage for ondes Martenot, violins, and flute is played twice (mm. 15–26). The first time, the music is mixed with the sound of the kitchen's cuckoo clock ticking softly in the background.88 The clock's ticking gradually grows in volume until, at measure 23, it is equal in volume to a textless soprano melody that evokes the sleeping Elsi with a short phrase in natural minor in counterpoint with the last four measures of the ondes Martenot melody. The sound of the clock is significant for three reasons. First, even though Kirsanoff never shows us the clock in this scene, he is making a clear sonic reference to a significant earlier scene between Firmin and Elsi, in which we saw the kitchen clock in a close-up shot and heard its loud ticking as it approached the noon hour (40:42). Firmin would remember this moment well, for it was the laughter that he and Elsi shared at the clock's midday peals of cuckoo calls that had broken the tension between them for the first time since the abduction. Second, the clock ticks in time to the music, maintaining a steady stream of eighth notes in counterpoint to the instrumental melody. Third, Hoérée has paid careful attention to volume as well as timbre. By gradually raising and then swiftly lowering the volume of the ticking clock sound effect as it beats simultaneously with the underscoring, Honegger and Hoérée have engineered a passage in which both music and sound effect can be present and registered as significant without the music's having to be subordinate to other sounds, as in the sewer scene of Les misérables.

With the repeat of the music of measures 15–26, it is dialogue's turn to complement rather than drown out the instrumental music. Just before the passage is repeated, the ticking clock quickly fades out, giving way to a loud, urgent, whispering male voice—Firmin's voice, internally narrating the source of his anxiety: “It's your last night here. You'll leave everything behind, your mother, your house, your friends, your village, everything, everything …” (“C'est ta dernière nuit ici. Tu vas tout quitter, ta mère, ta maison, tes amis, ton village, tout, tout …”).89 Just as the ticking clock kept time with the music, the male voice recites in time to the beat, the text declaimed with easily perceptible rhythmic subdivisions and with extra emphasis on the syllables that land on the downbeat of the measure (marked in bold in Example 7a). The contrasting timbre of the voice, with its steady accents, allows its volume to remain equal to that of the instrumental music that regulates its pace; to avoid layering two human voices in the mix, the textless soprano melody reenters only after the male whispering voice fades away.

Throughout the dream sequence, the soundtrack, with its clever musicalization of dialogue and sound effect, maintains the autonomy that Honegger prized both in his 1931 writings on sound film and in his joint article on Rapt of 1934. The sequence provides additional examples of Kirsanoff's rejection of synchronization. The editing of the images is not timed with the music, the brief shot of the sleeping Elsi (her head dappled with light) appearing about thirty seconds before we hear the wistful textless soprano melody in the underscoring. On screen, Kirsanoff paired the two iterations of the music in measures 15–26 with an exceptionally lengthy shot of Firmin (1:02:06; Video Example 8: 0:55). Lasting seventy-two seconds, with a very slow camera zoom (first on his shadow and then on his face), the single shot makes room not just for the “dialogue” of the voice-over, but also for the textless melody, the instrumental music, and the clock that ticks in time to the beat. For sound effects, we either hear the sounds of objects we cannot see (the oppressive ticking of the clock) or see sonic objects for which we hear no sound, most prominently in a four-second shot of water running from a pump that Firmin looks at through the kitchen window. By eschewing the cinematic convention that we hear what we see and vice versa, Kirsanoff provided a sonic analogy to his film editing techniques, inviting us to experience Firmin's alienation directly via the distorted ticking that is driven aggressively into our consciousness as well as his, and via the sonic void created by his distracted gaze through the window, when he sees but does not hear (or does not listen to) the water running from the pump.

In the “bucolic” scenes that Hoérée identified as having been underscored by Honegger's music—specifically, the washhouse and storm scenes—the soundtrack goes to the opposite extreme. Instead of disorienting the viewer by withholding sound effects for sonorous objects that figure prominently on screen, in these scenes Honegger and Hoérée used the soundtrack to deliberately direct the viewer's attention to such objects by using music to imitate their sounds. The obvious artificiality of using music to produce a musicalized sound effect, Honegger and Hoérée explained, created “a sort of sonic synthesis tinged with psychology” that cried out for recognition from the viewer, as opposed to a recording of an object's actual sound, the banality of which rendered it apt to go unnoticed.90 In contrast to conventional onscreen performances akin to that of the aforementioned singing boy in Les misérables, most of the diegetic music in Rapt falls into one of two categories. The first is musicalized sound effect, which operates not only by recording a clock ticking in time to musical underscoring but also by eliminating realistic sound effects that sound in real time with the images on screen and replacing them with sounds generated by musical instruments, such as chords produced by piano and harp to represent the tolling of church bells or an “echo” of string harmonics added to the blaring of a peddler's horn. The second is what could be termed the sonicization of music: the use of musical instruments to provide the sounds made by inanimate objects, otherwise known as musical mimesis—a common practice in concert music, where it predated the advent of sound film by several centuries.

In the washhouse scene, Honegger's instrumental music imitates precisely the sound that is missing from the images we see in the dream sequence: the sound of rushing water (see Video Example 9). Honegger's water music uses a recognizable subset of the mimetic conventions of nineteenth-century orchestral music: a distinctive combination of rapidly moving, repeated melodic fragments and static pedal tones that either sustain the tonic chord or outline a slow harmonic progression in the tonic key.91 Compare, for example, Honegger's water music for Rapt, in which violins and violas play a conjunct melody that mixes D natural and melodic minor, in trilled parallel thirds, accompanied by a rapid, repeated scalar figure in the piano, with the opening measures of Smetana's symphonic poem Vltava, with its slow-moving chord progression in E minor played by the violins and harp, and scales in E natural minor played by the flutes (see Examples 8a and 8b).92 

Video Example 9

The washhouse scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (18:53–21:02)

Video Example 9

The washhouse scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (18:53–21:02)

Example 8a

Example 8a

Arthur Honegger, Rapt, “Le lavoir” (The washhouse), mm. 1–4, beginning of the water music (Video Example 9: 0:00–0:30, 1:00–1:30)

Example 8b

Example 8b

Bedřich Smetana, Vltava (The Moldau), mm. 7–15

That the music in the washhouse scene sounds unmistakably like the water we see on screen is what makes the music “real,” in Honegger's 1931 use of the term: the precise meaning that the composer had in mind is unambiguously transmitted to the viewer because the mimesis of the water accompanies the shots of the water. But this music also directly contradicts Honegger's 1931 claim that musical mimesis—“sonic reportage”—was not the composer's rightful domain because of the way it subjugates the “reality” of music composition to extramusical considerations. What is more, in this scene we hear not only music, but also a recording of the actual sound of water layered over the water music that, paradoxically, makes the mimesis of the music even more “real.” We have here a case of what Chion describes as “materializing sound indices,” which, when multiplied, anchor a scene to concrete reality, as opposed to the impression of abstraction created when they are few and far between.93 

Moreover, the concrete “reality” of the mimetic music in these two scenes contrasts with the ambiguity of the images they accompany, especially given the scarcity of dialogue. In his 1931 theories on music and sound film, Honegger's preoccupation with the abstract nature of instrumental music led him to emphasize the ways in which the concrete reality of visual imagery would help to clarify music's “reality” for his listeners. In the process, however, he overlooked the fact that our ability to recognize the actual subject of an image—a character's face, a house, a village square—does not necessarily lead us to fully comprehend the image's significance in a narrative that consists of moving images. In the washhouse and storm scenes in Rapt, we do not need images of water to tell us that the music we hear is water music, or images of storm clouds to tell us that abrupt electroacoustic outbursts are thunder. Instead, listening to the soundtrack helps us to interpret not the subject but the meaning of the images. “Sound,” as Chion puts it, “makes us see in the image what we would not otherwise see, or would see differently.”94 

In the first of these two scenes, Honegger's water music provides continuity for disparate shots of Elsi staring out the window, the rushing water, village women gossiping in the washhouse, our first glimpse of Jeanne, and general village life. That is, Honegger adopts the musical solution that he suggested in one of his 1931 articles:95 the continuous water music unifies several contrasting images in an extended montage, together with the melody it accompanies, which consists of the first sixteen measures of Jeanne's theme, a wistful, folk-like tune (see Example 9). Old and new clash in this tune, which is cast in the Phrygian mode but performed by the ondes Martenot. Given its electroacoustic scoring and its initial appearance with no visual signifier, Jeanne's theme is at first a ghostly expression of sadness. It then becomes embodied when Jeanne appears on screen.

Example 9

Example 9

Arthur Honegger, Rapt, “Le lavoir” (The washhouse),” mm. 1–16, Jeanne's theme, played by the ondes Martenot over two repeats of the water music (see Example 8a) (Video Example 9: 0:30–1:00, 1:30–2:01)

The presence of such a clear visual image associated with the water music obviates the need for Jeanne's theme to itself be mimetic for its meaning to also be “real”; its precise meaning is clear despite its initial disembodied appearance. When Jeanne does appear, its emotional affect matches her brooding facial expression and her somber, traditional dress (see Figure 9). So “real” is the theme's meaning, in fact, that its subsequent appearance directs our interpretation of the scene. After the men discuss the dilemma—since the pass is blocked by snow, Elsi is stranded in their village until spring—Jeanne's theme reappears to accompany a sequence in long shots that follows the wanderings of Manu, the village idiot, through the streets. The use of the theme to underscore the activities of the villagers when Jeanne herself is nowhere in sight, together with the continuity of the water music and its association with the washhouse at the center of village life, confirms Jeanne's identity as an insider in this village.96 So does the dialogue among the women in the washhouse, who reproach Firmin not for having abducted Elsi but for having introduced an outsider into their midst:

Can you believe it! Who would have thought it? A boy so well behaved, so serious!—Ah, if it were my son, this wouldn't have happened!—Maybe it's because there aren't any pretty girls here!—Oh, think of it, a foreigner, that's not someone to marry!—And then, he was engaged, he was supposed to marry little Jeanne at Christmas!—What a shame!—There she is, Jeanne.—Poor little thing.97 

In the first part of this scene, the image of the rushing water may have reinforced our identification of the music as imitating the sounds of the water we see (and hear in the redundant sound effects), but in the subsequent sequence, in which neither Jeanne nor the water is visible, it is the soundtrack featuring Jeanne's theme over the water music that tells us how to interpret the images and the dialogue. In short, the very absence of synchronization between the music, images, and dialogue in this scene works to turn our sympathy away from the crime committed against Elsi and toward the village women's solidarity with Jeanne.

Figure 9

Figure 9

Jeanne (Nadia Sibirskaïa) at the washhouse. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (19:47).

A second example of this kind of mimesis occurs later in the film. The storm scene begins with shots of a village dance and ends back at Firmin's mother's house (see Video Example 10). Honegger wrote two conventional “danses paysannes” for a village band to play diegetically, the second of which is a lively polka tune played by a hodgepodge of instruments: a trumpet cheerfully carries the tune with the help of a piccolo, over an accompaniment provided by not just the expected brass band but also strings and harmonium, with bass drum and cymbals thrown in for good measure (see Example 10). In the first minute of the scene, the polka music plays in the background as shots of the village dance—including images of Elsi coyly dancing with Firmin—are juxtaposed with shots of storm clouds. Here the second layer of music is not an emotional melody, as in the washhouse scene, but the rumblings of thunder. Near the end of this minute, the scene changes to a shot of Firmin's mother, sitting alone in her house. The music's diminishing volume enhances this change of scene, indicating that she hears the polka band in the distance, but hears more clearly the increasingly menacing sounds of the storm.

Video Example 10

The storm scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (52:26–57:20)

Video Example 10

The storm scene in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (52:26–57:20)

Example 10

Example 10

Arthur Honegger, Rapt, “Danse paysanne II” (Peasant dance II), mm. 1–8 (the piccolo plays measure 8 down an octave at the first occurrence of this passage in the accompanying video example) (Video Example 10: 0:00–0:10, 0:49–0:58)

This sequence resembles the washhouse scene in both mimesis and continuity. However, rather than using musical conventions to represent storm sounds, Hoérée made recordings of the orchestral musicians improvising storm-like sounds and of dramatic glissandi on the ondes Martenot and manipulated them—splicing forward-playing recordings with reversed ones, as well as making marks directly on the film itself—in order to create deliberately artificial storm sounds.98 In this case, moreover, there are no added recordings of “real” storm sounds to complement the manipulated musical ones. What the manipulated storm sounds share with the music in the washhouse scene is that, while both are mimetic, neither would ever be mistaken for the real thing. Both shatter what Chion has labeled the “illusion of unity” in film sound: “Reality is one thing, and its transposition into audiovisual two-dimensionality (a flat image and usually a monaural soundtrack), which involves radical sensory reduction, is another. … There is really no reason for audiovisual relationships thus transposed to appear the same to us as they are in reality.”99 The use of conventional musical means to represent rushing water is just as obviously artificial as the use of manipulated recordings of instruments imitating the sounds of thunder. What separates the manipulated recordings from mimetic instrumental music is not whether one is more “real” than the other, but rather the shock factor of the storm sounds' auditory novelty, which added to the lingering novelty, in France in 1934, of hearing sounds of all kinds synchronized with images in film.100 

After the first minute, the polka music falls silent, as Firmin and Elsi return from the dance. The acting and cinematography here follow the conventions of silent film as outlined by Bordwell, although we do hear, briefly, actual sound effects such as footsteps and spoken dialogue over the manipulated storm sounds. Perhaps encouraged by her softened attitude toward him at the dance, Firmin declares to Elsi, “We are going to get married” (“Nous allons nous marier”); horrified, Elsi retorts, “No!” (see Video Example 11). Immediately afterward, just as Firmin grabs Elsi for an unwelcome embrace, an unexpected, new layer of sound appears: nondiegetic music, in this case an imitative brass fanfare. Firmin staggers downstairs, and the fanfare repeats to accompany a shot in which he is seen dousing himself in the downpour (see Figure 10). Note how the crucial sound in comprehending the audiovisual narrative of this scene is not dialogue or the storm-like artificial sound effects, but the brief incursion of nondiegetic orchestral music.

Video Example 11

The assault in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (56:27–57:20)

Video Example 11

The assault in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (56:27–57:20)

Figure 10

Figure 10

Firmin (Geymond Vital) after the assault. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (57:09).

Why a brass fanfare? To whom is this a call to arms? I would argue that it is a call to us, the audience, to “wake up”: to pay close attention to what we are seeing on screen. At its unexpected appearance, the fanfare signals to the viewer both the danger of Firmin's impulsiveness and the scene's significance within the plot. Moreover, the music's meaning is fixed, as Honegger argued in 1931, by its deliberate association with specific images. Contrast the clarity of the significance of the brass fanfare in this scene with the controversy surrounding a far more famous brass fanfare from the last movement of Honegger's Second Symphony—concert music that lacks the concrete anchoring of a visual image to determine its “reality.” The mere circumstances of this work's composition in German-occupied Paris have led many critics and biographers to argue—in spite of the composer's claims to the contrary—that the optional brass fanfare in the Second Symphony symbolizes the composer's resistance to Nazi tyranny, with no evidence other than wishful thinking to support their claims.101 (Honegger, once again, wanted listeners to hear his reference to the chorales of Bach.)

The decision to depart from mimetic conventions in the film's climactic scene paradoxically enhances the gritty literary realism of Ramuz's novel, in that there are no musical clichés to tempt us to romanticize the encounter. In reviewing Rapt in 1934, Émile Vuillermoz aptly described the impact of the artificial sound effects in this scene: “The storm that rages in the mountains is not a simple ‘documentary’ of a storm but, translated into this form, allows us to penetrate the subconscious of the hero, troubled by a moral storm that is just as tragic as the disorder of the elements.”102 The departure from mimetic conventions also complements what P. Adams Sitney has referred to as the “disdain for sentimental conventions” that dominated French films of this era, including Rapt and Ménilmontant.103 

What is more, the fanfare itself is a crucial component of the film's overall soundtrack: it is a startling return of Firmin's theme (see Example 11).104 We first hear this theme during the overture, as an initial version of a brass fanfare (Example 3). It soon reappears in the opening scenes on the mountain: first, played by pizzicato cellos in the major mode as it briefly underscores playful roughhousing between Firmin and a fellow shepherd (2:42); next, in a repeat of the overture fanfare at the moment of the abduction (10:36); and then, as the minor-mode figure played by pizzicato cellos and helicon in the bass line of the figured chorale that underscores Firmin's descent down the mountain (Example 4). However, whereas Firmin's theme is just as present in the soundtrack as Elsi's during the scenes on the mountain, once Firmin returns to his village we no longer hear his theme, only Elsi's and Jeanne's. The fact that we have to wait until his assault of Elsi to hear his theme in his own village highlights the degree to which he has been paralyzed since the abduction by his troubling indecision and his attempts to suppress his growing physical attraction to her. That his theme returns as a new version of the brass fanfare last heard during the abduction is also topically appropriate, as his unwelcome embrace of Elsi is itself a new version of the original abduction. Moreover, the use of the fanfare during this latest assault foreshadows the theme's final appearance in Hoérée's underscoring of the film's momentous closing sequence. There, however, the brass play the theme not in rushed imitation but as a stately, homophonic, Bach-like chorale in rhythmic augmentation that suits the finality of its last return (see Video Example 12). We hear this final version twice: first, when Elsi hesitates to abandon Firmin to the flames she has planned in order to disguise her escape (1:09:40; Video Example 12: 0:06), and then, shortly afterward (1:15:16), when, fatally trapped, she admits to him that she is responsible for the deadly arson (see Figure 11). The sparing use of Firmin's theme in the soundtrack and the topical associations of the timbre, texture, and pitch patterns of brass fanfares thus bookend the film between the opening mountain scenes and the finale, the only other recurrence being at the moment of Firmin's sexual aggression.

Example 11

Example 11

Arthur Hoérée, Rapt, Firmin's theme, new imitative brass fanfare used during the assault (Video Example 11: 0:11–0:19, 0:41–0:50)

Video Example 12

Closing sequence in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (1:09:34–1:10:18)

Video Example 12

Closing sequence in Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), from Ramuz Cinema, Lausanne: Cin&Lettres, 2006, DVD, disc 6 (1:09:34–1:10:18)

Figure 11

Figure 11

Firmin (Geymond Vital) and Elsi (Dita Parlo) engulfed in smoke and flames. Screen capture from Rapt, directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (1934), DVD, disc 6 (1:15:57).

Conclusion

What do Honegger's experiences as a film composer for Les misérables and Rapt teach us about the practical applications of his 1931 theories on music and sound film? We now know that his role as a composer in the making of Rapt, however innovative, was a professional dead end. The film was a critical success but a commercial failure, leading to the bankruptcy of Markus's fledgling production company and to Kirsanoff's marginalization as an acclaimed silent film director who had failed to adapt to the new world of sound film.105 Nor could Honegger recoup his efforts for Rapt in the concert hall to the extent that he did for Les misérables, on account of the music's dependence on the images for which it was tailor-made.106 Honegger and Kirsanoff each had an opportunity to work on an artistic short film soon after completing Rapt. For Kirsanoff, the opportunity came in 1935–36 with a commission to provide visual accompaniments for filmed performances of prestigious classical musicians, for which he upended the old Vitaphone model by alternating theatrical shots of the performances with sophisticated visual montages of abstract imagery inspired by the music.107 For Honegger, it came in May 1934 with L'idée, a groundbreaking animated film by the Hungarian émigré filmmaker Berthold Bartosch that uses orchestrated music as the only element in the soundtrack.108 But the remainder of Honegger's work in film music composition, including three more films with Bernard, resembles his work on Les misérables—namely, orchestral underscoring, with the occasional plugged song, of the sort that continued to dominate both American cinema and American-style commercial filmmaking abroad in the 1930s and 1940s.109 In the current scholarly literature, Rapt's legacy as a groundbreaking film stands out among other innovative sound films in France, such as those directed by Clair, Grémillon, and Vigo, primarily for the technological innovations in sound recording that predate by at least a decade the better-known work of Pierre Schaeffer in musique concrète, but that share with Schaeffer a desire to discover new sounds of a kind that could not be produced by acoustic means alone.110 

There are, however, lessons to be learned from Rapt about the potential for sound film to serve as a bridge between composers of abstract concert music and listeners inclined to interpret their works through the lens of musical mimesis. In Les misérables, Honegger demonstrated his ability to provide diegetic music and intermittent orchestral underscoring that met the demands of sound film conceived as filmed theater. Yet however dubious his statement that “autonomous” music in Rapt “never encroaches upon the domain of the screen or vice versa,”111 his conception of an autonomous soundtrack in Rapt provided composers with two possible ways in which to write orchestral film scores that escape the confines of cinematic convention. The first, exemplified in the figured chorale that accompanies Firmin's descent down the mountainside, requires a director's willingness to keep dialogue to a bare minimum, but it succeeds in teaching an audience how to listen to complex abstract instrumental forms, as the film's images supply them with the information they need in order to interpret the music symbolically rather than mimetically. The second, demonstrated in the dream sequence, does not silence dialogue and sound effects but instead musicalizes them so that they complement rather than drown out the instrumental music they accompany. Whereas the sonicization of music, as in the washhouse and storm scenes, uses mimesis, in these scenes the mimetic possibilities of music (and noise) turn the tables on the assumption that the meaning of instrumental music needs explaining whereas the meaning of visual images is self-evident. For the concrete meaning of long-standing mimetic conventions in music (especially when doubled, as in the washhouse scene, with a recording of the actual sounds being imitated) as well as the use of familiar musical topics (as in the brass fanfare at the end of the storm scene) can give instrumental music the ability to define ambiguous imagery both narratively and emotionally. In these respects, film scores that use simple instrumental melodies, abstract musical forms, and even “character pieces” in innovative ways can be just as groundbreaking as those that use the most cutting-edge electroacoustic technologies.

In the early 1930s, when Honegger the critic was embracing the new possibilities of sound film, Fondane, one of his future collaborators on Rapt, was lamenting the demise of the silent era. In 1930 he gave the following prescription for how best to embrace the new technology: “Noises and dialogue that are exaggerated, deformed, as fake as possible: this is the only use of speech or sound that is likely to maintain all of the benefits of silent film, while altering its form and enriching its hypnotic power.”112 In Rapt, Honegger and Hoérée were successful in harnessing the concrete meaning of visual imagery such as rushing water, villagers dancing, and menacing storm clouds in order to define the “reality” of both orchestral music and manipulated recordings of musical instruments, fulfilling Honegger's theories about the use of sound film to make music's meaning more “real.” However, Honegger also made use of the very conventions of musical mimesis he claimed to have rejected in both film scores and concert works. Moreover, the unstable relationship in sound film between visual storytelling and one concrete version of “reality” was crucial to the audiovisual narrative in Kirsanoff's first sound film. For this instability offered Kirsanoff and his musical collaborators the opportunity to make music and image work together in ways that violated prevailing norms of synchronization in order to communicate not realism but insight to the audience for this new, “hypnotic” technology. In the end, Honegger the critic may have championed music's autonomy even in sound film, but Honegger the film composer earned the praise of the skeptical Fondane for having provided Rapt with “exactly what a musical accompaniment [for sound film] should be.”113 

Appendix

Timings for passages from the soundtracks of Les misérables, Ménilmontant, and Rapt

A. Raymond Bernard, Les misérables (New York: Criterion, 2007, DVD)

disc 1, part 1   
0:08:41 Video Example 1: Valjean's march to Digne  
0:08:46  Example 1: Jean Valjean on the road 
0:23:41 Video Example 2: Valjean's march from Digne  
disc 2, part 3   
0:56:01 Video Example 5: Valjean in the Paris sewers  
0:58:18  Example 5: In the sewers 
disc 1, part 1   
0:08:41 Video Example 1: Valjean's march to Digne  
0:08:46  Example 1: Jean Valjean on the road 
0:23:41 Video Example 2: Valjean's march from Digne  
disc 2, part 3   
0:56:01 Video Example 5: Valjean in the Paris sewers  
0:58:18  Example 5: In the sewers 

B. Dimitri Kirsanoff, Ménilmontant, in Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s (New York: Kino International, 2005, DVD), disc 1, chapter 7

0:25:18 Video Example 7: Multiple exposures (Sibirskaïa)  
0:25:18 Video Example 7: Multiple exposures (Sibirskaïa)  

C. Dimitri Kirsanoff, Rapt, in Ramuz Cinema (Lausanne: Cin&lettres, 2006, DVD), disc 6

I. Overture
(0:00:10–0:02:23) 
  
0:01:33  Example 3: Firmin's theme (brass fanfare) 
II. In the mountains
(0:02:23–0:16:08) 
  
0:08:55 Video Example 3: The abduction scene  
0:08:55  Example 2a: Elsi's song, first stanza 
0:09:43  Examples 2b/6a: Elsi's song, second stanza 
0:10:36  Example 3: Firmin's theme (brass fanfare) 
0:10:56 Video Example 4: Firmin's descent (beginning)  
0:10:56  Example 4: Figured chorale 
0:12:40 Video Example 6: Firmin's descent (ending)  
0:12:40  Example 6b: Elsi's song (second stanza, truncated) 
III. In Firmin's village
(0:16:08–1:16:39) 
  
0:18:53 Video Example 9: The washhouse scene  
0:18:53  Example 8a: The washhouse 
0:19:23  Example 9: Jeanne's theme 
0:52:26 Video Example 10: The storm scene  
0:52:26  Example 10: Peasant dance II 
0:56:27 Video Example 11: The assault  
0:56:38  Example 11: Firmin's theme (the assault, new imitative brass fanfare) 
1:01:11 Video Example 8: The dream sequence  
1:01:11  Example 7a: Dreams 
1:09:34 Video Example 12: Closing sequence  
I. Overture
(0:00:10–0:02:23) 
  
0:01:33  Example 3: Firmin's theme (brass fanfare) 
II. In the mountains
(0:02:23–0:16:08) 
  
0:08:55 Video Example 3: The abduction scene  
0:08:55  Example 2a: Elsi's song, first stanza 
0:09:43  Examples 2b/6a: Elsi's song, second stanza 
0:10:36  Example 3: Firmin's theme (brass fanfare) 
0:10:56 Video Example 4: Firmin's descent (beginning)  
0:10:56  Example 4: Figured chorale 
0:12:40 Video Example 6: Firmin's descent (ending)  
0:12:40  Example 6b: Elsi's song (second stanza, truncated) 
III. In Firmin's village
(0:16:08–1:16:39) 
  
0:18:53 Video Example 9: The washhouse scene  
0:18:53  Example 8a: The washhouse 
0:19:23  Example 9: Jeanne's theme 
0:52:26 Video Example 10: The storm scene  
0:52:26  Example 10: Peasant dance II 
0:56:27 Video Example 11: The assault  
0:56:38  Example 11: Firmin's theme (the assault, new imitative brass fanfare) 
1:01:11 Video Example 8: The dream sequence  
1:01:11  Example 7a: Dreams 
1:09:34 Video Example 12: Closing sequence  

 

Notes

Notes
Thanks to Hubert Bolduc-Cloutier, Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Hannah Lewis, Colin Roust, and the Journal's anonymous readers for their valuable feedback on various versions of this article, as well as to those who commented on versions read in 2015 at the conference “Music and Realism” at the University of Birmingham, UK, and in 2016 at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society (Vancouver), the annual conference “Music and the Moving Image” (New York), the Ohio State University, and the Université de Montréal.
1.
Porcile, Présence de la musique, 261: “Arthur Honegger semble avoir laissé de sa production pour le film une impression fausse. Car ce ne sont pas les commentaires épiques des Misérables ou de Mermoz, si prisés des critiques musicaux, qui passeront l'épreuve du temps, mais plutôt des partitions discrètes, intelligentes et méconnues, comme celles de l'Idée et de Rapt.” Unless otherwise noted, translations are my own.
2.
The two articles, “Du cinéma sonore à la musique réelle” and “Pour prendre congé,” first published in the journal Plans in January and July 1931 respectively, are reprinted in Honegger, Écrits, 105–16.
3.
This despite Pacific 231's origins in the music Honegger had written several months earlier for Abel Gance's silent film La roue (The wheel), the protagonist of which is a train engineer. In the surviving music for the film, Honegger wrote the words “locomotive” and “rail” above passages reminiscent of the later symphonic score. See Halbreich, Arthur Honegger, 429–32.
4.
Honegger, Écrits (“Pour prendre congé”), 113: “Si l'art musical devait avoir pour but une espèce de photographie des sons, il ne se justifierait pas. Cette sorte de reportage sonore, par ailleurs si émouvant et si riche en avenir, est du domaine de la T.S.F. et en partie du cinéma, plus que de celui du compositeur. Ce que je voudrais exprimer, c'est non pas la réalité sonore d'un spectacle, d'une machine ou d'un drame humain, mais sa signification spirituelle dans le mode artistique qui est le mien.”
5.
Ibid., 114: “Pacific n'a jamais été une onomatopée de la locomotive”; 112: “un critique, d'ailleurs bien intentionné, me louait d'avoir puissamment exprimé la mer, croyant, sur la foi du titre, que je chantais l'océan Pacifique et non la locomotive”; 114: “On aurait pu et dû y reconnaître la forme la plus classique et la plus sévère: celle du choral d'orgue de Bach sur le modèle duquel cette œuvre a été construite.”
6.
Honegger, Écrits (“Du cinéma sonore”), 110: “La musique n'a pas une représentation réelle, concrète, perceptible d'une façon identique à la totalité des auditeurs” (Honegger's emphasis).
7.
Ibid.: “le musicien aura la faculté de faire parvenir à l'entendement de l'auditeur chez lequel tout se traduit en images, non point celles que la fantaisie dudit auditeur lui suscite, mais les images concrètes de son œuvre propre, fixées avec netteté et unité.”
8.
Born in 1891 to French playwright and novelist Tristan Bernard, Raymond Bernard began his career in silent film by adapting his father's plays to the screen but later established himself as a director of lavish historical spectacles with Le miracle des loups (1924), which depicts the conflict between Louis XI (played by Charles Dullin) and his brother, the Duke of Burgundy, in fifteenth-century France. Martin Barnier characterizes Bernard's sound films for Pathé-Natan as the studio's grandest “megaproductions”—first, Les croix de boix (1932), which used war veterans to reenact the tragedy of World War I, and then Les misérables (1933). Barnier writes that “the resources made available to [Bernard] were enormous” (“les moyens mis à sa disposition sont énormes”). Before it declared bankruptcy in 1936, Pathé-Natan had the ambition and the collateral to put actors and directors under multi-year contracts; Bernard's initial three-year contract from 1929, for 15,000 francs per month and 10 percent of royalties, had been renewed in 1932. Barnier, “Les misérables de Raymond Bernard,” 37–39, here 38; see also Abel, French Cinema, 175–79, 204–5. On similarities between Pathé-Natan and the vertically integrated Hollywood studios, see O'Brien, Cinema's Conversion to Sound, 137–48.
9.
Andrew, Mists of Regret, 159. Born Markus David Kaplan in Tartu, Estonia, in 1899, Kirsanoff emigrated after World War I first to Berlin in 1919 and then to Paris in 1920, where he changed the subject of his studies from chemistry to cello and his name from Kaplan to Kirsanoff. Best known for his innovative camerawork and the poetic nature of his visual storytelling in avant-garde silent films such as Ménilmontant (1926) and Brumes d'automne (1929), Kirsanoff struggled to work in sound film, meeting with critical acclaim and commercial failure until his death in 1959. See Abel, French Cinema, 395; Brunelin, “Au temps du Vieux-Colombier”; Fahle, Jenseits des Bildes, 81–89; Hoyer, “Dimitri Kirsanoff,” 6–7; Lapierre, Les cent visages du cinéma, 180–81; Sitney, “Ménilmontant de Dimitri Kirsanoff”; Stenzl, Dmitrij Kirsanov, 10–13; Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff; and Williams, Republic of Images, 149–51.
10.
Andrew, Mists of Regret, 116.
11.
See Altman, “Moving Lips,” 68: “Among sounds, language clearly reigns supreme.” See also Bordwell, “Introduction of Sound,” and Andrew, Mists of Regret, ch. 5.
12.
Bordwell, “Introduction of Sound,” 303.
13.
Pathé-Natan's preoccupation with box office receipts, however, led to its rerelease a year later of a more conventional feature-length film of two and a half hours. The film's original version was reconstructed under Bernard's direction in 1977 and released on DVD by Criterion in 2007. This is the version I reference in this article.
14.
See Crisp, Classic French Cinema, 26–27, 38–42, 109–14.
15.
See Dumont, Histoire du cinéma suisse, 88, 145, and Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 40–41, 141–42. Markus, a wealthy Swiss art dealer, published author, and friend of Kirsanoff, had previously produced several silent films in France between 1924 and 1928, including Kirsanoff's Sables (1928), the director's final silent film.
16.
Hannah Lewis describes the transition to sound film in France as “a unique intersection of technology, musical modernism, popular music and culture, and the avant-garde”: Lewis, French Musical Culture, 7.
17.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 88–89. Although evidence from Kirsanoff's early years is scarce, two articles in the film magazine Cinéa-Ciné pour tous, from 1924 and 1925, state that Kirsanoff began to play the cello in Estonia and continued his studies in Paris; and although two dictionaries of cinema disagree as to whether he studied at the École normale de musique or the Conservatoire, they concur in placing his subsequent employment in the orchestra of the Ciné Max-Linder in Paris; see Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 20. There are also references to Kirsanoff's earlier career as a cellist in silent film orchestras in an article based on interviews with Jean Tedesco, who in the 1920s created the art film theater at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in Paris where Kirsanoff's Ménilmontant was premiered in 1926; see Brunelin, “Au temps du Vieux-Colombier,” 69.
18.
Ramuz is one of the eight men in Firmin's village who gather to discuss Elsi's dilemma during the washhouse scene; he is the one smoking a pipe (19:55; Video Example 9: 1:03). Although Rapt was produced by a French company and directed by a French director, and the interior shots were filmed in France (Markus leased the studios of Nicéa-Films in Nice), the film's setting and the shooting of the exterior shots in the Swiss Alps (in the villages of Lens and Kandersteig, at the Torrent mountain peak and the Gemmi pass), the producer's nationality, and the film's status as the first film adaptation of Ramuz's fiction have led Swiss film historians to consider it a Swiss film; see Buache, Le cinéma suisse, 11–12, 179–84; Dumont, Histoire du cinéma suisse, 145–48; Pithon, “Le cinéma dans l'œuvre de Ramuz,” 95–100; and Wider, Der Schweizer Film, 1:106–15. For the purposes of this article, however, I consider Rapt as French, since it was produced by a French company and, at the time, the film's director, the screenwriter, and the two composers had worked in film exclusively either for French firms or in the Paris studios of American firms. The fact that none of them was French by birth (Kirsanoff was born in Estonia, Fondane in Romania, Hoérée in Belgium, and Honegger in France but to Swiss parents) highlights the exceptionally cosmopolitan nature of French filmmaking in the 1920s and 1930s.
19.
Alain Virmaux provides a comparison between the screenplay and the original novel in “Rapt (1933–34),” 34–38.
20.
The somewhat problematic term “cinematic impressionism” originated as a label that French filmmakers such as Louis Delluc, Jean Grémillon, and Marcel L'Herbier applied to their own films in the early 1920s as a way of associating their use of experimental editing techniques and filming of contemporary scenes and natural landscapes with the prestige of impressionist painting and, to a lesser extent, musical impressionism. Richard Abel prefers the broader term “narrative avant-garde” because it better encompasses the full diversity of approaches to silent narrative film in 1920s France: Abel, French Cinema, 279–86. Sibirskaïa, a French actress née Germaine Lebas who Russified her name around the same time as Kirsanoff, worked with Kirsanoff from his very first film, the now lost L'ironie du destin (1921); see Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 21–38, 139–40.
21.
Virmaux indicates that the film as originally released in 1934 was 102 minutes long, whereas the version of Rapt restored in 1995 by the Cinémathèque suisse and France's Centre national du cinéma, released on DVD by Cin&Lettres in 2006, lasts only seventy-seven minutes and may, therefore, be missing approximately twenty-five minutes of footage: Virmaux, “Rapt (1933–34),” 27–28. In the 1930s, however, fifty-eight minutes of music represented a high percentage of total footage whether the full length of the original film was seventy-seven or 102 minutes. The 1995 restoration, at seventy-seven minutes, is the version to which I refer in this article.
22.
Andrew, Mists of Regret, 159.
23.
Jahier, “Le cinéma: Rapt,” 117–18: “Les traces d'un esthétisme étroitement lié à certaine école du cinéma muet nous laisseraient plutôt croire à la volonté, de la part du metteur en scène, de ne voir dans le parlant que le moyen d'obtenir un accompagnement musical ne varietur, négligeant tous les problèmes proprement cinématographiques qui se sont posés depuis 1928. … En résumé une œuvre d'une probité artistique rare mais dont l'auteur, nous en sommes certains, doit penser avec nostalgie aux années où le sonore n'existait pas.”
24.
See Lewis, French Musical Culture, 159.
25.
Kirsanoff, “De la synthèse cinématographique,” 31: “une forme hybride … où la musique, l'image et le dialogue formeraient un tout.”
26.
Hoérée, “Le travail du film sonore.” On Hoérée's innovations in Rapt, see Cloutier, “Arthur Hoérée, musicien d'écran,” 116–27, 145–67; Langlois, Les cloches d'Atlantis, 164, 186–88, 225–27; James, “Avant-Garde Sound-on-Film Techniques,” 79–83; and Bolduc-Cloutier, “Suggérer le rêve en musique.” I am grateful to Monsieur Bolduc-Cloutier for sharing his unpublished paper with me.
27.
Stenzl, Dmitrij Kirsanov, 125–43.
28.
Ibid., 136: “Charakterstücke.”
29.
Chion, Audio-Vision, 33–34.
30.
For a thorough discussion of song plugging, and the widely varying degrees to which the song performance was integrated into a film's narrative, see Spring, Saying It with Songs. Although the practice had diminished significantly in Hollywood by 1931, it continued into the mid-1930s in France, where song performances appeared in as many as half of French films and at an average rate of two to three per film; see O'Brien, Cinema's Conversion to Sound, 29, and Basile and Gavouyère, La chanson française, 15.
31.
Chion, Film, a Sound Art, 38.
32.
Altman, “Moving Lips,” 69.
33.
See Bordwell, “Introduction of Sound,” 303. The convention of an onscreen singing performance filmed with precise synchronization was widespread enough by 1931 to become a topic of satire for Clair in À nous, la Liberté! In an early scene in the film, a man hears someone singing and sees a woman looking out her window. However, he is too far away to see what Clair shows the viewer in close-up shots: that the mouth of the woman is not moving in synchrony with the words of the song. The joke is that the man does not realize his error until he sees the same woman next to him in the street, staring at him but not singing, even as the singing continues. Colin Roust writes that “many reviews commented on this scene in particular. Most were startled by the obvious lack of synchronization between [the woman's] lips and the song. All realized that they had been tricked by Clair”: Roust, “‘Say It with Georges Auric,’” 149–50n51.
34.
For each music example for Les misérables and Rapt, unless otherwise indicated, I have used in the caption the title given to the section of the composer's autograph score from which the example has been extracted (see the “Works Cited” list below); the measure numbers in the example relate to that section of the autograph score. When a discrepancy exists between what is notated in the autograph score and what is recorded on the soundtrack, I have explained the discrepancy in a note. The track timing at the end of each caption indicates the location of the excerpt within the related video example. See the  Appendix below for a chart showing the timings of the video examples and notated music examples relative to the commercially available DVDs from which the video examples and some of the music examples are derived (also included in the “Works Cited” list).
35.
Honegger, Écrits (“Du cinéma sonore”), 109: “un art curieux, s'adressant en même temps et à qualité égale à deux sens. … Dans Mickey il est certain que c'est le rythme musical même qui donne naissance aux images” (Honegger's emphasis). Fellow film composer Maurice Jaubert dismissed Mickey Mousing in 1936 as “puerile” and displaying “a total misunderstanding of the very essence of music”: Jaubert, “Le cinéma,” 116 (“puérile”; “une méconnaissance totale de l'essence même de la musique”).
36.
Hugo, Les misérables, 1:103.
37.
Ibid., 1:105.
38.
Clair, “Talkie versus Talkie.” See also Lewis, French Musical Culture, ch. 4.
39.
Kirsanoff, “De la synthèse cinématographique,” 30: “Le cinéma de ces dernières années n'est la plupart du temps que du théâtre filmé. … Ce cinéma-là ne peut davantage faire appel à la musique que le théâtre illustré de musique de scène. Le rôle de la musique devient, ici, un accessoire superfétatoire sinon un article de luxe: la musique meuble telle scène, elle romantise tel dialogue, ou remplit simplement le rôle du préposé aux bruits de coulisse” (Kirsanoff's emphasis).
40.
Ibid., 31. Inspired by the experience of staging Wagner's Die Walküre at the Bolshoi Theater in 1940, Sergei Eisenstein voiced a similar goal for sound film: “Men, music, light, landscape, colour, and motion brought into one integral whole by a single piercing emotion, by a single theme and idea—this is the aim of modern cinematography”: Eisenstein, “Embodiment of a Myth,” 85. On the appeal of Wagnerian music drama as a model for the fusion of music and image in early sound film, see Bordwell, “Musical Analogy,” 143–47.
41.
A letter from Honegger to Ramuz of September 1933 reveals that Honegger and Hoérée were originally planning to use texted songs in the overture: “The melodies of these songs could then serve a little as leitmotifs over the course of the film.” Honegger then asked Ramuz to provide appropriate texts for, among other sections, “the opening chorus [that] will serve as an overture during the credits” and “a peasants' [chorus] [for] Firmin's village square”: quoted in Guisan, C.-F. Ramuz, 6:256 (“Les mélodies de ces chansons pourraient aussi servir un peu comme des leit-motiv au cours du film. … Le chœur du début servira d'ouverture pendant les titres. Celui des paysannes est sur la place du village de Firmin”). The final version of the overture, however, uses only instrumental versions of themes that, with the exception of Elsi's theme in the abduction scene, have no words throughout the film, and there is no choral music in the score of Rapt. It is not clear who wrote the text to Elsi's theme when it is sung in the abduction scene, but on the evidence of this letter it would appear to have been Ramuz.
42.
Altman, “Moving Lips,” 71, 76–77.
43.
Darryl Hutton, Ventriloquism (1974), quoted in Altman, “Moving Lips,” 77.
44.
Altman, “Moving Lips,” 78–79.
45.
See above.
46.
Ibid.
47.
Chion, Audio-Vision, 55–56.
48.
Jaubert, “Le cinéma,” 115: “il ne s'agit [pas] … pour la musique de commander aux images, mais de les servir: elle n'est plus qu'un des éléments de l'œuvre commune, peut-être le moins malléable.” Jaubert wrote music for over fifty films; notable examples from 1932–34 include Quatorze juillet (Clair, 1932), Zéro de conduite (Vigo, 1933), and L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934). He was music director at Pathé-Natan from 1931 to 1935, where he conducted Honegger's score for Les misérables. See Porcile, Maurice Jaubert.
49.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 88: “Le metteur en scène … ne … soupçonne l'importance que [la musique] peut avoir dans la structure intime du film. Le musicien, le plus souvent, se trouve assimilé à un tapissier venant prendre mesure des surfaces dont il n'a point conçu l'ordonnance, mais dont on tolère qu'il les couvre d'une vêture insignifiante.” (A footnote indicates that the aesthetic parts of the article, such as the one cited here, were written by Honegger and the technical passages by Hoérée.)
50.
Ibid.: “[un] artiste complet qui fut au surplus musicien professionnel. C'est dire que son scénario … assignait à la musique une fonction essentielle; qu'à notre demande, il tâchait toujours de concilier les exigences symphoniques avec celles de son montage.”
51.
Honegger, Écrits (“Du cinéma sonore”), 108: “Il faudra donc d'abord que le cinéaste et le musicien fassent, d'accord, leur découpage préalable, mais, au moment du montage, ce sera le cinéaste qui devra avoir le plus de souplesse pour adapter ses coupures au développement nécessaire de la ligne mélodique” (Honegger's emphasis); 107: “Ainsi, la musique corrige dans toute la mesure possible le caractère nécessairement conventionnel du film.”
52.
An exception is made for a letter that Elsi's fiancé, Hans, writes for a peddler to deliver to Elsi. As Hans writes the letter (24:30), and again as Elsi reads it (36:06), the written texts on screen dissolve from German into French.
53.
Hoérée, interviewed by Cloutier in “Arthur Hoérée, musicien d'écran,” 70: “En général, réalisateurs et producteurs veulent entendre les paroles et ils ont parfaitement raison. Mais ils trouvent presque toujours que la musique est trop forte et ils fondent, ils fondent et ils fondent encore. Finalement on ne distingue plus rien.” See also Altman, “Moving Lips,” 68.
54.
See Crisp, Classic French Cinema, 22–24; Gomery, Coming of Sound, 107–8; and Vincendeau, “Hollywood Babel.” Other American studios, such as MGM, were producing multiple-language versions of their films in Hollywood. Several people who worked on Rapt had previously worked on multiple-language films at major American studios—Hoérée as a sound engineer and Fondane as a screenwriter at Paramount, and actors Parlo and Vital at Paramount, Warner Brothers, RKO, and MGM.
55.
See Thompson, Exporting Entertainment, 160–61. Figures cited for a one-year period during 1931–32 in Crisp, Classic French Cinema, 39. O'Brien cites slightly higher annual figures for Pathé-Natan (twenty-four in 1931, twenty-three in 1932), indicating that Pathé-Natan may at best have merely kept up with Paramount's impressive pace in producing French-language films at this time: O'Brien, Cinema's Conversion to Sound, 187n2. French firms also had to contend with competition from the German firm Tobis-Klangfilm, which, as the chief rival to American sound film patents, sought not only to install their technology in French film studios and distribution networks, but also to provide the French market with high-quality French-language films, notably producing Clair's innovative films; see Andrew, “Sound in France,” 102–3. On the economics of the transition from silent to sound film in France, see Crisp, Classic French Cinema, 94–104; Gomery, Coming of Sound, 105–14; and Thompson, Exporting Entertainment, 148–70.
56.
“Dimitri Kirsanoff nous parle des Nuits de Port-Saïd,” L'Ami du Peuple, May 29, 1931: “Comme il se doit, on y parlera: mais le moins possible.” Witness also the sarcasm in the 1930 proclamation by Fondane (who wrote the screenplay for Les nuits de Port-Saïd) that he was “overjoyed that film can now have both sound and dialogue. Much more sound than dialogue, of course; very little sound and dialogue”: Fondane, “Du muet au parlant,” 150 (“le film peut devenir pour notre plus grande joie et sonore et parlant. Beaucoup plus sonore que parlant, bien entendu; très peu sonore et parlant”).
57.
See Waldman, Paramount in Paris, 27.
58.
Bordwell, “Introduction of Sound,” 303.
59.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 88–89: “En ce qui concerne la structure musicale, nous avons évité le développement symphonique, l'harmonie descriptive, préférant garder à notre partition son autonomie afin de ne point empiéter sur le domaine de l'écran et vice versa. C'est pourquoi nous avons fait appel … à des formes classiques, c'est-à-dire dont le développement est issu de leur propre substance musicale et non inféodé à un plan littéraire ou psychologique. C'est ainsi que le prélude accompagnant le générique (titres), est constitué par une ouverture construite sur le thème de chacun des principaux personnages. … Pour commenter une poursuite entre le chien de berger et une chèvre, nous avons composé une fugue à deux voix dont tout le monde sait qu'elle constitue une poursuite musicale (en italien: fugare = poursuivre). … Pendant qu'on transporte [Elsi] évanouie … se développe un choral figuré” (Honegger and Hoérée's emphasis).
60.
See Williams and Leaver, “Figured Chorale.”
61.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 89: “la chanson d'Elsi renaît par fragments interrompus (c'est le plan du choral figuré) comme l'écho de la chanson tragiquement suspendue.”
62.
In La séparation des races the shepherds who had listened to Firmin's drunken nighttime boasts awaken the next morning hoping that he has abandoned his idea of abducting the shepherdess, only to look on, aghast, as he returns to the chalet with the unconscious Elsi in his arms. The scene is punctuated by their commentary: “around the chalet the same great astonishment ruled: ‘Impossible! … But yes, it's really him! … And he has her: see, he has her!'”: Ramuz, La séparation des races, 30 (“autour du chalet le même grand étonnement régnait: ‘Pas possible! … Que oui, c'est bien lui! … Et il l'a: vous voyez, il l'a!'”).
63.
See above.
64.
Honegger, Écrits (“Du cinéma sonore”), 111: “Le film sonore peut très bien achever la musique, la compléter en lui donnant un sens réel” (Honegger's italics).
65.
Ibid., 106–7: “[La composition musicale] appartient à la continuité, exige un développement logique. Le montage cinématographique appartient aux contrastes et oppositions. … Il faut, de toute évidence, créer la musique adaptée au film. … [Le musicien] utilisera les inépuisables ressources que lui permet la technique musicale et, notamment, la superposition des thèmes” (Honegger's italics).
66.
Ibid. Honegger was describing the simplest approach to musical accompaniment for silent films, for which a keyboard player could use “how-to” books such as Rapée's Motion Picture Moods to create a compilation score out of familiar selections in the public domain, since most theaters could not afford the necessary personnel and rehearsals for original orchestral scores. Since music was categorized (“Battles,” “Fire Fighting,” “Lullaby,” “Sea and Storm”) to facilitate quick matching of the visual content of individual shots, momentary musical relevance, as Honegger indicates, overshadowed and even contradicted narrative continuity. See Lastra, Sound Technology, 111–18.
67.
While this practice was not the norm in the silent era, there were several notable examples of original film scores in the 1920s, including Paul Hindemith's for the German documentary In Kampf mit dem Berge (1921), Mortimer Wheeler's for Douglas Fairbanks's The Thief of Baghdad (1924), and Edmond Meisel's for Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925); see Larsen, Film Music, 33–35.
68.
Hoérée, “Histoire et fonction,” 64: “exprimant la fatigue et les suffocations du forçat évadé.”
69.
Honegger wrote the name “Javert” above the relevant passage in the autograph score.
70.
Hoérée, “Histoire et fonction,” 64: “Par le procédé du ‘mixage’ ou mélange, on a ‘fondu’ cette musique afin de percevoir le clapotis de l'eau: la gradation instrumentale était entièrement perdue.”
71.
Quoted in Guisan, C.-F. Ramuz, 6:256: “il m'était impossible de faire tout le travail dans le peu de temps disponible et j'ai du m'adjoindre un collaborateur, Arthur Hoeree [sic], qui est un excellent musicien.” Honegger's letter corrects Dumont's claim that Kirsanoff hired Hoérée first, and that it was Hoérée's idea to hire Honegger; Hoérée had not, as Dumont misstates, already worked with Kirsanoff on Brumes d'automne in 1928, but in fact scored films for Kirsanoff only after Rapt (Visages de la France in 1935–36 and Arrière-Saison in 1952). The music for Brumes d'automne was composed by Paul Devred. Dumont, Histoire du cinéma suisse, 146; see also Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 142, 146, 155.
72.
Hoérée, interviewed by Cloutier in “Arthur Hoérée, musicien d'écran,” 88: “Quand on avait le scénario en main, on le lisait, Honegger délimitait les séquences qu'il pouvait faire, généralement pas plus de dix à quinze minutes de musique, et me disait: ‘Je ne puis faire davantage.’ Alors, je faisais toute le reste et on s'entendait ainsi.”
73.
Hoérée, “Arthur Honegger et le cinéma,” 4: “Honegger s'était chargé des scènes bucoliques: le matin, le lavoir, le bal. … À l'opposé, les passages véhéments … m'étaient dévolus.” For charts identifying the parts of the soundtrack of Rapt that were composed by Hoérée, by Honegger, and by the two together, see Cloutier, “Arthur Hoérée, musicien d'écran,” 132–40, and Stenzl, Dmitrij Kirsanov, 153–56.
74.
Bordwell, “Introduction of Sound,” 303–4. Bordwell estimates that “between 1917 and 1927, the average shot ran between five and six seconds; between 1928 and 1934, the length was closer to eleven seconds” (304).
75.
See above.
76.
Andrew, Mists of Regret, 42.
77.
Quoted in Marcel Lapierre, “Opinions de cinéastes: Dimitri Kirsanoff,” Cinéa-Ciné pour tous 127 (February 15, 1929): 12: “Les sous-titres, c'est la bête noire du film. … On n'explique pas, par des mots, une symphonie. Un film doit être compréhensible en lui-même.” On Eisenstein's use of a similar analogy between silent film form and what Bordwell paraphrases as “pure music, free of text,” see Bordwell, “Musical Analogy,” 148–49. On the absence of intertitles in Ménilmontant and other silent films, see Sitney, “Ménilmontant de Dimitri Kirsanoff,” 138.
78.
My discussion of Ménilmontant refers to the version of the film included in the DVD Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s released by Kino International in 2005.
79.
Prouty, “Well-Furnished Interior,” 3–4, here 4.
80.
In a lecture of 1926, Grémillon praised D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) for its “photogenic value” and declared, “I would begin to study the new atmosphere that the light creates in Broken Blossoms. … Griffith was the first to discover this spirit of light and to understand the expression that is thrown in rays from floodlights or from the ambience of lamps on simple objects or on a face”: quoted in Andrew, Mists of Regret, 37–38.
81.
See Dall'Asta, “Thinking about Cinema,” 87. Dall'Asta cites numerous examples by Gance, L'Herbier, Germaine Dulac, Delluc, and Jean Epstein.
82.
Vincendeau argues that long takes such as these “were common in 1930s French cinema,” citing films by Jean Renoir, Pierre Chenal, and Pierre Colombier that “contain many shots over two minutes [long], with multiple reframings and complex negotiations of cinematic space and decor”: Vincendeau, “Art of Spectacle,” 145.
83.
In Example 7a I have reversed the order of the notes as they appear in the composer's autograph score to reflect that in which they are heard in the film's soundtrack (see below). I have also transcribed the ticking clock and the whispering male voice from the soundtrack, as they are not notated in the autograph score. Example 7b is taken from Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire.
84.
Jaubert, “Le cinéma,” 116, 118, here 116: “Ici la musique a son mot à dire: sa présence même va avertir le spectateur que le style du film change momentanément pour des raisons dramatiques. Toute sa puissance de suggestion va accentuer, prolonger l'impression de dépaysement, de rupture avec la vérité photographique que cherche le metteur en scène.” See also Lewis, French Musical Culture, ch 6. Gilbert Gabriel surveys directors' uses of sound distortion, electroacoustic instrumentation, musique concrète, and closely miked voice-over to create “subjective sound” in dream and dreamlike sequences from Alfred Hitchcock's first sound film, Blackmail (1929), to Sam Mendes's American Beauty (1999) in “Altered States, Altered Sounds.” Bolduc-Cloutier bases his interpretation of the dream sequence in Rapt on Gabriel's use of Charles Tart's theories of the three phases of dreaming (hypnagogic, oniric, hypnopompic) in “Suggérer le rêve en musique.”
85.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 90: “une sorte de halo sonore”; “[p]our exprimer l'atmosphère mystérieuse d'un rêve.” The effect is at its most pronounced when applied to the sharp attack and pronounced decay of notes played by the harp.
86.
See Langlois, Les cloches d'Atlantis, 179–86, and Hoérée, “Le travail du film sonore,” 72. Jaubert discusses his use of the technique in Zéro de conduite in “Le cinéma,” 118–19.
87.
Honegger and Hoérée were the first to experiment with this technique. Whereas both Roland-Manuel and Jaubert applied retrograde sound to voice and instruments (Roland-Manuel applied it to the texted voice of a street vendor to turn his spoken French into an exotic, unintelligible dialect, while Jaubert's singer, like the one in Rapt, sings a textless melody), they did not mix the resulting sound recording with any other elements in the soundtrack.
88.
The relentless ticking of the clock brings to mind the famous use of a pounding heartbeat to underscore the transformation of the main character in Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). This sequence in Rapt, with its invocation of a liminal state of apprehension about the future, shares with the transformation scene in Mamoulian's film what Neil Lerner describes as “a central encounter with the uncanny through its hauntingly familiar sounds”: Lerner, “Strange Case,” 73.
89.
Honegger and Hoérée described this use of Firmin's voice as “dictated by the conscience of the hero who dreams with his eyes wide open”: Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 90 (“dicté par la conscience du héros rêvant les yeux grands ouverts”). As Bolduc-Cloutier notes, it is only in a dreamlike, altered state that Firmin is able to name the exact cause of the anxiety he has been experiencing: Bolduc-Cloutier, “Suggérer le rêve en musique.”
90.
Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 89: “une sorte de synthèse sonore teintée de psychologie.
91.
Well-known examples from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century repertoires include Wagner's Prelude to Das Rheingold, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, and Anton Rubenstein's Symphony no. 2 in C Major, op. 42 (the Ocean).
92.
Example 8b is taken from Smetana, Vltava.
93.
Chion, Audio-Vision, 114, 223. Chion defines “materializing sound indices” as “sonic details that supply information about the concrete materiality of sound production in the film space.”
94.
Ibid., 34.
95.
See above.
96.
The sixteen measures of water music are repeated three times in this scene, and the sixteen measures of Jeanne's theme are played above the first and third repeats. The theme returns soon afterward in an extended, forty-eight-measure rendition (played by the pastoral English horn over a more conventional accompaniment) that underscores two scenes that further cement the idea of Jeanne as village insider: first, Firmin's first post-abduction encounter with Jeanne in the village street, during which he mumbles a half-hearted excuse (25:18); and second, Jeanne's visit to Firmin's mother, who declares in her kitchen, over the melody's final measures, that Firmin “is going to have to choose: his mother, or a foreigner” (“il faudra bien qu'il choisisse entre sa mère et une étrangère”), while Elsi remains locked upstairs (29:44). This longer rendition is notated in Honegger's autograph score for Rapt as “Chanson de Jeanne.”
97.
“Croyez-vous! Qui l'aurait dit? Un garçon si rangé, si sérieux!—Ah, si c'était mon fils, ça ne se passerait comme ça!—C'est peut-être qu'il y en a pas ici, des belles filles!—Oh, penses-tu, une étrangère, ça ne s'épouse pas!—Et puis il était fiancé, il devait épouser la petite Jeanne à la Noël!—C'est malheureux!—La voilà, Jeanne.—Pauvre petite!”
98.
Hoérée recorded about ten meters of film, from which he created a collage of 100 meters; see Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 90. The innovative aspect of Hoérée's storm sounds is his combination of zaponage with recorded improvised sounds that themselves blend acoustic and electroacoustic instruments and are a mix of traditional and retrograde sound. The closest comparison would be, again, with the transformation scene in Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for which Mamoulian combined the recorded sound of a heartbeat with retrograde recordings of a gong (retaining the recording of its resonating but deleting that of the initial attack) and with marks that were either made directly on the optical soundtrack or taken from photographing candlelight (Mamoulian gave contradictory descriptions of this latter effect); see Lerner, “Strange Case,” 69–71.
99.
Chion, Audio-Vision, 95–96. Chion opposes the concept of “the real” in film sound with “the rendered”: “The point is that … sound … must tell the story of a whole … rush of composite sensations and not just the auditory reality of the event” (113).
100.
In contrast to Hollywood, O'Brien writes, “the French film industry's sound-era modernisation remained selective, uneven and protracted during the period from 1930 to 1960”: O'Brien, “Imported Technologies,” 130.
101.
See Sprout, Musical Legacy, 75–76. In Honegger's words, he “looked for no program, no literary or philosophical premise” in composing his Second Symphony: Arthur Honegger, “Symphonie pour orchestre à cordes,” Mitteilungen des BKO 1 (October 9, 1943), reprinted in Honegger, Écrits, 173 (“Je n'ai cherché aucun programme, aucune donnée littéraire ou philosophique”). Nevertheless, just as one critic had heard the sounds of crashing waves in Pacific 231, another heard in the Second Symphony “the first days of the German [military] campaign in France.” In a work that was “a very personal testimony, born in the apocalyptic hour at the burning edge of death,” Wolfram Gerbracht wrote in 1947, “extramusical pictures practically impose themselves.” Gerbracht mistakenly dated the symphony to May 1940, even though it was actually composed between November 1940 and October 1941 and thus not even begun until several months after the June 1940 armistice between the two countries had halted military hostilities. Gerbracht, “Honeggers zweite Sinfonie” (“Das Werk … ist 1941 erschienen, komponiert aber schon im Mai 1940, also in den ersten Tagen des deutschen Frankreichfeldzuges. … Hier ist … eine ganz persönliche Aussage, geboren in apokalyptischer Stunde am glühenden Saum des Todes. … [U]nd außermusikalische Vorstellungen drängen sich geradezu auf”).
102.
Émile Vuillermoz, “Rapt,” Le Temps, September 22, 1934, 6: “La tempête qui fait rage dans la montagne n'est plus un simple ‘documentaire’ d'orage mais, traduite sous cette forme, nous fait pénétrer dans le subconscient du héros, bouleversé par une tourmente morale aussi tragique que le désordre des éléments.” Honegger and Hoérée echoed Vuillermoz when they wrote in their article of December 1934 that “the ambience [of the storm] is undoubtedly artificial. It nevertheless suggests not only the fury of the elements but also the moral tempest that troubles our hero”: Honegger and Hoérée, “Particularités sonores du film Rapt,” 90 (“Cette ambiance est sans doute artificielle. Toutefois, elle suggère non seulement la furie des éléments, mais aussi la tempête morale qui secoue notre héros”).
103.
Sitney, “Ménilmontant de Dimitri Kirsanoff,” 138: “Le dédain pour les conventions sentimentales.”
104.
I have transcribed this passage from the soundtrack, since it is not notated in Hoérée's autograph score.
105.
As Christophe Trebuil notes, “[Kirsanoff] finished his career with commercial films that were completely impersonal”: Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 72 (“Il termine sa carrière par des films commerciaux totalement impersonnels”). In 1957, Walter Michel, who interviewed Kirsanoff, wrote that, “in the twenty-four years between Rapt and his death early this year, Kirsanov never again had the opportunity of directing a major film with any appreciable freedom,” characterizing the films he made after Rapt as mostly “short, low-budget productions.” Kirsanoff himself, according to Michel, dismissed all but three of them, which he had produced independently—Deux amis (a twenty-two-minute film adaptation of the novella by Guy de Maupassant, 1945), La mort du cerf (a thirteen-minute documentary, 1948), and Arrière-saison (a fifteen-minute film, accompanied only by music composed by Hoérée, 1952). Michel, “In Memoriam of Dimitri Kirsanov,” 3–4; see also note 9 above. Markus fared better, creating a new company, Paris Color Films, that was to produce the first two French feature films to be shot in color: Jeunes filles à marier (1935) and La terre qui meurt (1936), both directed by Jean Vallée. Crisp attributes the later adoption of color film in France than in Hollywood to the same factors that had delayed the adoption of sound film there: each technology experienced “early development, late implementation, lack of investment capital, [and was] bought out by foreign firms that then commercialized it and charged French firms heavily for the right to use it”: Crisp, French Cinema, 152.
106.
Honegger swiftly recast twenty minutes of his music for Les misérables as a symphonic suite that was premiered at the Concerts Siohan in Paris in January 1935. The suite was edited by the composer-conductor Adriano for publication by Salabert in 1984. Honegger's title for it—Les misérables: Première suite symphonique—implies that he may have envisioned, though seems never to have assembled, an eventual second suite. For Rapt, he recycled only a two-minute segment of music (the first of the two “Danses paysannes”) in his 1943 ballet L'appel de la montagne (retitled Danse des filles de cantons) and again in the ballet's subsequent symphonic suite Jour de fête suisse. See Halbreich, L'œuvre d'Arthur Honegger, 802, 816.
107.
Émile Vuillermoz and violinist Jacques Thibaud leased Paramount's Paris studios to produce what they called “cinéphonies,” an amalgamation of “cinéma” and “symphonie.” They hired three directors (Kirsanoff, L'Herbier, and Max Ophuls) and used Hoérée as the sound technician and sound editor. See Rougier, “Émile Vuillermoz et les cinéphonies”; Rougier, “Cinéphonies”; Trebuil, L'œuvre singulière de Dimitri Kirsanoff, 61–68; and Cloutier, “Arthur Hoérée, musicien d'écran,” 43–45.
108.
For analyses of Honegger's score for L'idée, see Descheneaux, “Transcendance et apolitisme dans L'idée,” and Tchamkerten, “De Frans Masereel à Arthur Honegger.”
109.
For example, the songs “Chanson de l'escadrille” and “Chanson du cul-de-jatte,” from the 1934 film Cessez le feu, were released as sheet music by Éditions Coda and as recorded for the film on Columbia Records by cabaret singer Lys Gauty at the same time as the film's commercial release. Cessez le feu was the first of three films Honegger would make with director Jacques de Baroncelli.
110.
Richard James points out that, “while there is no direct, antecedent-consequent relationship between early sound-on-film research and electro-acoustic music, the existence of such significant parallels between them strongly suggests that electro-acoustic music did, indeed, derive from [these] widespread interests in early twentieth-century music”: James, “Avant-Garde Sound-on-Film Techniques,” 89. On the innovations of Clair and Vigo, see Lewis, French Musical Culture. On the relationship between cinematic sound experiments in the 1930s and musique concrète in the 1940s and 1950s, see Langlois, Les cloches d'Atlantis.
111.
See above. Chion dismisses the related concept of counterpoint, denoting the relative independence of sound and image, as “an intellectual speculation rather than a workable concept”: Chion, Audio-Vision, 36.
112.
Fondane, “Du muet au parlant,” 149: “bruit ou paroles grossis, ou déformés, faux au possible—voilà le seul emploi des moyens parlants ou sonores, susceptibles de maintenir tout l'acquis du film muet, tout en changeant sa forme, en enrichissant son pouvoir hypnotique” (Fondane's emphasis).
113.
Fondane, interviewed by René Daumal for “Rapt, film de Kirsanoff, d'après un roman de Ramuz,” Aujourd'hui 311 (February 26, 1934), reprinted in Fondane, Écrits pour le cinéma, 117: “La musique de Honegger qui accompagne Rapt, c'est exactement ce que doit être un accompagnement musical.”

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