Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra Releases “Sounds of the Silents”
Posted: October 14, 2014
Is Cleveland the birthplace of the music you hear marching,
crashing and whispering along behind the mayhem and spectacle of
your children's computer games or the latest Hollywood
It's a question that might be answered by "Sounds of the
Silents," the new recording of music by Cleveland-born John Stepan
Zamecnik by members of the Erie Chamber Orchestra.
The CD, the first by the orchestra, will be released in
conjunction with a concert on the orchestra's new Joe Luckey
Recital Series to be given on Oct. 13.
If Zamecnik's name is not familiar to you, it's not very
familiar to many musicians and scholars, either. Still, 100 years
ago, his music might have been as ubiquitous as that of any
composer in America.
At a time when dramatic music was played live by theater
orchestras, Zamecnik had a gold- plated gig as music director of
Cleveland's Hippodrome, which boasted more than 3,500 seats and the
world's second-largest stage.
To fill it, Zamecnik wrote big music: rousing marches, chatty
character pieces and weeping melodies that caught the interest of
the nascent motion picture industry. Zamecnik cranked out hundreds
of these pieces for Hollywood and became one of America's most
successful composers of so-called "photoplay music."
And ironically, he is one of the most anonymous. Case Western
Reserve University Zamecnik scholar Daniel Goldmark identifies most
of the music for "Wings," the winner of the first "Best Picture"
Oscar in 1927, as Zamecnik's, though he was not credited. When
talking pictures changed the function and the centrality of movie
music, Zamecnik was quickly forgotten.
Then, in a discovery worthy of "Tomb Raider's" Lara Croft, Erie
Chamber Orchestra executive director Steve Weiser discovered
complete parts for Zamecnik's music in the collection of the
orchestra's founder Bruce Morton Wright. It was the largest
collection of the composer's work to have come to light.
The ECO played a few of the pieces at various short concerts,
and then, as Weiser said, "The more we played the music, the more
we knew we needed to record it because audience loved it--and that
there were no recordings of it. We had 14 pieces that had never
been recorded before."
The Orchestra used Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, to raise
$5,000. Recording sessions were held in Gannon University's Yehl
Room over Memorial Day weekend engineered by Gannon's own Sam
Hyman. "We did a seven tracks the first day, seven the next. [Music
director] Matt Kraemer conducted and it was a blast," Weiser
"Sounds of the Silents" is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and
the Erie Chamber Orchestra webpage on gannon.edu.