5. Sonic Branding: An Introduction

13 years ago our CEO Daniel M Jackson wrote a book that marked a seminal moment in the history of sonic branding. The book is called ‘Sonic Branding: An Introduction’.

This week's extract touches upon the origins of the musical film. For the very first time audiences were able to experience music synced perfectly to picture...


What the movies did for us

By 1925, a consortium led by Warner Bros had developed a new technology called the Vitaphone. It was the first system to allow good quality music to be played back perfectly synchronised with pictures. On 6 August of that year, in the 'refrigerated' Warner Theatre on Broadway, New York City, Don Juan, featuring major stars John Barrymore and Mary Astor was released. It was an experimental film that used the Vitaphone technique in a limited way. It was shot in the same way as any other silent movie of the era in that there was no dialogue, but the addition of a pre-recorded orchestral score made the film the first of the age of sound. The film showcased the talent of the New York Philharmonic, one of the finest orchestras of the day.

The musical film was well received and Warners set about their next release which was again to be a film shot in the silent style, with no dialogue and plot lines shown on narration cards. The movie they made starred one of the biggest stars of popular entertainment in the United States at that time, Al Jolson. It was called The Jazz Singer and it was conceived, like Don Juan, to showcase music. Film-makers were at the time very sceptical as to whether the characters on film should talk. The scepticism came from a Luddite 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' attitude to the film business and also from the sheer volume of logistical problems that would have to be overcome in order to make talking pictures. Silent movies could be shot anywhere but talking pictures would require silent stages, actors tied with wires to recorders and a big chunk of investment. A great representation of these times is contained in the film Singing in the Rain.

Daniel M Jackson, CEO - CORD