The Thrill of Seeing: Scoring The Earliest Movies

By Maggie Reberg |

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“We live in an environment where there are moving images constantly around us. But in 1897, this was startling and new and completely revolutionary. It was a different way of looking at the world.” — MoMA

In 1939, New York’s Museum of Modern Art acquired a treasure trove: 36 reels of 68mm nitrate prints and negatives made in cinema’s first years. Everything that survived of the Biograph film company lives on those reels, including a rare bit of moving image footage of Queen Victoria. Learn more about the incredible quality and clarity of this newly discovered 19th-century movie, and the efforts archivists make to preserve such irreplaceable snapshots of history. How To See: The First Movies revels in the wonder of a moving image with the help of a soundtrack as luminous and magical as the pictures on the screen.


Chicago Tribune film critic and Soundtrack contributor Michael Phillips explores this work of jazz pianist, composer, and educator Brock Chart, who lent his sensitive modern sounds to these historic reels.

On the September 12th episode of Soundtrack (every Saturday at 8:00 am) we’ll talk about Brock’s experience scoring the project and hear a few clips from the score. How To See: The First Movies also includes excerpts of works by Claude Debussy, so we’ll also listen to some familiar themes from this iconic French composer.