What would a film be without its music?
It has happened to every one of us: we hear a snatch of melody and a flood of images appears before our inner eye, all triggered off by the memory of the music. When it’s film music, often we only need to hear a brief fragment of a melody and the whole film seems to roll before us.
Is there anything more touching than the perfect combination of image and music in a film scene? It is thanks to the power of the music that we, the audience, experience the moods and emotions that the filmmakers wish to convey. Building up tension, evoking romance, expressing joy and sadness – all this lies in the power of the music. The work of Swiss film music composers is a matter of special concern to FONDATION SUISA. We offer financial support for original film music compositions, we award various prizes and accolades at film music competitions and we are involved in other activities such as the present anthology. All this serves to underline the high degree of importance we place on music in the “seventh art”.
The research undertaken for this anthology has confirmed what we suspected in advance: Switzerland possesses an immense wealth of fine film music from both the present and the past. Our collection aims to unearth these treasures and make them available to a wider audience. It is also intended to offer an overview of the variety and quality that have been characteristic of Swiss film music since its beginnings.
We have made our selection in the course of intense discussions held over several years, and while it offers a broad spectrum of music, it can still only present a fragmentary picture. Numerous personalities and many important works in filmic and musical terms have had to be omitted for reasons of space. So the works we have chosen tell a story of Swiss film music that is just one of many possible stories – and of course they cannot tell the history of Swiss film.
We also had to set boundaries. It is a moot question as to what should actually count as “Swiss film music”, for this is a profession that tends to recognise linguistic boundaries, not national borders. The language boundaries of Switzerland have the advantage of a cultural diversity that one hardly finds anywhere else within such a small geographical space. We have decided to concentrate on film music by composers who have lived in Switzerland, or who originated in this country.
Our criteria meant including all film genres including commissioned films, advertising films and other music media such as those that have emerged on the Internet. However, we have only taken original film sound into consideration. Only in the case of the era of the silent film and of the earliest talkies did we decide to use modern recordings, our reason being the poor technical quality of the originals.
It must be stressed that the present anthology is not intended to be any kind of ersatz project for the research conducted at institutions of tertiary education. Instead, we hope that it will encourage a further engagement with this diverse, fascinating topic, also among the scholarly community. For this reason I would like our work to be understood not as a culmination of something, but as a starting point and a stimulus for other publications on Swiss film music. Much remains that has not yet been researched, and the situation with regard to the sources is often uncertain. Numerous treasures await their discovery in media libraries and archives. But even in a small country such as Switzerland, today’s film music scene also offers such an abundance that one can barely keep track of it. It only remains for me to thank all the composers, film makers, and copyright-holders who together have helped with this project. It is thanks to their advice and assistance that such an ambitious undertaking as this could be realised at all.
Above all, here I would like to mention Marcel Kaufmann, the project director at FONDATION SUISA. For several years he has been organising in the background, holding everything together and then – rather like a film director – drawing together all the strands of the plot, as it were, and turning them into a coherent script.
My special thanks go to Mathias Spohr. Without his immense expert knowledge and his perseverance in both research and analysis, this anthology would probably never have come about. He and the members of our working group (Chicca Bergonzi, Roland Cosandey, Laurent Guido, Pierre-Emmanuel Jaques and Frédéric Maire) have succeeded in achieving what had been lacking in Switzerland up to now: an overview of Swiss film music.
Jürg von Allmen from Studio Digiton displayed all his brilliant expertise and sensitivity in editing a new version of all these sound recordings, carefully restoring the older examples. On the accompanying DVD, the quality of the sound was prioritised, not the picture quality; the images serve merely to provide extra information.
We also owe thanks to the following institutions whose personnel advised and aided us, thereby making it possible for us to present this selection of film music: SUISA, the Swiss Cooperative Society for Music Authors and Publishers, Zurich; Cinémathèque suisse, Lausanne; Swiss Radio and TV (SRF), Zurich; Archives RTS – Radio Télévision Suisse, Geneva; the Music Department of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich; the Medien- und Informationszentrum (MIZ) of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK); the Museum of Communication, Bern; the Swiss Federal Archives (BAR), Bern; SBB Historic – Heritage Foundation SBB, Bern; Lichtspiel/Kinemathek, Bern; Ernst Scheidegger Archive Foundation, Flims; the Archives of the Migros-Genossenschafts- Bund, Zurich; and the Kunsthaus Zürich. We would also like to thank the many other people and institutions who have contributed to the success of this project.
I am sure that the audio recordings selected here will offer much pleasure to the listener. And if this music conjures in the mind’s eye of the listener those images from wonderful films that we thought we had long forgotten – then we have achieved what we set out to do.
Urs Schnell, Director of FONDATION SUISA
Read more in ENG / FRE / GER in the booklet