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Film Music: History

Interviews, resources, recordings, advice, and links about movie soundtracks and composing music for film

History of Film Music

This page features highlights from the history of film music.

Max Steiner (1888-1971)

Ennio Morricone (1928- )

Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979)

Highlights from Film Music History

1878 - The Horse in Motion is the first motion picture ever made, using 16 different photos and stringing them together.



1895 - Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory is the first movie shown to paying customers (you can watch it here).




1900 - Soldiers of the Cross is considered the first feature-length motion picture ever made.




1914 - Photo-Drama of Creation is the first movie to synchronize sound with the film (no talking yet). It was 8 hours long, made up of four 2-hour parts.



1915 - The Birth of a Nation (Joseph Carl Breil) is the first movie to have a complete musical score written for it. The music was performed live, not as part of the physical film, but this movie is seen as the birth of modern American cinema.



1927 - The Jazz Singer is the first feature-length movie to include synchronized dialog (a "talkie").




1933 - King Kong (Max Steiner) becomes the first movie to use a fully symphonic thematic music score and to rely on sound effects.




1937 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Leigh Harline and Paul Smith) is the first movie to release a soundtrack album for sale to the public.




1940 - Fantasia is the first movie to have stereophonic sound. Multiple microphones were use to record different sections of the orchestra.




1951 - The Day the Earth Stood Still (Bernard Herrmann) is the first movie to have a music score recorded entirely with electric instruments.




1955 - The Man with the Golden Arm (Elmer Bernstein) becomes the first Hollywood movie to have an all-jazz musical score.




1963 - The Birds (Bernard Hermann) did not have a conventional music soundtrack. Herrmann served as a "sound consultant" and a Trautonium was used to create some of the sound effects of birds.




1973 - Pat Garret & Billy the Kid (Bob Dylan) is the first movie to have an entire soundtrack written for the movie by a popular artist. 




 1982 - Koyaanisqatsi (Philip Glass) included no dialog or sound effects. The only sounds came from the musical soundtrack by Philip Glass, which was almost as long as the film itself.




1984 - Stop Making Sense is the first movie to have an all-digital soundtrack.