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Timothy Brock on Restoring Charlie Chaplin’s Sound

CC with Abe Lyman Orchestra circa 1925

Chaplin’s archive does contain the entire, full, orchestrated scores. But Chaplin, as a filmmaker, was making changes all the time, sort of trial and error, and he was that way as a composer as well. He would compose a piece of music, they would make a short score of it and orchestrate it, and he would sit down with the orchestrator and tell him what to do. They’d make a full score, they’d make parts for the forty to sixty musicians, and then they would listen to it, and he’d go, “Hmm, no, I don’t like that, let’s have the oboe do this line instead, on trumpet here . . .” So players were writing stuff down all the time, because he was dictating the changes he was listening to. All of those changes were done on the parts, or on pieces of paper they attached to the parts. I found music for Modern Times on the back of laundry receipts and paper menus and things like that, whatever scraps of paper players could find at the last moment and write down some notes. - Timothy Brock

Read more about the delicate process of restoring Charlie Chaplin’s music in a new interview of Timothy Brock on Criterion’s website.