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Faculty of Music


Dr Lola San Martín Arbide (University of Seville)

Cinematic City Harmonies in Early French Sound Film

The city was waiting, wrote film pioneer Lucie Derain in 1929, for the cinéastes who would eventually create gripping and vibrating Parisian films. In this colloquium, I would like to suggest that we imagine filmmakers exploring the city and tracing the landscapes of popular songs to recompose Paris on the screen during the transition from silent to sound cinema. In doing so, I would like to complement existing accounts of early French film with a study of the geographically-driven musical cues that audiences were eager to watch and listen to. At its inception, cinema was conceived as a successor to cartography, under the promise that this new medium made of realism and objectivity more attainable goals. How was Paris reimagined during the first decades of the French cinematic adventure and how did cinema replicate the urban codes inherited from literature and popular song? What are the specificities of the Parisian city film? Did the evolution of boulevard culture run parallel to that of cinema itself, as one critic suggested in 1925? This paper will show that although music and film had their own spheres in the city, they coexisted and ultimately sought proximity, fruitful transfer and the migration of expertise from one field to another.

Lola San Martín is currently a Senior Research Fellow in Music at the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain. She was previously a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford University and a Marie Curie Fellow at the EHESS in Paris. Her work specialises in French music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a special emphasis on inter-art exchanges, and she is also carrying out various research projects on sound studies and nostalgia. 

Wednesday, 17 May, 2023 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Lecture Room 2, Faculty of Music