Incidental Music

Music composed for, or used in, a dramatic production, film or radio or television programme. In ancient Greek drama, music intervened at significant points, and in medieval miracle and mystery plays it accompanied entrances and exits, imitated real-life effects and enhanced symbolism. The earliest surviving secular play with significant music is Adam de la Halle's "Le jeu de Robin et Marion" (circa 1283), but it was the Renaissance that saw the first play with incidental music in the modern sense. In the 16th century and the early 17th, music was considered more appropriate for comedies and pastorals than for tragedies. Shakespeare's example led to an increased use of music in plays in England, and the tradition increased at the Restoration, when composers included John Eccles and Henry Purcell, in whose works a distinction is not always possible between plays with music and 'semi-operas'. The same is true of the "comédies-ballets" of Molière and Lully.

In the 18th century, Goethe and Schiller wrote plays with provision for incidental music. Beethoven and Weber being among the composers who provided it. Schubert's score for Chézy's "Rosamunde von Cypern" and Mendelssohn's for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are among the most notable examples of 19th_century incidental music, the latter belonging to a tradition of supplying music for Shakespeare's plays to which Spohr, Humperdinck, Tchaikovsky, Balakirev and others also contnbuted.

The composition of substantial orchestral scores for dramatic productions continued to the end of the 19th century and beyond; outstanding are those by Fauré and Sibelius for Maeterlinck's "Pelleas et Melisande". After World War I Stravinsky's music for Ramuz's "A Soldier's Tale" set a precedent for more modest forces, and also for a close collaboration between writer and composer, both features of Brecht's work with Weill, Eisler and Dessau. Since the 1930s composers have found a demand for incidental music in the cinema and to some extent in broadcasting, although radio and television programs often draw on recorded music originally written for the concert hall.

Most music written for film and drama in the early 20th century was merely "background music"; however, some had artistic merit and appeared later in concert form.  This was more generally the case with incidental music to staged drama than with music for the motion picture.  When written by competent composers, this music was so carefully integrated with the film that it could only rarely have an independent existence.