Starring Bela (Dracula) Lugosi
Information taken from the Gary D. Rhodes book: "White Zombie - Anatomy of a Horror Film" and various internet sources.
Since I knew "White Zombie" was an independent and low budget production I made the incorrect assumption that the music in the film was all from the 'Classical' period and in public domain. What I found was that much of the music was more recent to the period when the film was made than I had expected and two pieces were actually composed for the film.
Instead of the Halperin brothers using stock recordings from a music library, Abe Meyer (head of Meyer Synchronizing Service) was the person commissioned to hire the orchestra to record new versions of the music used in "White Zombie" .
1) The film opens with a piece made up of 'native drumming and wordless vocal' called "Chant" written by Guy Bevier Williams.
I found information on a Guy Bevier Williams as being born in Iowa (1873) and died in Los Angeles, CA (1955) who "was a pianist and composer. He studied piano in Berlin, Germany and later was accompanist for the contralto Jeanne Gordon, of the Metropolitan Opera Company, New York. In 1900, he resided in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he played many concerts as a piano soloist. He later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he taught piano in the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the Auditorium Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He later moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where he taught music at Nebraska University. As a pianist he also recorded many piano rolls." (Source: The Internet Movie Database.)
This info, however, does not seem to fit Mr. Rhodes description of his Guy Bevier Williams which he states was "a Universal Studio employee at the time and specializing in ethnic music during the period" and that his only recorded credit of the 1930s was for "White Zombie".
If he is the same fellow I found a copy of some of his sheet music at: http://tinyurl.com/247ogvz. The IMDB links this person with "White Zombie" and other films of the 1930s so it is anyone's guess. In either case, it does appear this music was written specifically for "White Zombie".
2) A piece of music that was 'expressly written for "White Zombie"' is that which is heard in the barroom scene where Neil is out of his mind with grief and drink over the death of Madeline. This Spanish jota was written by Xavier Cugat (1900-1990) a trained violinist and arranger. He was a key personality in the spread of Latin music in United States popular music. He was also a cartoonist and a successful businessman. In New York, his was the resident orchestra at the Waldorf-Astoria before and after World War II.
He was born Francesc d'Asís Xavier Cugat Mingall de Bru i Deulofeu in Girona (Catalonia), Spain and his family emigrated to Cuba when Xavier was five. He was trained as a classical violinist and played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana. On 6 July 1915, Cugat and his family arrived in New York as immigrant passengers on board the S.S. Havana.
In the late 1920s, as sound began to be used in films, he put together another tango band that had some success in early short musical films. By the early 1930s, he began appearing with his group in feature films. He took his band to New York for the 1931 opening of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and he eventually replaced Jack Denny as the leader of the hotel's resident band. One of his trademarks was to hold a Chihuahua while he waved his baton with the other arm.
In 1940, his recording of "Perfidia" with singer Miguelito Valdés became a big hit. He would continue to record for Columbia & RCA Victor Records in the 1950s and Mercury Records in the 1960s
3a) A combination of music from the Limoges section (the 7th movement) of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) "Pictures at an Exhibition" --a famous suite in ten movements composed for piano by Mussorgsky in 1874 (Late Romantic Period) &
b) Gaston Borch's (1871-1926) Incidental Symphonies were used for the scene when Legendre transforms Madeline into a Zombie.
When I did a little more research I learned Gaston Borch was from French and Norwegian decent who played cello, conducted orchestras in Norway and Switzerland and eventually throughout Europe. He became a prolific composer of 'photoplay music' from 1916 until his death in 1926. He also wrote a guide book "Practical Manual of Instrumentation" in 1918.
One site on the internet states that there isn't any information on any complete film score written by Mr. Borch, which led me to believe when Mr. Rhodes mentions Borch's Incidental Symphonies, this selection is from just that and not from any complete piece of Mr. Borch. Given the time frame of Mr. Borch's career in creating photoplay music puts these selections much closer to the time of the film's production than the classical music period I was thinking of, which makes it difficult for me to believe the selection was in the public domain in 1932. (Mr. Rhodes states all of Mr. Borch's music was published in Germany which he speculates may have allowed it to either be used inexpensively or for no fee at all.)
c) A selection of Hugo Riesenfeld's (1879-1939) "Death of the Great Chief" was used when Legendre's face appears in Madeline's glass of wine. This piece, Mr. Rhodes states, was originally written for the film "The Covered Wagon" (1923).
I learned that Mr. Riesenfeld was "from 1917-1925, the manager of the Rivoli, Rialto and Criterion Theatres in New York. A conductor and violinst, Riesenfeld was educated at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna and the University of Vienna, he then conducted with the Imperial Opera House in Vienna. In 1907 he came to America with Oscar Hammerstein and for four years worked with the Manhattan Opera Company in New York. While on Broadway, Riesenfeld demonstrated the entertainment and box office possibilities of having intelligent music accompany films. In 1928, Hugo was appointed general musical director in charge of musical productions for United Artists Pictures." (Tony Luke Scott from his book The Stars of Hollywood Forever)
That, of course, was of some interest to myself knowing that the picture "White Zombie" was eventually distributed by United Artists. The key here is 'eventually' because the film was produced independently so the fact that Mr. Riesenfeld worked for the company could be just some type of coincidence. Mr. Rhodes mentions that Mr. Riesenfeld and Abe Meyer were close friends making the inclusion of his pieces in "White Zombie" as no surprise.
d) The scene ends with moments from Gaston Borch's Agitato (as stated by Mr. Rhodes.) I'm inclined to take that he means "Agitato" in the sense of its musical definition 'Music (to be performed) in an agitated manner', and not that Mr. Borch actually composed a complete piece called "Agitato".
e) Mr. Rhodes does go on to say that another selection of Borch's "Agitato Pathetique" is used when Legendre asks Beaumont if he would take Madeline "back to the grave" lasting until the Zombies seize Silver, the butler and then
f) another Borch "Agitato" is used from that point until Silver is thrown into the water below the castle.
g) More of Borch's work is used when Madeline attempts to murder Neil under the influence of Legendre interrupted for a moment only by Riesenfeld's "Death of the Great Chief" used again when Dr. Brunor knocks the knife from Madeline's hand.
h) At the end of the film when Neil and Madeline are reunited it is again a piece from Mr. Borch that is used.
4) H. Maurice Jacquet's (1886-1954) work can be heard after Silver's death. I tried to find out more information on this person but the only thing I learned was that he was born in France, died in New York City and was the composer of 'stock music'.
5) A selection of Leo Kempenski's (1891-1958) music is heard when Madeline is first sent to kill Neil. As with the previous composer I was unable to learn more about Mr. Kempenski except that he was born in Germany, came to the USA in 1908 and died in Hampton, CT and this information was found under the name spelled "Leo Kempinski". I am making the assumption it is the same person, given that "he was a church organist in Philadelphia and a music director with a theatrical circuit for thirteen years. He was also an editor for a music publisher for three years, and wrote background music for radio programs, and conducted radio's "The Army Hour" between 1943 and 1946. In addition he was a staff arranger, conductor and composer for NBC." (Source: The Internet Movie Database.)
6) Two selections by Hen Herkan are used extensively at the climax of the film beginning at the point when Madeline 'rushes away' after attempting to kill Neil. I could find no information on Mr. Herkan whatsoever except that he is noted in Mr. Rhodes book as being a 20th Century composer that I can only assume specialized in motion picture stock music. Is is noted that Herkan's "S-O-S" was used in "White Zombie".
7) The more well known compositions in "White Zombie" are Lohengrin by Richard Wagner (composed 1850) 'used in a brief organ solo during the wedding march' and
8) Liebestraum by Franz Liszt (published also in 1850) which the zombified Madeline plays on piano illustrating that the oldest music performed in the film is from the Romantic period and the rest is Modern with nothing from the Classical period.
9) The most famous piece in the movie is R. Nathaniel Dett's (1882-1943) Listen to the Lambs published in 1914. This piece is heard when all the main characters converge at Legendre's House of the Living Dead near the end of the film.
Robert Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondsville, Ontario, Canada, on October 11, 1882. His ancestors were among the slaves who escaped to the North and settled in that slave-founded town.
In 1901, Dett began studying piano with Oliver Willis Halstead in nearby Lockport. Three years later he was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory, where he majored in piano and composition. In 1908, Dett received his B.M. degree, winning Phi Beta Kappa honors.
Dett's later education included studies at Harvard University under Arthur Foote (1920-21), and the American Conservatory in Fountainebleau with Nadia Boulanger. In 1932, he completed a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Dett's most important work began in 1913 at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. He trained the choir at that traditionally African-American school to a new level of musical excellence. His 40-voice Hampton Singers performed at Carnegie Hall in January 1914.
Dett rose to the position of director of the Music Department at Hampton in 1926, the first black to hold that job. That same year, Oberlin Conservatory awarded Dett an honorary Doctor of Music degree, another first for an African American.
On December 17, 1926, the 80-voice Hampton Choir assumed national prominence as it performed by invitation at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The unaccompanied program contained Dett's trademark mix of repertoire--early English music, works from the Russian liturgy, Christmas carols, and arrangements of spirituals. In 1930 the choir achieved another milestone as it embarked on a European tour under the auspices of George Foster Peabody, a philanthropic patron of the arts and Hampton Institute trustee. En route to New York, the group sang for President Herbert Hoover on the White House lawn. The choir of 40 select voices went on to impress audiences during its six-week tour of seven countries.
After earning his master's degree in 1932, Dett resigned from Hampton and moved to Rochester, New York. He died in 1943 while serving as choral advisor for the United Services Organization and touring with a women's choir in Battle Creek, Michigan.
10) As an aftermath to the film, I learned that the success of the 1932 motion picture "White Zombie" starring Bela Lugosi inspired an instrumental record by Joel Shaw and His Orchestra which was recorded in October of that year and released under the name "White Zombie" . It has been extended and rearranged a little to fill in this video at just under 5 minutes, but I think you can hear it in its entirety found here: http://tinyurl.com/29nvnyd