compiled by Joshua A. Henry and Richard P. Smiraglia*

This document represents a key element of a research stream, the purpose which is to contribute to the ongoing digitization of large databases of silent film cues. Specifically, we aim to add value from the knowledge organization domain by generating a thesaurus and topic map from the taxonomic structure of a known working handbook of music cues from the silent film era. One of two major handbooks for working musicians of the period, Erno Rapée’s Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures ([1925] 1970) was a keyboard manual for working musicians, as well as a pedagogical tool for educating future film accompanists. After a lengthy introduction about the practice of accompanying film, the “encyclopedia” itself consists of a list of cues (musical terms telling the musician what to play) centered in bold type together with lists of specific musical works by title, composer and publisher in which appropriate segments could be found. Blank lines filled most pages so as to encourage the practitioner to record whichever musical works were being used locally. Rubrics occur in the upper corner of each page to orient the practitioner, and references among the terms occur throughout the list.

The present document is built in the structure of a thesaurus, with BT (Broader Term), NT (Narrower Term), RT (Related Term) references among terms. Homonyms are identified with “see” and occasionally “use for,” according to Rapée’s practice. All terms are listed in one alphabet. Mismatched word forms (Mysterioso, Misteriosos, etc.) are Rapée’s. The only change we made was to alphabetize references of a kind under a specific term. Some terms appear as narrower terms only (or, as auxiliary facets) under certain terms. These do not appear in the main list but only under their broader terms given in italics. In some cases, these terms correlated to terms in the main list (e.g., “Waltz” occurs under Oriental, Russian, and Spanish, but “Waltzes” in the main list points instead to “Valse.”) We have been faithful to Rapée’s inconsistencies in these matters.

After the main list is a “Partial Topic Map.” Here we have gathered terms topically to demonstrate topical content that is culturally representative of silent film (“Hobo Music,” “Shopping Stores”) apart from the musical terms (“Andante,” “Furioso,” “Suite,” etc.).


The research for which this taxonomy was generated as a working tool is reported in three papers (Smiraglia and Henry 2016a and b, Smiraglia 2015) and one journal article (Smiraglia and Henry 2018). Those four narratives describe the research in detail. The present product is an outgrowth of that research.

* Richard P. Smiraglia is Senior Fellow and Executive Director, IKOS. Joshua Henry is Associate Fellow, IKOS and Assistant Professor I, Librarian, Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ. This taxonomy is a corollary of comparative knowledge organization research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, School of Information Studies during the period 2015-2016, which is reported in the papers and article cited above. The original idea came from Bill Rosar of the Institute for Film Music Studies and editor of The Journal of Film Music ( Rosar’s idea was that the cues used by musicians in this era formed a kind of knowledge organization system that was ripe for discovery and research. We offer this taxonomy, which is a true representation of the cues in Rapée’s manual, as a tool for historical research.

©2019 Institute for Knowledge Organization and Structure, Inc. All rights reserved.

Taxonomy and Partial Topic Map of Terms from Rapée’s Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures
silent film music cues
Institute for Knowledge Organization and Structure, Inc.
Joshua A. Henry
Richard P. Smiraglia
15 December 2019
Rapée, Erno. (1925) 1970. Encyclopaedia of Music for Pictures. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1970. Originally published by Belwin Inc.