|(Composer - Leroy Shield cont.)
The job brought him all over the countryto New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and in 1929 to Mexico. That same year, 1929, his appointment as manager of the company's west coast division brought him to California, where he started recording in Culver Cityactually, part of the Hal Roach film studios, which rented out their sound studio facilities. Once he landed at Roach, he was in his late thirties, and he knew everything there was to know about composition, piano playing, and recording technique. He now added to these skills the art of writing music for film.
Starting in the year 1930 a musical vocabulary established itself at the Roach Studios. Music editors and audiences alike recognized that a scene with beautiful woman was usually accompanied by Shield's "Beautiful Lady," where as "Oh! Doctor, Doctor" meant pain and any photograph or drawing could be illustrated with "Your Piktur."
Interestingly, no one in the audience knew the titles of these melodies. They could not refer back to the popular radio tunes of the day. Yet the music was effective because it was so good and be cause it was used consistently. You simply couldn't miss it, it was always there, it was part of the furniture.
In hindsight, Shield's melodies from this period are incredibly rich and diverse. Similar to songwriting talents Lennon and McCartney, who created a large body of amazing work in a short period of time, Leroy Shield, during 1930 and 1931, excelled in both quantity and quality.
Shield not only composed all the music, he also arranged and produced it (a task which in the
|case of the Beatles usually befell George Martin), and he even
recorded it: he arranged the placement of the microphone and the
musicians around it. In other words, he was his own Fifth Beatle.
Listening to his music today, it is mindboggling how much creative and out standing music flowed from this man's pen. Each new melody was entirely itself, totally original. His music usually leaves the listener with the happy feeling that this is how a tune should gowhich makes even the "sad" tunes sound happy.
As so often happens during periods of technical innovation, certain people in vent for themselves a role on the "cutting edge." While working as a composer at a film studio during this particular period, Shield invented for himself the craft of film composition. For instance, he invented the so-called "goof" effects: ironic comments ex pressed entirely by musical means.
No Laughing Matter
One of the big surprises in discovering the work of Shield was that it does not try to be funny. It is genuinely beautiful or genuinely sad, and very well played. Perhaps even because of the contrast with the actions on the screen, these tunes worked remarkably well in the Roach
|comedies. Some one is eating hard-boiled eggs and nuts out of
a brown paper bag in a hospital room. His friend is getting more
exasperated by the minute. For quite a while, not a word is spoken.
There is only background music "Colonial Gayeties," for instance,
or a sweet, innocent waltz like "In My Canoe." It creates a strange
tension between the pleasing harmonies in the music, where everything
is just right, and the events on the screen, where everything
With each new Hal Roach film, as more and more Shield themes be came available, the sound editors found themselves simply reusing the same themes over and over. The editors eventually had access to over a hundred Shield themes, and they used whatever they needed at any given moment.
In June 1931, Shield left the Roach studios, joining NBC as "Orchestral Supervisor of their Pacific division in San Francisco. After just a few months there, he moved to Chicago, then known as the radio center of the world.
Radio was the "new medium" of the late 1930s. It brought fame to people like Orson Welles and Rudy Vallee. It also firmly established Roy Shield's reputation as a "workmanlike" conductor.
Initially, he worked as musical director of classical music programs; later he did comedy, musical variety, game shows, and drama series. He even provided the radio background music during the Allied invasion into France, on June 6, 1944.