Douglas Stuart Moore (1893-1969)
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The Making of Power and the Land (1939-1940)


Douglas Stuart Moore
1893-1969

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When Moore viewed this rough cut in June, 1940, he was watching only the footage without any of the narration. Thus, as his notes indicated, he did not know any of the names of the Parkinson family members. Later, however, Moore (along with Joris Ivens and Ed Locke) posed for a picture with members of the Parkinson family in front of their farm residence at Warnock, Ohio. Moore also had his picture taken sitting at the Parkinson family piano. These photographs were apparently taken at the time of the film’s premiere in nearby St. Clairsville in August, 1940.

Robert L. Snyder, in his comprehensive study Pare Lorentz And The Documentary Film (1968), has referenced Moore’s contributions to Power and the Land. Snyder, drawing upon a letter from Moore dated December 6, 1961, notes that “Moore received five hundred dollars for the score and also received money to hire as assistant, Henry Brant, to do the scoring, the same man who scored The Plow and The River for Virgil Thomson.” (p. 130)

In 1954, Moore had been one the founders of Composer Recordings, Inc., a non-profit public foundation "dedicated to the discovery, distribution and preservation of the finest in contemporary music representing the diverse inspirations of American culture." In 1998, CRI released Farm Journal and two of Moore's other works (Cotillion Suite and Symphony in A). In an introduction to this release, Eric Salzman wrote that Moore's musical style was "simple and direct, often to the point of homespun" and "almost entirely organized around his gift for melody." Farm Journal, Salzman added, not only reflected Moore's interest in American folk music, but was “connected with the political and ideological movements of the time." While seeing some parallels with Vigil Thompson's The River (also focusing on farm life), Salzman noted that the contrasts between these two works "is notable." Whereas "Thomson's music always has an undertone, a subtext that suggests we are on the outside looking in," Salzman added that "Moore's music is more clearly the thing itself: hearty, straight-forward, sincerely felt." (Quotations from Eric Salzman © 1998 CRI, reprinted with permission)

While Moore’s score for Power and the Land is a moving rendition of rural Americana, it seems to have been largely overlooked today. Nor is there any attention given to Moore’s contributions to two spin-off REA films (made from outtakes) featuring the Parkinsons: Bip Goes to Town and Worst of Farm Disasters. Interesting enough, Moore, in a list of his “Compositions Before 1947” found in his personal papers at Columbia University, cites the former short film but not the latter. However, Moore is clearly listed as the composer in the credits for both of these short REA films.

While the score for the documentary concert version of Power and the Land were never published, in 1947 Moore released what he described as a “Suite for Orchestra” entitled Farm Journal. This was apparently an adaptation of themes used in the Rural Electrification Administration’s film Power and the Land. Farm Journal had its world premiere before the Little Orchestra Society in its 1947-1948 season.

In 1953, Frederick W. Sternfield, a Professor of Music at Dartmouth College, who was working on a projected book on movie music, wrote Moore requesting a print of Power and the Land and a copy of the score. Moore, in a letter of January 13, 1953, wrote that he was sending his only copy of the film, which he wanted returned. Moore added that he was also sending “all of the score that I can find of Power and the Land. This consists of material that was used for an orchestral suite and it is far from complete. The rest of the score I cannot seem to find. It may be in the country.”


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