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John Stepan Zamecnik

  (Redirected from J. S. Zamecnik)
Theme, Mysterious Burglar Music, intended for photoplay musicians use, by Zamecnik (1913)[1] About this soundPlay 

John Stepan Zamecnik (May 14, 1872 in Cleveland, Ohio – June 13, 1953 in Los Angeles, California) was an American composer and conductor. He is best known for the "photoplay music" he composed for use during silent films by pianists, organists, and orchestras.

Zamecnik used many pseudonyms, including Dorothy Lee, Lionel Baxter, R.L. (Robert) Creighton, Arturo de Castro, "Josh and Ted", J. (Jane) Hathaway, Kathryn Hawthorne, Roberta Hudson, Ioane Kawelo, J. Edgar Lowell, Jules Reynard, F. (Frederick) Van Norman, Hal Vinton and Grant Wellesley.[2]


Zamecnik studied at the Prague Conservatory of Music under Antonín Dvořák in the mid-1890s, completing his classes there in 1897.

In 1899 Zamecnik finally returned to the United States. While living in Cleveland, where he worked as a violinist and composer, he also played in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as a violinist under Victor Herbert. In 1907, Zamecnik became music director of the newly constructed Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland, Ohio. When the Hippodrome commenced with the screening of silent films, Zamecnik began to compose music scores for them. They were published by Samuel Fox,[3] whose company was the first to publish original film scores in the United States.[4] Fox published the Zamecnik-composed Sam Fox Moving Picture Music volumes, consisting of incidental music and leitmotifs such as "Mysterious Burglar Music", intended for when a burglar is on screen.[1]

Jack Shaindlin, music director of Movietone News in New York City, adapted the first theme of Zamecnik's popular circus march World Events (1935) for the Main and End Title theme of Movietone Newsreels. Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine television series in the 1950s used this version to open a skit that parodied current events.

In 2011 Paramount Pictures secured the original manuscript score of the cues composed by Zamecnik for Wings from the Library of Congress. A new recording was produced for the 24 January 2012 launch of the Wings DVD and Blu-ray.


Works for orchestraEdit

  • 1919 My Cairo Love, Egytische serenade
  • 1921 Somewhere In Naples
  • Babylonian Nights
  • China Doll Parade, for orchestra and organ
  • I Gathered a Rose I gathered a Rose
  • Treacherous Knave
  • Wings

Works for bandEdit

  • 1928 Scarlet Mask, overture
  • 1930 Olympia, overture
  • 1935 World Events, March
  • 1936 1776, overture
  • 1939 Fortuna, overture
  • Indian Dawn, serenade
  • Neapolitan Nights
  • Southern Miniatures, suite

Vocal musicEdit



  • 1916 Nola, Felix Arndt (1889–1918)

Further readingEdit

  • Goldmark, Daniel, editor. (2013) Sounds for the Silents: Photoplay Music from the Days of Early Cinema. Dover Books, New York, ISBN 978-0486492865


  1. ^ a b Sam Fox Moving Picture Music (Zamecnik, John Stepan): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), Vol. II, p.16. Accessed: September 28, 2015.
  2. ^ G. H. Grainger. "John Stepan Zamecnik".
  3. ^ Mont Alto: Composer Profile: J.S. Zamecnik (1872-1953);
  4. ^ "Sam Fox, 89, Dies; Music Publisher"; New York Times; Dec. 1, 1971.

External linksEdit