The Sound of the Paci Orchestra

The sound track to the fantasy scene in the 1935 film, Du shi feng guang (Scenes of City Life), is the only known recording of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra conducted by Paci. The recording also appeared on a 78 rpm disc as “Fantasia from Denton Film ‘Quo vadis’” by the record company Shanghai bai dai gong si chang pian, number 34978 b. At this point in the film where the music appears, peasants from the country on their way into the big city are enticed into looking at a peep show where they see different scenes around the city of Shanghai in the 1930s. The film audience sees a two and a half minute montage of scenes of the vibrant life of Shanghai accompanied by a full orchestra score composed by Huang Zi. A copy of the score published by the People’s Music Publishing House is available in the Stanford Music Library M1004.H83 J53 2011.

The film was produced by the Diantong Film Studio, a left-wing film company that produced only four films from 1934 to 1935 before going out of business. Sound films were quite new, and Chinese film companies did not have sound recording equipment in the early 1930s. The Diantong company was founded in 1933 when they produced the first Chinese film sound recording equipment with quality close to Western sound films, which they made available to Chinese film companies. The following year they formed their own film company. Du shi feng guang was their fourth and final film. They borrowed 40,000 Mexican dollars to finance the film that they hoped would be a major block-buster. Most of that loan went to pay for the recording of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra. Diantong’s finances faltered when the government adopted its own fiat currency instead of using Mexican dollars, which together with personnel problems led to the collapse of Diantang following the completion of Du shi feng guang.