This music was first released in surround format on the 2001 Image Entertainment DVD of Nosferatu (1922). F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is the earliest surviving adaptation of the Bram Stoker Dracula story. Here’s what one reviewer had to say about our score:
"The real revelation of Image's new transfer, though, is the spectacular score written and performed by Silent Orchestra. The score is filled with beautiful melodies that perfectly reflect the action. It's innovative and imaginative, and greatly enhances the experience of watching the film without distracting from it. I can honestly say that it was like seeing the film for the first time. "
- Fred Hunter, The Classics on DVD
Our primary goal was to portray the intentions of the film in a way that rings true for the modern audience. While we enjoy classic film music, sometimes a contemporary approach captures the intended mood in a way that better resonates with today's film audience. We drew upon a broad spectrum of film music as inspiration for our score. We looked at many of the great films that were made after Murnau died. Would he have worked with Hugo Friedhofer, or Franz Waxman? What might those collaborations have sounded like?
Our approach to sound design is intended to fit the film's Expressionist style. We chose sampled sounds that seemed to defy identification. Lotte Eisner points out in his book, The Haunted Screen, that Murnau was obsessed with inanimate objects and perhaps used them to better effect than many of his contemporaries in German Expressionism.
It seemed to us that, if alive today, Murnau would look for sounds that are grounded in nature yet dreamlike in quality. Murnau would use sound in much the same way that he used natural, yet unusual, visual settings to express the mood of his film. Thus, the scraping gongs and mutant rooster calls were used to create a chilling effect. The swirling surround field created with these sounds (on the DVD) draws the viewer into the film.
For this film, we wanted to use sounds that would create an unsettling, mysterious mood (a kind of Wagnerian “leitmotif”) for two of the characters - Count Orlok (Dracula) and Knock (Renfield). We found just what we were looking for in the source tapes of electronic music composer Richard McCandless.
For Count Orlok we chose a sample of a bowed tam tam, which was processed by McCandless to produce an intense, grating quality with a complex overtone structure. This sound combined with a minor key cello theme creates the mood for Orlok.
Knock is obsessed with flying insects and spiders in the film, so we chose a buzzing, creepy tam tam sample. This sound is very active when looped and played at many different pitch levels and helps to portray the frenetic personality of the Knock character.
Our first performance of this score was in 1999 and we have relived the experience many times at film festivals and movie venues around the country. With each performance, we have found new inspiration and the score has evolved from it’s original form. Some of the tracks on this album have been re-recorded with high end symphonic virtual instruments. All of the tracks were remixed in “living” stereo (or “undead” stereo?) and mastered by Steve Murphy at SmurphCo.