Texas Tech University

Film, Music, Art Come Together in Unique Presentation of 'Nosferatu'

Heidi Toth

April 5, 2016

Two music professors added an original score to the century-old horror film.

Courtesy: Tif Holmes Photography

One of the few surviving copies of a 1920s vampire film will be screened in Lubbock along with an original score written by two Texas Tech University music professors.

Christopher Smith and Roger Landes worked together in 2015 to create the score for F.W. Murnau's 1922 archetypal vampire film “Nosferatu” in collaboration with the Flatlands Film Festival. Landes, a film buff as well as a musician, suggested adding the score to the silent film, which then would be performed by the Elegant Savages Orchestra, which Smith conducts. It was so well-received they are reprising the performance for one night.

The screening, which the School of Music, Vernacular Music Center and Roots Music Institute are co-sponsoring, will feature traditional music of the Balkan Ensemble, which Landes conducts, and the symphonic folk music of the Elegant Savages orchestra.

Courtesy: Tif Holmes Photography

“In approaching the writing of the themes for the scores, we both kept in mind the juxtaposition of cultures represented in the film, which maintains the tension between Western Europe and Eastern Europe established by Bram Stoker's novel ‘Dracula,'” Smith said. “As an alternative to the original score, which is very late Romantic and exclusively Western, we strove to integrate aspects of Balkan traditional as well as Western European music.”

The score also experiments musically, as Murnau did when he filmed “Nosferatu.” As the film plays, the orchestra will engage in a series of conducted improvisations, responding in real time to cues and pre-written music counterbalanced with a series of traditional and improvisational performances from Landes and his Balkan players. The result is a unique suite of interlocking compositions, juxtaposing and contrasting both ensembles, in moods ranging from lyric to horrific.

Additionally, assistant professor of art Ghislaine Fremaux has supplied original artwork, filtered through her artistic sensibility, which plays upon the classic imagery associated with Murnau's film. Her original works are featured as part of the performance's program and visual experience.