Nosferatu, with jazz
The masterful Les Sorciers Perdus play an original score for the silent film Nosferatu in Given Auditorium.
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On Saturday, Oct. 29, the ensemble Les Sorciers Perdus (“The Lost Wizards”) performed an original score to the 1922 horror classic Nosferatu as the film played in the Given Auditorium. Considering that Nosferatu is a silent film, much of the emotional depth is conveyed through the music. This contemporary score, composed and directed by applied music instructor Mark Tipton, a faculty member at the College as well as the University of Southern Maine and the Portland Conservatory of Music, passionately conveyed the emotional depth missing from a film without sound.
Les Sorciers Perdus also includes faculty guitarist Carl Dimow and Joshua DeScherer ’99, as well as acclaimed local musicians Gary Wittner, Megumi Sasaki, Phil McGowan and Shannon Allen. This performance was the fourth in the 2011-2012 Music at Colby series. These productions are free and open to the public due to donations made by underwriters, patrons, sponsors and members of this series.
The audience was fairly evenly split between people who had seen the film before and those who had not. Many commented on the depth and pleasant variation from the original score that accompanied its release in 1922, as well as the added benefits of having a live performance. However, unlike the original score, the contemporary score played by Les Sorciers Perdus brought new light to this classic film.
The score could be easily divided into repeating moods and tones that appeared and disappeared in turn during the course of the performance. One could recognize the classic, rustic music normally associated with the country hometown of the film’s protagonist, but Tipton also included soft jazz themes in many of these scenes. This added a particular flair to the performance and brought a slightly more modern feel to the piece as a whole, highlighting the difference between modern musical perceptions of peace and relaxation and those of the 1920s.
The music accompanying the dramatic scenes, however, were reminiscent of earlier scores for the film. High and staccato notes were plentiful, creating a nostalgic feeling toward the beginning of the horror genre while reminding the audience that our ideas of what frightening music is have not drastically changed since the time when the first Nosferatu score was produced.
The radical difference between these tones were enjoyably and frequently juxtaposed as the story permitted, highlighting the inherent differences between the peaceful country setting of the film and the dark invading presence upon which the horror of the film is based.
Les Sorciers Perdus also used some unconventional instruments at certain points in the film. Tipton used a kazoo and wine glasses during certain sections of the film while some sound effects were added by others by means of chains and the familiarly eerie sound of reverberating glass. While slightly comical out of context, these additions blended very smoothly and naturally into the fabric of the composition and added a level of real-life familiarity to the score.
The performance of the score was masterfully done; if one had not been able to see the ensemble directly ahead, they may have thought that the music had been perfectly recorded and edited to fit the film’s progression. The music flowed seamlessly with the plot of the film, moving in perfect time, with pauses only occurring during scene changes. That being said, the richness of the live performance was greater than any recording could have been. Especially during the most dramatic scenes, the presence of the live ensemble made the vibrations much more powerful and the music much more ingrained in the experience of watching the film.
As a whole, the performance was incredibly enjoyable and masterfully done, very much deserving the standing ovation given by the audience.