Composer, pianist and bandleader Wayne Horvitz’s original score to the 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, will be performed to a screening of the film live at The Royal Room in Seattle’s Columbia City this Halloween night. Thursday afternoon, we were there for a preview.
We were honored to broadcast a few choice selections of dramatic, sometimes downright scary music from the score live at The Royal Room with a full house of our listeners.
Music for a silent film has to do a lot more than a standard film score, Horvitz told us. This band is up to the challenge. Imposing upright bass meets ticking-clock drumming, sweeping reeds with a trumpet whispering one moment, shrieking the next, a violin rises softly like a haunted wind; this music helps you create a movie in your mind that might be better than the original!
Released in 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is considered one of the earliest horror movies, and a quintessential example of German expressionist cinema. It tells the story of an insane hypnotist who uses one of his sleeping subjects, a somnambulist, to commit murders for him.
At the time the film was made, Dr. Caligari represented the authoritarian World War I German government and the subconscious need for a tyrant to tell the people what to do.
The film’s visuals are dark and twisted, with structures and landscapes that twist and lean in unusual angles, shadows and streaks of light were painted directly onto the set. It’s a uniquely scary movie, and Horvitz has written a uniquely creepy score to match.
This version of the Wayne Horvitz Ensemble includes Geoff Harper and Eric Eagle on bass & drums, Horvitz conducting and playing piano, Ray Larsen on trumpet, Greg Sinebaldi played baritone sax and bass clarinet. Also on bass as well as traditional clarinets is Beth Fleenor, who adds some otherworldly vocalizing in the score, more vocals come from the ensemble’s violin player, Alex Guy.