Outtakes: New Fangs for Old Vampire

By Hope Madden

The coolest vampire – and among the first – ever to grace the big screen gets a makeover this weekend, courtesy of composer Andrew Alden, and you can check it out at the Gateway Film Center (1551 N. High St.). At 2pm and 8pm Friday, March 29, Alden and his band The Andrew Alden Ensemble will perform a live accompaniment to F. W. Murnau’s magnificent silent film Nosferatu (1922).

An adaptation of Dracula, Nosferatu follows a vampire count as he sets his sights on a fair maid, relocating from his far off castle to a bustling European city and leaving blood drained corpses in his wake.

The film remains a horror mainstay for two reasons. Murnau’s immaculate direction was so far ahead of its time, wasting no shots and creating an atmosphere unseen at the time, that his film still feels relevant and fresh today. More importantly, he cast the bald, ratlike Max Schreck as the count, and in his bony hands, the creepiest vampire of all time came to be.

Andrew Alden agrees, and the 23-year-old composer felt inspired to use the story and Murnau’s undiluted vision to create a new musical accompaniment.

“I’m a huge fan of Nosferatu,” he says. “I watched it as a teenager, in the middle of the night watching terror classic movies. I was frightened and I thought it was wonderful. It’s just a great vampire movie, not like any vampire movie of today. “

Years later, studying music at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, an idea began to take root.

“I always loved movies, and I remember a light bulb going off,” he says. “I thought, why don’t I make my musical language take the form of the stories of these movies? I’ll take my music and, instead of using a story I come up with, I’ll use the story of the movie itself.”

Looking for a film in the public domain, Alden began his experiment with George Romero’s 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. Composing a new score to match the film took him about two months.

“I find I’m getting faster,” Alden says. “Nosferatu was particularly easy because it seems as though F. W. Murnau really thought everything out. Not too many shots seem like filler. Everything is driving the plot forward. The music was really easy to write.”

His contemporary chamber music ensemble, consisting of violin, viola, electric guitar, drums, piano, synthesizer and assorted other percussion, tours the country with five films Alden has scored. Along with Nosferatu and Night of the Living Dead, his band accompanies Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Lost World (1925), and Battleship Potemkin (1925).

“Even though we do five movies, I think the favorite is Nosferatu,” he says. “because the movie’s so great.”

Tickets for the Friday matinee run $10 in advance or $15 at the door, while the 8pm screening are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Originally published by Columbus Underground

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