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Philip Glass score adds new levels to Dracula
It’s been said that film score composers write music that no-one listens to, but a soundtrack composed by musical giant Philip Glass to accompany the 1931 version of Dracula gives the lie to that statement.
The film was one of the first talkies and while there’s plenty of dialogue the actors never stray too far away from their silent roots, with lots of big gestures and straight-to-camera shots to underscore the action. The inimitable Bela Lugosi takes the eponymous role – no-one has ever swished a cloak so effectively, but while there’s plenty of dramatic action onscreen there was originally almost no background music or special effects. Horror specialist director Tod Browning relied almost entirely on Lugosi’s presence and Hungarian accent to convey the movie’s heart.
And despite the crackle and snags on-screen – and a curious lack of gore for a horror movie – the tone is perfect.
After years of watching films accompanied only by a piano audiences must have been refreshed by actors actually speaking and it’s easy to see why music was considered redundant by directors 80 years ago, but Glass’s fine and imaginative score never drowns out, but always enhances the film – and presents what finally feels like the complete package.
The music comes courtesy of the renowned Kronos Quartet and pays tribute the story’s Transylvanian roots and Hungarian lead with strings and piano giving a soundtrack redolent of Eastern European folk music which effortless sweeps into soaring, dramatic passages that thrill and chill at a turn. It was pesented by Wales Millennium Centre in association with the Soundtrack Film Festival and conducted by Michael Reisman.
The experiment, which sees Glass’s soundtrack reinvent this cinematic classic for its release on DVD, goes to show that good music will only enhance a great film.