Dracula – 1931, with Philip Glass score performed by the Kronos Quartet

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In 1998, Philip Glass composed a score, performed by the Kronos Quartet, for Universal’s 1931 film version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The original film, directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi, was originally presented to audiences both as a silent movie and as a talkie, though conversation was limited to basic narrative elements. Unusually, it did not have a specific score and only two pieces of music on its soundtrack: Tchaikovsky‘s Swan Lake during the opening credits, and the overture of Wagner‘s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg during a scene at an opera.

Glass was commissioned to write the score by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which released the movie with the his soundtrack on VHS and DVD in 1999. According to Glass, the choice of chamber music played by a string quartet rather than an orchestral score followed from the movie’s setting, “libraries and drawing rooms and gardens.”

Kronos and Glass (on piano) performed the score during viewings of the movie across the United States in 1999 and 2000 to promote the album. Other promotion efforts by Universal, which was trying to “reinvigorate and re-market” their Classical Monsters catalog, included discounts for buyers of multiple CDs, and a trailer for the movie on copies of the video release of The Mummy.

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

‘Philip Glass’ beautiful score undoubtedly adds vitality to a film that was always somewhat stagey due to its age, before cinematic scores became the norm. Perhaps a tad repetitive, it’s definitely a bonus.’ Adrian J Smith, moviesandmania

‘The Glass score is effective in the way it suggests not just moody creepiness, but the urgency and need behind Dracula’s vampirism. It evokes a blood thirst that is 500 years old.’ RogerEbert.com

‘Glass’ constant score simply sounds busy, its gloomy arpeggios merely getting in the way. The few chords that accompany moments of shock verge on the cheesy… the Glass music seems to suck away the film’s life blood. Who’s the vampire now?’ Alan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle

‘The delightful thing about Glass’s music for film is that there’s no need for it. It is a pure artistic addition to something that was not wanting in the first place; and in that act, Glass confirms a kind of reverence for the original. It is, artistically if not financially, an act of selfless collaboration with a partner — the film — that might be considered the culturally undead.’ Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

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‘The music is absolutely beautiful, augmented by the raw, woody sounds of the Kronos Quartet. No refined or reverbed string sounds here; you hear the naked, scratchy sound of a bow on a string all the way through, playing in the interwoven arpeggiated style that is unmistakably Glass. Complex chord structures and dense rhythms permeate the record, making it musically satisfying for both the pedestrian and the sophisticate ear.’ Mark Allender, Allmusic

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17-11-15: 87 views

 

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