Oct. 24, 2012 - Issue #888: Winter Guide 2012
Among the ranks of silent films, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari has long maintained its status as a classic of the horror genre. To mark this Halloween, it gets another chilling element added to its intrigue with the accompaniment of master organist Cameron Carpenter.
Carpenter has composed his own macabre score to accompany the murder and mayhem of the film, as well as assorted pieces from across the horror and science-fiction spectrum.
Carpenter, who began taking keyboard lessons at age four before moving to the organ, discovered The Cabinet of Dr Caligari during his first winter studying at Julliard in 2001. He says at the time he was skipping most of his classics to watch six or seven films a day. Although, those missed classes don't seem to have hindered his rise to success, and he has become known worldwide for his original renditions of classic musical scores.
"I don't believe in a historical concept of silent-film accompaniment. There is a kind of nostalgia attached to the idea of silent films as something from the golden days of the '20s, which, of course, comparatively few people remember, and this is dangerous, because it can short circuit an honest assessment of silent film as film," he notes of any considerations he took when composing the score for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. "Many silent films are practically unwatchable now except as a sort of exercise in camp, which becomes exhausting quickly. Caligari is different, partly because it stands as a major visual work as well as a tightly organized and visually produced film of great pacing and cohesion. The score must have this cohesion."
Horror films and the thundering, eerie sound the organ is able to produce seem like the perfect match, but Cameron says while it may be a cliche that the organ is "right" for any subject matter involving the supernatural, this is simply just a cliched use of the instrument.
"In fact, the organ is generally one of the most opportune instruments for cinematic music, since it avails the player of greater dynamic range, greater pitch spectrum and therefore richer contrasts and variations of musical context than any other instrument—all of which are well-suited to musically supporting the literality of action on the screen of whatever kind," he says. "My usage of the organ for this film will therefore not tend in general toward, you might say, the 'organic,' but then it almost never does."
Wed, Oct 31 (9:30 pm)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Featuring Cameron Carpenter
Winspear Centre, $29 – $49
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