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Composing a new film

music score for Nosferatu

Friedrich Murnau’s Nosferatu has

a screenplay by Henrik Galeen,
based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Hans Erdmann composed the
original music, which received
mixed reviews when it was first
presented in Berlin in the 1920s.
Eighty years later, at least ten
other music accompaniments
have been composed. Why
should anyone want to make yet
another score to this film?

We felt that presenting Nosferatu in Singapore demanded an eclectic approach: a fusion of different
musics, employing a sonic expression that echoes both the rawness of the film’s visuals and
contemporary art life in south-east Asia. We therefore chose to work with three groups: the
Yinstreichtin Quintet, Iron Egg and Samuel Wong Shengmiao. While the string quintet suggests the
expressionistic timbres of in-between wars central Europe, Iron Egg is a contemporary jazz ensemble
with a musique concrète attitude to experimental club electronica. Between these two sound worlds,
Sam Wong’s pipa, employing unorthodox extended techniques, functions both as a link and as a
renewed though recognisable Asian sonority. The musicians, in separate sessions, interpreted
composed fragments while being shown sequences from Nosferatu. The interpretations were further
developed in a process of guided improvisation.

The recording sessions allowed us to gather sufficient material for the next phase: re-composition and
studio post-production. Here, we created new sounds by digitally transforming some of the recordings,
adding layers together to form a rich canvas of sound. Numerous techniques were employed, but
importantly, the material all had to come from the original recordings - no off-the-shelf sample bank
material was allowed! A
constructive creative
constraint in itself, this
method also emphasises
the homogeneity of the
film’s sound world,
resonating with the
claustrophobic narrative.

PerMagnus Lindborg
(composition, post-
Kwong Jiebao
(composition, assistant
Derek Lim (composition,
assistant post-production)