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Home · Articles · Movies · Features · Creature of the note

Creature of the note

To help sell the scares of ‘Nosferatu,’ the key is live organ accompaniment at the University of Oklahoma.

Rod Lott October 26th, 2011


8 p.m. Friday
Sharp Concert Hall, Catlett Music Center
500 W. Boyd, Norman

Pipe dreams become nightmares on Friday night, when the University of Oklahoma School of Music and the American Organ Institute add live organ accompaniment to the 1922 classic “Nosferatu,” arguably the earliest vampire movie with any bite.

“For 1922, it’s a fantastic horror film,” said John Schwandt, associate professor of organ and AOI director, who will perform the live score. “People should expect an absolutely thrilling, terrifying and entertaining experience, yet one that’s familyfriendly. There’s not an ounce of gore, and yet, it’s terrifying. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. This movie is creepy.”

At 7 p.m., an hour before the screening, Michael Lee will give a lecture about the history of vampire films, “Nosferatu” included.

Schwandt said the version of expressionist director F.W. Murnau’s most famous feature will be the muchlauded 2007 restoration by Kino International, which includes a high-definition transfer and newly translated English subtitles.

“I have to say, it’s really quite something. It’s never looked better,” he said. “It’s always a humbling thing for me to watch a silent film. The artistic expression of the director and actors to be able to create all these pathos and drama without one single uttered word.”

Not-so-loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” the film “Nosferatu” stars German actor Max Schreck as Count Orlok, a replusive-looking vampire with pointed ears, fingers that resemble claws, and an absolute thirst for blood. How fitting, then, that a film with fangs will be shown inside Sharp Concert Hall.

For the presentation, Schwandt will provide a largely improvised score, based partly upon Hans Erdmann’s original one from the film, and partly on audience reaction.

“It’s not like preparing a concert.

It’s like a tightrope walk,” Schwandt said. “A lot of people can’t imagine playing constantly for an hour and a half. I can assure you, you’re exhausted afterward, both mentally and physically.”

However, for all his anguish, he hopes attendees not even notice him.

“That’s the ultimate compliment,” he said, “for the audio and the visual to be so co-mingled, that you’re not necessarily aware of each of them separately.”

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