Live music, silent film: Andrew Reed Miller enlivens The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on November 10, 2016

andrew-r-miller-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligariNB-based composer Andrew Reed Miller brought new life to a 1920 classic silent film with a 4-piece ensemble.

Attendees to the concert on Nov. 2, 2016 at UNB’s Memorial Hall, were treated to a unique experience, with live music being played during the viewing of the film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, projected on the big screen. This now cult classic caper/horror film was made in 1920 in Germany and directed by Robert Wiene. The film was restored in recent years, from deteriorated copies found in various places in Europe.

An instructor at the Université de Moncton, Miller is a bass player who has composed music for various types of ensembles as well as playing himself in a diverse collection of local groups, from the NB Symphony to a group he founded called Motion Ensemble, and being an instructor for NB’s Sistema music school.

Joining Miller on stage were Richard Hornsby, the Director of the University of New Brunswick Centre for Musical Arts, playing the clarinet, UNB’s Musician in Residence Nadia Francavilla on the violin , and Joel LeBlanc, known from the group Hot Toddy, on the guitar.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari includes six acts and the style of the musical composition fit well with the cinematic style of the film. The film’s plot centers around a mad hypnotist who uses a sleepwalking patient to murder people. This movie was considered one of the best examples of German expressionism, an artistic movement that sought to provoke emotions.

The performance, timed perfectly to follow and illustrate the film, included both more narrative constructed almost lyrical passages and improvisational elements like sounds, beeps, grunts, quacks, taps, and whistles. All the NB musicians participated actively during the hour and ten minutes that the film lasted.

The resulting experience was a step back in time for the enthusiastic audience at UNB’s Memorial Hall. The score has also been presented in Saint John, using different musicians. Given the large number of silent films in existence, Miller’s successful experiment could lead to a bountiful source of inspirational materials.

Sophie M. Lavoie, an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op, writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op. 

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