Ensemble refines soundtrack to intensify silent horror film

The whining of the violin and the strong drumbeats of the Devil Music Ensemble replaced the screams and creepy shower scenes of modern horror movies that were absent in the silent film “Nosferatu.”The Devil Music Ensemble, founded in 1999 by Brendon Wood, is a trio of artists from Boston who compose and perform live soundtracks to classic silent films. On Oct. 24, the Devil Music Ensemble performed a thrilling score to “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror,” a German horror film from 1922, as part of the Robert Hull Fleming Museum’s Lane Series.”It just seemed like a film that we could make a good soundtrack to,” Devil Music percussionist Tim Nylander said. “Nosferatu” is essentially an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original “Dracula” that was released in 1897.The villain Count Orlok, secretly the demon vampire Nosferatu, with his intense eyeliner and evil scheming, contrasted the bourgeois protagonists, husband and wife Thomas and Ellen Hutter. The sounds from the Devil Music Ensemble contributed to the dramatic elements of the film already present. An eerie bell chimed and electronic sounds built tension as the fight to defeat the Count began.Black screens with scrolled edges interrupted the faded black and white scenes to narrate the over-dramatic ones.  The ominous shadow of Count Orlok instilled paralyzing fear in the characters, while eliciting giggles from the audience.”It is a very different take of Dracula,” 2005 UVM grad Rich Ketcham said.The music of the Devil Music Ensemble held the pace of the movie and contributed substantially to the emotions of the characters.  The matching marching drum to announce the threat of plague to the Hutters’ small town created a sense of believability in the antique film.As their enthusiastic applause and comments indicated, the audience agreed that the score perfectly complimented the film. The juxtaposition of the electronic sounds and guitar with the over-dramatic scenes of the 1922 film produced a unique experience.”It’s definitely something that you don’t see very often,” sophomore Austin Underwoodsaid.  “I like the modern take on the soundtrack, with the guitar and the keyboard.”The Devil Music Ensemble began writing film scores six years ago, they said. “Nosferatu,” a Halloween hit, is the third feature-length film that the ensemble has composed a score for, Nylander said.The ensemble initially produced improv music until they were asked to write a score to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” at a Boston film festival, which became pretty successful, Nylander said.Now, performing for the Burlington community a second time as part of the Lane Series, the Devil Music Ensemble is playing sold-out shows to captivated audiences.