Classic vampire film to feature new soundtrack by recent Emory grad

By April Hunt | Emory Report | Oct. 25, 2016

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Emory will play host to a symphony of spookiness Friday night with a special screening of the classic silent film “Nosferatu,” accompanied by original music composed by recent graduate Robert Cooper. 

Emory will play host to a symphony of spookiness Friday night with a special screening of the classic silent film, “Nosferatu,” accompanied by original music composed by recent graduate Robert Cooper 13C.

“I find myself using a lot of techniques and methods I learned at Emory,” says Cooper, who graduated with honors with a double major in German studies and music composition. “But I am also breaking a lot of the rules of traditional classical composition and writing this more from feeling.”

The 1922 expressionist film is effectively the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel “Dracula,” and one of the first horror movies. It has long been considered a masterpiece for its gothic feel and clarity of performances and images.

Most of the original score composed by Hans Erdmann to be performed during projection has been lost, prompting many composers and musicians to improvise their own soundtrack.

That was Hiram Maxim’s hope when, as chair of the Department of German Studies, he reached out to Cooper about a collaboration for a special Halloween event. The two had stayed in touch after Cooper graduated and went on to be a Fulbright Scholar, teaching English in Germany.

“I was so pleased when he said he would be interested, and I haven’t heard what he’s come up with,” Maxim says. “It will be a true world premiere.”

Cooper, who earned a master’s degree in music technology innovation from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, is now living in Los Angeles working at The Village Recorder.

The project gives him a chance to continue composing, and rise to the challenge of creating 93 minutes of music — with carefully placed sound effects and silences — on his computer. The electronic music will play from an audio file during the film.

“There are a few scenes of happiness with the protagonist and his wife that I’ve found harder to write than the sinister music you expect,” Cooper says. “I had great teachers at Emory who taught me many useful techniques to overcome the challenges of writing music and I think I’ve risen to this one.”

 “Nosferatu” screens with Cooper’s original soundtrack at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in White Hall, room 208. The free event is sponsored by the Department of German Studies and co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Department of Film and Media Studies, and the Marian K. Heilbrun Music and Media Library.