Der Golem

I think Music For The Monsters/Robots/Whatever is essentially done. At least the music part. I’ve begun working on the artwork – which may be somewhat pointless because there may not be a physical release. Not being able to settle on a title has been a great procrastination method.

Not that there is a need to procrastinate. After having spent so long working on this one project, I might feel hesitant to finish for lack of something to do, but I have multiple projects in the wings.

I’ve already begun on one – a musical score for Der Golem, a 1920 German Expressionist horror film. The film is based on an old Jewish legend of the Golem, a man-made monster brought to life to save a Jewish village from oppression, only to have it threaten the village itself. The Golem is often cited as an archetype for the Frankenstein Monster. But shades of the Golem are found in surprising places, such as the entire Action/Adventure genre.

Several years ago, I bought a DVD set with three silent-era German horror films, including Der Golem and two other better-known titles, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu. Of course, “silent” films are never really silent, and are always accompanied by a musical score of some sort. Or almost always. In this set, Der Golem is – for some unexplained reason – completely silent. Which makes the film somewhat difficult to watch. Why not make a score to go with the DVD?

I knew what I wanted the score to sound like when I played with a Roland JP-8000 synth at West L.A. Music shortly afterwards. Someone had set up a very noise-driven patch, and when I pressed the keys, it’s like the noise inside my head was suddenly made real. I have since purchased a JP-8080 (the rack-mountable version, no keyboard) for this project. The Microkorg, DS-10, Thingamagoop, BitBlob, and LSDJ should all be useful as well. Not to mention the Bangsplat Non-Realtime Audio Synthesizer and my custom (yet un-named) image to audio software.

My immediate interest in tackling this project next was spurred by working with sounds of poker chips. They didn’t fit in the RPM 2009 piece, but with the right manipulation, they seem very appropriate for a horror film.

Film scores are supposed to convey meaning (or at lest emotions) in support of a moving image. Because of this, they are often irrelevant outside the context of the film itself. I have never made music to sync to moving images, and it will be an interesting challenge to see if I can. Harder still will be to make the music interesting on its own.

At the time, this was the only DVD version of Der Golem. Since I’ve been mulling over the idea, others have emerged, which leaves me with a quandary. Which version do I score? There are significant differences between them. The nicest version, and most definitive version, is sold by Kino Video. It features a new subtitle translation, a gorgeous tinted print, and has had several sequences reinstated to the film.

I might be able to get my hands on a public domain master of the film and produce a DVD, but it certainly won’t be the same as the Kino Video version. If I go with the Kino edition, I will have to release a CD (or digital file) which syncs to the Kino DVD, similar to how Rifftrax does their commentary tracks. Of course, the score will hopefully work as a standalone piece – much the way Bill Frisell released recordings of scores he did for some Buster Keaton films. It’s impossible to maintain sync between the Frisell CDs to the movies – I’ve tried on multiple occasions.

I have no shortage of ideas for other musical projects. Hopefully, this one won’t take several years so I can get to them.

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