Sound Poem Inspired By Nosferatu
Composer Karel Suchy was born in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in 1953. He studied piano, organ and composition at the Conservatory of Jaroslav Ježek in Prague, as well as earning his M.S. in Engineering from the Czech Technical University. He led, and composed for, several avant-garde ensembles. "Tlön" gained notoriety for innovation as well as virtuosity, and performed in major venues, on radio, television and studio recordings. Because jazz was considered a subversive musical form by the communist authorities, the group attracted scrutiny from the government as a counterpoint to their popularity. Prior to escaping from communism in 1979, Karel won awards for composition, including the Prague Jazz Festival. In the 1980's, he presented recitals of his electronic and computer-aided classical music at ISU and U of I-Champaign. He facilitated a Wisconsin performance of the Czech Christmas Mass. The Choral Arts Society of SE Wisconsin, under the direction of James K. Schatzman, performed his arrangement of "Sweet Mary sings her Babe to Sleep" in 2004, and commissioned "Sound Poem, inspired by Nosferatu" in 2008. He sings with CAS, is founder and director of vocal and instrumental group, "Voices and Verses" and serves as Director of Music for Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Racine, WI. Rather than a write a typical film score, Suchy intended this work to complement the film, yet stand alone as a tone poem. The score draws on a wide variety of musical styles, including early modal music, modern classical, Appalachian hymnody and rock ballad A sense of foreboding is achieved through the use of an "altered gypsy scale" to represent the evil Nosferatu. Ellen's leitmotiv employs chant-like phrases in Dorian mode. These appear several times separately and in tandem throughout the score. Hutter, in his "gung-ho" mood, is represented by the use of E flat major, but when he is running from Nosferatu, by the whole-step scale. The emotional, dramatic and philosophical elements of the film are further articulated through techniques such as the using "Dies Irae" lyrics in the "altered gypsy" scale, and the combination of live music with concrete music (a montage of recorded natural sounds). The choral writing achieves a pulsating harmonic texture by rapidly shifting from thin unison to rich eight-part harmonization. Lyrics are interspersed with "aahs" in portions of the choral arrangements, and are not used at all in other sections. "Flowers" is a love theme that alludes to the concept of death and rebirth, the gift of flowers for Ellen, and her self-sacrifice. "The Day Before Easter," in the style of a Gaelic/Appalachian hymn tune, reflects the ambivalence many of us feel when called upon to make a difficult sacrifice. "Psalm 23 Love Song" is in the form of a rock ballad, and expresses comfort and hope.