Athens Music Collective Provides Score for Silent Horror Classic

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Several years ago, the NOBROW.collective wrote a score to the classic 1920s silent horror film Nosferatu and performed it during a screening at the Athena Cinema.

On Thursday evening, the 100-year-old theater screened another silent classic, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, again with an original NOBROW.collective score.

Although the NOBROW.collective Facebook page lists 11 active members, including the two co-directors, four of them performed the score and only rehearsed twice, since two members live in Columbus, one in West Virginia and the other in Athens. They all met as students at Ohio University.

Although they have performed multiple silent horror movie scores, NOBROW.collective considers their genre to be anything and everything.

The free screening had an audience of 160, according to the theater’s ticket sales.

Athens resident Aaron Butler, founder and co-director of NOBROW.collective, said he first saw Caligari in high school when his father showed it to him, along with many other silent classics. He said it’s an “interesting…psychological thriller” and wanted to perform another silent film score around Halloween.

The German Expressionist film tells a six-act story of a corrupt hypnotist who uses a somnambulist, or sleep walker, to commit murders. The hypnotist, Dr. Caligari, brings his somnambulist to the local fair, a cartoonish, dream-like set. He tells his crowd that the somnambulist, Cesare, can tell the future, wherein he tells a member of the crowd that he has until the break of dawn to live.

Sure enough, the prophecy comes true. The victim’s friend, Francis, dedicates his time to catching the killer.

Butler said there are some versions of the film in which there is an evident contrast in the score based on the scene playing. For example, one DVD plays carnival music at the fair and transitions back to classic horror music during suspenseful scenes.

NOBROW.collective, however, stuck with a dark, suspenseful theme the entire time because the variations can be “hokey” and the group wanted to “try to get at the point,” Butler said.

The group used an organ, alto saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and synthesizers to set the mood of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Next, NOBROW.collective looks forward to their new sound series at Haffa’s Records, 15 W. Union Street. Every third Saturday of the month through May, NOBROW.collective will hold “intimate concerts” starting around 6 p.m., featuring bands from all over the country whom Butler and the rest of the group met from tours.