Full Count

Philip Glass picks up where Dracula's creator left off.

The Philip Glass Ensemble Allen Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue Accompanying Dracula at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 9

Accompanying Koyaanisqatsi on Saturday, November 10


Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Fans of Tod Browning's Dracula are well aware of the 1931 film's creaky dialogue and lack of soundtrack. It's the mood, and Bela Lugosi's performance as the titular count, that has enthralled generations of moviegoers. Purists may rage at Universal's contemporization of the horror classic via a new score, which was commissioned a couple of years ago for a video reissue, but composer Philip Glass's mesmerizing and understated piece is a complement to Browning's haunting visuals.

Now part of a five-CD box, Philip on Film: Filmworks by Philip Glass, Glass's Dracula score gives the movie new life. "I divided the film into 26 scenes, and each scene has a piece of music that begins and ends with it," Glass explains. "It became a melodrama, with continuous music and words spoken over it. It's really not just a film anymore."

Folks will get a chance to check out Dracula Friday when the Allen Theatre unspools the flick, accompanied by Glass and his ensemble. "I treated the characters as if they were in an opera," Glass says. "There are leitmotifs that go through the piece: There is a theme for Renfield and three themes for Dracula, depending on what he's doing. I found that I could anticipate the presence of someone in the movie by having the music begin before he enters, and I discovered that I could articulate the structure of the drama and the shape of the movie."

Glass will return Saturday to perform his original groundbreaking score alongside Godfrey Reggio's ear-and-eye feast Koyaanisqatsi. "That's pretty much a collaborative film," Glass says of the 1983 non-narrative cult favorite. That in itself makes it unusual. Most films, he says, are "just a hierarchy of power that overrides any collaborative effort."

That attitude probably explains why the Baltimore native rarely works on mainstream Hollywood productions, save an occasional Kundun or Truman Show. "I'm considered a bit too arty for the industry," he laughs. But in a good way.

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