The music collective score the silent film Nosferatu in the Crescent Arts Centre
Ironically perhaps, the era of the silent movie was a boom time for musicians. Many of them made their living from playing their own musical interpretations of what was happening on screen.
Pianists, organists and even groups of instrumentalists provided key indicators of what emotional response was expected from the audience and at times it must have seemed that what was happening in the music was just as important as what was happening in the movie.
Much of the music was improvised by the cinema’s resident musician. Sometimes the movie came with detailed notes as to what the musician or musicians should be looking out for, along with compilations of standard repertory music and a cue sheet. Specially composed scores became increasingly the norm for the bigger budgeted silent movies.
The improvements in film technology during the 1920’s, however, sounded the death knell for the silent movie era and by the mid-30 the 'talkies' had taken over.
There is still a certain attraction for the best of the silent movies and getting the full effect with live music from live musicians can be an interesting experience. It was this idea that motivated Dublin-based band 3epkano to explore the world of silent movies with music of their own. For 3epkano what started out as a one-off experiment has turned into a bona fide passion.
Since the band was formed in 2004, 3epkano has spread its reputation amongst audiences in Ireland with live silent movie performances in the National Gallery of Ireland, the Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Triskel and Mermaid Arts Centres, amongst others. Overseas performances have included the village square in Penne d'Agenais (France), the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Lincoln Center in New York City. They have also released two albums and are recording another.
3epkano will be making their first appearance in Belfast on Sunday October 31 in the Crescent Arts Centre, when the band will perform an original score for the iconic German Expressionist horror movie from 1922: FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, eine symphonie des Grauens. It's a homecoming for Belfast-born band member Richard McCullough, who has 'been looking forward to finally staging an event in my home town'.
Based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel Count Dracula, Nosferatu was, in its day, a notorious movie starring Max Shreck in the title role of Count Orlok. McCullough believes 3epkano's performance of their original score will be 'a lovely way to wind down from the rigours of the Belfast Festival at Queen's', which comes to an end on the previous evening.
In the podcast above, Philip Hammond explores the history and music of 3epkano with two of its members, McCullough and Matthew Nolan, and gets a taster of what’s on offer at the Crescent this Halloween night.
With the exception of the opening piano music, all the musical extracts in this podcast are taken from 3epkano’s CD At Land, produced in 2007 and released under the band’s own label Smiling Politely Records.