1931 Dracula Gets New Music in Full Surround

New music revitalizes old movie: the Kronos Quartet has just completed an intense eight-day recording session at Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch studio in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The Quartet laid down a Philip Glass score for a reissue of Dracula, the 1931 horror flick starring Béla Lugosi. The effort is part of a Universal Home Video project that will bring classic early horror films to a new audience.

The 75-minute movie will have 65 minutes of Glass's music in full surround. The early "talkie" had few sound effects and almost no music, except for a segment of Wagner's Lohengrin during one theater scene. "The surround track by Kronos is probably going to be a big event for new-music lovers," says Lucasfilm scoring engineer Bob Levy. The scoring studio has been used for films ranging from Forrest Gump to Toy Story to The Lost World: Jurassic Park to Titanic.

The Kronos foursome---violinists John Serba and David Harrington, violist Hank Duff, and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud---put in almost 100 hours on the Dracula project, playing passages repeatedly, with varying inflection and emphasis, while the recording team listened for perfect takes. They did not watch the film while they were recording; instead, they recorded a segment, then watched the film on video monitors, looking for visual cues they had missed.

The process continually sent them back into the studio to rework parts of the score, but the results are magical, according to Nonesuch producer Judy Sherman, who has produced a number of Kronos Quartet CDs and was on hand for the recording sessions. "The Glass score makes the film come alive, as though Béla Lugosi is unfolding like a huge bat in this amazing way you hadn't ever seen before," she says. However, there isn't much chance of Kronos performing Dracula during one of their more than 100 annual concerts; members say that Glass's music is just too physically demanding.

Universal Home Video hopes to reissue two other early 1930s horror classics: Frankenstein and The Mummy, both starring Boris Karloff. Whether or not the Karloff flicks will receive the same kind of sonic makeover that Dracula is getting hasn't been decided. Dracula is aimed at the home-theater market, but it might also be released in commercial theaters. Projected street date for the Universal Home Video DVD reissue is Halloween 1999.