A Look Back: Philip Glass Re-imagines Universal’s Dracula

For Universal‘s 1931 classic Dracula, there’s very little to improve upon. Universal struck gold with the film upon release and still finds new ways for younger generations to find new life within the character. However, there has always been one thing the film is missing. Something that is essential to other iconic films like Star Wars, Halloween, and Psycho. For almost 70 years there was never an official soundtrack to accompany the film. In fact, aside from the opening credits and a scene at the Opera, there is no other noise except dialogue and a hiss in the background. Thanks to Philip Glass though, that all changed in 1999.

During 1999, Universal (as stated before) was looking for new ways to re-invent and update their classic monster movies for a new audience. Enlisting the help of legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass, the company decided it was long overdue for Dracula to have a musical accompaniment. Actually, they originally presented Glass with the 3 films Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Having to specifically pick one though, Glass chose Tod Browning‘s Dracula. Deciding on a string quartet for the musical backdrop of the film due to all the libraries and studies settings, Glass went on to write a glorious and highly complimentary musical score that not only improved the film, but presented it in a way never seen before.

The new score brings a new pacing to the film while fully complimenting legendary scenes. The music changes it just enough to help what seems like a very slow paced film move along and create an engaging narrative. Characters reactions and interactions seem more heightened. It also helps the audience focus on some of the subtleties like Dracula descending upon Renfield while unconscious in his castle.

GlassDracula also works as a solo work as well. With so many different musical textures and pretty specific titles, it’s not hard to conjure up grand and horrifying images of giant bats, decaying castles, and the children of the night.

For both avid classical fans and casual listeners, this album can create an immersive experience like no other. It can purely be seasonal (Halloween…*wink wink*) as well as a work that solely supports itself. The music presents a large dynamic shift for the film while complimenting it in the same breathe. Glass heard the children of that night and translated their music for so many to love.

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