In the Moment: An Interview with Tom Teasley on His Live Score for ‘Nosferatu’ on October 25th at Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA

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“I invite you to participate in a merging of sight, sound, drama and fantasy. For fifty minutes I will take your imagination on a fantasy journey and return you safely to your seats!” Now that is how multi-Helen Hayes Award recipient for Outstanding Sound Design, and multi-Washington Area Music Awards (WAMA) recipient Tom Teasley invites audiences to some matchless events at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA. It all starts October 25th with Tom Teasley in Concert: Nosferatu.

Tom Teasley.
Tom Teasley.

To say Teasley is multi-faceted is an understatement. Beyond this music, dance and theater related work in the DC area, he is a Commonwealth of Virginia Commission of the Arts touring artist and a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy for tours to the Middle East. And plenty more. Recently he has developed multimedia art combining his own style of world percussion original music with classic creative silent art films.

On October 25th, Teasley will be providing original musical accompaniment to one of the original “scare” movies. It remains still a creepy, chilling work of artistry. It is the 1922 silent expressionistic vampire film Nosferatu. What better motion picture for a dark night in late October, whether dark and stormy or not. Nosferatu was directed by F. W. Murnau. It is based upon Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror written work, Dracula. It predates Bela Lugosi’s 1931 performance in the sound movie Dracula.

Over the next weeks, Teasley will also have other events at the Workhouse including a first time exhibit of his visual and musical work, titled Sounds You Can SEE: Dada Reimagined and a performance partnership with Jane Franklin Dance.

So let’s get to it. Let’s begin with some tastes of what Teasley has in store. This article is based upon phone and email exchanges between DCMTA’s David Siegel and Tom Teasley over the past several weeks.

David Siegel: What influenced/inspired you to develop a live score for silent films?

Tom Teasley: The work of creating a live score to silent films is a natural extension of my work with theater productions. In the productions with Constellation Theatre and The Folger Theatre, I have performed a live musical/sound narrative throughout the entire piece. The music/sound becomes another character in the performance. Performing with silent movies gives me even more latitude in sound design because there are no words to cover it up. The music enhances the text or even takes the place of spoken dialog. This is in keeping with my esthetic that music expresses that which cannot be spoken.

nosferatu-movie-max-schreck-as-the-vampire-count-orlok-poster-print

What was your impetus to develop the live score for F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu

The amazing visual images in Nosferatu cry out for musical expression! This score will allow me to dig deeply into my collection of exotic instruments as well as my electronic instrument collection.

What instruments will you be playing for Nosferatu?

I’ll be using, as usual, a collection of exotic acoustic instruments in combination with cutting edge electronics. One such instrument is the aquasonic. This is a metal instrument with spokes of varying sizes and different pitches that I bow with a cello bow. The instrument is filled with water thus creating a very eerie vibrato. I’ll also be utilizing digital looping which will allow me to create a virtual ensemble on the fly as I record performances and then use them as accompaniment. I’ll have my usual array of drums and percussion as well as a hand drum synthesizer.

How do you prepare to perform?

I usually start by watching the film and improvising to it. I do this totally by intuition. After a few repetitions a form begins to take place. I take note of the form and create an order to the musical episodes. Because I come from a jazz background some improvisation is built into the schematic. It is rather like the film having a form similar to a jazz tune. The form remains the same with certain points of resolution and synchronicity. In between I am inspired by “the moment” and the interaction and energy I receive from the audience.

What do you want audiences to come away with after seeing Noferatu and hearing your score?

I want the audiences to feel like they have truly witnessed a unique and artistic form of expression. I also want them to appreciate how their response will inform the sound/music that is taking place. Our society has become automated that a live, once only, performance to a historic masterpiece is a unique offering that I hope they will appreciate.

If you could invite the audience to the Nosferatu event what would you say?

I would say, “I invite you to participate in a merging of sight, sound, drama and fantasy. For fifty minutes I will take your imagination on a fantasy journey and return you safely to your seats!”

I understand that beyond the October 25th performance, you will have a visual arts exhibit at the Workhouse and even a dance component. Please tell me about those particular events.

As a result on my theatre work I frequently create music for dance. When I discovered the amazing work of Dadaist masters Hans Richter and Viking Eggling I was impressed how these abstract images had a movement not unlike dance. In fact, even the titles imply sound and rhythm, Rhythmus 21 and Symphonie Diagonal. I began this process by taking the original art and resetting it with my own music and superimposing images of my hands playing the instruments mimicking the gestures of the film movement. I have edited these together and they are serving as a video/audio sketch that will be on exhibit.

'The Night of the Nightingale' CD.
‘The Love of the Nightingale’ CD.

What I am extremely excited about is the new work. I’ve taken two of the pieces from my recent CD, The Love of the Nightingale and reset them to very tightly synced video, which represent my vision. My video/sound engineer and collaborator, Jim Robeson has been an invaluable asset in this process.

Four video choreographed pieces will be on exhibit titled Sounds You Can SEE: Dada Reimagined. We are also very excited about some of the still images we have extracted. On December 13, I will perform a live percussion concert to the video in the exhibit as well as some other existing video by Hans Richter and other Dadaist masters.

On January 10, 2015, I will bring this process full circle featuring a concert with Jane Franklin Dance. Jane and I have been collaborating over the past year including a performance at Intersections Arts Festival as well as five performances for Fringe Festival at The Atlas Theatre. Next September I will take this project to Korea for a State Department Cultural Envoy tour!

You have a new CD titled The Love Of The Nightingale. Please tell me a bit about it.

The Love Of The Nightingale is my most recent CD. It was the soundtrack for play by the same name that I performed live with Constellation Theatre this past spring. My relationship with Constellation and Allison Arkell Stockman has truly been one of the blessings of my professional and creative life. The music borrows from Balkan, Grecian, and Thracian music… I’ve very much enjoyed finding new life for some of this music in my new multimedia art!

Tom Teasley in Concert: Nosferatu is on Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm., at W-3 Theatre at the Workhouse Arts Center, – 9601 Ox Road, Lorton, VA. For tickets, call (703) 584-2900, or purchase them online. Tickets are $10-$20.

Here are directions.

LINKS

Tom Teasley’s website.

Read other articles and interviews in David Siegel’s column ‘In the Moment.’