Cork sis­ters’ gothic orig­i­nal

Irene and Linda Buck­ely have com­posed a new score which they’ll play live at the screen­ing of silent-era hor­ror Nosferatu at the per­fect venue of St Fin Barre’s Cathe­dral, writes Mar­jorie Bren­nan

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Cork Film Festival | -

ARTISTS have many ways of oil­ing the wheels of the creative process; for Cork-born com­posers Irene and Linda Buck­ley, the com­forts of home are a big help in sum­mon­ing the muse. When the sis­ters were com­mis­sioned to com­pose a live score for FW Mur­nau’s clas­sic silent hor­ror film Nosferatu, they de­camped to the bu­colic set­ting of their fam­ily home on the Old Head of Kin­sale.

“We have funny mem­o­ries of our mother bring­ing us cups of tea and get­ting a fright when she saw what we were look­ing at on the screen. She’d be say­ing, ‘Oh, you’re do­ing your strange project’,” laughs Linda.

The sis­ters are the youngest of nine chil­dren and both stud­ied mu­sic at UCC be­fore go­ing on to write ex­ten­sively, and to huge ac­claim, for orches­tra, dance, the­atre and film.

The live score for

Nosferatu was orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned by the Union Chapel venue in Lon­don.

“I wrote an­other live score for the film The Pas­sion of Joan of Arc, which we per­formed twice in Union Chapel and the di­rec­tor there, Claire Singer, asked if we would write a new score for its Or­gan Re­framed fes­ti­val, which fo­cuses on pre­sent­ing the or­gan in dif­fer­ent ways,” says Irene.

Nosferatu, with its iconic cen­tral per­for­mance from Max Schreck as the vam­pire Count Or­lok, was an ideal op­por­tu­nity for the sis­ters, who are both pas­sion­ate about writ­ing for film.

“It was a nat­u­ral fit for us,” says Linda. “As sis­ters, we un­der­stand each other’s mu­sic very well and we have long been in­ter­ested in the gothic. When we were young, Drac­ula was one of our favourite sto­ries on a cas­sette tape that we had. Years later, we were very in­ter­ested in the Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola ver­sion of the film, and the score by Wo­j­ciech Ki­lar which was a big in­spi­ra­tion for us grow­ing up. That el­e­ment has al­ways been very in­ter­est­ing for us. It was a dream project re­ally.”

Their score, for vi­ola, cello, or­gan and elec­tron­ics, is now get­ting an out­ing on home ground, with a per­for­mance in the suit­ably gothic sur­round­ings of St Fin Barre’s Cathe­dral as part of Cork Film Fes­ti­val.

This also gave the sis­ters an op­por­tu­nity to utilise the cathe­dral’s mag­nif­i­cent or­gan, which is al­most 150 years old, and was re­stored at a cost of €1.2 mil­lion in 2013. Irene has writ­ten for or­gan many times but says the na­ture of Nosferatu en­tailed a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, one which is suited to the in­stru­ment.

“The or­gan has only a cer­tain way of be­ing pre­sented but it is very ver­sa­tile. In St Fin Barre’s, there are 4,500 pipes — that is a lot of dif­fer­ent colours and tones to work with. I’m pulling the stops up very slowly so the air trick­les through grad­u­ally, which fluc­tu­ates the pitch so it is bend­ing slightly. You get a very creepy tone,” says Irene.

The pipe or­gan is also one of Linda’s favourite in­stru­ments to work with.

“It has such a mas­sive range of pitch — from down in the low­est foot ped­als, where you can feel them in the body, up to the very high. As an in­stru­ment in it­self, that can re­ally evoke ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ments and we re­ally use that to great ef­fect.

We have un­usual tech­niques which we wouldn’t nor­mally as­so­ciate with the or­gan, so some­times it doesn’t re­ally sound like the or­gan any more, it just feels like some­thing puls­ing, which is quite good for cre­at­ing ten­sion in the film and, with vi­ola and cello, it can re­ally feel greater than the sum of its parts. That com­bi­na­tion merges re­ally well, es­pe­cially in the acous­tic of some­where like the cathe­dral which is so re­ver­ber­ant. And that ab­so­lutely suits the kind of mu­sic that we write and the mu­sic that we are in­ter­ested in in gen­eral,” says Linda.

There is only 15 months be­tween both sis­ters, with Linda the youngest, and they grew up lis­ten­ing to sim­i­lar mu­sic.

“Our in­flu­ences are prob­a­bly closer to non-clas­si­cal gen­res than clas­si­cal,” says Linda. “Our ear­li­est mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences would have been hear­ing elec­tronic mu­sic on vinyl that our par­ents would have ran­domly picked up in sec­ond­hand shops. Elec­tronic mu­sic was a big thing for us.”

The sis­ters are also ac­com­plished in the field of sound de­sign, and are in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing at­mos­phere in their work through the use of non-mu­si­cal sounds, es­pe­cially those in­spired by na­ture.

“Com­ing from where we


sis­ters, we un­der­stand each other’s mu­sic very well and we have long been in­ter­ested in the gothic

Max vam­pire Schreck 1922 film Count as the Or­lok Nosferatu. in

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