Great State: New Music for an Old Movie

Great State
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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ was the kind of movie most parents wouldn’t let their kids see in 1920.

Today, it’s known among film buffs as a landmark of German Expressionism, one of the first horror movies ever, and, to this day, a classic, even to young film fans like Breck McGough.

“It’s really the mother of all horror films in every sense,” he says.

“It also has all the elements that we kind of take for granted in horror films. There’s mystery. There’s plot twists.”

McGough never heard the original music that had to be played alongside this silent movie.

When a friend asked him if he’d like to write a new score, he was glad he hadn’t.

Breck started with his own, fresh themes and wove them together in his own way.

“It’s such a great film,” he continues.

“It’s so creepy and it’s so fun to write music like that and use weird sonorities, strange chords, and weird rhythms. You can kind of get that fear factor going.”

He studied piano at the University of Central Oklahoma, and film on his own.

‘Dr. Caligari’ is an hour and fifteen minutes of steady playing.

Each performance is an exhausting one for Breck.

He laughs, “I know, but this way I can just let it all hang out, you know.”

The movie plot is a series of flashbacks and jumps in time.

The fiendish Dr. seems to control events and life or death through a strange, sleeping man who wakes up to kill.

Film experts say it’s one of the first to use a surprise ending.

In modern times, Breck McGough plays his own role, with a musical ‘cabinet’, and the power of someone who can change our emotions with the flick of a wrist.

McGough premiered his new musical score for ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ in a Friday night, October 25th Halloween double feature at the Paramount, OKC.

The other film is a short called ‘Grief’. Breck wrote the musical score for that one too.


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