When artist Andrea Mastrovito told me about his upcoming project NYsferatu I was instantly convinced that it would be quite an experience to write music for it, but I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what he looked to achieve. Only a few days later it hit me.
This whole project is HAND-MADE (sadly, a word quickly disappearing from our vocabulary) – it took Andrea and his assistants more than 3 years to draw the whole film by hand, for a total of over 35,000 drawings. The drawings were then assembled in a sequence with the Rotoscope technique to give movement to the frames. Each background scene has been entirely redrawn three times to set the film in present day New York City; far from the original story by Murnau (1922) based in Mittel-Europa (Transylvania and Germany), Andrea’s version sees New York and Syria as the two landscapes for the story. Mind-blowing!
NYsferatu questions the classical interpretation of the vampire, seen here as the prototypical outsider, while it addresses the many obstacles encountered by immigrants who often escape war and hardships at home only to face challenges such as economic exploitation, discrimination, and xenophobia in their new country.
While writing the music I enjoyed so much noticing quotes and contemporary references wisely placed throughout the screenplay, across the thousands of movie frames… I felt spontaneously involved, in no time I was completely integrated into the story, as an immigrant myself. I chose to live in a modern Nosferatu world for 2 months (for the joy of my loved ones), realizing that I had no choice but to fully immerse myself into this universe.
I made it a point to hire certain musicians for this soundtrack: for the Syrian scenes I really wanted and specifically looked for performers who were born and lived in Syria – two among all the great players I worked with are Kinan Ednawi on Oud and the wonderful Bisan Toron on voice, who instantly understood the concept of the film. No additional instructions from me were required while recording, it was nothing short of magical to see these performers teleport themselves and whoever was listening to another world.
We presented NYsferatu – Symphony of a Century at the 12th Rome Film Festival a week ago, with live music (me on piano and Bisan Toron on vocals) over the projection of the film and it was an incredible experience.Words are not enough to thank Andrea and his whole team and the talented Marco Marcassoli, and especially the amazing Micaela Martegani/More Art NY, producer of this once-in-a-lifetime project. Thank you Andrea and Micaela for letting me do my thing and trusting me blindly.
A big shout out to my magicians/musicians for this soundtrack:
Bisan Toron – Voice
Kinan Ednawi – Oud
Tareq Rantisi – Darbuka, Percussion
Nino Errera – Drums, Percussion
Kali Singh – Foley artist
Timothy Loo – Cello
Janine DuBois – Cello
Hyo-Jin Le – Violin
Danielle McKellen- Violin
Adeline Moreau – Viola
Robbie Angelucci – Electric Guitar
Pino Annarella – Acoustic Guitar
Simone Giuliani – Piano, Synths, Bass
And to engineers Dave Darlington and Jason Soda: thank you for letting me use your beautiful studios and for your super natural skills! (respectively Bass Hit Studios in New York and Palomino Sound in Los Angeles).
Here are some snippets from NYsferatu’s recording sessions in New York and Los Angeles and from the live show in Rome, enjoy!
Til next time,