Paul Bielatowicz: Bringing sound to the silent film ‘Nosferatu’

BY JULIA CIRINGNANO

Paul Bielatowicz & Simon Fitzpatrick (PHOTOS BY JANEL LAFOND-KILEY)
Paul Bielatowicz & Simon Fitzpatrick (PHOTOS BY JANEL LAFOND-KILEY)

Guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick will be back on the road this December by popular demand. Both are extremely talented musicians known for their work with drummer Carl Palmer, of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Asia. For their December run of dates, Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick will be premiering one act from their soundtrack written for the classic silent film Nosferatu.

Bielatowicz is a sensational guitarist from Lancashire, England. He attended school at Leeds College of Music and pursued music for a while before he was offered the opportunity to play guitar for the Carl Palmer Band. Although he has only released one solo album in 2014 titled Preludes & Etudes, he has a vast history within the music industry touring the world, recording music, and playing phenomenal live shows with musicians such as Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) and Les Paul.

For a while, Bielatowicz toyed with the idea of creating a soundtrack to a silent film. In the same out-of-the-box manner in which he approaches many of his projects, Bielatowicz chose to write a soundtrack for Nosferatu, a silent German expressionist horror film, after watching the movie a few years ago.

“I feel that music and art should connect people on an individual and personal level,” Bielatowicz said. “Sadly we live in a society that seems to be moving away from that idea, where mass media and maximum profits are the primary goals of creativity. I’m always looking for ways to rebel against this modern day trend – writing and performing a live soundtrack to a 95-year-old silent movie just seemed like the right thing to do!”

“The name I gave to the silent movie soundtrack project is The Orchestra of Lost Emotions,” Bielatowicz said. “With all the wonderful technological media innovations we have today, I feel like we miss out on a more personal experience – our physical and personal relationship with the world is becoming a lost emotion – hence the name of the project.”

Bielatowicz loves to challenge himself as a musician so creating a soundtrack for a movie such as Nosferatu that has been surrounded by so much hype has been an exciting experience for him.

“I think the history that surrounds Nosferatu makes it a very attractive movie to tackle,” Bielatowicz said. “The director’s initial plan was to make a version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but when permission was denied by Stoker’s family, he decided to go ahead and make the film anyway, tweaking the script and changing the characters’ names – Count Dracula became Count Orlok for example – in an attempt to avoid copyright infringement. Despite their efforts, the changes were not enough to avoid a lawsuit. Shortly after its debut, a judge ruled in favor of the Stoker estate and ordered all copies of the movie to be destroyed.”

Thankfully, some copies of the film survived, and today it’s become a cult classic. The movie sprouted a wave a creativity within Bielatowicz and he knew this was the project for him.

Nosferatu has the reputation for being a creepy horror movie, which of course it is but it’s also so much more than that,” Bielatowicz explained. “F. W. Murnau was the genius director of his day and the movie is a cinematic masterpiece full of innovative camera techniques, cutting edge special effects and emotional acting performances. It’s difficult to imagine how innovative Murnau actually was in his early silent movies – you have to remember he was literally inventing the media of cinema at the time and the films he made still stand up as a benchmark for modern day movies to be measured by.”

“Not wanting to give too much away, Nosferatu doesn’t follow the standard plot norms we came to expect of Hollywood over the 100(ish) years that followed,” Bielatowicz said. “The hero turns out to be not-so heroic, while his love interest becomes the heroine in an emotional climax to the movie. That’s definitely not what audiences would have expected in the early 1920s. The way Murnau succeeds in communicating these subtleties and emotions using the medium of silent acting and camera work is nothing short of genius.”

The Orchestra of Lost Emotions is a multi-cultural soundtrack. Bielatowicz combined his English heritage and the original film’s German elements to create a masterpiece. This piece of art also incorporated Bielatowicz’s rock sound with a mixture of classical music.

“I guess my influences as a composer aren’t what you’d typically expect for a rock guitarist!” Bielatowicz said. “Classical music has always been my passion and there’s a huge classical influence in the music I’ve written for this soundtrack. As for the German connection, I think fans of classical music will recognize a huge tip of the hat to Beethoven throughout.”

Bielatowicz talked about the main characteristics that differentiate the Nosferatu soundtrack from his previous material such as his stripped back solo album Preludes & Etudes.

“The biggest difference is that I’ve written all the music to tie in very closely with onscreen action,” Bielatowicz explained. “Scoring for a silent movie allows you the freedom not only to write music which evokes the emotions of a scene but also to incorporate sound effects into the music. Elements such as footsteps, door slams etc. are all incorporated in the music as an attempt to blur the lines between soundtrack and sound effects.”

The soundtrack is split into four acts. Bielatowicz will be premiering the first act on his December tour along with the first 30 minutes of the film.

“[The first act] is a great introduction to the movie and goes right up until the dramatic moment where the main character first meets Count Orlok the vampire,” Bielatowicz explained.

Along with the premiere of Nosferatu, Bielatowicz will also be playing a variety of covers and original music.

“We’ll be playing a selection of classical showpieces, including a lot of music from my solo album Preludes & Etudes,” he said. “You can expect to hear movements from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, some Beethoven favorites, Chopin Etudes, Debussy ballads, famous opera overtures all arranged for electric guitar, bass guitar and Chapman stick, like you’ve never heard them before! Mine and Simon’s tour follows an extensive tour with Carl Palmer, where we’ve been playing tribute to the late Keith Emerson, so you can probably expect a couple of ELP [Emerson, Lake & Palmer] classics thrown in too!”

The last time Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick played together, they received rave reviews. Both musicians always put on a dynamic instrumental performance, and this one is bound to be even better due to the premiere of the soundtrack. Bielatowicz confirms his true talent by creating an all instrumental playlist that never bores the audience and never begs for vocals.

“I think variety is the key to maintaining an audience’s interest in any musical setting,” Bielatowicz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re solo instrumentalist, a full band with vocals or a 90 piece orchestra, if everything you play sounds the same then your audience is going to get bored pretty quickly. Obviously, the fewer elements or instruments you have in a band, the more creative you have to be about maintaining variety but as long as you remain mindful of that then it’s possible to keep an audience’s interest no matter what instruments you have at your disposal. Dynamics play a big part, as does instrumentation, the use of different sound effects and obviously having 25 minutes of your set devoted to playing a soundtrack along with a movie screening helps a lot too! Audiences can expect a carefully thought-out set, specifically designed to keep them on the edge of their seats for the entire duration of the show.”

Bielatowicz has been playing alongside Fitzpatrick for many years and is excited to embark on another tour with him.

“Not only is Simon one of my best friends but he’s also one of the most gifted musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing with,” Bielatowicz said. “I think our musical styles compliment each other perfectly – there’s no one else I’d rather do this tour with. I guarantee audiences will see him doing things they never thought possible on the bass guitar or Chapman Stick!”

Over the years, their relationship has grown and they have pushed each other to be the best musicians they can be. Their musical chemistry is evident during their live performance and this bond has been created and solidified through their years of friendship and musical expansion.

“I definitely think we’ve inspired each other to take our instruments to new places,” Bielatowicz said. “The way we both play our instruments is quite un-guitary and un-bassy and I think it’s fair to say we’ve influenced each other on our musical journeys.”

Here’s is the complete list of tour dates for Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick’s tour. Visit the websites of the public venues to purchase tickets.

December 8, 2016 – Pawnee, IL (Private Concert)
December 9, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI (Private Concert)
December 10, 2016 – Chicago, IL (Private Concert)
December 11, 2016 – Gibsonia, PA (Private Concert)
December 12, 2016 – Blend of Seven Winery, Delaware, OH
December 15, 2016 – Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
December 17, 2016 – Hollis, NH (Private Concert)
December 18, 2016 – Hartford Road Cafe, Hartford, CT
December 20, 2016 – Schwenksville, PA (Private Concert)
December 21, 2016 – Triad Theatre, New York, NY
December 22, 2016 – Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA

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