Karl Bartos, a founding member of Kraftwerk, recently completed the soundtrack for classic silent movie The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari. The original orchestral music by Giuseppe Becce composed for the 1927 German silent film had long since been lost. Ex-Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos had a creative vision for what the soundtrack should sound like after watching the movie in 2005.
Bartos imagined what it would be like to create an entirely new soundtrack representative of the 21st Century in his home studios in Hamburg. Now, in 2024, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has been digitally restored by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Foundation, the best quality the film has ever been in, with a stunning musical accompaniment offering up a haunting vision of the flick which must be seen to be believed.
Musician and writer Karl Bartos has long been admirer of Weimar-era culture. During his time in Kraftwerk, he helped create the stunning track Metropolis, directly inspired by a band viewing of the classic Fritz Lang film of the same name.
Bartos dug into his own library of musical compositions recreating pieces he had written as a young classical musician in his pre-Kraftwerk days, creating new sounds, melodies, and textures to match the action as the viewer becomes part of this immersive experience as both spectator and participant.
If you listen closely enough, you can hear melodies that broach the tradition of the Baroque Age of Bach, the early Romanticism of Mozart, the dissonance of Schoenberg, as well as Stravinsky and the dramatic repetitions of Philip Glass. There’s even a bit of music which would not have been out of place on a Kraftwerk album from the classic era as well.
“There’s something about this film. No matter how often you watch it, it keeps its secrets. Who is mad and who is not always remains a question of interpretation.”
In 2021, Karl Bartos was awarded the Early Influence Award as a member of Kraftwerk’s classic line-up and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His autobiography, The Sound of the Machine – My Life in Kraftwerk and Beyond, was published in 2022 by Omnibus Press, and in paperback in November 2023. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is his first piece of film music and sound design.
Featured photo courtesy of Philipp Rathmer