Appreciation Site


Music in Silent Films Section

Nosferatu stares down at veteran musician Nash the Slash as he provides the nightmarish soundtrack for the vampire's deadly assault in the classic silent film Nosferatu (1922).


Nash the Slash Performs 'Nosferatu'

(Cut-Throat Productions, 2001, 63 min.)

Nash the Slash Performs 'Nosferatu' can be purchased on Compact Disc by credit card from Indie Pool for $18 Canadian plus shipping.  MP3’s of the entire soundtrack are available at for a nominal charge (Emusic also offers free 30-second previews of most of the selections on the soundtrack).  You can read more about Nash the Slash at his official website,, and at the UK fan site


Nash the Slash is an influential and internationally known cult musician best known for his contributions to the New Wave music movement of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  His most famous album is Children of the Night (1980), which was distributed by Virgin Records and contains the international Top 20 hit “Dead Man’s Curve”, a twisted remake of the 1960’s Jan and Dean single.  Nash has also performed as a member of the Canadian progressive rock band FM, whose 1977 hit single, “Phasors on Stun”, can still be heard on classic rock radio from time to time, especially in their native Canada. 

Nash the Slash performs as a one-man band, programming keyboards and drum machines and playing along on electric violin and on several electric mandolins, one of which is shaped like a skull.  His visual trademark is that he dresses like The Invisible Man, with head and neck completely bandaged and his eyes covered by dark spectacles.  This look, combined with his color-outside-the-lines approach to creating music, has made him one of the most memorable figures in modern-day music.

Nash’s first public performance was in 1975 as accompanist to a screening of the silent surrealism milestone Un Chien Andalou (1928), which makes Nash one of the few modern-day music performers who can trace their involvement with silent films to the very beginning.  And his interest in scoring silent films has not dimmed with time.  In July of 2000, Nash debuted a complete score to Nosferatu (1922) at the Grand Theatre in Toronto, and the next year released the soundtrack on compact disc on his private label, with the promise of more silent film soundtracks to come.

“Years ago, I had a list of silent films that I wanted to do music for,” Nash the Slash recollected in a recent email to the author.  “Although Nosferatu was at the top of the list, I wanted to cut my teeth on one or two other films before tackling Nosferatu.”  The first soundtrack Nash completed was for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), followed by a score for The Lost World (1925).  Then in 1997, Nash created the first portion of the score for Nosferatu, marrying Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre” to the sequence where the phantom ship journeys toward the harbor while Jonathan Harker makes his way back to his hometown.  “I wanted to put classical music to the film and ‘Danse’ fitted this section perfectly,” Nash added.  He performed this portion of the film live with his new arrangement of “Danse Macabre” for two years before beginning five months of intense work on the remainder of the soundtrack, which was ready for exhibition in July of 2000.

Nash the Slash was very wise to use this “slow cook” method in developing Nash the Slash Performs 'Nosferatu', as the resulting album is an absolute work of genius.  This 63-minute masterpiece is a mesmerizing work of art that grips you by the throat and refuses to let go until the album is over.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a soundtrack, new or old, that follows the corresponding film so closely.  The music itself tells the story without the picture even being there, so if you are familiar with the film, you’ll have little or no trouble placing the individual scenes in your head as you listen along.  The soundtrack has a mathematical precision that hasn’t been heard since Kraftwerk, and yet seems to dance spontaneously with the film like Ginger Rogers following Fred Astaire.

The music differs quite drastically from the self-proclaimed “punk classical” and dark New Wave that Nash the Slash has been known for in the past, being a classical-sounding and strongly symphonic score composed on a myriad of analog synthesizers dating from the 1970’s and 80’s.  The lack of computers adds spontaneity and a strong live presence to the music, which is only augmented further by samples of a monk choir singing a Gregorian chant and Nash’s live-to-tape accompaniment on acoustic and electric mandolin and violin. 

The way that the record tells the story is by the subtle use of definite themes and motifs which each represent the different characters, moods, and actions.  The most prominent two themes are the conflicting themes representing Jonathan and Nina, the protagonists, and Nosferatu, the villain.  “The whole story of Nosferatu is, of course, [of] a vampire coming from Eastern Europe to the West,” Nash the Slash explained in a recent interview.  “I find it fascinating that there’s a dichotomy of culture.  So I thought, ‘I’m going to apply…[Western] Catholic classical music to the protagonists.’  [S]o Faure’s ‘Requiem’, this particular piece is a beautiful, melodic thing, [and it became] Johnathan[’s] and Nina’s music.  ‘What will I contrast it with?’ [I thought.]  ‘How about [an] Eastern Orthodox acapella male choir singing in weird dialects?’  So…you have Eastern Orthodox versus Western Catholicism in the music, [all] very specifically placed.”  The back-and-forth battle between these two motifs becomes strongest in Track 21, “Dracula Unpacks”, when both Jonathan Harker and Nosferatu arrive in the town at the same moment and the action cuts back and forth between the two arrivals.  The two weave in and out of focus as the scenes cut back and forth, without the audience’s realizing that this is even happening.  In addition, the drum machine fox trot represents Nosferatu’s journey coming to a close as he approaches the house, and the bass synth represents the boat (with Nosferatu on it) gliding on the water.  Nash’s placement of these motifs is so fine-tuned that it makes even original Vitaphone and Movietone soundtracks to silent films sound sloppy in comparison (of course Nash has seventy-five years worth of technology on his side, which probably makes this an unfair comparison).

Nash the Slash is not hesitant to use sound effects to help tell the story.  We hear the sound of rats crawling from the coffins, horses whinnying and a fox yapping when the spirit of Nosferatu blows through the countryside, the ominous sound of a cock crowing in the middle of Nosferatu’s blood feast, and the beat of the snare drum when the town crier reports the news of the black plague reaching the town, all adding to the nightmarish atmosphere of the picture. 

In addition, we distinctly hear the human and phantom carriages when Harker travels to Nosferatu’s castle, all set to a fox trot that plods dutifully like the horses who are carrying him.  We hear a video game-like sound reminiscent of the one used in Pink Floyd’s 1973 sound collage “On the Run” when Renfield is running loose in the town with the townspeople in pursuit, which is probably more than coincidental.  As the crazed, superstitious townspeople take after Renfield, we hear the sound of rats poignantly weaving in and out of the soundtrack, letting us know what they’ve made of themselves by engaging in the mass hysteria. We feel Nosferatu’s lust descending on the helpless Nina as she plays the Christ-figure, dying that the townspeople might be freed from the curse of the vampire.  And Nash’s hissing breath at the beginning and end of the soundtrack lets us know when the menace of the vampire has arrived and when it has departed.  And you truly experience all these sensations as the music plays, especially if you are aware of the sequences in the film that correspond with the music. 

Complaints about Nash the Slash Performs 'Nosferatu' are very few and concern only minor details.  For one, I have never much cared for synthesizer-generated oboe sounds—to me every one of them sounds like a parody of the real thing.  And Nash uses a synth oboe sound occasionally in the soundtrack, which I can do without.  But it’s never excessive, and over repeated listens it becomes less noticeable, gradually blending in with the rest of the soundtrack.  There are one or two other mildly distracting sounds of a similar nature that become less noticeable over time.  The only other complaint concerns some mastering problems—there is some mild static in “Murnau’s Vision” (Track 1) and a noticeable crackle in the left speaker a little over a minute into “Foreboding Journey” (Track 5).  Hopefully these blemishes will be removed in future pressings, but they are not that loud or problematic, just mildly and momentarily distracting. 

The most unfortunate thing about Nash the Slash Performs 'Nosferatu' is that so few people have heard of this soundtrack or know of its existence.  I’ve heard much more uneventful and blasé electronic soundtracks on official silent film releases (Image’s The Indian Tomb and Kino’s The Cat and the Canary come to mind here).  And one can’t help but wonder: if the big companies want to use electronic soundtracks in their silent film releases, why don’t they hire Nash the Slash?  A Nash the Slash soundtrack would work exceptionally well for “modern”-looking silent films such as Überfall (1928), The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra (1928), and E.A. Dupont’s Variety (1925), none of which have been released on DVD as of this writing.  But whether the big companies discover Nash the Slash or not, it’s no overstatement to call this score a new watermark for excellence in silent film soundtracks, both modern and traditional.

(back to Music in Silent Films Section)


Pola Negri FAQ

Pola Filmography

Articles and Movie Reviews

Pola Documentary:
Life is a Dream in Cinema
Now on DVD!

Interview with Pola 1978

Old News

Music in Silent Films Section
(non-Pola related)

Harold Lloyd House Commemorative Page
(non-Pola related)

Links Page

About the Author/