Dracula Immortalized in Sound: Discourse of Silence and Sound in the Original 1931 Film; Traversing Diegetic, Non-diegetic, and Temporal Soundscape in Philip Glass's Score (1999)

Open Access
Mueller, Dorian Alexis
Graduate Program:
Music Theory
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 25, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Eric John Mckee, Thesis Advisor
  • Philip Glass
  • film music
  • music theory
  • diegetic
  • non-diegetic
  • temporality
  • topic theory
  • Dracula
  • minimalism
The 1931 film Dracula was part of Universal Pictures' growing portfolio of horror films. Despite a limited budget, uninspired treatment of Louis Bromfield's screenplay, as well as artistic indifference on the part of director Tod Browning, the film Dracula met great success in Hollywood in large part due to Bela Lugosi's hypnotic portrayal of the Count. Produced during the transition period between silent and sound film, Dracula contains very little music, delegated to only the opening credits and as part of the diegesis of the theater scene. Two months after Dracula premiered, Universal Studios released a Spanish version (Drácula) directed by George Melford. Able to view the dailies of the English version filmed earlier in the day, Melford aimed to improve upon Browning's film in both the visual and aural dimensions—employing varied camera angles, lighting and more astutely-designed shots to depict a stunning visual space, while enhancing the aural realm through a greater range of sound thoughtfully put to use as part of the unfolding drama. The story continues when nearly seventy years later, the sound world of the original English-language film was enriched by the addition of a full score composed by Philip Glass. In this thesis, I investigate the aesthetic and narrative implications of different approaches to sound design in the three versions of Dracula, using the original English-language film as a reference for both the Spanish-language and fully-scored versions. In Chapters 1 and 2, I provide a comparative analysis of the sonic landscape painted from two different vantage points—that of the original English-language version and the Spanish-language adaption—tracing conventions and techniques of sound design in early sound cinema. In Chapter 3, I provide a brief account of Philip Glass’s approach to film scoring. Then, taking into consideration Glass’s own views on sound-image correspondence in writing for film and visual media, I propose a model that can be used as a supplementary tool to capture the dynamic relationship between sound and image in film. In Chapter 4, I employ this model to demonstrate the dynamic relationship existent between Glass’s score and the opening scenes of Dracula (1999), and alongside more traditional music theoretical and analytical techniques, explore how Philip Glass’s score affects a more actively-engaged experience of the film.