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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of  Music
July 27, 2017
Canadian Excellence

ICE performed improvised opera "Walk In"  in 2011.
ICE performed improvised opera "Walk In" in 2011.


Faculty of Music

ICE and Horror

Faculty of Music's improvisation ensemble provides soundtrack to horror film on March 14

Feb 27/12

On March 14, Laurier’s Improvisation Concert Ensemble (ICE) presents a unique concert that will delight and scare: nine students and their instructor, Kathryn Ladano, provide a live, improvised soundtrack to the classic horror film Nosferatu, the oldest-surviving vampire movie.

The silent film was released in Germany in 1922 with Hans Erdmann having composed a score to be performed live when it was shown. Most of that score is now lost leaving composers and improvisers the delicious task of creating their own soundtracks to the ghoulish film.

ICE, under the current direction of Dr. Glenn Buhr and Ladano, has paired music and theatrical event, previously. As well, traditionally, ICE has presented an unconventional large scale performance to wrap up the academic year, in 2011 presenting an improvised opera inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Laurier is home to celebrated ensembles such as the WLU Symphony Orchestra and the Maureen Forrester Singers; ICE is lesser-known, perhaps, but arguably, one of the most unique. This academic year, the ensemble features piano, voice, electronics, and bass clarinet in its mix, and is teaming with the University of Guelph’s Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), directed by Joe Sorbara, to present two concerts of freely improvised music.

This time round, the ensemble will provide music for the entire film, employing ‘structured improvisation.’ “We haven’t yet determined when they’ll occur, but we will have recurring themes,” Ladano says. ‘When you see Nosferatu, for instance, we may have a certain phrase. It could be something as simple as a soft, agitated violin. As well, the music will be sparse because we’ve found it’s most effective to have almost nothing at certain moments. When you see something scary, it’s more powerful to have something subtle.”
In most ICE concerts, the musicians must listen and react to one other. The upcoming concert demands that the ensemble also watch and respond to the visuals in the 84-minute film—they will be seated in front of the screen, watching the movie. The challenge of matching music to image by working with others and playing in the moment is exciting, in part because failure is a possibility. But the history of ICE suggests that the audiences will be charmed and the musicians will learn because of the experience. Most university programs lack ensembles like ICE which focuses on structured and free improvisation and the importance of listening.
“Students coming out of the program, who have been involved in ICE, are more competent than they would be otherwise,” Ladano says.  “The skills they will have learned through improvisation will be applicable to everything they do musically.”
The concert/screening takes place in the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall at 8 pm; the public is welcome and admission is free. For more details, please phone 519-884-0710 x2150 or email

This event is sponsored by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Music, Office of the Dean of Arts, and the Department of English and Film Studies

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