composer, performer and sound designer

Gothic – new music for silent film at the BFI


A live score for voice, acoustic instruments and electronics for Webber and Watson’s 1928 expressionist masterpiece The Fall of the House of Usher.

This evening of live music for silent gothic treasures from the BFI National Archive was performed at BFI, Southbank, in 2013. 

I brought together a small ensemble including Jenny Angliss (vocals), Bela Emerson (‘cello), Stephen Hiscock (percussion) and electronic musician Paul Snowdon (aka Time Attendant). Working with Stuart Brown, Programmes Director, and Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film, we selected around a dozen, rarely seen treasures from the vaults and accompanied them live on the BFI stage. The films, all made before 1930, mixed romance with ancient ruins, witchcraft, transfigurations, hellscapes and many other gothic tropes.

Cate Brooks (The Advisory Circle) also joined us in spirit, contributing a pre-recorded electronic score for Segondo du Chomon’s stencil coloured cinematic trip La légende du fantôme. The evening was directed by Emma Kilbey.

Thanks to the PRS for Music Foundation for making this project possible via an Individual Award for composition. We’d also like to thank the BFI for taking us on and giving us their considerable support. Vault was one of a series of live music events for Gothic film, produced by the BFI in association with The Wire magazine.

Sarah on stage of the BFI, with a still from a silent gothic horror on the screen
Setting up the stage for Gothic (photo Gaynor Perry)