The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was released in 2020, coinciding with the film’s 100th anniversary.

Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.

I thought that my score to Nosferatu would be my only foray into German Expressionist cinema, but I was soon drawn back in with a commission to score a similar iconic movie – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), in order to mark its centenary.

Caligari is a really bizarre film, and it covers an awful lot of ground in just over an hour. There’s a lot for a composer to get to grips with, and an awful lot for the score to convey – the multiple settings and characters; the heightened emotional feel that goes with the film’s Expressionist style; the unease generated by the fact that our narrator is not as he initially seems.

I began, as usual, with themes, and I also wrote a detailed plan charting the moods and developments in the film’s five acts. There is a hero theme for our main character Francis, but it doesn’t resolve as it feels it should, conveying there is something wrong. Cesare’s presence is denoted by semi-tone steps, implying his liminal state, and Caligari is marked by a quintet march – it implies his authority, but also that there is something wrong with his power.

I’m proud of this score – it does a lot and works in a lot of unusual time signatures and keys, but it all feels like part of a cohesive unit. This was a hard world to capture, and I like that it works – compiling a suite at the end of the process was a joy because there was a lot of good material to work with.

I was commissioned to write this score for a German music group, with a version for full orchestra to be performed live on Halloween 2020. Due to Covid-19 concerns, this event has sadly been postponed – I don’t know whether this full score, or the original song I wrote for the event (‘Erwecken/Awaken’), will be performed.


  1. The Titles of Dr. Caligari (1:34)
  2. Spirits All Around Us (3:09)
  3. Caligari Seeks a Permit (4:40)
  4. The Holstenwall Fair (2:37)
  5. Cesare Will Awaken (3:44)
  6. The Cabinet Opens (5:21)
  7. Alan’s Final Night (3:29)
  8. The Sonambulist’s Prophecy (6:36)
  9. The Murderer, Caught? (5:09)
  10. Caligari Horrifies Jane (4:58)
  11. Cesare Attacks Jane (6:52)
  12. The Pursuit of Dr. Caligari (6:33)
  13. Sonambulismus (3:30)
  14. I Must Become Caligari (4:23)
  15. Caligari Confined (4:46)
  16. We Queens Are Not Free (5:10)
  17. The Suite of Dr. Caligari (4:52)

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