Popol Vuh – Brüder des Schattens, Söhne des Lichts / Nosferatu


These are the two records that both contain the same music: the original soundtrack to Werner Herzogs “Nosferatu”, both released on Brain records in 1978 – actually it is one release with one catalogue-number but two different covers. (There’s also a Popol Vuh album on the french Egg-Label called “Nosferatu – On The Way To A Little Way“, which features some of the music that Herzog used in his movie but also collects other material composed by Florian Fricke. In an interview Florian Fricke explained: “It actually was Part Two of the original soundtrack. The actual film music, the way it was composed for this movie, is on the record Brüder des Schattens, Söhne des Lichts. And when Werner was already almost finished with his film, he came to me and asked, ‘Florian, do you have music to be afraid by?’ And I thought no, no, no, no. But I remembered some electronic pieces in my big, big, big, box of old material from the early years, and in this box I found ‘angst music.’ And so we made a second record, besides Brüder des Schattens we made ‘music to be afraid by,’ Nosferatu, part two, released by a French company.“)
The title-track “Brüder des Schattens – Söhne des Lichts” is an seventeen minutes long orchestral piece featuring a church choir from Munich, Bob Eliscu (Between) playing his oboe, Daniel Fichelscher on guitar, Alois Gromer on sitar, Ted De Jong on tambura and Florian Fricke on piano.

I’d count these seventeen minutes among the finest moments that Fricke and his fellow musicians ever recorded. It’s a slowly evolving and peaceful composition, very meditative and uplifting and therefore it’s in contrast to the dark-themed movie it is appearing in. Reviewing “Herz aus Glas” I pointed out that there’s this quality to Frickes music to transport a kind of hope – despite all the doom ‘n gloom in a lot of Herzog’s movies. And I think that’s why Herzog chose Fricke’s music which can be seen as complementary to his pictures: The music is not duplicating the dark prospects or trying to compete with the bleak atmospheres Herzog’s often delivering. Fricke’s compositions shed a different light on all the earthly things in decline. The music – again – is like a prayer, a meditation on whatever awaits beyond.

Out of all the Krautrock of that period, Popol Vuh’s music is the most spiritual. And a lot of Popol Vuh’s song-titles address the subject of music as a dialogue with some otherworldly entity. For example “Hoere, der Du wagst” (“Listen, you who dare”): Listen – but on what or to whom? An inner voice maybe, or a voice from somewhere else. But you gotta listen, listen closely to what’s speaking to you – maybe from places you’ll never go to in your lifetime, but maybe afterwards.

The protagonists in Herzog’s movies never or just seldom listen – therefore they’re doomed. Watching „Nosferatu“ we witness the (seemingly) inevitable – but having Florian Fricke’s music to all the madness and dying something beyond the mortal coil becomes evident. Better listen to Popol Vuh, Popol Vuh saves!

review by Holger Adam

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