4th article in our 7 week series on Psychological Thrillers.
These films are timeless classics. They have just the right touch of Hitchcock that leaves you on the edge of your seat despite how many times you watch them. We are all familiar with the themes of Psycho and can name it with just the raise of a hand and imitating the shrieking “Ree! Ree! Ree!” Hitchcock had thrilling composition for not only Psycho, but Vertigo and North by Northwest. For each of these films he used the great composer, Bernard Herrmann.
Bernard Herrmann’s music was very different from those of his peers in Hollywood. His music is very emotional, dramatic, and moody. When approaching characters or a scene, he used a lyrical approach as opposed to a melody. His homophonic style utilized long, drawn-out, slow moving chords as well as a frequent use of minor/major triads.
None of his scores were nominated for an Academy Award, however, according to the American Film Institute, his songs ranked #4 and #12 on a list of 25 all time cinema film scores. Hitchcock worked around Herrmann’s music. He would make a scene longer or shorter to fit the music.
A great example of Herrmann’s knowledge of when to use music to underscore a scene or not is as follows:
- “The most memorable scene in North by Northwest is the cropduster sequence. Most film composers would have looked at this scene as an opportunity to demonstrate compositional skills. Herrmann, however, rejected any request for music. Music in the cropduster scene is brought in only at he end, under the “Crash of the Cropduster” when the overture theme is restated. Hitchcock starts with a high angle shot of the open farmland, symbolizing his complete isolation. Having silence rather than music on the soundtrack reinforces his loneliness very effectively.”
Composer Danny Elfman (MIB III, Terminator Salvation, Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Good Will Hunting) has said that Herrmann is his number one inspiration.
- “I loved his scores. I think I was about eleven-years-old when I heard the score to The Day The Earth Stood Still, and it’s the first time I noticed film music and a name. I realized, ‘This isn’t just there. Somebody actually did it.’ Herrmann was always my god in terms of my love of film music.”
Herrmann also composed for such films as Citizen Kane, both versions of Cape Fear, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Fahrenheit 451, and Taxi Driver.
Please join us for a discussion Thursday 6/14/2012@7pmE/12UTC