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Analytical Essay On The Score Of Psycho

1427 words - 6 pages

Analytical Essay on the Score of Psycho

The man behind the low woodwinds that opens Citizen Kane and the 'high
pitched violins' of Psycho (1960). Bernard Herrmann was one of the
most original and distinctive composers ever to work in film. He
started early, winning a composition prize at 13 and founding his own
orchestra at 20. After writing scores for Orson Welles' radio shows in
the 1930s (including the notorious 1938 'War of the Worlds'
broadcast), he was the obvious choice to score Welles' film debut,
Citizen Kane (1941), and subsequently Magnificent Ambersons, The
(1942), though he removed his name from the latter after additional
music was added without his (or Welles') consent when the film was
mutilated by a panic-stricken studio. Herrmann was a prolific film
composer, producing his most memorable work for Alfred Hitchcock, for
whom he wrote nine scores. He ignored the directors instructions -
like Hitchcock's suggestion that Psycho (1960) have a jazz score and
no music in the shower scene). He ended his partnership with Hitchcock
after the latter rejected his score for Torn Curtain (1966) on studio
advice. His last score was for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976),
and he died just hours after recording it.

Bernard Herrmann is one of the most important film composers of the
20th century. He was one of the key figures in creating the genre of
film music. He developed a musical language that was ideally suited to
easily fitting to varying lengths of scene.

On the other hand, made strong use of short repeated rhythmic phrases
and ostinati. These could be readily repeated to fit the length of a
scene and provided a feeling of onward motion appropriate to strong
filmic story telling such as suspense and thriller films. Repeated
rhythmic patterns were of course well known to the improvising
pianists and organists of the silent film days - the 'vamp 'till
ready' technique. They had also became an idiosyncratic element of the
highly original classical music of Janacek. we don't know whether
Herrmann was ever familiar with Janacek's music, but his rhytmic
techniques presaged those used by minimalist compsers several decades
later.

Herrmann's also developed a use of harmony that was particularly
suited to film. It is no accident that he was the composer for some of
Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films. He made strong use of augmented
chords which provided a certain unease. However, he particular used
overlapping harmonies that left a scene feeling unresolved - ideal for
building tension in the storytelling of a thriller. Tensions was
produced by overlapping harmonies and their ability to help build a
powerful climax .

His orchestrations are inventive and chosen to underline the
atmosphere of the film. At times, he deliberately limits his palette,
as in Psycho. At...

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