Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Herrmann, Bernard

I am a huge fan of Bernard Herrmann, the man responsible for some of the worlds most famous film scores.  From Citizen Kane (his first film) to Taxi Driver, he shaped the sound of the cinema from the 40's through the 70's.  But his most famous and popular scores are from his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock.

I have been on the lookout for anything by Herrmann, especially any of the Soundtracks from his Hitchcock films, but even more especially Vertigo and Psycho.  The only version of Vertigo I had ever seen on LP was this one, and it was 75 bucks.
I hate the art for this.  Why is "Thing" from The Addams Family groping out from the darkness while a circle of Judith Light heads with windblown hair spin around?
Then there is the 1958 Mercury release, which was the one that came out at the same time as the film, again still not crazy about the art but at least it's Kim and Jim and not a member of the cast of Who's the Boss.
So I am happy that the Vertigo soundtrack I got has such bitchin' artwork.  It's the one that comes closest to the poster I think most of us associate with Vertigo.

I picked up my Vertigo album at A1 Records (my new favorite NYC record store) for 15 bucks.  It says it's a Sound/Stage recording and after some poking around on the information super highway I found no info about this label.  I know the LP was released the same year as the film (1958) but other than that I have nothing.  So if anyone out there knows more i am curious to find out.  I am also happy to report that the Sound/Stage version on ebay is selling for 135 bucks.  So I am happy no matter what.
The Sound/Stage Vertigo Soundtrack was conducted by Muir Mathiseson???  If that means anything to anyone.  Anyways I got seriously off topic here the point is this might be the greatest film score of all time.  Herrmann sets the tone of the whole film in the Prelude, the music in a sense sounds as if its spinning and whirling about in what i suppose is true musical Vertigo.

"A notable feature of the Vertigo score is the ominous two-note falling motif that opens the suite — it is a direct musical imitation of the two notes sounded by the fog horns located at either side of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (as heard from the San Francisco side of the bridge). This motif has direct relevance to the film, since the horns can be clearly heard sounding in just this manner at Fort Point, the spot where the character played by Kim Novak jumps into the bay."  (Thanks Wikipedia).

It's beautiful and romantic and tragic, and sinister and...and...I am stoned and ran out of cool adjectives but it's perfect. It's also stunning, and lush....mmm adjectives.
I want to call Vertigo Bernard Herrmann's masterpiece, but Psycho....I mean Psycho is iconic, as soon as you hear those strings you know shit is gonna go down.  Ranked number 4 on AFI's top 25 film scores Psycho was Hitchcock and Herrmann at their best.
Notice if you will that Herrmann used only strings in the orchestra, forgoing the usual full rich sound of a 30 piece band.  There is something about having just strings that gives Psycho extra tension, and adds another layer of paranoia and terror.  They melody goes from sharp jagged cuts of sound into long beautiful but anguished musical movement, its truly stunning. 

Even in this track titled "The City" there is a sinister edge, the music is always a reminder that the most mundane situations in the film are only leading to tragedy.  And no blog post about Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock, Psycho, or Showering would be complete without mentioning the most famous scene from any horror film, the shower scene from Psycho. 

I mean who amoung us has wanted to stab Janet Leigh in the shower?  Skip to the 1:32 second point.  This LP is the 1975 British Unicorn release of the Psycho Soundtrack I got it at The Academy Annex in Brooklyn where they had the actual 1960 soundtrack up on the wall for 85 bucks.  This one is fine for now and then i can keep hunting for the other one, and the Unicorn LP was only 10 bucks:-)
So keep your eyes peeled for any other Bernard Herrmann/Hitchcock film soundtracks for me and don't forget to click "like" and or follow us by clicking follow.

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