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Gramophone (2004) - Explorations: Detour...: Bernard Herrmann




Bernard Herrmann's film themes continue to play despite his death. Those themes are included in such movies as "Citizen Cane," "Twisted Nervce," and "Psycho," among many other Alfred Hitchcock films. Herrmann hoped to become a renowned composer in other genres, including opera, but that was not to be.


Detour... Bernard Herrmann

Despite his struggle for acceptance in the concert-hall, Herrmann's triumphs on the cinema screen secure him a place in the composer's pantheon, argues Nick Shave urn music is significant in many ways, of course, but not as music, which is why the proposition that better composers could produce better film music is not necessarily true: the standards of the category defeat high standards.' With these words, Igor Stravinsky not only justified his own unsuccessful attempts to marry music with image, but also articulated the commonly held view that such marital affairs produce music's feeblest offspring. In nearly a century of alliances between high art and Tinsletown commerce, only a handful of film composers have been deemed worthy of serious consideration by film and music critics. Bernard Herrmann (1911-75) has earned the respect of both. Few deny Herrmann's contribution, both as a film composer and outspoken advocate of his craft. Fewer still are capable of fusing image and sound with the same degree of craftsmanship. If he were alive today, Herrmann might well frown upon the sound-drenched blockbusters; the artless noise of horror; the pop songs that jar on screen (but sell by the bucket-load) and his own recent contributions to Hollywood's new releases. Since his death, his themes have played out on more than 15 new releases, more than two-thirds of which draw upon his scores for Alfred Hitchcock. His screeching strings for Psycho's shower sce...