It is hardly a stab in the dark to pick out the great American composer’s film work as the next entry in film score music, but here is an artist surely among the greatest for matching image and sound. Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975), a mentor to Elmer Bernstein in yesterday’s entry, the latter also conducting some of his scores, is among the most prolific of orchestral film composers (he also wrote symphonies), working with many of the greats, from Orson Welles to of course, Alfred Hitchcock, and his many great soundtracks also include Citizen Kane, Cape Fear, Ray Harryhausen’s fantasy films, and for TV, Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone. Herrmann’s work stands out, not merely in how he stretches the orchestra to express extreme emotions, paint new landscapes and make new sounds, but also in going further than ever to evoke the inner and outer human universe.
In the score for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) one of the director’s very best, he reflects the broken loneliness of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, driving through the New York’s street, yearning for a higher state than the squalor he sees around him, especially with at torn-up love theme, as well as evoking the shuddering streets with such beauty with those powerful brass, bass and cello parts. Vertigo (HItchcock, 1958) meanwhile reaches into the subconscious and the troubled mind of James Stewart dizzily obsessing over the fate of mystery woman Kim Novak, using a swirl of string arrangements that builds relentlessly, reaching a shocking denouement. And of course Psycho, taking the orchestra, especially the violin section, to extremes of physical violence, ramping up the tension and menace of Anthony Perkins’s actions and that infamous shower scene with Janet Leigh. Surely no soundtrack has ever been more physically disturbing or effective.
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