Bernard Herrmann and the Psychological Narrative of His Film Scores

Featuring: William V. Malpede

William V. Malpede presented an exploration of the music, unique style, and influence of legendary composer Bernard Herrmann.

Born in New York City in 1911, and trained at the Juilliard School of Music, Mr. Herrmann became a proficient and creative composer of scores for radio dramas. His body of work in the 1930s helps lay the foundations of what biographer Steven C. Smith calls “perhaps his greatest achievement in film…his remarkable use of orchestration to reinforce theme and character psychology.”

Following an introduction to Herrmann’s background, work in radio, and overview of his work in scoring for motion pictures, we went through a series of specially selected music cues. Along with audio, video, and score examples, we examined the techniques he employed to create his iconic and influential orchestral colors. We discussed his approach to what might be called the “psychological narrative,” or the employment of musical techniques through which his scores become the “connective link” between the characters / story, and the audience. Music analyzed include cues from NORTH BY NORTHWEST, CITIZEN KANE, JANE EYRE, THE GHOST & MRS. MUIR, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, VERTIGO, PSYCHO, and more. We present and discuss some of the perhaps lesser known cues which serve both as connective psychological tissue for the film, and also which look forward to the use of orchestral color serving as atmosphere and sound design.


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