Analytical Essay on the Score of Psycho

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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
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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 other times, he calls on highly unusual forces as in (his unused music to) Marnie. The film score did not need to tie itself to the forces of the 19th century symphony orchestra. It also did not have to follow the constraints of an acoustic performance. Some instruments could be 'miked up' and others 'miked down'. This added a new tool for

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