The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann

George Kaplan
June 2011
Originally written for the blog The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann, June 13 to 28, 2011.

The author is known on Talking Herrmann as "aka Roger Thornhill".

When Bernard Herrmann died in the early hours of Christmas Eve 1975, he left behind a body of work that would go on to transcend the medium for which it was originally written. Unusually for a film composer of his generation, almost all his scores are available on CD – many of them newly recorded – and a few have achieved the status of cultural icons. The saxophone theme from Taxi Driver has become musical shorthand for the American urban environment. The shrieking strings of Psycho have become a meme for both real and ironic terror. The whistling theme from Twisted Nerve is now a popular mobile ringtone. The swirling madness of his Vertigo score provides Lady Gaga’s song Born This Way with an operatic sense of scale and a twisted romanticism.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Herrmann’s birth (he was born on 29th June 1911), and to mark this event I am going to blog about his scores by listening to them all in a marathon session. I have almost fifty CDs of his music – many of them single scores, some compilations – and my collection covers almost his entire filmography.

I should add that I have no musical training or background unless you count a few years trying to learn the piano from my music teacher Mrs Gosling and a few short weeks trying to learn the violin from her husband. If you want detailed analysis of chord progression, harmonies and ostinato, then I suggest you go here. I’m just going to listen to each disc in turn (and I’ll be doing it chronologically, starting with Citizen Kane and ending with Taxi Driver) and then blog about it.