Monday, May 27, 2013


"Prelude" by Bernard Herrmann
as seen and heard in
Vertigo (1958)

On Friday we went to the legendary Egyptian theater on Hollywood Blvd. for a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." Tonight's Movie Music Moment is the first minutes of that experience. I simply cannot do the opening credits and attached score justice in words (especially how it permeated that historical space), but if you watch the above link in HD, on full screen and with you lights turned off you'll get a taste of its power. To be truthful that's simply the best way to experience the Movie Music Moments, my words are merely a poor man's brief analysis.

Of all the Bernard Herrmann scores (including multiple soundtracks for Mr. Hitchcock) this one may be my favorite. It immediately starts us swirling down a drain, like the blood would in "Psycho" just two years later, but this time aurally so. It's a sound you'd expect to hear whilst reading Lewis Carroll's chapter about Alice falling down that rabbit hole. Nothing comes close in my mind's library except for what Jonny Greenwood did in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" last year. Different sound, alike effect. It's mysterious and terrifying. It transitions at the minute mark to become more of a tragic dwindling - I think that part would fit a James Bond film rather well actually.

The music is set to a visual sequence made by Saul Bass, another collaborator with Hitchcock and important name in film history. The spiraling designs are symbols of the path our soon to be introduced protagonist will be stepping into. All is set in the eyes of a woman, perhaps the most dangerous of snares for susceptible men. All this said, without Herrmann's score the trance would not be complete.

It's come to my attention that opening credits are quite popular for my Movie Music Moments. "Boogie Nights," "Pulp Fiction," and "The Shining" have each received this treatment. Studying opening credits is likely a segment all of its own, but I will be focusing on the audio side of them for now in certain cases of Movie Music Moment. What do you think of the opening of "Vertigo," Herrmann's score in the film, or any other films? Please feel free to open your mind to us in the comments below!

Until next time, keep watching and stay listening.

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