Bernard Herrmann: Psycho (Original Soundtrack) – Original Release (1960)
Bernard Herrmann was a prolific talent in the world of film. Without his orchestrated compositions many classics simply wouldn’t be as powerful as they are to this day. From Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver he was a genius who’s legacy has yet to be matched in the realm of movie scores.
Alfred Hitchcock always has and always will be my favorite film director and part of why his body of work is so timelessly compelling to me is due to his frequent collaboration with Herrmann. Psycho is a perfect film despite it not being my favorite in the Hitchcock pantheon which says more about his body of work than anything else but without the music is would only be a fraction of it’s greatness. This could be said about pretty much anything but in this case the score not only enhances the imagery and narrative, it defines it.
This soundtrack can be heard without the film and still tell the same story. It rises and falls with the swiftness and grace of a well-crafted film. The intense parts are meticulously placed throughout and always when the listener least expects them. There are delicate moments so quiet and unsettling that any external noise could have the potential of startling even the most unflappable of individuals. The central moments of the overall piece are particularly my favorite. There is a good chunk of time that things get softer and subtler before the iconic dissonance of the violent stringed instruments occur. Hitchcock famously wanted this scene in the film to be silent before he was urged to give it a try with the score. A rumor also exists suggesting that the director gave him a raise as a result, communicating that the film was 1/3 the composer’s work after hearing his contributions.
Psycho and it’s soundtrack are not only legendary in the world of cinema but in culture as a whole. The ingenuity of all parties involved under the guidance of Hitchcock are still honored, ripped-off and parodied to this day but it simply wouldn’t be the masterpiece it is without the music. Herrmann himself would go on to influence some of the greatest composers with his masterful understanding of the art. John Williams’ work on the Jaws music wouldn’t have been as iconic if it weren’t for this soundtrack nor would Hans Zimmer’s crescendos be as dramatically intense.
This is the time of year to indulge in all of the fun that can be had with cheesy monster movies, gory slasher flicks and all things macabre but classics such as this film and it’s soundtrack should get the attention they deserve amidst all of the costumes and candies. Between the Hotel and mother a Norman is waiting behind a picture frame waiting to not only surprise you with a stabbing montage but a truly memorable musical number.