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Bernard Herrmann

June 29, 1911 - December 24, 1975
born in New York, NY, composed during the Modern period
The man whose name is for many synonymous with film music was born prematurely to Abraham and Ida Herrmann. Abraham, an optometrist, came from an intellectual family, while Ida was highly religious; the family's handsome brownstone was the scene of frequent arguments. At the age of five Herrmann began to suffer from Sydenham's syndrome, a neurological disorder that can affect personality development. A calm environment is needed for recovery, but Herrmann did not enjoy one. He grew up to be a nervous and aggressively touchy person who tended to alienate friends and associates.

He was also incessantly creative, composing music at an early age. At age 13 he won a hundred-dollar prize for an orchestral composition, and this settled him on a musical career. He studied with Percy Grainger at New York University, composing much music that he later destroyed. At 20 he debuted as a conductor on Broadway, leading a ballet of his own in a musical revue called "Americana." He also founded the New Chamber Orchestra.

In 1934 Herrmann began conducting and scoring for the CBS radio network. He developed a gift for quick evocation of a situation or psychological state with very short musical gestures such as a repeating note pattern, a chord, or a shift in color. Herrmann worked for Orson Welles, the young director of the Mercury Theater radio drama series. When Welles went to Hollywood to direct his debut film, Citizen Kane, he took along several Mercury Theater regulars, including Herrmann, who scored the film. With the Citizen Kane score Herrmann virtually invented a new, American film sound that stood in contrast with lush, European-derived styles.

Herrmann remained with CBS, becoming conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra in 1940. He championed new British and American music, giving millions their first exposure to such composers as Walton and Ives. Herrmann won an Academy Award for his second film score, that for William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster. Almost alone among Hollywood composers, he did all his orchestration himself, devising such novel effects as the electronic group employed in The Day the Earth Stood Still or the massed harps of Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef. He was noted for building his scores on ostinato patterns, often based on an unstable chord. The emotional tension thus produced made Herrmann an ideal collaborator for the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

Herrmann's collaboration with Hitchcock began with the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, just after CBS eliminated its orchestra in 1955. Although of his 68 film scores, only eight were written for Hitchcock (Herrmann also supervised the naturalistic soundtrack for The Birds), the two were among history's greatest director-and-composer teams. Herrmann's all-string score to Psycho, with its nerve-raw shrieking violins for the knife attack scenes, was widely imitated.

Angrily leaving Hollywood when producers moved toward melodious scores that could yield a hit tune as an additional profit point, Herrmann moved to London, still composing film scores for Hitchcock admirers such as François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, and Brian DePalma. He also stepped up his concert and recording activities, committing to tape his performances of many of the classical pieces he had continued to write over the years. These include a masterly symphony and an opera version of Wuthering Heights.

Herrmann died in Hollywood, passing away unexpectedly in his sleep on Christmas Eve after a scoring session for Scorsese's Taxi Driver, whose jazz-oriented music hinted at an intriguing change in direction. Commentators regard him as the greatest of American film composers or even as the greatest of any nationality, and interest in his music of all genres has shown unceasing growth since his death. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bernard Herrmann: The Essential Film Music Collection

Disc 1
Title: Citizen Kane, Film Score
Title: The Ghost And Mrs. Muir, Film Score
Title: On Dangerous Ground, Film Score (1951)
Title: The Day The Earth Stood Still, Film Score
Title: The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, Film Score
Title: The Trouble With Harry, Film Score
Title: The Man Who Knew Too Much, Film Score
Title: The Naked And The Dead, Film Score
Title: Vertigo, Film Score
Title: Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad, Film Score
Disc 2
Title: North By Northwest, Film Score
Title: The Three Worlds Of Gulliver, Film Score
Title: The Twilight Zone, Series Theme (first Year)
Title: Psycho, Film Score
Title: Mysterious Land, Film Score
Title: Cape Fear, Film Score
Title: Jason And The Argonauts, Film Score
Title: Marnie, Film Score
Title: Torn Curtain, Film Score
Title: Fahrenheit 451, Film Score
Title: Work(s)
Title: Obsession, Film Score
Title: Night Piece, Suite From "Taxi Driver," For Saxophone & Orchestra (arr. By Christopher Palmer)
x

Track List: Citizen Kane (Score Re-Recording Of 1941 Film)

Title: Citizen Kane, Film Score
x

Track List: Day The Earth Stood Still (Film Score)

Title: The Day The Earth Stood Still, Film Score
x

Track List: Bernard Herrmann: The Twilight Zone (Television Series Score Re-recording)

Disc 1
Title: The Twilight Zone
Disc 2
x

Track List: North By Northwest: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Title: North By Northwest, Film Score
x

Track List: The Ghost And Mrs. Muir: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Title: The Ghost And Mrs. Muir, Film Score

Comments

ksmith0926
Vertigo wouldn't be the same without Hermann.
r.pugh20009
Even Hitchcock was in awe when Herrmann came up with the shrieking violins. Hitchcock had intended to shoot the shower scene with no music
Hitchcock is the master of cinematograp h y
loversspit.k w
herrmann is thee man
kathimccord
Hermann's music is the BEST...imagi n e the PSYCHO shower scene without those slashing violins!
alfred hitch is the master.
ALMOST AS CELEBRATED AS HIS MUSICAL WORK ARE THE ENDURING LEGENDS OF HERRMANN'S COMBATIVENES S AND VOLATILITY. AS COMPLEX AS ANY CHARACTER IN THE FILMS HE SCORES, HERRMANN REMAINS A CREATIVE GENIUS, AN INDEFAGITABL E MUSICOLOGIST , AN EXPLOSIVE BULLY, A GENEROUS AND COMPASSIONAT E MAN WHO DESPERATELY SOUGHT FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE.
lightintheat t i c v i k k i
i love twisted nerve
mike2641
Interesting! I hope that everyone's Sunday and Halloween are going great and I hope that they have a great week!
hcarey5129
did he use Yanacek music in Vertigo?
I wonder if he was able to have a fulfilling personal life. The bio hinted that he had a personality disorder in part because his early childhood was tumultuous.
Great bio but wasn't The Trouble With Harry (1955) Herrmann's first collaboratio n with Hitchcock and not The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)? Just saying.
Incredible, so desolate, then again it fills you with such emotion.
One of the greatest film composers.
pmelfman79
Amazing talent.
Bernard Herrmann: the one and only. The absolute best.
One of the finest albums to listen to extended pieces from the Master Bernard Herrmann, is the wonderful FANTASY FILM WORLD OF BERNARD HERRMANN, conducted by himself. THAT is the album that you must get into this project ! ! ! !

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