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Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was arguably the most innovative film composer of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, even though he actually rejected the term "film composer," preferring to call himself a composer who sometimes wrote film scores. That was an apt description for a musician who, in addition to his film work, also composed works in a variety of other forms including opera, symphony, musical comedy, and concert music, as well as writing extensively for radio and television, while maintaining a concurrent conducting career that found him wielding a baton before major orchestras in New York, London, Los Angeles, and other cities, and in recording studios where he committed many of his compositions and those of other composers to disc. Nevertheless, his greatest fame came as an Academy Award-winning movie scorer who provided background music for 47 feature films released between 1941 and 1976, among them such cinema classics as Citizen Kane, Psycho, and Taxi Driver. That isn't actually such a large number of credits for the typical A-list Hollywood composer, who might have been expected to score twice as many motion pictures in three and a half decades. But Herrmann was deliberately selective in accepting screen assignments, determined to take the time to orchestrate his own scores, a practically unheard-of practice that contributed to the unusual nature of his writing. Unlike his peers and their arrangers, who tended to make full use of the existing orchestras at the movie studios, resulting in scores that sounded like traditional classical music, he made unusual decisions about what instruments to use, often employing far fewer musicians to more striking effect. Nor was he much interested in writing conventional melodic themes, preferring instead ostinatos and dramatic sound-effects-like passages that emphasized the suspenseful developments in his films for director Alfred Hitchcock, for example, or brought out the grandeur of the fantasy elements in his films for producer Charles Schneer and special effects expert Ray Harryhausen.
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