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Stephen Husarik- Transformation of The Psycho Theme in Bernard Hermann's Music for Psycho.pdf

Stephen Husarik- Transformation of The Psycho Theme in Bernard Hermann's Music for Psycho.pdf

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Published by Alfredo Vernazzani
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has become one of the most celebrated
American films in its genre and Bernard Herrmann’s music for the film
contains an equally celebrated musical icon—the slasher music—that has
become a universal motif for all slasher films. The roots of this slasher music are
found in a tune called “The Psycho Theme” (a label given to it in the cue
sheets )2 that has been largely ignored over the years.3 This paper illustrates how
the “The Psycho Theme” is transformed throughout Psycho and how it
degenerates into the most famous icon in the history of film music.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has become one of the most celebrated
American films in its genre and Bernard Herrmann’s music for the film
contains an equally celebrated musical icon—the slasher music—that has
become a universal motif for all slasher films. The roots of this slasher music are
found in a tune called “The Psycho Theme” (a label given to it in the cue
sheets )2 that has been largely ignored over the years.3 This paper illustrates how
the “The Psycho Theme” is transformed throughout Psycho and how it
degenerates into the most famous icon in the history of film music.

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Published by: Alfredo Vernazzani on Feb 10, 2014
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02/10/2014

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 This paper was originally read at the NAHE Association meeting, San Francisco, March 2, 2007 and at the Mid-Soth American Msicological Society!Msic Theory Society Mega-"on#erence at the $ni%ersity o# &eorgia 'Athens(, March )*, 2007+ The reprint elow comes #rom o# an article plished in a special isse o#
Interdisciplinary Humanities 
 entitled Msic in "onte.t,/ Fall, 200+
1ermission to reprodce the msical e.amples is pro%ided y the copyright holder
Psycho (Prelude)Psycho (The Murder)
Msic y 3ernard Herrmann"opyright 4 )*0, )*) Sony5AT6 Msic 1lishing ""opyright 8enewed All 8ights Administered y Sony5AT6 Msic 1lishing ", 9 Msic S:are  ;est, Nash%ille, TN <720<=nternational "opyright Secred All 8ights 8eser%ed
 Transformation of “The Psycho Theme” inBernard’s Herrmann’s Music for
Psycho 
Stephen Hsari> 
University of Arkansas – Fort Smith 
 Al#red Hitchcoc>?s
Psycho
 has ecome one o# the most celerated  American #ilms in its genre and 3ernard Herrmann?s msic #or the #ilm contains an e:ally celerated msical icon!the
slasher music— 
that has ecome a ni%ersal moti# #or all slasher #ilms+ The roots o# this
slasher music 
 are #ond in a tne called The 1sycho Theme/ 'a lael gi%en to it in the ce sheets
 
 (
2
 that has een largely ignored o%er the years+
<
 This paper illstrates how the The 1sycho Theme/ is trans#ormed throghot
Psycho
 and how it degenerates into the most #amos icon in the history o# #ilm msic+ =n addition, a rationale is o##ered to e.plain the shi#t #rom tonal to atonal msic o%er the corse o# this #ilm+ 3e#ore e.amining %arios strctres o# 3ernard Herrmann?s msical score, let s place oth the story and msic o#
Psycho
 within a dramatic conte.t+8aymond @rgnat o##ers a hal# doen ways to analye the dramatic action o#
Psycho
 in
 A Long Hard Look at Psycho!
? t cations that detecting some Bdeep strctre? in
Psycho
 is haardos, sinceCthe symmetries and %ariations in Hitchcoc>?s story patterns accommodate a wide %ariety o# ideas and idea systemsC+/
D
 He ma>es a point not to discorage alternati%e interpretations, howe%er, and presents the Mythological/ 'Ancient &ree>( model as one possiility+ Since the traditional strctre o# Ancient &ree> tragedy o##ers so many ne.pected and thoght-pro%o>ing insights into the character o#
Psycho
it is a se#l model with which to spport or msical analysis+
140
 =nterdisciplinary Hmanities
 
 
Psycho
 is sometimes re#erred to as ha%ing two plots the #irst is a story aot a woman who steals D0,000 and is mrdered the second is aot a psychotic yong man whose rtal mrders are nco%ered+ These two stories are comined into one tragedy where the hero 'or anti-hero( Norman 3ates is roght down y a comination o# his own doing and e.ternal #orces+ =nitially a sympathetic yong man, he tries to deal with the prolem o# how to maintain his strange world withot ha%ing anyone disco%er who hid mother is, or what she is p to+ 3ates is a
"enopho#e 
 who aims to protect his mother against all pro%ocati%e %isitors to the 3ates Motel, whether attracti%e yong  women, or detecti%es in search o# missing yong women+ His #atal #law is that he is too mch a lo%ing son+/
G
 At the clima. o# the #ilm, dressed in his mother?s clothes, Norman?s psychosis is nco%ered and the adience, cheated o# necessary in#ormation, is horri#ied y who he really is+ =n the a#termath the main character is captred and, as in a classical tragedy, world order is restored and prolems are e.plained away y a psychiatrist 'assming the role o#
deus e" machina$%
+ The story leading p to and inclding the mrder o# the #irst %ictim 'Marion "rane( is actally ac>grond material that the adience shold >now e#ore the drama egins+ Material occrring a#ter her death consists o# the sal Aristotelian elements o# "omplication, "lima. and 8esoltion+ A diagram o# this #ormal arrangement is gi%en elow
E1IS=T=IN=N"=T=N& =N"=@ENT"IM1="AT=IN"=MA8ESI$T=INMarion steals D0J Marion is senselessly mrdered=n%estigation o# the mrder 1sychotic attempts to hide his gilty mother/1sychotic is disco%ered to e his own /mother/ 1sychotic is loc>ed p a psychiatrist e.plains away prolems  ;orld Irder is restored
 The #ilm %ersion o#
Psycho
 has an e.tended e.position and inciting incident ecase scriptwriter Koseph Ste#ano was nimpressed y the original 8oert 3loch oo>+
*
 He rewrote the #irst three chapters!told originally in #lashac> techni:e!and presented Marion "rane in real time dri%ing o## with stolen money+ Ste#ano admitted that he had #ar greater sympathy with the character o# Marion than the main character Norman 3ates, who is descried in the oo> as #at, alding and an alcoholic+
7
 3y concentrating on the character o# Marion, and attempting to ild p adience sympathy with her, Ste#ano?s screenplay e.tends the e.position and inciting incident o# this drama to more than DG mintes e#ore her mrder is achie%ed, and the main ody o# the drama
141
 =nterdisciplinary Hmanities
 
egins+ "onsiderale emphasis is placed pon this preliminary portion o# the drama y composer 3ernard Herrmann, as well+ Twenty-#i%e o# his D0 total msical ces are composed #or the e.position and inciting incident, inclding perhaps the most #amos msical icon in #ilm history, the
slasher music 
+ 3e#ore the actal drama egins, there#ore, the adience has heard o%er two thirds o# the msic #or
Psycho
+ =n order to coordinate this discssion o# drama and msic, msical ces #or
Psycho
 are listed elow as they appear within the #ilm,
9
 and all e.amples are re#erenced to an adio recording o# the msic+
3E8NA8@ HE88MANN M$S="A "$ES FI8
PS&'H(
E1IS=T=IN=N"=T=N& =N"=@ENT)+1relde2+The "it<+Marion
4.
Mari and SamG+Temptation*+Flight 'a(
7.
 The 1atrol "ar9+The "ar ot+The 1ac>age)0+8ainstorm))+Hotel 8oom)2+The  ;indow )<+The 1arlor)D+Madhose)G+1eephole)*+3athroom)7+Mrder)9+3ody 're%+()+I##ice20+"rtain2)+;ater22+The "ar2<+"leanp2D+Swamp 2G+ Search A"IM1="AT=IN"=MA8ESI$T=IN2*+ The Shadow 27+ 1hone 3ooth29+ The 1orch2+ The Stairs<0+ The Jni#e<)+ Search 3 <2+ First Floor <<+ "ain )0 <D+ "ain ) <G+ The Hill <*+ 3edroom <7+ The Toys <9+ The "ellar <+ @isco%eryD0+ FinaleHerrmann once said that LHitchcoc> only #inishes a pictre *0+ = ha%e to #inish it #or him+/
)0
 =n the case o#
Psycho
, Hitchcoc> o%iosly agreed ecase he doled Herrmann?s sal #ee '<DJ( #or the #ilm!saying that << o# the e##ect o#
Psycho
 was de to the msic+/
))
 There are se%eral ways in which Herrmann achie%ed his #inished e##ect+ To egin with, he pro%ides a 1relde/ ')( to the #ilm that ni#ies the e.position and inciting incident+ Acting as a >ind o# operatic
ritornello
 in the e.position, the msic is repeated, trncated,
Msic in "onte.t )D2

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