Bernard Herrmann: Tension Through Music

Even if you have a passing knowledge of classic films, you know who Bernard Herrmann is. OK, there might be a chance that you don’t know his name, but you certainly know of his music. Today, Herrmann is best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, although it was actually Orson Welles who brought him to Hollywood.


Herrmann scored Welles’ Citizen Kane in 1941, but he also scored The Devil And Daniel Webster that year and competed against himself. He won for The Devil and it was his only Oscar win. He competed against himself again in 1977, when his scores for Brian De Palma’s Obsession and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver were both nominated.

Oddly enough, Herrmann was never nominated for his most famous works. His scores for Hitchcock are now legendary and forever linked to the images the Master of Suspense gave us. Herrmann understood Hitchcock like John Williams understands Steven Spielberg today. That’s partly why the scores after for Hitch’s films after his break-up with Herrmann feel like pale imitations to the sounds we hear in North By Northwest or Psycho.

The composer is the subject of an upcoming documentary called Lives of Bernard Herrmann, which is being directed by Brandon Brown and features an interview with classic film aficionado Alec Baldwin. He also interviewed Herrmann’s eldest daughter, Dorothy, to get some unique insight into Herrmann. While his music has always spoken for him, this film should help introduce Herrmann as a person to many and not just as a name in the credits. It also explores why his work has been such an inspiration to today’s composers. Brown is hoping to complete the film by Summer 2016 and is raising funds on Indiegogo. You can donate right here!

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