A critical examination of the Bernard Herrmann score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)

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Musgrave, Rory
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BA in Film Studies
Dublin Business School
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In this paper I attempt to ascertain to what extent is Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho (1960) responsible for the artistic and critical success which the film garnered. I discuss the aesthetic theories and orchestration techniques involved in the score, establishing Herrmann in an historical and stylistic context as a 'transitional' classical film composer. I then examine the narrative and psychological drives in a cue by cue breakdown of the score demonstrating how the score actually works in conjunction with the images to fantastic effect - a prime example of musical story telling. I then go on to talk about the music and its role with diegetic sound and the use of silence within the film in order to establish a counter argument to auteur theory which has been so long associated with Alfred Hitchcock. I found that Herrmann's score constantly adds and enhances the film to a spectacular degree giving the audience a seminal piece of work which undoubtedly adds to the artistic success of the film, and which has on its own has gained an independent following to rival that of the films. Herrmann's role as an artistic influence was so much more than a mere 'head of department', his influence carrying much weight with the director, and this to me undermines the fundamental concept off auteurism and therefore Hitchcock's honorary title of auteur.