Thursday, June 30, 2011
This Saturday At 9:00 A.M. PST: Bernard Herrmann Tribute On KFJC
"In orchestrating the picture I avoided, as much as possible, the realistic sound of a large symphony orchestra. The motion picture soundtrack is an exquisitely sensitive medium, and with skillful engineering a simple bass flute solo, the pulsing of a bass drum, or the sound of muted horns, can often be more effective than half a hundred musicians sawing away." Bernard Herrmann, 1941 New York Times interview
On KFJC this Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to noon Pacific Standard Time, film soundtrack music expert Robert Emmett will be presenting a three hour tribute to composer-conductor Bernard Herrmann.
Yesterday was the centenary of Bernard Herrmann's birth. If perchance you aren't a music or movie buff and do not know who Bernard Herrmann is, you certainly know his striking, dramatic scores for such films as Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Psycho, North By Northwest, Taxi Driver and many more.
He also conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra and created the music for Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre radio broadcasts prior to his film score composing career.
While saying that Herrmann's creative scores and varied orchestrations added tremendously to the impact of these iconic movies would be the understatement of the decade, they also stand alone as works of art.
One does not have to be a film music buff to hear his scores, independent of whatever celluloid opus they provided counterpoint for, and find them fascinating and immensely pleasurable listening.
Among the tributes that continue to hail forth through 2011 is a good overview written by Tom Huizenga, Bernard Herrmann At 100: Master Of The Movie Score.
There are also a number of documentaries available via YouTube. Here are the first three segments of Channel 4's documentary, Music Of The Movies - Bernard Herrmann (embedding is disabled on subsequent parts):
Herrmann, like noted pianist-author-raconteur Oscar Levant, wanted more than anything else to be an internationally recognized, respected classical composer/symphony conductor - and thus was never at peace with even resounding and sustained success in the craft of writing scores for motion pictures. It's also a bit reminiscent of the talented animation director Shamus Culhane, whose memoirs expressed how he didn't care for cartoons per se and, as what he really wanted was to play the violin or viola in a symphony orchestra or string quartet, his entire career was something of a "Plan B".
That said, Bernard Herrmann did write a cantata based on Moby Dick and an operatic take on Wuthering Heights, as well as symphonies.
One would hope that if he only knew of the sheer number of prestigious orchestras around the world performing his music in 2011 and beyond, Mr. Herrmann would feel some measure of satisfaction and vindication.
The KFJC tribute will be available via their Broadcast Archives through July 16.