From Citizen Kane to Cape Fear and the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo, composer Bernard Herrmann has scored iconic movies. Instead of firing up Netflix, head to Severance Hall Feb. 13 to hear the Cleveland Orchestra perform Vertigo's score alongside a screening of the 1958 film. We asked assistant conductor Brett Mitchell about his favorite Herrmann works.
Psycho: "Psycho is shot in black and white. Herrmann decided the best way to express that in musical terms was ... by using only strings in the entire thing. No woodwinds, no brass, no percussion. It's such a cool way of limiting your own tone palette as a composer just like Hitchcock limiting his palette because as director, he didn't want colors."
Vertigo: "What Herrmann tried to do was to find the musical equivalent of how exactly he could depict that vertigo visual effect Hitchcock created. You've got romantic harmonies with these really dissonant chords. ...You have two parts at once going up and down. It mimics what the camera does by going in and out."
Taxi Driver: "It doesn't sound, on the surface, like Vertigo or Psycho. You do have classic Bernard Herrmann harmonies in there, long notes and chords and metric ambiguity, but it enters this grimy urban landscape painted with the famous wailing saxophone."