Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

Hermann’s Psycho Symphony

Occasionally I’ll listen to movie scores on Apple Music. I find the act of experiencing these suites of music without pictured accompaniments concentrates the mind into a more focussed evaluation of their artistic integrity. Allowing a more informed critique supporting the merits of the audio underpinning the film; an element often inadvertently ignored by an audience distracted by the unfolding onscreen action.

Recent examples of my listening choices include an orchestrated version of the John Barry and Monty Norman’s compositions which run throughout the James Bond movie. This offering, performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, bequeathing to its listener not just the movie franchise’s widely known theme tunes, but also the incidental music threading through a sample of the iconic celluloid productions.

These arrangements written to enhance the plot’s drama, pathos and 007’s numerous romantic conquests. Influential contributions to not just the 20th century movie genre, but when heard in orchestral isolation also meritorious of plaudits on a wider musical scale. An accolade that can be also aimed at symphonies that’ve been bedfellows to many celluloid suitors.

As an aside, while writing this my random mind registered that the composers of many of the early Bond franchise scores were Barry & Norman. An unstartling and not overly interesting coincidence to the fact the UK’s prominent TV film critic of the era was called Barry Norman…… Worth a mention? As Bazza would no doubt have opined “And why not?”

Below a clip of Mr Norman reviewing composers on the silver screen:-

One of the motion picture composers I’ve listened to recently is late American Bernard Hermann. The New Yorker composed scores for movies such as Taxi Driver, Citizen Kane and Fahrenheit 451; winning an Academy Award for his musical accompaniment of 1941 film The Devil & Daniel Webster.

Perhaps Hermann’s highest profile work manifested from his collaborations with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. His screeching string accompaniment to slasher scenes in the English filmmaker’s groundbreaking celluloid contributing every bit to Psycho’s cinematography as it played out to traumatised 1960’s movie-goers.

Psycho wasn’t the first time Hermann collaborated with Hitchcock, he’d previous written and orchestrated the scores for Hitch’s macabre masterpieces, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. However, it was my admiration to his instrumental arrangements in the above 1960 movie that moved this random northern Englishman to show an interest in the work of Jewish Russian immigrant’s son.

psycho-shower-scene-norman-bates-mother

Last week I listened to the whole of Hermann’s Psycho soundtrack, reacquainting myself with the odyssey of emotions imparted by the atmospheric and moving tones. On this audio journey it struck me for the first time how the complete symphony reflects the sojourn of people suffering mental illness.

Examples of which:-

  • It seems to me the vivacissimo tempo of the ‘Prelude’ could well serve as a metaphor for the racing thoughts when entering a mania stage.
  • Hermann’s composition ‘Temptation’ and later on ‘The Peephole’, inciting the same reflective, but risk taking thoughts akin to stages of the depressed journey where common sense goes out of the window.
  • Track ‘Marion and Sam’ striking the melancholic mood experienced during depressive lows. The dark and most unforgiving of nemesis’.

People may posit my interpretation of Hermann’s Psycho suite as an apt soundtrack to an odyssey with depression could relate to numerous movie scores. Arguing the undulating music tempo, mood and scene accompaniments are par for the course in a whole range of film genres.

An argument that’s indisputable. However, the agenda behind this narrative isn’t to point out Psycho’s scores exclusivity as a suitable emotive vehicle for the mental health sojourn.

No, my driver for raising the topic in essay emanates from a perspective of someone who’s suffers from recurring depressive disorder. Particularly how the iconic movie’s severe mental illness subject and capriciousness of musical structure struck a chord as highly compatible.

One thing to be wary of if you ever see me walking along the avenues and high streets is that on occasion I listen to film scores while I’m meandering aimlessly. Therefore, it’s best not to make any sudden movements in my close proximity in the event my audio companion at the time is music from a horror film.

It was a notion that never struck me until last week when I walked into my mum’s butchers shop while listening to the Psycho soundtrack. This epiphany manifesting itself on leaving the store when it struck me how traumatising it may’ve been if the shower slash music commenced playing in my ear in parallel to a knife wielding butcher approaching!!

Categories: Blogs, depression, health/medical

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