born on 29/6/1911 in New York City, NY, United States
died on 24/12/1975 in Los Angeles, CA, United States
Bernard Herrmann and his dog
| June 29 1911
| December 24 1975 (aged 64)
North Hollywood, California
|1941 - 1975
| Lucille Fletcher (2 October 1939-1948)
Lucy Anderson (1949-1964)
Norma Shepherd (27 November 196724 December 1975) 
Best Original Score
1941 The Devil and Daniel Webster
Bernard Herrmann (June 29, 1911 – December 24, 1975) was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.
An Academy Award-winner (for The Devil and Daniel Webster, 1941), Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. He also composed notable scores for many other movies, including Citizen Kane, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Cape Fear, and Taxi Driver. He worked extensively in radio drama (most notably for Orson Welles), composed the scores for several fantasy films by Ray Harryhausen, and many TV programs including most notably Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone.
Early life and career
Herrmann was born in New York City. He attended elementary school in Brooklyn with friend and classmate Roy Pinney. His father encouraged music activity, taking him to the opera, and encouraging him to learn the violin. After winning a $100 composition prize at the age of thirteen, he decided to concentrate on music, and went to New York University where he studied with Percy Grainger and Philip James. He also studied at the Juilliard School and, at the age of twenty, formed his own orchestra, The New Chamber Orchestra of New York.
In 1934, he joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as a staff conductor. Within nine years, he had become Chief Conductor to the CBS Symphony Orchestra. He was responsible for introducing more new works to U.S. audience than any other conductor he was a particular champion of Charles Ives' music, which was virtually unknown at that time.
In 1934 Herrmann met a young CBS secretary and aspiring writer, Lucille Fletcher. Fletcher was impressed with Herrmann's work, and the two began a five year courtship. Marriage was delayed by the objections of Fletcher's parents, who disliked the fact that Herrmann was a Jew and were put off by what they viewed as his abrasive personality. The couple finally married on October 2, 1939. Fletcher was to become a noted radio screenwriter, and she and Herrmann collaborated on several projects throughout their career. He contributed the score to the famed Campbell Playhouse adaptation of her story "The Hitch-Hiker" (starring Orson Welles), and Fletcher helped to write the libretto for his operatic adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The couple divorced in 1948.
While at CBS, Herrmann met Orson Welles, and wrote or arranged scores for his Mercury Theatre broadcasts which were adaptations of literature. He conducted music for the adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938, which consisted entirely of pre-existing music. When Welles moved to movies, Herrmann went with him, writing the scores for Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), although the score for the latter, like the film itself, was heavily edited by the studio. Between those two movies, he wrote the score for William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), for which he won his only Oscar. In 1947 Herrmann scored the atmospheric music for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
Collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock
Herrmann is most closely associated with the director Alfred Hitchcock. He wrote the scores for every Hitchcock film from The Trouble with Harry (1955) to Marnie (1964), a period which included Vertigo, Psycho, and North by Northwest. He oversaw the sonal design in The Birds (1963), although there was no actual music in the film as such, only electronically made bird sounds.
The music for the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) was only partly by Herrmann. The two most significant pieces of music in the film—the song, "Que Sera, Sera", and the Storm Cloud Cantata played in the Royal Albert Hall—are not by Herrmann at all (although he did re-orchestrate the cantata by Australian-born composer Arthur Benjamin written for the earlier Hitchcock film of The Man Who Knew Too Much from 1934). However, this film did give Herrmann the opportunity for an on-screen appearance: he is the orchestral conductor in the Albert Hall scene.
Herrmann's most recognizable music is from another Hitchcock film, Psycho. Unusual for a thriller at the time, the score uses only the string section of the orchestra. The screeching violin music heard during the famous shower scene (which Hitchcock originally suggested have no music at all) is one of the most famous moments in film score history.
His score for Vertigo (1958) is seen as just as masterful. In many of the key scenes Hitchcock let Herrmann's score take center stage, a score whose melodies, echoing Richard Wagner's "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde, dramatically convey the main character's obsessive love for the woman he tries to shape into a long-dead, past love.
A notable feature of the Vertigo score is the ominous two-note falling motif that opens the suite it is a direct musical imitation of the two notes sounded by the fog horns located at either side of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (as heard from the San Francisco side of the bridge). This motif has direct relevance to the film, since the horns can be clearly heard sounding in just this manner at Fort Point, the spot where the character played by Kim Novak jumps into the bay.
Bernard Herrmann said, in a question-and-answer session at the George Eastman Museum in October 1973, that unlike most film composers who did not have any creative input into the style and tone of the score, Herrmann insisted on creative control or he would not score the film at all:
I have the final say, or I dont do the music. The reason for insisting on this is simply, compared to Orson Welles, a man of great musical culture, most other directors are just babes in the woods. If you were to follow their taste, the music would be awful. There are exceptions. I once did a film The Devil and Daniel Webster with a wonderful director William Dieterle. He was also a man of great musical culture. And Hitchcock, you know, is very sensitive; he leaves me alone. It depends on the person. But if I have to take what a director says, Id rather not do the film. I find its impossible to work that way.
Herrmann stated that Hitchcock would invite him on to the production of a film and depending on his decision of the length of the music, would either expand or contract the scene. It was Hitchcock who asked Herrmann for the "recognition scene" near the end of Vertigo (the scene where Jimmy Stewart's character suddenly realizes Kim Novak's identity) to be played with music.
Herrmann's relationship with Hitchcock came to an abrupt end when they disagreed over the score for Torn Curtain. Reportedly pressured by Universal's front office, Hitchcock wanted a score that was more jazz- and pop-influenced. Hitchcock's biographer, Patrick McGilligan, stated that Hitchcock was worried about becoming old fashioned and felt that Herrrmann's music had to change with the times as well; Herrmann initially agreed, but then went ahead and scored the film according to his own ideas in any case.
Hitchcock listened to only the prelude of the score before turning off a recording of the music and angrily confronting Herrmann about the pop score he had promised. Herrmann, equally incensed, bellowed, "Look, Hitch, you can't outjump your own shadow. And you don't make pop pictures. What do you want with me? I don't write pop music." Hitchcock unrelentingly insisted that Herrmann change the score, violating Herrmann's general claim for creative control that he had always been maintained in their previous films. Herrmann then said, "Hitch, what's the use of my doing more with you? I had a career before you, and I will afterwards."
According to McGilligan, Herrmann later tried to patch up and repair the damage with Hitchcock, but Hitchcock refused to see him. Herrmann's unused score was later commercially recorded, initially by Elmer Bernstein for his Film Music Collection subscription record label (reissued by Warner Bros. Records), and later, in a concert suite adapted by Christopher Palmer, by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for Sony. Some of Herrmann's cues for Torn Curtain were later post-synched to the final cut, where they showed how remarkably attuned the composer was to the action, and how, arguably, more effective his score could have been.
Ironically, Herrmann had composed some jazz for the "picnic" scene in Citizen Kane and he later used some jazz elements (much in the vein of Maurice Ravel's two piano concertos) for The Wrong Man when he scored the nightclub scenes showing Henry Fonda as a double bass player in a jazz band, and for Taxi Driver.
Herrmann subsequently moved to England, where he was hired by François Truffaut to write the score for Fahrenheit 451 and, later, for The Bride Wore Black. (During this period he unfortunately became confused with another conductor of the same name who worked with the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra.) His final work, the score for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), received high acclaim.
Some music and film critics consider that Hitchcock's later films are less effective for lack of Herrmann's contribution.
From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, Herrmann scored a series of notable mythically-themed fantasy films, including Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Three Worlds of Gulliver, and the Ray Harryhausen Dynamation epics Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island, and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad .
During the same period, Herrmann turned his talents to writing scores for television shows. Perhaps most notably, he wrote the scores for several well-known episodes of the original Twilight Zone series, including the lesser known theme used during the series' first season, as well as the opening theme to Have Gun Will Travel.
In the mid-1960s he composed the highly-regarded music score for the François Truffaut film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Scored for strings, two harps, vibraphone, xylophone and glockenspiel, Herrmann's score created a driving, neurotic mood that perfectly suited the film; it also had a direct influence on George Martin's staccato string arrangement for Paul McCartney's landmark 1966 smash Beatles hit single Eleanor Rigby.
In 1967 he married his third wife, Norma Shepherd.
Herrmann's last film scores included Sisters and Obsession for Brian De Palma. His final film soundtrack, and the last work he completed before his death, was his sombre score for the 1976 film Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese. It was DePalma who had suggested to Scorsese to use the composer. Immediately after finishing the recording of the Taxi Driver soundtrack on December 23, 1975, Herrmann viewed the rough cut of what was to be his next film assignment, Larry Cohen's God Told Me To, and dined with Cohen, after which he returned to his hotel for the night. Bernard Herrmann died from cardiovascular disease in his sleep at his hotel in Los Angeles, California, during the night. Scorsese and Cohen dedicated both Taxi Driver and God Told Me To to Herrmann's memory.
As well as his many film scores, Herrmann wrote several concert pieces, including a symphony (1941); an opera, Wuthering Heights; the cantata, Moby Dick (1938), dedicated to Charles Ives; and For the Fallen, a tribute to the soldiers who died in battle in World War II, among others.
Use of electronic instruments
Herrmann's involvement with electronic musical instruments dates back to 1951, when he used the Theremin in one of his most interesting scores, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Robert B. Sexton has noted that this score involved the use of treble and bass theremins (played by Dr. Samuel Hoffmann and Paul Shure), electric strings, bass, prepared piano, and guitar together with various pianos and harps, electronic organs, brass, and percussion, and that Herrmann treated the theremins as a truly orchestral section.
Hermann was a sound consultant on The Birds, which made extensive use of an electronic instrument called the mixturtrautonium, although the instrument was performed by Oskar Sala on the films soundtrack. Hermann used several electronic instruments on his score of Its Alive as well.
Compositional style and philosophy
Herrmann's music is typified by frequent use of ostinati (short repeating patterns), novel orchestration and, in his film scores, an ability to portray character traits not altogether obvious from other elements of the film.
Early in his life, Herrmann committed himself to a creed of personal integrity at the price of unpopularity: the quintessential artist. His philosophy is summarized by a favorite Tolstoy quote: Eagles fly alone and sparrows fly in flocks.' Thus, Herrmann would only compose music for films when he was allowed the artistic liberty to compose what he wished without the director getting in the way. Most famously, after over a decade of composing for all of Hitchcocks films, Hitchcock requested a more pop score from Herrmann. Herrmanns score was not what Hitchcock had requested, and since both Herrmann was so committed to having artistic liberty and would not compromise his values, the two went their separate ways, never to collaborate again. This shows Herrmanns infamous persistence in being able to compose as he saw fit to represent the film.
His style can be said to embody a sense of Modernism. His general dissatisfaction with the status quo in regards to other film music lead him to always strive for creating something new that people could think about, and achieving perfection in that difference. Arguably unable to sustain personal happiness, he maintained a faith in the spiritual transcendence of the artist, who could achieve immortality. He sought an absolute, and was devastated when he found imperfection. His desire to life and creating was equaled by a capacity for pain and rejection. Creatively and personally Herrmann cultivated a vision of life that recognized both the beauty and horror in the human condition.
His philosophy of orchestrating film was based on the assumption that the musicians were selected and hired for the recording sessionthat this music was not constrained to the musical forces of the concert halltherefore why not use unusual combinations of instruments and lavish quantities of them, if it created a striking effect? For example, his use of ten harps in Beneath the 12 Mile Reef created an extraordinary underwater-like sonic landscape; his use of four bass flutes in Citizen Kane contributed to the creepy opening, only matched by the use of 12 flutes in his unused Torn Curtain score; and his use of the serpent in Journey to the Center of the Earth is probably the only use of that instrument in film music. In the film On Dangerous Ground his use of 10 horns in a death-chase is far more exciting than the actual plot.
In the last years of Herrmann's life, he did much to create interest in film scores as a form of music worthy of appreciation and performance. He subscribed to the belief since held by many that the best film music should be able to stand on its own legs when detached from the film for which it was originally written. To this end he made several well-known recordings for Decca of arrangements of his own film music as well as music of other prominent composers.
Legacy and recording
Herrmann is still a prominent figure in the world of film music today, despite his passing over 30 years ago. As such, his career has been studied extensively by biographers and documentarians. His string-only score for Psycho, for example, set the standard when it became a new way to write music for thrillers (rather than big fully orchestrated pieces). In 1992 a documentary, Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann, was made about him. Also in 1992 a 2-1/2 hour long National Public Radio documentary was produced on his life Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of his Life and Music (Bruce A. Crawford). In 1991, Steven C. Smith wrote a Herrmann biography titled A Heart at Fire's Center, a quotation from a favorite Stephen Spender poem of Herrmann's.
His music continues to be used in films and recordings after his death. The uniquely tense and haunting "Georgie's theme" from Herrmann's score for the 1968 film Twisted Nerve is re-used effectively by Quentin Tarantino in the hospital corridor scene in Kill Bill (2003), whistled by the hellish one-eyed nurse Elle Driver. Fellow film composer Danny Elfman adapted Herrmann's music for Psycho for use in director Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake and borrowed from Herrmann's "Mountaintop/Sunrise" theme, from Journey to the Center of the Earth, for his main Batman theme. On their 1977 album Ra, American progressive rock group Utopia also adapted "Mountaintop/Sunrise," in a rock arrangement, as the introduction to the album's opening song, "Communion With The Sun."
Herrmann's film music is well represented on disc. His friend, John Steven Lasher, has produced several albums featuring urtext recordings, including Battle of Neretva, Citizen Kane, The Kentuckian, The Magnificent Ambersons, Night Digger and Sisters, under various labels owned by Fifth Continent Australia Pty Ltd.
Herrmann was also a champion of the romantic-era composer Joachim Raff, whose music had fallen into near-oblivion during the 1960s. In 1965, Herrmann conducted the world premiere recording of Raff's Fifth Symphony "Lenore." The recording did not attract much notice in its time, but is now considered a major turning-point in the rehabilitation of Raff as a composer.
In 1996, Sony Classical released a recording of Herrmann's music, The Film Scores, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. This disc received the 1998 Cannes Classical Music Award for "Best 20th-Century Orchestral Recording." It was also nominated for the 1998 Grammy Award for "Best Engineered Album, Classical." In 2004 Sony Classical re-released this superb recording at a budget price in its "Great Performances" series (SNYC 92767SK).
Decca has reissued on CD a series of Phase 4 Stereo recordings with Herrmann conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra mostly in excerpts from his various film scores, including one devoted to music from several of the Hitchcock films and one devoted to his fantasy film scoresa few of them being the films of the special effects animator Ray Harryhausen, including music from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and The Three Worlds of Gulliver. In the liner notes for the Hitchcock Phase 4 album, Herrmann said that the suite from The Trouble with Harry was a "portrait of Hitch." Herrmann also recorded Gustav Holst's The Planets for the same label. These recordings were made in the early 1970s.
Fellow composers Graeme Revell, Christopher Young, Danny Elfman and Brian Tyler consider Herrmann to be a major inspiration. In 1990, Graeme Revell had adapted Herrmann's music from Psycho for its television sequel-prequel Psycho IV: The Beginning. Revell's early orchestral music during the early nineties, such as Child's Play 2 (which its music score being a reminiscent of Herrmann's scores to the 1973 film Sisters (due to the synthesizers incorporated in the chilling parts of the orchestral score) as well as the 1963 The Twilight Zone episode Living Doll (which inspired the Child's Play franchise)), were very similar to Herrmann's work. Young, who was a jazz drummer at first, listened to Herrmann's works which convinced him to be a film composer. Elfman has said he first became interested in film music upon seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still, and he paid homage to that score in his music for Mars Attacks! Tyler's score for Bill Paxton's film Frailty was greatly influenced by Herrmann's film music.
Sir George Martin, best known for producing and often adding orchestration to The Beatles music, cites Herrmann as an influence in his own work, particularly in Martin's score to The Beatles' song "Eleanor Rigby". Martin later expanded on this as an extended suite for McCartney's 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street, which features a very recognizable hommage to Herrmann's score for Psycho.
Avant-garde composer/saxophonist/producer John Zorn, in the biographical film A Bookshelf on Top of the Sky, cited Bernard Herrmann as one of his favorite composers and a major influence.
Elmer Bernstein adapted and arranged Herrmann's original score from J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear (1962), and used it for the 1991 Martin Scorsese remake. After Bernstein realized there was not enough music in the score from the original film, he added sections from Herrmann's unused score for Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, including the music composed for the murder of the character "Gromek". The score for Cape Fear brilliantly evokes both the gathering clouds of the destructive hurricane and the murderous intent of killer Max Cady. Bernstein also recorded Herrmann's score for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was released in 1975 on the Varese Sarabande label [later reissued on CD in the 1990s].
Charles Gerhardt conducted a 1974 RCA recording entitled "The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann" with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It featured Suites from Citizen Kane (with Kiri te Kanawa singing the 'Salammbo' aria) and White Witch Doctor, along with music from On Dangerous Ground, Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef, and the Hangover Square Piano Concerto.
During his last years in England, between 1966 and 1975, Herrmann made several LPs of other composers' music for assorted record labels. These included 'Phase 4 Stereo' recordings of Holst's "The Planets" (noted above) and Charles Ives's 2nd Symphony, as well as an album entitled "The Impressionists" (music by Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Faure and Honegger) and another entitled "The Four Faces of Jazz" (works by Weill, Gershwin, Stravinsky and Milhaud). As well as recording his own film music in 'Phase 4 Stereo' he made LPs of movie scores by others, such as "Great Shakespearean Films" (music by Shostakovitch for Hamlet, Walton's for Richard III and Rozsa's for Julius Caesar), and "Great British Film Music" (movie scores by Lambert, Bax, Benjamin, Walton, Vaughan Williams, and Bliss).
For Unicorn Records he recorded several of his own concert-hall works, including the Cantata "Moby Dick", his opera "Wuthering Heights", his Symphony, and the Suites Welles Raises Kane and The Devil and Daniel Webster.
Note: Scores are dated by date of release, not by composition
| The Devil and Daniel Webster
also known as All That Money Can Buy
|The Magnificent Ambersons
|Anna and the King of Siam
|The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
|Joseph L. Mankiewicz
|Portrait of Jennie
|The Day the Earth Stood Still
|Golden Globe nominee
|On Dangerous Ground
|Joseph L. Mankiewicz
|The Snows of Kilimanjaro
|White Witch Doctor
|Beneath the 12-Mile Reef
|King of the Khyber Rifles
|Garden of Evil
|Co-composer: Alfred Newman
|Prince of Players
|The Trouble with Harry
|The Man Who Knew Too Much
|The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
|The Wrong Man
|Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
|A Hatful of Rain
|The Naked and the Dead
|The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
|North by Northwest
|Journey to the Center of the Earth
|The Three Worlds of Gulliver
|Tender Is the Night
|J. Lee Thompson
|Jason and the Argonauts
|Joy in the Morning
|The Bride Wore Black
|main theme featured in Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
|The Battle of Neretva
|The Night Digger
|The Battle of Neretva
|Brian De Palma
|Brian De Palma
|Oscar and Grammy nominee; BAFTA winner
These works are for narrator and full orchestra, intended to be broadcast over the radio (since a human voice would not be able to be heard over the full volume of an orchestra). In a 1938 broadcast, Herrmann distinguished "melodrama" from "melodram" and explained that these works are not part of the former, but the latter. The 1935 works were composed before June 1935.
- La Belle Dame Sans Merci (September 1934)
- The City of Brass (December 1934)
- Annabel Lee (1934-1935)
Poem Cycle (1935):
- The Willow Leaf
- Weep No More, Sad Fountains
- Something Tells
- A Shropshire Lad (1935)
- Cynara (1935)
Incidental music for radio shows and dramas
- Palmolive Beauty Box (1935?) (2 existing cues)
- Dauber (October 1936)
- Rhythm of the Jute Mill (December 1936)
- Gods of the Mountain (1937)
- Brave New World (1956)
- The Forest: Tone poem for Large Orchestra (1929)
- November Dusk: Tone Poem for Large Orchestra (1929)
- Tempest and Storm: Furies Shrieking!: for Piano (1929)
- The Dancing Faun and The Bells: Two Songs for Medium Voice and Small Chamber Orchestra (1929)
- Requiescat: Violin and Piano (1929)
- Twilight: Violin and Piano (1929)
- March Militaire (1932), ballet music for Americana Revue (1932)
- Aria for Flute and Harp (1932)
- Variations on "Deep River" and "Water Boy" (1933)
- Prelude to Anathema: for Fifteen Instruments (1933)
- Silent Noon: for Fourteen Instruments (1933)
- The Body Beautiful (1935), music from the Broadway play
- Nocturne and Scherzo (1935)
- Sinfonietta for Strings (1935)
- Currier and Ives Suite (1935)
- Violin Concerto: Unfinished (1937)
- Moby Dick: Cantata (1937)
- Johnny Appleseed: Unfinished Cantata (1940)
- Symphony (1941)
- The Fantasticks (1942)
- The Devil and Daniel Webster Suite (1942)
- For the Fallen (1943)
- Welles Raises Kane (1943)
- Wuthering Heights: Opera (1951)
- Echoes: String Quartet (1965)
- Souvenirs de Voyage (1967)
- The King of Schnorrers (1968) Musical comedy
- Columbia Workshop - a radio series for which Herrmann was music director and composed or arranged many episodes.
- High Anxietya comedy spoof that parodies many Hitchcock devices including Herrmann's music.
- Hitchcock & Herrmanna stage play about the relationship between Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock.
- Smith, Steven C. (1991). A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann, US: University of California Press.
- Cooper, David (2001). Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo: A Film Score Handbook, US: Greenwood Press.
- Cooper, David (2005). Bernard Herrmann's The Ghost and Mrs Muir: A Film Score Guide, US: Scarecrow Press.
- Johnson, Edward (1977). Bernard Herrmann - Hollywood's Music-Dramatist - Foreword by Miklos Rozsa, Rickmansworth, UK: Triad Press - Bibliographical Series No. 6.
- The Bernard Herrmann Estate
- The Bernard Herrmann Society
- Bernard Herrmann at the Internet Movie Database
- Bernard Herrmann papers, at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
- Bernard Herrmann: The Early Years
- Bernard Herrmann at Soundtrackguide.net
- Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of his Life and Music
- Gramophone magazine obituary, February 1976.
- Herrmann kept a list of all original music he composed for radio and did not include anything from The War of the Worlds, indicating that there was no new music composed for it. This list is now part of the Bernard Herrmann Papers at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
- Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, Wiley Press, pp. 673674.
- ibid., p 674.