Hitchcock’s intrusion into what Bernard Herrmann saw as his artistic domain ultimately brought their relationship to a close; but earlier in what was a spectacularly fruitful collaboration, Hitchcock’s willingness to defer to the composer’s judgment played a pivotal role in shaping one of the most effective horror films of all time.
The movie’s most unforgettable scene is, without doubt, the iconic shower scene, in which the heroine is brutally murdered. Hitchcock originally envisaged this scene without music, but Herrmann disagreed and disregarding Hitchcock’s directions, went ahead to compose a cue. After hearing what Herrmann had created, Hitchcock needed no convincing, dismissing his earlier directive as an ‘improper suggestion’.
Psycho the movie achieved immediate popularity on its release, and somewhat unusually, Hitchcock generously acknowledged Herrmann’s contribution, frequently asserting that ‘thirty three and a third of Psycho’s success was due to the music’. Indeed Psycho’s music has made a lasting impression, influencing generations of composers writing for both the stage and the screen.
This suite is an arrangement of the film score commissioned by the Tippett Quartet. In keeping with the original music – and unusually for a soundtrack at the time – it is scored only for strings, a monochromatic pallet that compliment’s the film’s black and white cinematography. The music not only provides a striking example of Herrmann’s ability to harness music’s emotional power, but also displays his assured creativity. Written well over a decade before minimalism became fashionable, Herrmann weaves from a single musical thread – first heard in the film’s opening credits – an enthralling musical landscape.