Symphony Macabre: Bernard Herrmann and the Scoring of Horror (LA online)

Date(s) - Thu. Sep. 24, 2020
7:30 pm PDT - 8:45 pm PDT

Steven C. Smith

$10 USD BUY TICKETS HERE or buy a Miskatonic LA Full Semester Pass for $30 USD HERE

A newborn baby who prefers human flesh to breast milk. A friendly motel owner with mom issues and a habit of butchering women. A demented concert pianist who composes his greatest score during a killing spree in London.

These characters have more in common than their anti-social behavior. Each became more relatable—and at the same time, more terrifying—thanks to the musical accompaniment of Oscar-winning composer Bernard Herrmann.

In his 35-year film career, Herrmann scored “respectable” screen classics like Citizen Kane, Jane Eyre, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. But this emotionally volatile iconoclast was no snob. He loved exploring the dark side of human nature, in classic horror and suspense titles for multiple media.

It’s Alive, Psycho, and Hangover Square are three of the films to be analyzed in this lecture by author and Emmy-nominated documentarian Steven C. Smith (A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann). Through clips and music cues, plus interviews with the composer himself, we’ll discover how Herrmann earned his reputation as the twentieth century’s top composer of horror and suspense scores. Steven will explore in clear, non-technical language the techniques Herrmann used to put us inside the minds of characters that society would consider “monsters,” and how he made us feel their humanity as well as their madness.

Steven will also discuss Herrmann’s friendship with Ray Bradbury, spotlighting their collaboration on the classic Hitchcock-produced television program The Jar. And he’ll explain why Herrmann used an ancient Gregorian chant of death in that score–a melody later used as the musical centerpiece of Stanley Kubrick’s film of The Shining.

We’ll also find out why Herrmann, unlike most of his Hollywood contemporaries, relished working in the horror genre, and why in the 1970s he preferred teaming with low-budget filmmakers like Larry Cohen and Brian De Palma rather than A-list studio directors like William Friedkin (Herrmann turned down The Exorcist, for reasons to be explained).

Finally, we’ll also see how Herrmann’s music lives on, both in its influence on today’s composers, and in its literal re-use in movies like Kill Bill and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The result will be a lively study of one of film music’s most innovative figures, whose scores remains the template for the sound of cinematic horror.

Please note these are live events – they cannot be downloaded and watched later, so please be sure you are available at the time and timezone the classes are being offered in before registering.