The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- This early British London pressing offers superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, giving you plenty of blockbuster sound for those who can play a record like this good and loud
- On the better copies, you will hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
- The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of wall to wall and floor to ceiling spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
- A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall
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*NOTE: The first 1/4" of side 1 plays on the low side of Mint Minus Minus.
The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings simply fail to reproduce. The brass here is weighty and powerful, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.
Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice below.)
The liner notes from Mysterious Island apply equally well to this collection:
"The score for Mysterious Island is one of the most dramatic in all film history rivaled only, perhaps, by the same composer's 'Seventh Voyage of Sinbad' in its deployment of massive blocks of dense orchestral color and in the bizarre and brilliant invention that so artfully illustrates Ray Harryhausen's grotesque menagerie of unnatural misfit monsters - sight and sound blend to form one of filmdom's most vivid and persuasive excursions into the realm of fantasy."
What The Best Sides Of The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Taxing the Limits
An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. It taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere -- every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some. (You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that's for sure. Some of the time I can't even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!)
What We're Listening For On The Fantasy Film World
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Powerful bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Decca & London
But Harry is, not atypically, rather misinformed about the catalog number and country of manufacture. He exclusively admits the Decca pressing to his list, and that is clearly contrary to our experience in general as well as our findings for every shootout. The best Decca pressing we've played to date rated no better than a B+ for either side. That’s five -- count them, five -- sonic grades lower than the A Triple Plus sides of our best London copy.
If you are one of those audiophiles who’s been following Harry down the rabbit hole for years, discovering a little site called Better Records may just turn out to be a life-changing event. Here you can find records that live up to the hype, ours and his.
Selling the Hype
Record dealers that sell records based on their reputation -- and that means pretty much all of them -- are selling the hype. If they haven't played the record, they can't tell you what it sounds like, TAS List or no TAS List. The catalog number may be right, but finding the sound that lives up to the description can only be done one way: by playing the record. Most copies of The Fantasy Film World, whether they have a Decca label or a London one (all of the ones we are selling are mastered and pressed by Decca; some get one label and some get the other) leave much to be desired.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale
This album is especially Difficult to Reproduce. Do not attempt to play it on anything but the highest quality equipment.
It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively.
It's not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.
As we've said before, these kinds of recordings -- Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II -- they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.
If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .
The Tracklist tab will take you to a select track breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with individual track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Classical Record
This Orchestral Spectacular should have a place of honor in any audiophile's Classical Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Your Hard Work Pays Off
A recording of this size and scope will bring virtually any stereo system to its knees. This is the real Power Of The Orchestra! You had better have a top quality front end if you want to play this record properly, not to mention plenty of power and big speakers. This is not the record for the Weekend Budget Audiophile. If you haven't put in the years of effort and invested the tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and room treatments it takes to play records of this difficulty, your system is probably not up to the challenge this album represents. If on the other hand, you have done the work and spent the money, this is the album that will show you what you have achieved.
- Journey To The Center Of The Earth
- - Mountain Top And Sunrise
- - Prelude
- - The Grotto
- - Salt Slides
- - Atlantis
- - The Giant Chameleon And The Fight
- - The Shaft And Finale
- The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad
- - Overture
- - The Duel With The Skeleton
- - Baghdad
All those lovely harps! You can practically feel the cool air of the cave as you descend into the blackness.
Side one boasts some wonderful material from Jason and the Argonauts, including the fight with the skeletons that we all remember from our Saturday matinee movie days. Who else could have orchestrated such a film?
- The Day The Earth Stood Still
- - Outer Space
- - Radar
- - Gort
- - The Robot
- - Space Control
- - Terror
- - Farewell And Finale
- Fahrenheit 451
- - Prelude
- - Fire Engine
- - The Bedroom
- - Flowers Of Fire
- - The Road And Finale
Astonishingly powerful deep bass and drum sounds!
One of our key tests for side two is the string tone on the Fire Engine sequence here. The best copies had wonderfully textured and tonally correct strings, with just the right amount of sheen -- not glossy, not gritty, not blurry, but just right.
Any orchestral recording without good string tone is a lost cause. (Almost all Classic Records fail miserably in this regard. They may be on the TAS List but that sure doesn't mean they sound any good!)
Bernard Herrmann Biography
Bernard Herrmann (born Maximillian Herman; June 29, 1911 – December 24, 1975) was an American composer and conductor best known for his work in composing for films. As a conductor, he championed the music of lesser-known composers. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest film composers.
An Academy Award-winner (for The Devil and Daniel Webster, 1941; later renamed All That Money Can Buy), Herrmann mainly is 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 scores for many other films, including Citizen Kane, Anna and the King of Siam, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Cape Fear, Fahrenheit 451, and Taxi Driver. He worked extensively in radio drama (composing for Orson Welles), composed the scores for several fantasy films by Ray Harryhausen, and many TV programs, including Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and Have Gun – Will Travel.
Early life and career
Herrmann, the son of a Jewish middle-class family of Russian origin, was born in New York City as Maximillian Herman. He was the son of Ida (Gorenstein) and Abram Dardik, who was from Ukraine and had changed the family name. Herrmann attended high school at DeWitt Clinton High School, an all-boys public school at that time on 10th Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. His father encouraged music activity, taking him to the opera, and encouraging him to learn the violin. After winning a 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 20, 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 two years, he was appointed music director of the Columbia Workshop, an experimental radio drama series for which Herrmann composed or arranged music (one notable program was The Fall of the City). Within nine years, he had become chief conductor to the CBS Symphony Orchestra. He was responsible for introducing more new works to US audiences than any other conductor – he was a particular champion of Charles Ives' music, which was virtually unknown at that time. Herrmann's radio programs of concert music, which were broadcast under such titles as Invitation to Music and Exploring Music, were planned in an unconventional way and featured rarely heard music, old and new, which was not heard in public concert halls. Examples include broadcasts devoted to music of famous amateurs or of notable royal personages, such as the music of Frederick the Great of Prussia, Henry VIII, Charles I, Louis XIII and so on.
Herrmann's many US broadcast premieres during the 1940s included Myaskovsky's 22nd Symphony, Gian Francesco Malipiero's 3rd Symphony, Richard Arnell's 1st Symphony, Edmund Rubbra's 3rd Symphony and Ives' 3rd Symphony. He performed the works of Hermann Goetz, Alexander Gretchaninov, Niels Gade and Franz Liszt, and received many outstanding American musical awards and grants for his unusual programming and championship of little-known composers. In Dictators of the Baton, David Ewen wrote that Herrmann was "one of the most invigorating influences in the radio music of the past decade." Also during the 1940s, Herrmann's own concert music was taken up and played by such celebrated maestri as Leopold Stokowski, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Thomas Beecham and Eugene Ormandy.
Between two films made by Orson Welles (see below), he wrote the score for William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), for which he won his only Academy Award. In 1947, Herrmann scored the atmospheric music for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. In 1951, his score for The Day the Earth Stood Still featured the theremin.
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. They had two daughters: Dorothy (born 1941) and Wendy (born 1945).
Fletcher was to become a noted radio scriptwriter, and she and Herrmann collaborated on several projects throughout their career. He contributed the score to the famed 1941 radio presentation of Fletcher's original story The Hitch-Hiker on The Orson Welles Show, and Fletcher helped to write the libretto for his operatic adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The couple divorced in 1948. The next year, he married Lucille's cousin Lucy (Kathy Lucille) Anderson. That marriage lasted until 1964.
Collaboration with Orson Welles
Herrmann conducts the CBS Radio orchestra at a rehearsal of The Mercury Theatre on the Air directed by Orson Welles (1938) While at CBS, Herrmann met Orson Welles, and wrote or arranged scores for radio shows in which Welles appeared or wrote, such as the Columbia Workshop, Welles's Mercury Theatre on the Air and Campbell Playhouse series (1938–1940), which were radio adaptations of literature and film. He conducted the live performances, including Welles's famous adaptation of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938, which consisted entirely of pre-existing music.[A] Herrmann used large sections of his score for the inaugural broadcast of The Campbell Playhouse, an adaptation of Rebecca, for the feature film Jane Eyre (1943), the third film in which Welles starred.
When Welles gained his RKO Pictures contract, Herrmann worked for him. He wrote his first film score for Citizen Kane (1941) and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score of a Dramatic Picture. He composed the score for Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942); like the film, the music was heavily edited by RKO Pictures. When more than half of his score was removed from the soundtrack, Herrmann bitterly severed his ties with the film and promised legal action if his name were not removed from the credits.
Herrmann also created the music for Welles's CBS radio series The Orson Welles Show (1941–1942), which included the debut of his wife Lucille Fletcher's suspense classic The Hitch-Hiker; Ceiling Unlimited (1942), a program conceived to glorify the aviation industry and dramatize its role in World War II; and The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air (1946). "Benny Herrmann was an intimate member of the family," Welles told filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich.
Herrmann was among those who rebutted the charges Pauline Kael made in her 1971 essay "Raising Kane", in which she revived controversy over the authorship of the screenplay for Citizen Kane and denigrated Welles's contributions.
Collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock
Herrmann is closely associated with the director Alfred Hitchcock. He wrote the scores for seven Hitchcock films, from The Trouble with Harry (1955) to Marnie (1964), a period that included Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho. He was also credited as sound consultant on The Birds (1963), as there was no actual music in the film as such, only electronically made bird sounds.
The film score for the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) was composed by Herrmann, but two of the more significant pieces of music in the film – the song "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" and the Storm Clouds Cantata played in the Royal Albert Hall – are not by Herrmann (although he did re-orchestrate the cantata by Australian-born composer Arthur Benjamin written for the earlier Hitchcock film of the same name). However, this film did give Herrmann the opportunity for an on-screen appearance: he is the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in the Albert Hall scene.
Herrmann's most recognizable music is from Hitchcock's Psycho. Unusual for a thriller at the time, the score uses only the string section of the orchestra. The screeching violin 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. Hitchcock admitted at the time that Psycho heavily depended on the music for its tension and sense of pervading doom.
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 the "Liebestod" from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, dramatically convey the main character's obsessive love for the image of a woman who never in fact existed.
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 because the horns can be clearly heard sounding in just this manner at Fort Point, the spot where a key incident occurs involving the character played by Kim Novak.
However, according to Dan Auiler, author of Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic, Herrmann deeply regretted being unable to conduct his composition for Vertigo. A musicians' strike in America meant that it was actually conducted in England by Muir Mathieson. Herrmann always personally conducted his own works and given that he considered the composition among his best works, he regarded it as a missed opportunity.
In a question-and-answer session at George Eastman House in October 1973, Herrmann stated that, unlike most film composers who did not have any creative input into the style and tone of the score, he insisted on creative control as a condition of accepting a scoring assignment:
I have the final say, or I don't 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, I'd rather not do the film. I find it's impossible to work that way.
Herrmann stated that Hitchcock would invite him on to the production of a film and, depending on his decision about the length of the music, either expand or contract the scene. It was Hitchcock who asked Herrmann for the "recognition scene" near the end of Vertigo (the scene in which James Stewart's character suddenly realizes Kim Novak's identity) to be played with music.
In 1963, Herrmann began writing original music for the CBS-TV anthology series The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which was in its eighth season. Hitchcock served only as advisor on the show, which he hosted, but Herrmann was again working with former Mercury Theatre actor Norman Lloyd, co-producer (with Joan Harrison) of the series. Herrmann scored 17 episodes (1963–1965), and like much of his work for CBS, the music frequently was reused for other programs.
Herrmann's relationship with Hitchcock came to an abrupt end when they disagreed over the score for Torn Curtain. Reportedly pressured by Universal executives, 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 Herrmann's music had to change with the times as well. Herrmann initially accepted the offer, but then decided to score the film according to his own ideas.
Hitchcock listened to only the prelude of the score, then confronted Herrmann about the pop score. 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 to the creative control he had always maintained in their previous works together. Herrmann then said "Hitch, what's the use of my doing more with you? I had a career before you, and I will afterwards." The score was rejected and replaced with one by John Addison.
According to McGilligan, Herrmann later tried to reconcile with Hitchcock, but Hitchcock refused to see him. Herrmann's widow Norma Herrmann disputed this in a conversation with Günther Kögebehn for the Bernard Herrmann Society in 2004:
I met Hitchcock very briefly. Everybody says they never spoke again. I met him, it was cool, it was not a warm meeting. It was in Universal Studios, this must be 69, 70, 71ish. And we were in Universal for some other reason and Herrmann said: "See that tiny little office over there, that's Hitch. And that stupid little parking place. Hitch used to have an empire with big offices and a big staff. Then they made it down to half that size, then they made it to half that size… We are going over to say hello." Actually [Herrmann] got a record; he was always intending to give him a record he just made. But it wasn't a film thing. It was either Moby Dick or something of his concert pieces to take it and give to Hitch. Peggy, Hitchcock's secretary was there. Hitch came out, Benny said "I thought you'd like a copy of this." "How are you?" etc., and he introduced me. And Hitchcock was cool, but they did meet. They met, I was there. And when Herrmann came out again, he said "What a great reduction in Hitch's status."
In 2009, Norma Herrmann began to auction her husband's personal collection on Bonhams.com, adding more interesting details to the two men's relationship. While Herrmann had brought Hitchcock a copy of his classical work after the break-up, Hitchcock had given Herrmann a copy of his 1967 interview book with François Truffaut, which he inscribed "To Benny with my fondest wishes, Hitch."
"This is rather interesting because it comes a year after Hitchcock had abruptly fired Herrmann from his work scoring Torn Curtain and indicates Hitchcock may have hoped to mend fences with Herrmann and have him score his next film, Topaz," reported Wellesnet, the Orson Welles website, in April 2009:
Of course, once Herrmann felt he had been wronged, he was not going to say "yes" to Hitchcock unless he was courted and it seems unlikely that Hitchcock would be willing to do that, although apparently Hitchcock did ask Herrmann back to score his last film Family Plot right before Herrmann died. Herrmann, who had a full schedule of films planned for 1976, including DePalma's Carrie, The Seven Per Cent Solution and Larry Cohen's God Told Me To, was reportedly happy to be in a position to ignore Hitchcock's reunion offer.
Herrmann's unused score for Torn Curtain was commercially recorded after his death, initially by Elmer Bernstein for his Film Music Collection subscription record label (reissued by Warner Bros. Records), then in a fuller realization of the original score by Joel McNeely and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and later, in a concert suite adapted by Christopher Palmer, by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Sony. Some of Herrmann's cues for Torn Curtain were 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.
Later life and death
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 Ray Harryhausen Dynamation epics The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver. His score for The 7th Voyage was highly acclaimed by admirers of that genre of film and was praised by Harryhausen as Herrmann's best score of the four.
During the same period, Herrmann turned his talents to writing scores for television shows. 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 François Truffaut'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 producer George Martin's staccato string arrangement for Beatles 1966 single "Eleanor Rigby".
By 1967, Herrmann worked almost exclusively in England. In November 1967, the 56-year-old composer married 27-year-old journalist Norma Shepherd, his third wife. In August 1971, the Herrmanns made London their permanent home.
Herrmann's last film scores included Sisters and Obsession for Brian De Palma. His final film soundtrack, and the last work he completed, was his sombre score for Taxi Driver (1976), directed by Martin Scorsese. It was De Palma 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. He returned to his hotel, and died from an apparent heart attack in his sleep. Scorsese and Cohen both dedicated their respective films in his memory.
As well as his many film scores, Herrmann wrote several concert pieces, including his Symphony in 1941; the 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. He recorded all these compositions, and several others, for the Unicorn label during his last years in London. A work written late in his life, Souvenir de Voyages, showed his ability to write non-programmatic pieces.
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 only composed music for films when he was allowed the artistic liberty to compose what he wished without the director getting in the way. This was the cause of the split with Hitchcock after over a decade of composing scores for the director's films.
His philosophy of orchestrating film was based on the assumption that the musicians were selected and hired for the recording session – that this music was not constrained to the musical forces of the concert hall. For example, his use of nine harps in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef created an extraordinary underwater-like sonic landscape; his use of four alto flutes in Citizen Kane contributed to the unsettling quality of the opening, only matched by the use of 12 flutes in his unused Torn Curtain score; and his use of the serpent in White Witch Doctor is possibly the first use of that instrument in a film score.
Herrmann said: "To orchestrate is like a thumbprint. I can't understand having someone else do it. It would be like someone putting color to your paintings."
Herrmann subscribed to the belief 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.
Use of electronic instruments
Herrmann's involvement with electronic musical instruments dates back to 1951, when he used the theremin in 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.
Herrmann was a sound consultant on The Birds, which made extensive use of an electronic instrument called the mixturtrautonium, performed by Oskar Sala on the film's soundtrack. Herrmann used several electronic instruments on his score of It's Alive, as well as the Moog synthesizer for the main themes in Endless Night and Sisters.
Legacy and recording
Herrmann is still a prominent figure in the world of film music today, despite his death in 1975. 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, the documentary Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann was made about him. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 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. In 1991, Steven C. Smith wrote a Herrmann biography titled A Heart at Fire's Center, a quote from a favorite Stephen Spender poem of Herrmann.
His music continues to be used in films and recordings after his death. On the 1977 album Ra, American progressive rock group Utopia adapted Herrmann's "Mountain Top/Sunrise" from Journey to the Center of the Earth in a rock arrangement, as the introduction to the album's opening song, "Communion With The Sun". The 1990s saw two iconic Herrmann scores adapted for remakes: celebrated composer Elmer Bernstein adapted and expanded Herrmann's music for Martin Scorsese's update of Cape Fear, expanding the score to include music from Herrmann's rejected score to Torn Curtain, and similarly, though more faithful to the original material, film composer Danny Elfman and orchestrator Steve Bartek adapted Herrmann's full Psycho score for director Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake. "Georgie's Theme" from Herrmann's score for the 1968 film Twisted Nerve is whistled by assassin Elle Driver in the hospital corridor scene in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). 2011 saw several uses of Herrmann's music from Vertigo: the opening theme was used in the prologue to Lady Gaga's video for "Born This Way" and during a flashback sequence in the pilot episode of FX's American Horror Story (which featured "Georgie's Theme" in later episodes as a recurring musical motif for the character of Tate), and Ludovic Bource used the love theme in the last reels of The Artist. Vertigo's opening sequence was also copied for the opening sequence of the 1993 miniseries, Tales Of The City, an adaptation of the first in a series of books by Armistead Maupin. More recently, the first and fourth episodes of Amazon Prime's 2018 streaming series Homecoming used cues from Herrmann's Vertigo and The Day the Earth Stood Still respectively.
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, The Night Digger and Sisters, under various labels owned by Fifth Continent Australia Pty Ltd.
Herrmann was an early and enthusiastic proponent of the music of Charles Ives. He met Ives in the early 1930s, performed many of his works while conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra, and conducted Ives' Second Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra on his first visit to London in 1956. Herrmann later made a recording of the work in 1972 and this reunion with the LSO, after more than a decade, was significant to him for several reasons – he had long hoped to record his own interpretation of the symphony, feeling that Leonard Bernstein's 1951 version was "overblown and inaccurate"; on a personal level, it also served to assuage Herrmann's long-held feeling that he had been snubbed by the orchestra after his first visit in 1956. The notoriously prickly composer had also been enraged by the recent appointment of the LSO's new chief conductor André Previn, who Herrmann detested, and deprecatingly referred to as "that jazz boy".
Herrmann was also an ardent champion of the romantic-era composer Joachim Raff, whose music had fallen into near-oblivion by the 1960s. During the 1940s, Herrmann had played Raff's 3rd and 5th Symphonies in his CBS radio broadcasts. In May 1970, Herrmann conducted the world premiere recording of Raff's Fifth Symphony Lenore for the Unicorn label, which he mainly financed himself. The recording did not attract much notice in its time, despite receiving excellent reviews, but is now considered a major turning-point in the rehabilitation of Raff as a composer.
In 1996, Sony Classical released The Film Scores, a recording of Herrmann's music 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.
Decca 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 (including Psycho, Marnie and Vertigo). In the liner notes of the Hitchcock Phase 4 album, Herrmann said that the suite from The Trouble with Harry was a "portrait of Hitch". Another album was devoted to his fantasy film scores – a 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. His other Phase 4 Stereo LPs of the 1970s included Music from the Great Film Classics (suites and excerpts from Jane Eyre, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Citizen Kane and The Devil and Daniel Webster); and "The Fantasy World of Bernard Herrmann" (Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Fahrenheit 451.)
Charles Gerhardt conducted a 1974 RCA recording titled The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It featured suites from Citizen Kane (with Kiri Te Kanawa singing Salammbo's Aria) and White Witch Doctor, along with music from On Dangerous Ground, Beneath the 12-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 Gustav Holst's The Planets and Charles Ives's 2nd Symphony, as well as an album titled "The Impressionists" (music by Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Honegger) and another titled "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 Shostakovich for Hamlet, Walton for Richard III and Rózsa 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.
Pristine Audio released two CDs of Herrmann's radio broadcasts. One is devoted to a CBS program from 1945 that features music by Handel, Vaughan Williams and Elgar; the other features works by Charles Ives, Robert Russell Bennett and Herrmann.
Influences and legacy
The works of Herrmann are widely studied, imitated and performed to this very day. His work has left a profound influence on composers of film music that followed him, the most notable being John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Howard Shore, Lalo Schifrin, James Horner, Carter Burwell and others. Stephen Sondheim found Herrmann to be a primary influence after seeing the film Hangover Square.
Popular film composer Danny Elfman counts Herrmann as his biggest influence, and has said hearing Herrmann's score to The Day the Earth Stood Still when he was a child was the first time he realized the powerful contribution a composer makes to the movies. Pastiche of Herrmann's music can be heard in Elfman's score for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, specifically in the cues "Stolen Bike" and "Clown Dream", which reference Herrmann's "The Murder" from Psycho and "The Duel With the Skeleton" from 7th Voyage of Sinbad respectively. The prelude for Elfman's main Batman theme references Herrmann's "Mountain Top / Sunrise" from Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the Joker character's "fate motif" heard throughout the score is inspired by Herrmann's Vertigo. More integral homage can be heard in Elfman's later scores for Mars Attacks! and Hitchcock, the latter based on Hitchcock's creation of Psycho, as well as the "Blue Strings" movement of Elfman's first concert work Serenada Schizophrana.
In addition to Elfman, fellow film composers Richard Band, Graeme Revell, Christopher Young, Alexandre Desplat and Brian Tyler consider Herrmann to be a major inspiration. In 1985, Richard Band's opening theme to Re-Animator borrows heavily from Herrmann's opening score to Psycho. 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 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. Also, Revell's score for the video game Call of Duty 2 was reminiscent of Herrmann's rare WWII music scores such as The Naked and the Dead and Battle of Neretva. Young, who was a jazz drummer at first, listened to Herrmann's works which convinced him to be a film composer. Tyler's score for Bill Paxton's film Frailty was 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 scoring of 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 homage 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.
In addition to adapting and expanding the original score from Cape Fear for the Martin Scorsese remake, Elmer Bernstein recorded Herrmann's score for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, released in 1975 on the Varèse Sarabande label and later reissued on CD in the 1990s.