Soundtrack Analysis Of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

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Callum Watt 000873235-3
Soundtrack Analysis - Psycho
In the clip that we are provided (known as “The Murder) we are given a very famous and influential scene from one of Alfred Hitchcock's most critically acclaimed films. Bernard Herrmann, the composer for the movie did a sensational soundtrack with a low budget, and even went against
Hitchcock’s wishes of the score to be jazz based. With the low budget instead of using an entire orchestra Herrmann only used strings to create an arguably more tense and dark feel to the movie, Fred Steiner, in an analysis of the score to Psycho, points out that “string instruments gave
Herrmann access to a wider range in tone, dynamics, and instrumental special effects than any other single instrumental group
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While there is no direct melody to this piece, it runs fast paced whilst constantly switching around between different keys. A feature that was used to great effect is the use of alternating notes to create a sense of approaching and imminent danger, this technique was also used again by John Williams and made famous 15 years later in his score for Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975). The set ends when the music becomes a crescendo to an abrupt fermata cutoff. The second set is the most recognisable piece of the soundtrack, the bit that everyone can remember and has become an iconic sound, directly after the first set's ending, a lone first violin launches directly into a different sound pitch, using screechy notes which make audience really pay attention before being joined by the rest of the strings. This pattern is repeated twice although the second time it is slightly different, this set ends with another rest. The third set bass and other larger string instruments start the third set with long, low, drawn out dotted half-notes that are played at the same time as sharp notes from the rest of the string section, which are very clashing. This piece is devastatingly effective in adding tension to …show more content…
I think that a combination of everything is what earned Psycho the scariest theme tune, “The screeching violin in Alfred Hitchcock's bloody Psycho shower scene has been voted the scariest movie theme tune” (, 2017). The most important factors are outlined above, quite possibly the most infamous being Rapee’s findings that Villains should have a separate theme that is creepy and scary, this was used to full effect in the film as it goes from quiet dull sounds to a raging crescendo of sharp and iconic notes. The most fascinating part of the original scene was that by Hitchcock’s demands it wasn’t supposed to have a score associated with it, and after filming he went back and realised his mistake, this piece of music is now immortalised along with the scene.
The composer in Hollywood
In-text: (Palmer, 1993)
Your Bibliography: Palmer, C. (1993). The composer in Hollywood. London: Marion Boyars.
Erno Rapee's encyclopaedia of music for

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