Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Here I go again on my own" or "Judge me not lest you be judged by others"

Everyone these days is putting up top ten lists of likes and dislikes etc... My own personal opinion of this trend is paradoxical. I would certainly put top ten lists as one of my top ten dislikes when reading blogs but... I would also put top tens as one my top ten likes. Why? Well that's an easy answer... it's fun to judge others by their choices! You know... when you read a list you agree with you get that self satisfied feeling of "I have good taste" or "this list confirms my mastery of popular culture!" or lastly and certainly not least "great, now I have something to spout off about the next time someone wants talk about the top ten greatest abstract expressionist painters of the twentieth century, Ya! I'll look smart!" (of course I'm paraphrasing here and any number of substitutions can be made for the former examples...softest toilet paper etc...). Now, on the other hand, if you don't like a list that's where the fun really begins. Demonic incantations filled with declarations of "pedestrian taste" and "secretarial insight" flow like wine at the last supper! Now, that's not to say all types of lists engender the same kind of response. For example I've long noted the interesting phenomenon of films vs music. And what is this phenom you ask? Let me try to explain. A person will generally, if they start watching a movie, even if the don't like it, watch the movie all-the-way- through and then comment or criticise or debate the merit of the said work-of-art. While on the other hand it sometimes only takes seconds for someone to dismiss, deride and despair over music, often putting a CD or play list to rest extremely prematurely. How many times have you gone out on a date with someone, gotten back to the apartment, had candles lit, wine poured, pupils dilated only to sneak-a-peak at his or her music collection and thought "what am I doing here?" (don't get me started on books!). All lists are not equal, nor are they judged equally. It's a fact and in fact I think music lists leave their authors most vulnerable! But in the words of the immortal 80's hair-metal band Whitesnake (see I made you flinch!) "Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I've ever know".

Here are my top ten pics for the greatest film scores by Bernard Herrmann.

10) Vertigo - 1958 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

A haunting score. Poignant, quiet, painful music frames the film's melancholy motif.

9) Psycho - 1960 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Herrmann could of had it easy on this film, being that Alfred Hitchcock's instructions for the score were simple: ''Do what you like, but only one thing I ask of you: Please write nothing for the murder in the shower. That must be without music. Thankfully Herrmann agreed, took the job, cashed the check and then did what he wanted! In the process altering film history and scoring.

8) Taxi Driver - 1976 Directed by Martin Scocesse

Herrmann's final score. It's all horns, muscle and harp. Ya harp! Herrmann died the day after finishing the score.

7) The Day the Earth Stood Still - 1951 Directed by Robert Wise

This 1951 black-and-white sci-fi classic that tells the story of a alien visitor who comes to Earth with a stern warning "surrender or die" ( wait... no... that was Ghingis Khan). Herrmann used two Theremins (early proto-synths) in the score. And in my opinion the instrument was never used more effectively in a film score. With perhaps the exception of Jimmy Page in the Led Zepplin concert film "The song Remains the Same". Jimmy got points for using a violin bow and pretending to be a wizard in a purple jumpsuit whilst playing his single Theremin.

6) The Snows of Kilimanjaro - 1952 Directed by Henry King

I pick this one because of the interesting and ever shifting score which moves from frivolity to drunken dark swagger to African Gothic! Herrmann really enhanced the gangrene and whiskey soda bubbling just beneath the surface!

5) The Magnificent Ambersons - 1942 Directed by Orson Wells

Again frivolity clamoring toward strange empty hollow tones. Herrrmann made sure the film got it's "comeuppance"!

4) North by Northwest - 1959 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

A triptych of musical suspense, whimsy and rhythm brought together by Herrmann in with a moody perfection.

3) Cape Fear - 1962 Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Herrmann conjures up terror, obsession and the sound of nightmares .

2) Fahrenheit 451 - 1966 Directed by Francios Truffaut

Paul McCartney nicked the marcato string style for 'Eleanor Rigby' from the Herrmman score.

1) Citizen Kane - 1941 Directed by Orson Wells

Ok... is this really the best score by Bernard Herrmann? Let's put it this way, Citizen Kane, is an exemplar of Herrmann unique insight into: character, irony, framing, pacing harmonic structure and most of all his ability convey unspoken emotional content.

I'm done. Just one last word, "judge me not lest you be judged by others" (of course I'm just paraphrasing).


philG said...

Citizen Kane has a great soundtrack I bought a rerecording last year it really interesting to hear it at high fidelity.

santa's-little-helper said...

Vertigo is my personal fav on your list

Anonymous said...

Good list what about Topaz?

Bob said...

I love the way they reused the original Cape Fear music in the Scorsese remake

Carol said...

I've never seen the Magnificent Amberson but I heard it was as good as Citizen Kane.True?

Steve said...

"Wow! I have good taste". But I would have switched North by Northwest and The Magnificant Ambersons - can't believe you had it the other way.

Anonymous said...

Really well done list! Thanks

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