Last Saturday saw me head into London with a spring in my step and a song in my heart to see legendary film score composer, The Incredible Suit interviewee and rocker of fine facial hair David Arnold talking about Bernard Herrmann's astonishing score for Psycho at the ICA as part of BAFTA's 'Behind The Mask' series of talks.
Anyway, Arnold spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the strings-only score, its monochrome sound matching Hitchcock's stark imagery; how the orchestra played with their strings muted for the whole score except for the shower scene to truly stab home the violence of Marion's murder; how Hitchcock originally asked Herrmann for a jazz score with silence during the shower scene, and - with specific reference to the driving scenes - how he believed it was "a score without any hope whatsoever".
Bernard Herrmann: Psycho (Suite)
After about ten minutes he introduced the film, the lights went down and Psycho began. Now, I wasn't expecting this. I was expecting some chat, some clips, some debate, but not an actual screening of the film. Looking at the ICA website, it's no wonder: the page I saw doesn't mention the film being shown at all. Maybe this is why there was hardly anyone there: advertise a rare screening of Psycho and people might stay and listen to the Q&A; advertise a Q&A with someone nobody's heard of and watch the takings spiral down the plughole.
When Arnold returned he talked, amongst other things, about his belief that 'temp tracks' - temporary scores laid down during a film's production to help sell it to the financiers and distributors - stifle creativity because the composer is then asked to mimic the temp track rather than come up with something groundbreaking (like Herrmann's Psycho score), and how his own music for Changing Lanes ended up being licenced for Man On Fire because of its use as a temp track in the making of the latter film, much to the annoyance of Man On Fire composer Harry Gregson-Williams.