Five Spine-Chilling Bernard Herrmann Scores

Consider your favorite classic Alfred Hitchcock films- psychological thrillers such as Vertigo and Psycho. Many elements add up to make these films enduring works of art, including the innovative framing of shots and voyeuristic camera angles which mimic the viewer’s gaze. Perhaps equally important is the music of Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975). As Matt Williams writes in this 1999 article, Herrmann’s music was groundbreaking, delving into the dark inner psychology of the character more deeply than had ever been done …

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Remembering the Twins, Fifteen Years Later

Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If you’re old enough to remember that day and the numbing weeks which followed, the details of your life at that time, both consequential and trivial, are probably seared into your memory. For me, the horrific events of 9/11 followed on the heels of my successful audition for the Richmond Symphony. On that warm, clear Tuesday morning, I had just …

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The 2016 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

With the 88th Academy Awards ceremony coming up this Sunday, let’s finish the week with some film music. Here are this year’s nominees for “Best Original Score,” along with a few audio samples: “Carol” (Carter Burwell) This atmospheric score seems to pay homage to the musical language of Philip Glass. This passage contains all of the hallmarks of Glass’ vocabulary: a simple melody that grows out of repeating, undulating piano lines, triad-laden …

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Thoughts on John Williams’ New Star Wars Score

I haven’t yet had the chance to see the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, or to fully experience its richly symphonic score in the theater. A film score is designed to serve its movie. The music comes to life as part of a greater whole, a Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), to use Wagner’s term. Still, I haven’t been able to resist listening to excerpts from the score which, recently, have been floating around in an …

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Music of Romantic Obsession

From Vincent Van Gogh to Charlotte Brontë, artists, writers, and composers have occasionally entered the strange, darkly irrational world of romantic obsession. With Halloween approaching, let’s take a walk on the creepy side and explore three pieces which grew out of (what some would call) unhealthy romantic obsessions: Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique Written partially under the influence of opium, Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique takes us into strange, hallucinogenic territory. It summons new sounds from the orchestra, which must …

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Gearing up for the UCI in RVA

My hometown, Richmond, Virginia, is gearing up to host the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Road World Championships bike race. The event begins this Saturday, September 19 and concludes on the 27th. On Friday at 6:30, the Richmond Symphony will be playing for a crowd of 10,000-plus spectators at the opening ceremonies on Brown’s Island, near the James River in downtown Richmond. In celebration of the UCI World Championships, here is a historical curiosity: Daisy …

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Remembering Film Composer James Horner

Edit the music out of your favorite scene on the big screen and you’ll quickly understand how much a film’s emotional impact is tied to its score. For nearly fifty years, the soaring, lushly romantic music of James Horner has added emotional punch to countless Hollywood blockbusters including Field of Dreams (1989), Apollo 13 (1995), Titanic (1997), The Perfect Storm (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Avatar (2009). Horner passed away suddenly on Monday following the crash of his turboprop plane in Southern …

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