Appreciating the art of the film score, as New York Philharmonic screens “Psycho” and “Close Encounters”

Posted on: September 11, 2019

The “slashing shrieks” in the shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho “are some of the most famous musical notes in film,” writes Joshua Barone in Tuesday’s (9/10) New York Times. “At David Geffen Hall in Manhattan, those high notes … will be struck from the violin section of the New York Philharmonic, which is presenting the movie … with a live soundtrack, as part of its popular Art of the Score series. Also on offer … is Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ whose restrained soundtrack by John Williams contains another famous theme: the five notes used to communicate with alien visitors…. Mr. Williams wrote his score for ‘Star Wars’ in the same year as ‘Close Encounters.’ … One is a grand space opera, with catchy Wagnerian leitmotifs and blaring immensity; the other is atonal and elusive…. ‘Psycho’ wouldn’t be ‘Psycho’ without [Bernard] Herrmann’s music, which, even when lyrical, puts you on edge…. Herrmann writes for only a string orchestra…. Hitchcock didn’t ask for music for [the shower] scene, but his composer wrote some anyway. When the filmmaker later changed his mind, Herrmann was at the ready, with music that would make horror history.”

Posted September 11, 2019

Photo of Janet Leigh in Psycho courtesy Paramount Pictures