Friday, April 30, 2010


I realize there hasn't been a whole lot of traffic around here lately, either from me writing new posts or folks stopping by to read them, but I thought I would nonetheless point out that I'll be gone for a little while.  Just for the weekend, but these are my days off, the days I'm most likely to have time to sit down and write.  So that won't be happening, and I have no idea when regular posting will resume.

But let me leave off with a piece of music.  I've been thinking about Bernard Herrmann a lot lately.  I've especially been listening to his much underrated cantata Moby Dick, and wondering what his reputation would be like if he'd composed more "serious" music and hadn't written so many film scores.  On the other hand, has any film composer scored so many truly great films?  Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, Sisters, Taxi Driver--holy crap!  And none of those movies would be what they are without Herrmann's magnificent music. 

Here's an excerpt from the fake opera Salammbo, composed for Citizen Kane.  For purposes of the film, it's sung by Kane's wife, a competent saloon singer who had no business performing as a classical soprano.  So Herrmann wrote a deliberately challenging score, vocally; my ex-wife, a classically-trained singer, used to wince at the final note every time I'd play this.

So here, performed by a vocalist who can do it justice (no less than Dame Kiri Te Kanawa) is a magnificent piece of music by a man who should be more widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's greatest composers.  Yes, this work is a deliberate pastiche, a loving parody of romantic Italian opera.  Somehow, though, especially in that final crash of brass, it sounds like it could only have been written by Herrmann.