If you are not me as you are reading this page, then I say "How the hell did you get here?"

Jun 29, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Bernard Herrmann!

Today is June 29, 2011 and it is the centennial anniversary of the birth of Bernard Herrmann who began his film career with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane in 1941.
In the same year he won an Oscar for his score for The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Jane Eyre, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, On Dangerous Ground, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Mysterious Island, Cape Fear, Fahrenheit 451 and The Bride Wore Black are just a few of the memorable and beloved scores that he composed.

Although Herrmann worked with notable directors other than Orson Welles such as Nicholas Ray, Robert Wise, J. Lee Thompson, and Francois Truffaut, it remains true that his work is most closely identified by the public with the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Bernard Herrmann/Alfred Hitchcock rehash: What if ?

What if Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock had not suffered through a professional and artistic
unraveling of their longtime relationship in 1966 on the film that became Torn Curtain?

Hitchcock's previous film from 1964 was Marnie and it was the last collaboration he had with Herrmann and it was not a financial hit. The phenomenon known as The Beatles were selling tons of soundtracks to rabid rock and roll fans kids who were going to the movies AND buying the LPs released by United Artists for A Hard Days Night and by Capitol Records for Help! The ecstatic high of Beatlemania was making MCA Universal jealous for "the youth market" dollars and therefore they wanted to rake in the dollars with big soundtrack sales of a contemporary pop score to Torn Curtain.

Even though Herrmann promised Hitchcock that he would make a pop score happen that would change the direction of their previous work, it was not meant to be. Alfred Hitchcock was stunned when he visited the studio and heard Herrmann conducting and recording his latest work for Torn Curtain which was just as wonderful and old fashioned as his previous work had been for Hitchcock and he promptly fired him.Photobucket

Obviously we will never know what might have been accomplished if they could have renewed their creative partnership. After Hitchcock dismissed Herrmann they never worked together again. Film biographies of Hitch and Herrmann retell the story of how Herrmann stopped by Hitchcock's office a few years later in an attempt to repair their relationship, but purportedly Hitch hid behind a door and would not see Herrmann.

The Wikipedia listing about Bernard Herrmann includes a quoted section from an interview with Herrmann's wife Norma which tries to correct the perception of Hitchcock turning a cold shoulder to Herrmann.  Examine the section which follows this lead-in sentence:

"In a 2004 interview with Günther Kögebehn for the Bernard Herrmann Society (titled Running with the Kids: A Conversation with Norma Herrmann), she states:"

If you wish to consider the "What If?" question about Bernie and Hitch,
I think it might be appropriate to listen to this Elvis cut . . .


Elvis Presley - That's Where Your Heartaches Begin

It is best to not dwell on what might have been and return our focus as movie fans upon the brilliance of the entire career of Bernard Herrmann, and specifically upon the incredibly successful run that was achieved during their years together as one of the greatest working partnerships of a composer and a film director in cinema history.

As most cineastes know only too well, between 1955 and 1964 they collaborated on eight of the best films directed by Alfred Hitchcock at the height of his powers:

The Trouble With Harry
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Wrong Man
North by Northwest
The Birds

A total of seven original scores by Bernard Herrmann and one picture as sound consultant on The Birds.

After the glory years with Hitch and a resurrection of his career by working with Brian De Palma on Sisters and Obsession in the 1970s, Herrmann closed out his mighty body of work with his last score for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver which was released in 1976 and dedicated to the memory of Bernard Herrmann.

Taxi Driver


Happy Birthday to Bernie!

All hail Hitchcock and Herrmann!

Jun 22, 2011

Bruno Alexiu's score to L'Enfer D'Henri-Georges Clouzot is now available

In 2009 I had hoped that we would see a cd release of music by Bruno Alexiu.

As of June 15, 2011, the soundtrack to L'Enfer has finally been released.
Do yourself a favor and get it.


The cd is available through Disques Cinemusique

It is also available through Screen Archives Entertainment.

Jun 21, 2011

Pino Donaggio's "The House" from the complete score to CARRIE on Kritzerland

In 2010 a limited edition 2 cd set of the Pino Donaggio complete score to Brian De Palma's CARRIE was released by Kritzerland. The single cd may be easier to purchase, but if you can find it, I say buy the out of print Kritzerland 2 cd set. It is a joy to listen to if you are a fan of thrillers, Brian De Palma or Pino Donaggio or Stephen King.

I am especially fond of the composition entitled "The House" on the first cd of the Kritzerland release. The version of this track entitled as "Collapse of Carrie's Home" is available on the original album single cd release. 

The music begins with an introductory section that is operatic and beautifully overwrought in just the right way and it is repeated twice. This section then moves into the lower depths and what we experience is our entrée to an eerie and haunting realm. We hear a slowly commanding and pulsing electronic force wrapped into the strings and the music inspires an awe and a disbelief in the listener (well at least this listener) at what we hear, see and imagine.

As it comes to an end in just over 90 seconds, we are left hanging and exhilirated as we await the next step in the journey. I love it.

The Kritzerland site can be viewed at

Currently the online feeds of entertainment news topics show a desire by Hollywood to emake CARRIE with a new cast. I'm sure they will do it, but how do you top what was created back in 1976 by De Palma and Donaggio? Who will be chosen to score the picture? There will always be remakes for younger audiences, but in my opinion it will take a really talented team to match or top the original film.

Why not put the effort into something new? Take a risk.

In the meantime I say stick with the original winner which is captivating and compelling: CARRIE.


Jun 9, 2011

An appreciation of "Red Lenses": a brief look at the Rush composition from Grace Under Pressure

Neal Peart is the drummer in the Canadian power trio RUSH and tonight he will appear on Late Night with David Letterman as one of the featured performers during "drum solo" week.

I wanted to take a look back at a song of interest to me which is a showcase for the band and specifically Peart as a master drummer.

A random recipe for a rock song:

Mix together the following musical ingredients:

·         a healthy dose of Who swagger,

·         crisply defined, flanged- guitar riffs,

·         clean rock bass, propulsive drums,

·         and lyrical allusions to phobias, fear and communists.

As you move forward in the progression of the composition, you alternate between two bi-polar musical sections:

1.      an overall stealthy, undercover-cool spy groove which suggests a sense of control which surrounds and contains within it a secondary contrary musical part

2.     an intermittent syncopated section of material that conveys absurd mania and borderline insane feelings via dance rhythms that feature drumming skills of technically precise paranoiac percussion maneuvers that builds tension and annoys the listener who desires and seeks a return to the first section.

The sound elements within the song are unique to the group and not derivative, even though at the same time they clearly reveal a love of Keith Moon and Pete Townshend of The Who.

Continue this musical "struggle" for 4 minutes and 45 seconds, and you are left with an unusual mid-1980s offering of a well-performed, slickly produced, clever rock track entitled
"Red Lenses" by Rush.

As listeners to the song there is no way out of this alternating cycle other than through a fade-out. 

We will hear musical changes along the way. However as we listen there is recognition and perception of an impasse.

Lyrically there is a real world-topical-op-ed-item of anxiety (please fill in the blank with your concern) to consider and reflect upon; this anxiety is of a type that we find in the world and in life where change will not occur; we can only observe and worry and wonder about it as we visit this arena of the song and then exit.  We have experienced an uneasy balance of opposing forces in co-existence, an eternal struggle of polar ideas that remain at odds with each other.


Feb 13, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011 - Brian Wilson's "Melt Away"

In the early 1990's when I lived in Los Angeles, I had an opportunity to go to a special event that I couldn't miss. On Sunset Boulevard across the street from what was at that time the location for Tower Records, Book Soup was presenting Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys who was signing copies of his new autobiography enitiled Wouldn't it be Nice.

It was early in the evening as I waited in line patiently with the other fans to gain access to the store.

We were allowed to enter in small groups of perhaps 5 -10 people. When it was my turn to meet Brian I asked him what music he had been listening to and enjoying and he replied "Joan Jett."
In the background about ten feet away to the left behind Brian I could see someone who was probably with the staff smiling. The mood in the room was a gentle feeling of shared quiet approval. I told Brian Wilson that I thought his track “Melt Away” from his self-titled 1988 solo album was right up there with any of his best material. Before I left, I thanked him and I shook his hand. He chose to keep his pen in his right hand and it was cradled in a resting place between his pinky and thumb on one side and his middle three fingers on the other side. It wasn’t a blood brothers gesture but with this odd but appropriate handshake, to me this was an act that sealed and confirmed the spiritual and holy and emotional bond that I have always felt with the best music that I adore, and here was a rare opportunity to honor and thank a creative master in person after years of partaking in visits to his aural kingdom of confessional studio storytelling.

His autograph was certainly legible and a bit scrawled like a child would make in the fifth grade and I could really identify with it as my penmanship has always been horrible. The signature made me recall the blotted ink of my youth, it made me remember my history of inadvertant artistic smudges using a BIC pen either on paper or the regular bluish bleeding through from the pockets of my pants or ruining the pocket of a previously white button-down shirt as the ink erupted onto what had become my personal canvas of clothing. Ah, the travails of a brutal youth.
I was so pleased to be at the book signing; I can remember my fun paying tribute to Brian Wilson as a junior in high school back in 1974. I was the MC of the Friends School talent show, and I performed “Surfer Girl “ and “In My Room” a capella with a few lovely girls named Denise and Lottchen (and perhaps Lisa or someone else?) providing complementary hand flourishes and movement and girlish eye-candy and sizzle to enhance my lovestruck teen angel performance. The gals provided a support system to my attempt to share with an audience a celebration of Brian Wilson's creativity, to go-for- it, and to transcend that sense of being a wannabe into an "I am" moment, and to reinforce the idea of the fleeting, hard-to-find, elusive symbolic "other" that us males who dig gals want to embrace. I felt satisfaction in my relaying the feelings of Wilson's songs and my cover versions uncovered my love of his work.

At Book Soup I was finally able to see Brian Wilson in person and pay tribute.
I will never forget the opportunity that I had in Los Angeles to meet one of the greatest pop music giants of my generation and to shake his hand and say thanks.


I still think that "Melt Away" is one of his best ever. Given all of the public awareness of the anguish and turmoil that Brian Wilson has had to try and cope with over his many years of personal solitude, this newer tune allowed the listener to return to a state of wonder. In this song, it was such a relief to welcome back an old friend that many people had ignored or abandoned. This marvelous musical world of Brian Wilson's carousel mind and the sonic landscape that only he can create always exists. We just need to find it. With his songs he is providing an invitation to the audience, and as always he is musically saying to anyone who cares or has the time to share in his point of view: "I'm still here, listen."

Like many of the highlights and favorite moments of his finest compostions, at one minute and eleven seconds into "Melt Away", I feel that we can receive the privilege of reaching deeply into the core feeling of a higher emotional expression, one that lies within all of us and is sometimes if not often unexpressed, and this frustration is given a welcome release as it is conveyed by the freedom and sincerity of Mr. Brian Wilson.

There are several You Tube videos of "Melt Away" available to watch although none of them are the original track as it was released on his solo lp.  See if you can find the original to listen to. I had submitted a video link to the original version and unfortunately for this posting, it was withdrawn due to copyright issues with WMG.

Jan 25, 2011

Rando Brando pop culture dream


Jan 6, 2011

Another look at hustling money via character assassination.


Mark Twain has been in the news recently due to the revised reissues of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. When public figures become newsworthy, they also become targets for exploitation and character assassination. Check out this bargain bin attempt to air Twain's alledgedly dirty laundry via audiobook.

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