FILM / Key Notes: Music that speaks louder than words: Composer Arnaud Petit on the role played by music in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

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The Independent Culture
MY CINEMATIC memories are, as for many other people I'm sure, inextricably bound up with music. Many films have etched their images on our memories thanks to music borrowed from the great composers (Mozart, Schubert, Mahler and so many others), but a greater impact for me has been made by films for which music was commissioned specially to tie in with the theme of the film as a whole.

For me, Bernard Herrmann's musical score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho plays an absolutely crucial role. Many people will recognise the music from this film even if they haven't seen it for some time - it is unforgettable. It was designed to fit in with the script and it develops alongside the storyline and around the shifting psychological state of the main characters. For example, when the character played by Janet Leigh flees the city in a stolen car the music seems to reveal her innermost thoughts, the problems she is confronting and what she's running away from, emphasising her journey towards even greater danger. There are many emotions playing around here which could not be adequately expressed by dialogue - and the music is the obvious channel to most effectively convey the tensions of the main character; we definitely feel her trauma through the dramatic power of the score. I certainly think that, without doubt, Psycho simply would not have been the success it was without Bernard Herrmann's extraordinary score.

Arnaud Petit's electronic and acoustic score for Theodor Dreyer's silent classic 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' receives its British premiere with a live performance next Friday, 24 June, as part of the Cambridge Film Festival (details: 0223 352999/001).

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