Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven C. Smith.

A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven C. Smith. Hardcover book published by University of California Press 1991, 415 pages with some black and white photographs.

No composer contributed more to film than Bernard Herrmann, who in over forty scores enriched the work of such directors as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, and Martin Scorsese. From his first film (Citizen Kane) to his last (Taxi Driver), Herrmann was a master at evoking psychological nuance and dramatic tension through music, often using unheard-of instrumental combinations to suit the dramatic needs of a film. His scores are among the most distinguished ever written, ranging from the fantastic (Fahrenheit 451, The Day the Earth Stood Still) to the romantic (Obsession, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) to the terrifying (Psycho). Film was not the only medium in which Herrmann made a powerful mark. His radio broadcasts included Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre of the Air and its most notorious presentation, The War of the Worlds. His concert music was commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic. As chief conductor of the CBS Symphony, Herrmann gave important first performances of music by such composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives, whose work he particularly championed. Almost as celebrated as these achievements are the enduring legends of Herrmann’s combativeness and volatility. In this painstakingly researched biography, Steven C. Smith separates myth from fact. Yet Herrmann remains as complex as any character in the films he scored—a creative genius, an indefatigable musicologist, an explosive bully, a generous and compassionate man who desperately sought friendship and love.

What a great book... a truely great book. I actually have a copy of this book on the personal book shelf. For me it was one of those titles that you read about somewhere and take a punt on it being as good as the review... which fortunately it was.  I remember that I paid quite a bit for it as at the time it didn't get a local run. Being only available overseas, I had to order it in from a bookshop that would take the time and effort to do this sort of thing (...possibly Hill of Content in Melbourne).

Why Bernard Herrmann you may ask? I like his stuff. I've had an interest in Bernie for many years. It started with the Hitchcock soundtracks, which even today I would rate as some of the best sounding music in films that I have ever heard. If you can't remember what he did listen to this

which is something you don't forget. It's also not really indicative of what his work sounds like overall, but in my opinion it is probably one of the most memorable bits of soundtrack there ever was.

The book goes into some detail about Bernards attempts at be taken as something other than a soundtrack composer. There was an opera and various attempts at “serious” classical compositions, but overall he is best remembered for his soundtrack work and there was quite a bit of it with one of his final soundtracks being

A biography of this important composer should be on everybodies shelf. I highly recommend it... and I am selling a copy of it. HERE

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