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Modular Form in the Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann
One of the defining characteristics of Bernard Herrmann’s film music is its modular construction: his cues are typically assembled from short blocks of musical material rather than extended melodic lines. While this feature of his style has been much discussed in general terms, there have been few attempts to identify specifically how these blocks are constructed and how they are chained together to yield coherent musical statements. Using examples from Psycho, Marnie, and other Herrmann scores, I will demonstrate that the phrase structure and melodic trajectory of much of Herrmann’s music is based on a small set of frequently recurring prototypes. This structural consistency contributes to making the “Herrmann sound” instantly recognizable.
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