Portentous arrangements
Bernard Herrmann and The Man Who Knew Too Much
in Partners in suspense
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While Herrmann's twenty-four successful and one failed collaboration with Hitchcock – including films and television programs – featured compositional scoring to some degree, Herrmann's work on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is a peculiar deviation in the pattern of their regular working relationship because there are only a very small number of composed cues. The bulk of Herrmann's work on this film, which involved some considerable legal machinations, consisted of two very different kinds of contribution, each of which can tell us something about the composer's talents, diligence, and sensitivity to film production. On one hand he was called upon to arrange "received" music, and this in a wide range from Moroccan folk tunes to elaborate symphonic work, and including the traditionalist hymn, "The Portents." On the other, he became a member of the cast, on this one occasion only in his filmic work with Hitchcock, playing the role of a conductor at a performance in the Royal Albert Hall. This chapter argues that, since the overall score of the film is essentially an acoustic quilt, we find here evidence of a talent for assemblage and backgrounding that Herrmann does not have opportunity to show in his other work with Hitchcock.

Partners in suspense

Critical essays on Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock

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