I saw a screening of the Hitchcock movie *Psycho* on 9/13/19, with the Bernard Herrmann score played live by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Richard Kaufman. The NY Phil started doing movies with a live score about six or seven years ago - - I've been to their performances/screenings of *Breakfast At Tiffany's,* *2001: A Space Odyssey,* and episodes four through eight of the *Star Wars* cycle. When I first heard about them doing this, all those years ago, my first thought was, "Holy crap, they HAVE to do *Psycho*!" So this was sort of a prayer answered.
I'm a huge Hitchcock fan and think that *Psycho* is his most perfect movie, and the score is such a huge part of that movie - - it's overt but never overpowering. It always supports and amplifies what happens onscreen. Of course in this context it really DID take center stage, but that's as it should be, right?
I heard things I had never heard before - - there were a few moments where the outer strings were still, the next layer in was undulating, and the violas were trilling and restless. I'd never noticed that fascinating, complicated texture before. Actually, hearing the score played live made me hear on a deeper level was Herrmann was doing with the score. I knew that he chose to use only strings, to give a "black and white" sound to the score, but I hadn't previously noticed that he also limited the content of the music. There's very little melody - - the score is made up of harmony, rhythm (it's an intensely rhythmic score), and texture. The only true melody I can think of in the whole damn movie is this one in the opening credits, it appears at 0:36:
My friend Ethlouise went to Juilliard and told me that every fall, when the NY Phil did pre-season concerts, many of the players on faculty would get their students to play for them. I hadn't noticed this before, but I sure did this time, the orchestra seemed to be about two thirds people under 25. The entire violin section seemed to be under 25. What a thrill for them to be members of the NY Phil for a few nights, and to play this glorious music. And I'm sure the conductor enjoys working with them, too.
Of course it's always a treat to see a beloved movie on a big screen, with a big audience. One of the treats of this experience was hearing the audience knowingly chuckle now and then. Like when Marion Crane is driving in the rain and gets the first view of the Bates Motel through her rainy windshield - - the audience quietly chuckled, as if to say, "Oh Marion, don't turn in that driveway! It ain't gonna turn out well for you!"