Perhaps no film-and-music pairing is as iconic as Psycho’s infamous shower scene and the shrieking string theme by which it’s accompanied. As the onscreen action takes a horrifying turn, the soundtrack turns from silence to a jarring, chaotic eruption that mirrors Marion Crane’s screams and heightens the shocking brutality as it unfolds.
Composed by film score legend and frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann—who contributed equally memorable scores to Vertigo and North by Northwest, along with Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Taxi Driver, and many more—the Psycho soundtrack’s “black and white,” strings-only instrumentation (which was a result of budget constraints) perfectly complements the movie’s gritty, black and white look. Filled with restless, searching motifs that seem never to find a harmonic home, pounding repetition, and tightly wound dissonances, Herrmann’s masterful score imbues the entire film with an atmosphere of foreboding tension and takes the onscreen suspense to another level.
So striking is Herrmann’s music that it’s fun to hear even without the film, and audiences will have the opportunity to do just that when the Houston Symphony performs selections from the score this weekend, along with “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” “Witchcraft” (as heard in Hocus Pocus), music from Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, and more.
As we head into Halloween week, take a moment to relive the genius that is Psycho’s shower scene, then join us for socially distanced performances of Haunted Halloween POPS in Jones Hall, Oct. 30–Nov. 1, or grab some spooky snacks and cocktails and watch right from home with the Oct. 31 livestream.