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On Dangerous Ground

This year marks the centenary of film composer Bernard Herrmann’s birth in June 1911. The name may not be hugely familiar to a wide audience but the music most definitely will be: Herrmann created some of the most recognisable film scores in cinema history.

From Psycho’s stabbing thrust of strings in the shower to the rise and fall of Vertigo’s romantic theme, to the spooky, extraterrestial sound of theremins in The Day The Earth Stood Still to Taxi Driver’s sleazy sax sounds on the streets of seventies New York, Herrmann forever changed the way film music was thought of with his groundbreaking work.

"Bernard Herrmann redefined how music could be used in film with his heart racing, tense, luscious, atmospheric, inventive scores. His musical influence still resonates in contemporary cinema."
Mark Cosgrove, Head of Programme, Watershed

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The Cinema of Bernard Herrmann

Photo of Janet Leigh from Psycho

Through June 2011 Watershed screened a season of films celebrating Herrmann’s brilliant body of work. The Herrmann theme continues in July with a selection of films that have all been profoundly influenced by the greatest of all film composers.

Sunday Brunches: Herrmann Legacy >


Contradictions and Ostinatos...
The Legacy of Bernard Herrmann

By Michael Beek

Photo of a score by Bernard Herrmann

As the steely blade of a faceless killer came slashing down in the bathroom of Cabin One of the Bates Motel, Marion Crane’s screams were aided and abetted by the terrifying shriek of violins. Film music would never be the same again.

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Further reading, samples and remixes

Links to further reading about the man and his music, and remixes and samples by contemporary musicians.

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A Blue Plaque for Herrmann

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Bernard Herrmann loved the music and culture of England. You can clearly hear the influence of composers like William Walton on his music. It is unsurprising then to discover that Herrmann lived a large part of his later years in London. Here he composed and conducted scores for his final films, eg Fahrenheit 451 and Obsession, from his London home.

In recognition of this we are backing a new campaign to acknowledge Herrmann's English affinities by placing a blue plaque on his London residence.

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Photo of Bernard Herrmann conducting


Norma Herrmann on 'Benny'

Norma Herrmann shares her memories of Bernard Herrmann the composer, and of 'Benny' the loving husband and friend.

Adrian Utley on Taxi Driver

Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Watershed’s Mark Cosgrove, consider the enormous impact of Bernard Herrmann’s last ever score.

Herrmann: Knowing The Score

Composer Neil Brand reveals some of the techniques employed by Bernard Herrmann in crafting his iconic and emotionally powerful film scores.

The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Composer Laurie Johnson talks about his friendship with Bernard Herrmann and the man behind the legend.