The Birds

The Birds 15

Filmic 2016: A History of Electronic Music in Film in Four Parts


Please note: This was screened in April 2016

Alfred Hitchcock
Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette
119 mins, 1963, USA

Part of Filmic 2016

When musicians compose a score, or orchestrate, they make sound rather than music. We used only sounds for the whole of the picture. There was no music. - Alfred Hitchcock

For his 1963 thriller and apocalyptic tale of a northern California coastal town that’s faced with an onslaught of seemingly unexplained, arbitrary and chaotic avian attacks, director Alfred Hitchcock decided to do away with the then conventional, incidental film score. In its place he masterfully made use of sound effects and sparse source music in counterpoint to calculated silences and utilised the talents of composers Remi Gassmann and Oskar Sala. Their pioneering work with the electronic Trautonium (an early predecessor of the synthesiser) to create the unsettling squarks and birdcalls of the terrifying feathered menace memorably transformed audiences perceptions of a seemingly harmless and familiar creature into a now unforgettably chilling and deadly threat.

Showing a clear understanding of how films could and should be controlled through aural dynamics, Hitchcock’s masterpiece covered new ground and is the perfect showcase of innovative experimentation with electronic sound technology – more associated with the avant-garde than Hollywood. An extraordinary film, it stands today as a landmark in both cinematic horror and the art of noise.

Part of Filmic 2016