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Hitchcock's Music [Hardcover]

Jack Sullivan

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Book Description

2 Jan 2007
For half a century, Alfred Hitchcock created films full of gripping and memorable music. Over his long career he presided over more musical styles than any director in history and ultimately changed how we think about film music. This book is the first to fully explore the essential role music played in the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. Based on extensive interviews with composers, writers, and actors, and research in rare archives, Jack Sullivan discusses how Hitchcock used music to influence the atmosphere, characterization, and even storylines of his films. Sullivan examines the director's important relationships with various composers, especially Bernard Herrmann, and tells the stories behind the musical decisions. Covering the whole of the director's career, from the early British works up to "Family Plot", this engaging look at the work of Alfred Hitchcock offers new insight into his achievement and genius and changes the way we watch, and listen, to his movies.

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'Sullivan...does not merely cherry-pick everyone's favourite Hitchcock
movie scores, but carefully analyses the music in all of them.' -- The Guardian, January 20, 2006

"Jack Sullivan's examination of the role music played in the dramatic and emotional impact of Hitchcock's films seems long overdue in moving the spotlight away from the sprocket to the stave." -- Classical Music, September 1, 2007

"the year's best film book, Jack Sullivan's 'Hitchcock's Music'...is a lucid, revealing account of the significance of music and musicians in Hitchcock's films." -- Observer, November 25, 2007

'...lucid, enthusiastic and meticulously researched...a major
contribution to the understanding of a great, infinatley fascinating
director.' -- The Observer, February 11, 2007

'Sullivan's account is an excellent and revelatory addition to the literature of cinema.'
-- Christopher Hirst, The Independent, May 2, 2008

'Sullivan's well-documented account...sheds a refreshingly
different light on familiar film classics, and their creator.'
-- BBC Music Magazine, March, 2007

'incisive and convincing...a great triumph.'
-- Literary Review, February, 2007

About the Author

Jack Sullivan is director of American Studies and professor of English at Rider University. He is the author of New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music, published by Yale University Press. He lives in New York City.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listening to the Master 9 Jan 2007
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Probably the most memorable musical sound in cinema is the slashing strings of the shower scene in _Psycho_, a supreme example of how music can heighten image. It isn't too surprising that the example should come from a Hitchcock film; over the past two decades, critics and academics have paid increasing attention to how Hitchcock used music because he was so good at doing so. In _Hitchcock's Music_ (Yale University Press), Jack Sullivan, a professor of English and of American studies, has given a guide to the music (or frequently, silence) in all of Hitchcock's sound films, with stories about Hitchcock's work with composers and how soundtracks became formed as particular pictures progressed. Sullivan knows the films better than almost all of his readers will, and while much of Hitchcock's music is memorable, Sullivan writes of it in such detail that even Hitchcock fans will find themselves wishing that they had instant recall of each particular phrase or tune. I myself went back to listen to the early talkie _The 39 Steps_ after reading Sullivan's chapter about it, because although I have seen the movie many times, I could not remember the music or how important it was to the plot of the film. This then is a wonderful reference book, and it will drive Hitchcock fans back into their DVDs to attend to the master with new ears.

Sullivan begins, of course, with Hitchcock's first picture after his silent days, _Blackmail_. Hitchcock used the music in this initial film the same way he would use it throughout his career, like using a harp for a demonic sequence (when harps are usually angelic) and using cheerful music as an irony to what is being shown on the screen. Using a musical tune as an important part of the plot is one of Hitchcock's many tricks. In _The Lady Vanishes_, the tune itself is Hitchcock's "MacGuffin", the otherwise unimportant device upon which the whole plot turns, because the tune is an encryption of a state secret. In _Shadow of a Doubt_, "The Merry Widow" waltz is intricately important to the plot, leading to the identification of Uncle Charlie as a murderer. Hitchcock was brilliant at using "source music", the kind of music that might be heard by the characters in a scene as a theater orchestra or a radio plays nearby. In _Rear Window_, there is traditional movie music from an invisible source only at the very end of the movie; all the rest of the music has been from radios and phonographs owned by the people being viewed through the windows.

There are fine stories here about the famous Hitchcock / Bernard Herrmann collaboration and its eventual break-up, as well as about David O. Selznick's meddlesome but often valuable recommendations on music and other aspects of _Rebecca_, Hitchcock's first Hollywood effort and his first use of a lush Hollywood score. Among the wonderful anecdotes are those about _Psycho_ itself, and how Herrmann's stubborn insistence on getting his music into the film kept the movie as a feature rather than a television show. Hitchcock had not wanted any music in the shower scene, for instance, but Herrmann asked him to view the scene without music, followed by a version with music. Hitchcock quickly settled on the version with music, whereupon Herrmann made the mock-petulant remark, "But you requested that we not add any music," getting the reply, "Improper suggestion, my boy, improper suggestion." Best of all, _Hitchcock's Music_ concentrates attention on a vital aspect of Hitchcock's success, one that is not always appreciated. Sullivan certainly appreciates the innovative and complicated ways Hitchcock worked musically, and any fan of the movies will fine new reasons here to admire them.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book on the film composer's role and Hitchcock's role in the scores for his films 1 Jan 2007
By Wayne Klein - Published on Amazon.com
If you're a Hitchcock fan, you already know how well Hitchcock used music in his films. Hitchcock was the ultimately leader/collaborator--he knew what he wanted for his films and had a strong instinct which collaborators would do the best job of bringing their talent to his films. His work with Herrmann is celebrated but he worked well with other film composers as well. When Hitchcock's instincts betrayed him (as the author of this book points out) it's usually because his commercial instincts took the lead over his artistic ones; "Torn Curtain" a flawed Hitchcock film with a number of marvelous set pieces would have been much improved with the original music that Bernard Herrmann composed. Hitchcock fired Herrmann when he didn't deliver a commercial score with a hit song or melody that could pull in a lucrative profit. Sullivan also accurately points out that while Hitchcock was great at collaboration he ultimately was THE boss and would get rid of things he felt didn't fit in with his decisions (right or wrong) for a film.

Hitchcock at his best (as Sullivan accurately points out) knew the impact of music to enhance a film not distract from it. Once Hitchcock had control of his films, he pushed the various composers he worked with (from Steiner, Rozsa to Herrmann)to follow their muse just making sure that it fit in with his ultimate vision for the film. He may have been a micromanager but he gave the composers that worked on his films tremendous freedom on some projects. For example Herrmann envisioned the "score" for "The Birds" to primarily be the sounds (electronically created) of the creatures themselves. Herrmann's instincts were in perfect synch with Hitchcock's and the result was a great film "score" that perfectly complimented the film.

After Herrmann and Hitchcock parted ways there really wasn't a composer that produced work that truly enhanced Hitchcock's films (although the single collaboration with composer John Williams came close I personally feel that Jerry Goldsmith would probably have been a better choice for "Family Plot")which is too bad--when the quality of his films fell and as audience taste changed, Hitchcock was increasingly vunerable. A solid score by a composer that understood his films well would have done a lot to improve some of Hitchcock's lesser, later films.

The book may be a bit too academic for casual film fans so just be aware of that. I'd suggest taking a look at the book to see if it will appeal to you prior to buying it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book on the music of Hitchcock's films 8 May 2007
By Bob Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Author Jack Sullivan is a modern-day prophet. His writings about horror, music, & films are all top-notch. This book on Hitchcock is just amazing! After reading Sullivan's chapter on each film, I'm watching (or re-watching) those films that I can find, and seeing them with new insight. This is one of the best books on film & music that I have ever read. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for all Hitchcock fans! 20 April 2011
By Samuel J. Tomaino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Hitchcock & of movie music in general. This books was absolutely perfect and I enjoyed it tremendously. Even bought a copy for a friend. Highly recommended!
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