A Haunting Bernard Herrmann Score

I once read a hilarious back page article in a men's magazine, Maxim I think, relating a satirical correspondence between John Hinckley Jr. and Charles Manson. One delightful aspect (and maybe it's what made the piece) is its triviality. The whole point is that these two truly horrifying but very separate individuals are making a connection, so there should be some revealing, disturbing or at least interesting conversation. However, Hinckley writes to Manson about super mundane minutiae, and as a seeming aside, in each letter he somehow ties his overall theme to a Hitchcock film, and subsequently, its haunting Bernard Herrmann score.

A haunted and cinematic mood settled over me one morning, so I searched iTunes for, "detective music" ...nope. "private investigator" ...nothing. "film noir" ...aha! I found a few compilations, and with each result, additional suggestions. Due to the dearth of film noir compilations (I don't know what is wrong with this world,) several soundtracks and soundtrack compilations are featured, including many with, or even dedicated to, Bernard Herrmann.

Scanning them quickly, I saw, "Bernard Herrmann Film Scores: From Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver" and, "Citizen Kane: The Essential Bernard Herrmann Film Music Collection" by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Impressive. I chose the former, setting my iPhone to play through my UE Boom bluetooth speaker, which I brought it into the bathroom, and started getting ready for work.

"Citizen Kane - Suite," is the first track. I felt very haunted but also like a mystery was about to be solved. It seemed like a promising selection.

I weighed myself. Goddamnit. I remembered something in the other room—take my pills or make my bed—then returned to hear, "The Devil and Daniel Webster - The Devil's Concerto." I was unfamiliar with it but recognized the deep South style. There are fiddles... or violins sounding like fiddles. It is very, "Devil Went Down to Georgia" ... the devil's part.

My evocation of intrigue and suspense was still working though. "The Devil's Concerto," is followed by, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," which conjures an atmosphere of crime solving, zooming in on a detective's door while unseen hands reach for the knob, or walking with a cigarette on a foggy dock, a lonely streetlight illuminating just the mist around it. But wait, do I sense a shadow? (No, that's an aria, suddenly, in the middle of an otherwise perfect mood piece.)

I turned on the shower, and while I waited for it to warm, I escaped my pajamas and took the clips and ties out of my mess of hair. It had been days since I'd washed it. The water was almost right, but it's a delicate balance because I have a hot-water-on-demand-heater, so it has to be turned on, but not adjusted, for an indeterminate period before it can be further modulated. After a few, I stepped in and ahhh, the wet heat of a blessed shower. It is great, no?

Parts of me were washed, then I checked the clock. Yes! I can just make it if I don't fuss too much. I can wash my hair, comb conditioner through, towel off, haul out the blowdryer, and embark on that tedious yet somehow meditative procedure of combing, brushing and drying my mane and then yes there's more, curling the ends with an iron for that pretty bounce that I love so much. It makes me feel like a million, I tell ya.

These commonplace concerns or something similar were meandering through my mind while massaging shampoo into my soaked scalp when it happened.

The next number came on. It was intense! Like music for a scene in which you're chasing a wounded animal through a damp, early morning forest where there had been a recent disappearance.

For two minutes, that's the mood. Oh, what adventure are we embarking on!?

Then the song goes rather silent. For the next minute and a half, a very low and slow building of strings introduces the tense potential of danger, so you may even forget that you're listening to music especially with the water and washing and it being an ordinary morning in your own real life, but then it thrust through! The most unholy screeching ever known to all humanity except for perhaps a cat having sex...


I panicked! It was so terrifying. I have glass doors in my shower, so from the safety of the stall, I looked around to confirm that I was still alone in my bathroom. There appeared to be no one lurking nearby.


I considered getting out to forward to the next song or at least turn it down, but I was too afraid to step outside. I cowered in my shower, anxiously waiting for it to end.


It goes on for a while.


If I'd been in a shower with a curtain, oh hell no. I would not have been as cool as Rihanna. I would've been out of there so fast I probably would have hurt myself. It was the scariest 50 seconds of my life!


Y'know what you never want to hear—loudly and unexpectedly, or really, ever—while you're in a shower?

The theme from Psycho.


The version above has a longer intro, so the quiet part is a bit later. It's fascinating (and kind of scary!) to watch an orchestra play it, to see how they create that heart-stopping, discordant screech, and in unison. It's a wow.