Monday, May 9, 2016

Vertigo (Herrmann, 1958)

     The director-composer relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann is a legendary one and probably reached its zenith in 1958's "Vertigo" (though frankly there are MANY contenders for this title in their joint filmography).  In any case this production showcases a virtually perfect example of how music enriches a film sequence and provides narrative information to the audience even without them knowing about it.

     In this film, a detective, Scottie, finds out that he has a fear of heights.  He is soon hired to follow an old friend's wife, Madeleine, who acts as if she is possessed by an ancestral spirit.  Eventually Scottie falls in love with Madeleine, but she falls to her death, due partially to Scottie's affliction with vertigo.

     After a nervous breakdown, Scottie runs across a woman, Judy, who looks like the dead Madeleine and tries to remake her into the dead woman.  In reality, Judy IS Madeleine, as she had earlier pretended to be Madeleine in order to help Scottie's old friend stage a suicide.  In any case, the main theme of the film is Scottie's obsession with the dead woman and his desire to create a false reflection of her, despite the fact that Judy really IS Madeleine. 

Prelude Structure
     Musically, the Prelude provides a Main Title which is a kind of crystal encapsulation all of the musical motifs which will unfold in the ensuing picture.
  • Intro (Fanfare): Falling/rising triplets in contrary motion on violins/winds/vibraphone with 4 slowly descending brass chords.  This 4-note falling motif (and variations) occurs many times and is a variation of the Love theme ending.
  • A: Contrary motion motif in harp/celeste, with the 4-note motif as isolated brass accents with flute/clarinet/vibraphone/violin triplets.  The 4th accent features Hammond organ.
  • Bridge: Rising violin/flute trills.
  • B: Contrary motion motif and 4-note motif developed in sweeping brass/winds and flute/clarinet/string arpeggios.
  • A': Cascading variation of falling/rising contrary motion motif with 4-note descending brass motif.
  • B: Contrary motion motif and 4-note motif developed in sweeping brass/winds and flute/clarinet/string arpeggios.
  • Coda: Pizzicato variation of  falling/rising motif as coda.
     Herrmann creates several themes from the Prelude by stacking notes or shifting intervals into different shapes, but still maintaining a distinct rising/falling, somewhat "reflective" feeling.
  • Pursuit motif: a churning, compressed version of the Prelude theme as a suspense ostinato, supported by swelling brass, and used on the rooftop and whenever Scottie climbs stairs.
  • Vertigo motif: swirling polychord (derived from Prelude theme) featuring brass and wild harp glissandi, used for when Scottie experiences vertigo.
  • Love theme: a sweeping love theme starting with 3 rising notes going into 4 slow falling notes (the 4-note motif from Prelude).  The 4-note motif is repeated with ornaments and modulated.  The Love theme first appears in "Farewell" when Madeleine briefly hints at her true feelings.  It haunts Scottie in the second half of the picture. 
  • Madeleine theme: slow wandering figure which first appears in the beginning of track 2's "Madeleine", a somewhat melancholy "unfulfilled" version of the Love theme (3 rising, 3 falling, 1 rising and then falling, etc..).  Vertigo is largely made up of many complex Madeleine variations, though in the table below I sometimes just say "Madeleine's theme" for brevity's sake.
  • Carlotta motif: Spanish "habanera" 4-note rhythm on one pitch, usually with a counter figure.
  • Following motif: irregular 6-note rhythm used whenever Scottie spies on Madeleine.

     The below listing is based on the 1996 expanded Varèse Sarabande release of the soundtrack to Vertigo (original recording conducted by Muir Mathieson, partially in mono), though the descriptions below should be handy when listening to the 1995 rerecording by Joel McNeely as well (except for "Scottie Trails Madeleine", which is a slightly different cue ending than the Mathieson recording).  The table below describes the film sequences for each cue and a brief note about the music elements.

     The musical analysis here is admittedly scant for a complex score such as this, and in fact an entire book by David Cooper has been written about this score (which I don't have, unfortunately), as well as innumerable theses and music papers.  Tom Schneller's paper on the Farewell scene is especially interesting and was helpful in identifying a few theme transformations (see link at bottom).  I'm very tempted to write "full analyses" of certain favorite cues (perhaps another day), but suffice to say that each cue is a perfect microcosm of musical drama, and each also serves as a case study in film scoring at its highest level. 

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence
1 4:44 Prelude 0:00: Logos, Titles over woman's face (Intro fanfare, Prelude A).
0:59: Spiral imagery begins (Bridge, Prelude B).
1:44: (Cascading variation: Prelude A').
2:20: Music credits (Prelude B).
2:44: A spiral image settles into woman's eye, director credit (Coda).
Rooftop 2:58: Scottie and a policeman chase a suspect over rooftops. Scottie ends up hanging by his fingertips after an attack of vertigo (Pursuit motif in layers of swirling strings/winds, swelling brass figures).
3:48: A policeman falls to his death when he tries to help Scottie (timpani roll into Vertigo motif (dissonant brass/vibraphone/harp strums, etc), ending in rising brass figure and timpani roll).
2 6:19 Scotty Trails Madeline
(suite of 6 cues)
0:00: Madeleine (Madeleine's 1st Appearance): Scottie is fascinated when he sees Madeleine at Ernie's restaurant (Madeleine theme developed on violins over soft strings, ending on poignant cello figure).
1:16: Madeleine's Car: Scottie follows Madeleine's car (Following rhythmic motif on clarinets/bass clarinets, joined by Madeleine theme developed on violins, then Following rhythm on strings/Madeleine theme on clarinet/oboe, back to Following motif on clarinets/Madeleine on strings).
3:09: Scottie follows Madeleine into a dark building (Following motif in pizz strings and low winds, falling clarinets, strings).
3:50: The Flower Shop: Scottie spies on Madeleine shopping for flowers (yearning Madeleine theme in violins over soft clarinets).
4:25: Alleyway: He returns to his car before Madeleine exits (harp strums and short string figures, clarinet ornaments).  Madeleine gets in her car.
5:02: The Mission: Scottie follows Madeleine as she drives to Mission Dolores.  She enters and he follows (slowly descending organ/wind/string layers).
5:41: Mission Organ: Source music inside the mission, Madeleine exits to the connected graveyard and Scottie follows (church organ theme).
3 1:57 Carlotta's Portrait 0:00: Scottie observes Madeleine at the art gallery sitting in front of a portrait.  He notices that her flowers and hair echo the painting's subject.  He learns that the painting is a "Portrait of Carlotta" (Carlotta motif in harp under slow figures in flutes, clarinets, muted horns, etc., supported by violins/vibraphone).
4 2:59 The Bay 0:00: Scottie follows Madeleine as she drives to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge inside the Presidio (hopeful Madeleine theme variation on viola/celli/horn over harp/violin arpeggio, joined by winds, brass, strings, flute). 
1:00: Madeleine exits her car and drops flowers into the water as Scottie looks on, puzzled (delicate vibraphone with held string textures/wind ornaments).
1:52: Madeleine jumps into the bay (horn/string fanfares with high falling wind figure) and Scottie rushes to retrieve her unconscious, floating form (rising/falling wind/string figures and tremolo strings).  He puts her in his car and drives them both back to his apartment (soft strings variation of Madeleine theme).
5 2:56 By the Fireside 0:00: Scottie leaves Madeleine in his bedroom so she can get dressed (4-note motif as falling suspense violins).
0:20: Madeleine enters the living room in his bathrobe and suspiciously asks Scottie what is going on (Madeleine theme developed on poignant violins).  They discuss her trips to the Presidio (thoughtful variation, hesitantly returning to poignant feeling).
6 2:25 The Streets 0:00: Scottie follows Madeleine's car again and is puzzled by her random path.  She finally ends up at Scottie's own apartment (Following motif in strings with Madeleine theme in winds, strings, winds, ending in a rising falling figure in various instruments).
7 3:48 The Forest 0:00: Scottie and Madeleine walk in an old forest and discuss the past (foreboding 2-note figures as swells in muted brass/bass, rising brass/wind harmony alternating with falling figures).
1:21: Madeleine looks at the rings inside a cut tree trunk and makes strange statements (2-note figure developed into 8-note figure in eerie high winds and muted brass).
"Somewhere in here, I was born, and there I died."
1:58: Madeleine disappears from view behind a tree (throbbing organ/low winds/vibraphone).
2:31: Scottie finds Madeleine in a daze and tries to psychoanalyze her (8-note figure in eerie high winds with organ, low winds, rising falling muted brass harmonies).
3:28: Scottie escorts her out of the forest (resigned cor anglais ending figure).
8 3:31 The Beach 0:00: Scottie and Madeleine talk on a small beach (poignant strings variation of Madeleine theme with horns, bassoon, cor anglais).
0:39: Madeleine describes walking down a dark corridor towards darkness and a lonely room (slowly falling strings in 2 layers with intermittent flute/clarinet chords).
1:38: She describes a graveyard image (swelling trombone/tuba, low clarinets).
2:03: Madeleine describes a dream of a Spanish bell tower with a garden below it (Carlotta motif in violins with flute, clarinet).  She worries that she is going mad (tremolo strings).
2:39: Madeleine runs off and Scottie pursues her (poignant Madeleine winds/strings).  They embrace and then finally kiss as waves break on the rocks behind them (triumphant sweeping Madeleine brass/winds/tremolo strings).
9 2:46 The Dream 0:00: Madeleine visits Scottie and claims to have had another bad dream (poignant Madeleine variation in falling violins).
0:32: Madeleine describes the dream's details.  Scottie tells her that the dream's location is a real Spanish mission (Carlotta motif in violas joined with dialoguing clarinets, strings, flutes, with vibraphone accents).
2:06: Scottie tries to comfort Madeleine and offers to take her to the mission (variation of beginning section: poignant Madeleine variation in falling strings).
10 6:58 Farewell 0:00: Scottie and Madeleine drive down the highway.  Madeleine looks somewhat guilty (reprise of The Bay opening: hopeful Madeleine theme variation on viola/celli/horn over harp/violin arpeggio, joined by winds, brass, strings, flute arpeggios).
0:40: The couple arrive at the Spanish mission, San Juan Batista (Carlotta motif in flute/violins/brass).
1:12: Scottie questions Madeleine as she sits in a carriage in the livery stable.  She talks of her past visions (high falling, rising winds/strings over Carlotta motif in horns/harp accents).
2:33: The two embrace and kiss (strings/winds play Love theme fragments into Madeleine theme (2:41)).
3:16: Madeleine tells Scottie that "It's too late" and runs off (Madeleine theme fragments repeated and transformed).  Scottie catches up with her but she seems torn (Love theme finally achieved, briefly, at 3:58).
"If you lose me, then you'll know I...I loved you and I wanted to go on loving you."
4:05: Madeleine tears herself away from Scottie and enters the mission church (Love theme again twisted into a poignant variation on brass, tremolo strings).
Tower 4:18: Scottie sees the bell tower and chases Madeleine into the church, but finds the main hall empty (Vertigo chords in brass, winds).
4:36: Scottie sees the stairs up to the tower and begins climbing after Madeleine (Pursuit motif in strings/brass intercut with soft Vertigo harmonies in vibraphone/winds/muted brass).  He experiences vertigo attacks but continues climbing (Vertigo motif in brass/harp, brass tremolo accents enter). 
5:15: Madeleine's body falls past him in a window and ends up lifeless on the ground (high winds/brass/harp, percussion crash, brass/timpani roll). 
5:36: A panicked Scottie begins climbing back down the stairs (Vertigo chords in brass, soft brass/wind swells). 
6:06: He exits the church as Madeleine's body is found by church staff (low brass figures). 
6:29: The scene cuts to Scottie's trial (mysterious high string and low wind figures).
11 3:33 The Nightmare 0:00: Scottie visits Madeleine's grave (Love theme in violins, joined by winds).
0:32: Scottie begins to have a bizarre nightmare with images related to Carlotta and her flowers, as well as a necklace (low winds joined by rising tremolo viola and violin figures and Carlotta's motif in horns/strings/tambourine/castanets, etc.).  Scottie approaches an empty grave (Carlotta motif in low brass).
1:34: Scottie's head is seen falling down a tunnel, followed by a falling silhouette (layers of rising string/wind figures, joined by rising horns/tubas, Vertigo brass chords).  Scottie wakes up in a panic (cymbal crash).  He is next seen in a mental institution (low brass).
Dawn 2:03: A despondent Midge leaves the institution (despondent low strings). 
2:27: The camera pans across a beautiful San Francisco morning (hopeful harp/strings/winds).  Scottie waits outside Madeleine's old apartment and sees a woman come out (Love theme on brass, winds).
3:11: He intercepts her at Madeleine's old car and finds out she bought it from Madeleine's husband (soft tremolo strings, rising expectantly and ending with an accent).
12 3:14 The Past 0:00: Scottie visits Ernie's restaurant and imagines seeing Madeleine there (Love theme in strings/winds, Madeleine theme in strings, tremolo string harmonics).
0:52: Scottie visits the art gallery and the flower shop where he followed Madeleine to (Carlotta motif in clarinets with fingerboard-bowed strings, resigned strings). 
The Girl 1:26: Scottie sees Judy Barton, a girl who, though very different, looks slightly similar to Madeleine (Love theme in strings).  He follows her and observes her entering the Empire Hotel (camera pans upwards to her upstairs window) (rising string figure).  He goes into the hotel and slowly approaches her door before knocking (poignant Love/Madeleine theme fragments, Love theme becoming thinner and thinner).
13 4:16 The Letter 0:00: After having secured a date, Scottie leaves Judy's room, and Judy appears upset (subdued falling clarinet harmonies).  She has a flashback to the Spanish church where Scottie chased her (as Madeleine) up the stairs.  At the very top Gavin throws a different body from the tower (Pursuit motif in strings/brass).
0:53: The flashback ends and Judy begins to pack (determined string figure with muted horn accents). 
1:20: She pauses to finger Madeleine's suit dress, and then continues to pack (high wind/harp accent, then softer, less decisive string figures).
1:53: She begins narrating a letter to Scottie ("Dear Scottie.  And so you found me...").  She explains that Scottie was just a tool in Gavin's plot to kill his wife.  She admits that she really did fall in love with him and then wonders if she could make him love her for her true self and not the false Madeleine (subdued figures in growing layers of strings).
3:32: Judy rips the letter up and begins to unpack (accelerating fragment of Madeleine variation string figures with soft horn accents).
14 3:07 Goodnight 0:00: Scottie drives Judy back to the hotel and escorts her to her room (peaceful strings).  He insists on seeing her the next day (Madeleine variation in violins over swelling/tremolo strings).
1:25: Judy sits backlit in a green silhouette which further reminds Scottie of Madeleine (Love theme mixed into Madeleine strings).  She reluctantly acquiesces to Scottie's demands and he departs (falling strings).
The Park 2:24: Scottie and Judy enjoy a beautiful day in the park amidst young lovers (cheerful strings/harp/winds, winds, low strings).
15 5:08 Scene d'Amour 0:00: Scottie impatiently waits in Judy's room for Judy to return from dying her hair blonde (Love theme in subdued high strings, developed).
1:12: Judy appears in the hotel corridor.  In her room, Scottie tries to adjust her hair to be more like Madeleine's (suspenseful flute/clarinet harmonies, Love theme in strings growing stronger).
2:15: Judy goes into the other room to complete her makeover into Madeleine, as Scottie nervously waits by the green-lit apartment window (Love theme fragments in tremolo strings (with ghostly harmonics), slowly forming full Love theme, swell).
3:06: Scottie turns and sees Madeleine emerge out of a green fog.  They embrace and kiss (Love theme in soaring strings/harp, rising variations with brass accents).
3:54: The camera pans around them as the background changes to the Spanish Mission livery stable and then back to the hotel room (Love theme briefly develops into a faster dancing figure, ending in a triumphant variation).
16 7:20 The Necklace 0:00: Scottie notices that Judy's necklace is the same one Madeleine and Carlotta wore (flashback to art gallery) (Carlotta motif in horns/flute with 4-note motif).  Judy kisses Scottie, who starts having suspicious thoughts (soft Love theme string/oboe figures intercut with Carlotta motif).
0:50: Scottie and Judy drive at night (falling brass/winds over tremolo strings).  Judy starts to suspect that they are going to the Spanish church as Scottie talks about "freeing himself from the past" (falling flute ornaments with rising horn figures in dialogue with falling flutes/clarinets).
1:53: They arrive at the Spanish mission (falling strings/horns figure).
The Return 2:11: Scottie exits the car and starts telling Judy about his last moments with Madeleine and her oddly ironic last words.  He slowly drags her into the church and towards the stairs while relaying the story (ominous variation of Farewell sequence: Madeleine theme variation on violas/clarinets, violins/bassoons, Madeleine variation fragments repeated and transformed in tremolo/sweeping strings/winds).
3:45: Scottie makes Judy ascend the stairs so he can "save her" this time (wind/muted horn accents/falling violin pizzicato accents join, Madeleine theme becomes exaggerated with accents, ornaments and tempo swings).  He follows and overcomes his vertigo attacks (Vertigo motif).  He pauses at where he originally stopped the last time (Madeleine theme slowly fades in low strings).
Finale 4:55: Scottie drags Judy up into the bell tower room and then interrogates her about what happened the day "Madeleine" died (tremolo/pizz strings and scalar clarinet ornaments, tremolo suspense strings, quiet clarinets)
"And there was where you made your mistake, Judy.  You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing."
5:54: Scottie tells Judy how much she meant to him.  Judy kisses Scottie and professes her true love for him (Love/Madeleine theme developed on strings, winds).
6:39: Judy sees a dark shape rise from the shadows and accidentally falls out the window (Hammond organ drone, pause, low brass/timpani crash).  A Church Sister (the dark shape) begins ringing the tower bell as Scottie stands on the ledge looking downwards (Love theme in brass, end cadence).  

Vertigo score Wiki Entry
Bernard Herrmann Wiki
Bernard Herrmann Society
Bernard Herrmann Society Facebook
Vertigo Film Score Rundown 
Film Score Rundowns Herrmann Page 
Herrmann Film Score Lovers Facebook
Death and Love: Bernard Herrmann's Score for Vertigo (Tom Schneller)

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