Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Citizen Kane (Herrmann, 1941)

     Bernard Herrmann's score to "Citizen Kane" is an amazing tour-de-force of stylistic synergy in a musical narrative, and the fact that it was his very first film score makes it even more impressive.  However, Herrmann did have the advantage of working previously with director Orson Welles on dozens of live radio dramas in New York City (and also, working with a feature often voted "the greatest film ever made" doesn't hurt).

     Brought in fairly early in the filming process, Herrmann worked with Welles and editor Robert Wise very closely, and even recorded the opera source music before the scene was actually shot.  The rest of the score was recorded at the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941.

     The backbone of the film is a reporter's search to the mystery of "Rosebud", Kane's last utterance, and these framing sequences are scored with appropriately gothic and morbid textures.  The interviewee's flashbacks are populated with optimistic early 20th-Century jazz-flavored dances, in line with such classical works as Bizet's "Carmen" (Les Toreadors), Offenbach's "Orpheus" Galop, Khachaturian's "Sabre-Dance", etc...  One of the most skillfully-crafted musical sequences of the film is the "Theme and Variations" which twists around a Viennese waltz to musically symbolize the gradually-cooling marriage between Kane and his first wife over a montage of breakfast sequences.  Another notable cue is the complex source music for the opera scene mentioned earlier, in which Kane's second wife Susan has to sing "badly" (but not so bad that it is unrealistic or farcical).

     Thematically, there are 3 main motifs which occur:
  • Destiny motif (or "Power motif"): 5 note figure, falling on the 2nd note, rising on the 3rd, repeating, then falling (this sequence is ingeniously symbolic of Kane's fall from childhood innocence, rise to fame, two marriages, and eventual lonely death).
  • Rosebud motif: Rising theme which zig-zags upwards (striving towards goodness, innocence).
  • Inquirer motif: Sardonic, humorous figure associated with Kane's newspaper, reflective of the "pulp" nature of his reportage.
     The Destiny and Rosebud motifs are generally applied in a style which would eventually come to be known as "Herrmannesque": dark, nuanced, psychologically complex.  The opening Prelude (probably one of the most brilliantly-crafted pieces of cinema and music in the last century and described in more detail below) eventually leads to the early Inquirer newspaper scenes, which use optimistic, entrepreneurial dances as their basic flavor, reflecting the ambitions of a young man in America.  These cues include:
  • Galop
  • Kane's New Office
  • New Hornpipe Polka
  • Carter's Exit ("Exit theme")
  • Chronicle Scherzo
  • Bernstein's Presto (unused)
  • Kane's Return ("Exit theme" reprise)
  • Kane Marries (dance arrangement of Mendelssohn Wedding March)

     Beginning from Kane's first encounter with Susan, the musical tone becomes somewhat more psychologically-layered, as the Destiny and Rosebud motifs fight for dominance.  Near the end, a final bit of "jazz" is visited in "Kane's Picnic", but instead of an energetic dance, the texture is steeped more in cheap squalor and stubborn futility.  The Finale revisits material from the Prelude, and finally answers the mystery of Rosebud (Herrmann notes that the music has given away the secret very early on, as the Rosebud motif is heard when young Kane is first seen playing on the eponymous sled).

     There have been 5 notable re-recordings of the Citizen Kane score (though the original score has sadly never surfaced):
  • Herrmann-conducted "Welles Raises Kane" Suite with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1968)
  • Charles Gerhardt's Citizen Kane Suite with the National Philharmonic Orchestra (with Kiri Te Kanawa) (1974)
  • Tony Bremner's complete score with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra (with Rosamund Illing) (1991)
  • Joel McNeely's complete score with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (with Janice Watson) (1999)
  • Rumon Gamba's complete score with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (with Orla Boylan) (2010)
     The below analysis uses the track timings from the Gamba recording, since the Bremner and McNeely recordings have individual tracks for most of the cues and so timings are not necessary (I mostly used the McNeely recording for the analysis itself, however).  All 5 recordings have their own virtues, and sometimes differ in their orchestrations (the Bremner recording is also notable in that it is the only release which includes the "opera collage" sequence).  The film score also uses a variety of tracked sources (including the "News of the World" film-within-a-film holding 31 edits!) and the listing for these cues can be seen in the Citizen Kane cue listing.

Trk Time
Title Film Sequence
0:00 Prelude 0:00: No Trespassing sign, slow pan up steel fence to distant shot of Xanadu with "K" gate in foreground, overlaid with monkeys in cages.
Destiny motif in low brass/winds/gong, then in low winds.
0:21: Rosebud motif in low brass/winds, Destiny motif in low winds becoming a 2-note figure in contrary motion.
Montage of zoo, boat dock, golf course, etc. leading to exterior lit bedroom, which suddenly goes dark.
0:58: Rosebud in vibraphone, falling wind figure, Destiny motif in low winds, then repeated with brass/timpani swell, rest.
1:41: Interior bedroom fades into snow globe miniature house close up.  Camera quickly pulls back and Kane drops the snow globe ("Rosebud...")...
Rosebud in winds, developed, rest.
2:05: Snow globe rolls and shatters, and Kane apparently dies.  A nurse pulls the sheets over his face.  The sun rises.
Rising vibraphone/muted brass into accent and winding low winds, Destiny fragment in muted brass, Rosebud in winds/vibraphone, falling low winds/strings/gong end cadence.
(followed by library music under "News on the March" describing Xanadu, the death of Charles Foster Kane, and the history of the Kane news empire; Kane's controversial personal history).
2:56 Rain
(Susan In Nightclub)
(Partially used, fades into jazz source) Camera pans outside the El Rancho nightclub, featuring Susan Alexander Kane.
High, hypnotic, wavering layers in winds/strings/vibr./celeste joined by wind counter figures, modulating upwards, low winds climb and waver. 
4:06 Thatcher Library
At the mausoleum-like Thatcher Memorial Library, Thompson is given strict instructions on his access to Thatcher's diary manuscript.
Reverent ("Greek antiquity" texture) variation of Destiny motif in muted brass/harp/winds, reverent figure in low winds, subdued muted trumpets.
5:11 Manuscript Reading And Snow Picture After the vault door is closed, Thompson reads Thatcher's diary entry about Kane in a starkly lit room.
Accent into subdued reverent muted brass, reverent figure developed and joined by "tic toc" winds/harp ostinato.
(Partially used, 5:56) Camera focuses on Thatcher's diary account and dissolves into a snowy scene with Kane as a child riding a sled and throwing a snowball.
Layers of high wind and string trills build into harp glissando followed by Rosebud motif in strings, harp gliss into muted brass accent, chimes, playful high wind/harp dialogue, rising vibraphone into end wind accent.
6:33 Mother's Sacrifice Kane's mother calls to her son outside.  She somberly prepares to give her son over to Thatcher's care.  Outside, she introduces Charles to Thatcher.
Destiny motif in low brass/tremolo strings, falling strings, joined by regretful clarinet.
7:24 Charles and Thatcher Charles knocks Thatcher into the snow with his sled and tries to run away.  His father threatens him and Charles gives Thatcher a dirty look.
Brief subdued oboe/brass fanfare, rising string figure building to tense accent.
Camera holds on the abandoned sled gathering snow.
Rosebud motif in bassoon/tremolo strings.
Dissolve to a somewhat unhappy Charles getting a new sled from Thatcher at Christmas.
Sleigh bells, wind trills.
0:00 Galop Montage of Thatcher reading Kane's Inquirer newspaper and its exposes of the bank trusts and other financial institution abuses, as well as a suspicious story about Spanish galleons near New Jersey.  Ends with Thatcher confronting a calm Kane.
Galop/can-can rhythm in layers of brass/winds/percussion/strings, flute/oboe solos, ending in brass/drums cadence.
0:48 Dissolve To Thatcher Reading Document Kane jokes that at his current rate of financial loss, he will have to close the Inquirer in 60 years.  Dissolve to Thatcher's diary and the Depression's effects on Kane's paper.
Sardonic Inquirer motif in muted brass figures leading into subdued Destiny motif in brass/timpani.
1:04 Second Manuscript (Partially used) Kane tells Thatcher that he would have liked to have been a different man, one that Thatcher would have hated.  In the present, Thompson continues reading the Thatcher manuscript.
Destiny motif developed in muted brass layers, joined by high tic-toc wind ostinato.
1:50 Thanks Thompson wryly thanks the Thatcher Library custodians; scene changes to an interview with Bernstein.
Sardonic muted brass/high wind figures.
1:58 Bernstein's Narration (Unused) Bernstein reminisces on a the fleeting glimpse of a girl from the past, and reflects on Kane's passing.
Pastoral flute over gently rocking string rhythm, poignant winds.
3:18 Kane's New Office (Partially used) Kane, Leland and Bernstein arrive at the newly-bought Inquirer newspaper building and staff.
Inquirer motif in clarinet joined by brass rhythm/drums with Destiny motif in trumpet figures, developed on trumpet, trombone, etc.
4:14 New Hornpipe Polka Kane moves in to Carter's office, and decides to have the paper open 24 hours instead of just 12.
Tic-toc low winds/percussion joined by can-can wind rhythm, developed and ending in a wry wind cadence.
4:57 Carter's Exit Carter indignantly leaves the Inquirer building.  Kane, Leland and Bernstein work through the night to prepare the next morning's paper.
Can-can "Exit" rhythm in winds and brass dialogues, ethereal strings and subdued winds.
5:38 Chronicle Scherzo Kane's "Declaration of Principles" is printed on the Inquirer front page.  In a montage, Kane acquires the staff of the competing Chronicle newspaper.
Dance-like brass rhythm with timpani/xylophone and developed wind dialogues, joined by percussion and strings.
6:52 Bernstein's Presto (Unused) Bernstein tells Leland that he has received a cable from Kane in Paris.
Exuberant can-can rhythm in brass/timpani, winds/snare.
0:00 Kane's Return Kane returns from a trip abroad with a special "social" announcement.
Can-can "Exit" rhythm in brass/timpani, wind/brass/pizz string dialogues.
0:30 Collecting Statues (Unused) Inquirer motif in winds/muted brass, harp gliss into pizz bass figure.
0:45 Valse Presentation (Partially used) Leland and Bernstein see Kane with his new fiance, a niece of the President's.  Scene cuts back to present and Bernstein talking with Thompson.
Romantic string waltz with pizz rhythm, joined by wind ornaments, ending in brass/wind flourishes.
1:51 Sunset Narrative Thompson visits Leland at the hospital.  Leland speaks well of Kane but with some subtle bitterness.  He begins talking about Kane's first marriage.
Muted brass/tremolo strings, hesitant low textures becoming wistful winds/ string figures, joined by dialogue of muted brass, poignant strings and reflective winds.
4:32 Theme And Variations: Theme:
Valse Tempo
Kane and his first wife Emily enjoy an intimate breakfast.  Kane compliments her beauty.
Theme in a graceful mid-tempo string waltz ending with wind ornament.
5:29 Var. I.
Allegretto Scherzando
Emily criticizes Kane for being late.
Theme in staccato wind and pizz. string figures, ending in muted brass accent.
5:47 II.
Emily becomes jealous of the newspaper.  Kane criticizes her uncle the President.
Theme as a dialogue between tremolo high winds and haughty muted trumpets/horns, supported by harp/pizz. string accents, ending in muted brass.
6:16 III.
(Unused) Playful staccato figure echoed as a dialogue in various winds and strings, ending in harp gliss and soft string cadence.
6:33 IV.
Allegro Agitato
Kane and Emily get snippy about Bernstein's gift.
Alarmed/accented winds/strings against bass plucks, muted brass, theme fragment building in strings.
6:55 V.
When Emily criticizes Kane's paper, Kane snaps at her.
Dark muted brass/winds/harp into Destiny motif in forlorn muted horn.
7:07 VI.
Valse Lento
Emily begins reading the Chronicle at the table in silence.  Montage ends and scene cuts back to Leland and Thompson.
Cold, ethereal strings (variation of Destiny motif) with harp rhythm.
0:00 Kane Meets Susan After Kane is soiled with mud, Susan offers him some hot water in her apartment.  Susan moans about her toothache.  Kane closes the door to Susan's bedroom.
Rosebud motif in violin over soft strings/harp (or clarinet) arpeggio, string accent.
0:27 Susan's Room 0:00: Kane and Susan flirt in her bedroom.  Kane wiggles his ears and makes shadow figures to amuse Susan.  Susan claims to not know who Kane really is.
Gently rolling strings joined by Rosebud motif developed in flute/violin, clarinet/soft strings, soft strings/harp arpeggio with Rosebud motif in flute, clarinet.
2:06: Kane tells Susan that he was originally on his way to a warehouse to search for his lost youth among the items.
Soft falling strings, rising-falling clarinet.
2:39 Mother Memory (Unused) Alternate version of Susan's Room part 2.
Soft falling strings, rising-falling clarinet, high string tremolo.
3:11 The Trip to Susan's Emily tells Kane that she is going to visit Susan's address.  Kane joins her and they arrive at Susan's doorstep ("I had no idea you had this flair for melodrama, Emily.").
Eerie held textures in winds/organ/bass drum (or vibraphone and brass).
4:07 Gettys' Departure Gettys and Emily leave Susan's doorstep.  A sordid story of Kane and Susan is published.  Leland is disappointed.
Eerie figures in contrary motion joined by growing strings/brass, drum and brass end cadence.
4:39 Kane Marries Kane marries Susan and tells reporters that he plans to make Susan an opera star.
Roy Webb arrangement of Mendelssohn Wedding March with a triumphant fanfare.
0:00 Salammbô's Aria A frantic scramble precedes Susan's appearance on the Chicago opera stage.  When Susan begins singing, the camera pans up towards some stagehands expressing their disapproval.  Later in Susan's subsequent flashback, Leland is seen making paper cutouts out of the program notes, and Kane overhears some mocking voices.
0:00: Exclamatory brass figures with wind and percussion accents, leading to sweeping strings, brass/string tremoli, dark brass/string/percussion cadence.
0:40: Vocal recitative supported by tremolo strings with poignant brass figures, wind ornaments, harp gliss.
1:31: Soft string rhythm supporting swaying aria with wind ornaments, brass swells.
2:41: Aria cont'd with brass fanfares, wind ornaments/string accents.
3:10: Aria with swelling tutti figures, building to a soaring climax.
0:00 Leland's Dismissal (Partially used) As Kane finishes Leland's negative review of Susan's performance, he tells Leland he's fired.  The scene cuts back to the present with Leland and Thompson.
Dark winds/brass/timpani swells into accents, muted, sour Inquirer motif in brass figures, forlorn winds, eerie held winds/organ.
1:10 New Dawn Music (Partially used, fades into jazz source) Leland leaves with his nurses.  Scene cuts to a Susan Alexander Kane poster below the El Rancho nightclub sign.  The camera pans in through a window to Susan and Thompson.
Slow, optimistic muted brass figure into "tic-toc" winds/relaxed strings/vibraphone.
2:05 Xanadu Xanadu is seen in the murky distance.  Inside, Susan works on a jigsaw puzzle.  Susan complains to Kane that she is lonely and misses New York.  Kane resists.
Destiny motif in suffocating, muted brass, accents, Destiny developed in winds, muted brass, joined by tremolo strings/vibraphone accents, falling brass figures, partial Rosebud in muted brass, cut off by timpani/low winds.
4:11 Jigsaws (Partially used) Montage of Susan working on jigsaw puzzles.
"Perpetual motion" tic-toc rhythm in woodblock with wind trill accents/held piccolo, joined by pizz. string rhythm (ending in string swell, unused).
5:30 Second Xanadu Kane asks Susan about her jigsaw puzzles.  Susan criticizes his statue collecting.  Sitting far away, Kane tells Susan that he is planning a picnic for her and the guests, but Susan is not very interested.
Unused: Brass alarm fanfares, low winds/timpani accents.
5:43: Winding flute ostinato/ethereal strings, developed in winds, joined by Destiny motif in horns, falling-rising wind phrase, distant muted trumpet fanfares.
0:00 Kane's Picnic In the back of a car, Susan tells Kane that he never gives her anything she really cares about.  A caravan of cars slowly crawls along the beach.
Sardonic muted brass/bassoon over lumbering piano/string/perc. rhythm ("Tempo d. Blues").
0:26 Susan Leaves (Unused in film)
Gamba "extended" version:
Soft muted Destiny winds/Rosebud clarinet variation joined with bass plucks, muted Destiny brass, Rosebud bass flute/timpani, rest...Soft muted Destiny winds/Rosebud clarinet variation with bass plucks, muted Destiny brass,  Rosebud bass flute/timpani, developed on winds, bass plucks, timpani, rest...Soft muted Destiny winds/Rosebud clarinet variation with bass plucks, muted Destiny brass, Rosebud bass flute, falling winds with bass plucks.
McNeely version:
Soft Rosebud/Destiny motif developed in bass flute/clarinet, joined with bass plucks, soft muted Destiny winds joined with bass plucks, muted Destiny brass, Rosebud bass flute, falling winds with bass plucks.
2:51 El Rancho In the present, Susan notices that it's morning.  The camera pulls back to the El Rancho nightclub sign and then cuts to the "K" on Xanadu's metal gate, as Thompson begins interviewing Raymond.
Gentle winds rhythm joined by strings, interrupted by harsh brass/timpani Destiny motif as accents, Rosebud winds (cue repeated 2x on Gamba version).
4:23 The Glass Ball In Raymond's flashback (after Kane has trashed Susan's bedroom, picked up a nostalgia-inducing snow globe, and tearfully muttered "Rosebud"), Kane walks out of the room past stunned servants, slipping Susan's snow globe into his coat pocket.  He passes a hall of mirrors.  The scene returns to Raymond and Thompson in the present.
Low pulses, joined by uneasy Rosebud motif in bass flute/viola, developed in strings/muted horns, winding oboe/bassoon, Destiny in muted horns (with trombone accent, unused).
5:51 Finale The reporters leave Xanadu and the camera pans over a seemingly infinite number of crates and souvenirs.  It finally lands on a sled. 
Somber wind/brass/string textures, Destiny in muted brass, low winds, rising muted horns over low pulses, bassoon figure, Destiny in distant brass.
The sled is picked up and tossed into a fire, where the word "Rosebud" is seen on it's face, melting away.
Wind/string trill over timpani roll/accents, ominous muted brass, building to Rosebud in tremolo strings/brass, wind trills, developed.
The camera dissolves to an exterior shot of smoke from the chimney rising into the sky.
Timpani swell into brass/timpani Destiny fanfare, developed.
The scene dissolves to a descending pan over the Xanadu fence back to the opening No Trespassing sign, followed by a long shot of Xanadu with the "K" gate in the foreground.
Destiny in distant muted brass, building to ending brass cadence.

Citizen Kane Score Wiki Entry
Citizen Kane Cue Sheet 
"Score for a Film: Composer Tells of Problems Solved in Music for 'Citizen Kane'" (New York Times, May 25, 1941, Bernard Herrmann)
Bill Wrobel Rundown of Citizen Kane (PDF)
Citizen Kane Leitmotifs and Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead (Mark Richards essay)
The Film Music Of Bernard Herrmann: Hangover Square & Citizen Kane (Rumon Gamba, PDF notes)
Citizen Kane (Film score with dialogue/FX) on Spotify
Citizen Kane (Rumon Gamba) on Spotify
Citizen Kane (Joel McNeely) on Spotify
Citizen Kane (Bernard Herrmann rerecording) on Spotify 
Citizen Kane ("The Symphony Orchestra" rerecording, includes Newsreel source) on Spotify

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article, thank you for sharing your notes and research on the films score