MUSICA PER GLI OCCHI: BERNARD HERRMANN

a book by Mr.Doctor



One of the rarest Devil Doll-related items is undoubtedly Mr. Doctor's book MUSICA PER GLI OCCHI, written in the late `90s in both Italian and Slovene language. The latter edition, entitled GLASBA ZA OCI was financed by Slovenian National Cinematheque but it was apparently withdrawn immediately after (or immediately before?) its printing for reasons still obscure: IT IS A FACT THAT MR. DOCTOR WOULD REFUSE ANY FURTHER COLLABORATION WITH THAT INSTITUTION. Through the years we made many calls to Slovenian Cinematheque trying to understand IF the book really existed but the results were frustrating to say the least: we were said that the book was sold out and going to be re-printed soon, then we were said by another person that there had been some unspecified "problems" and the book had been shelved.
The Italian edition was not easier to locate: we knew it had been put for sale in 1999 at the Pordenone Film Festival but it took quite a long time to locate a copy, but finally we have it in our hands!! Bound in black velvet with gold inscriptions, it is a luxurious edition of 255 pages written by Mr. Doctor with help from Devil Doll piano player Francesco Carta and it is copyrighted 1998. Apart from an introduction on Film Music in general, the book opens with a short biography (pages 13-19) of Bernard Herrmann (born June 29th, 1911, in New York, the son of Russian Jewish parents emigrated to the States less than 20 years earlier: the father, Abraham DARDICK, had changed the family name into the German-sounding Herrmann a few years after re-locating to New York).
Pages 20-26 are devoted by Mr. Doctor to an analysis of Herrmann's compositional style, his "music of the irrational" with an enlightening explanation of the technical devices which make Bernard Herrmann's music so distinctive and unique: with elegance and clarity Mr. Doctor succeeds in revealing us the musical essence, the magic formula, the thumbprint of the man who has changed the world of Film Music. The main part of the book is devoted to an analysis, film by film, of Herrmann's scores (51 in all, spanning four decades): Mr. Doctor transcribes hundreds of themes from the scores and captures the "chemical formula" behind the subliminal effect of a certain motif. MUSICIANS AND MUSIC EXPERTS WILL FIND THE EXPLANATIONS TECHNICALLY FLAWLESS but the untrained reader will nevertheless be delighted as the effect of the music on the mind is extremely interesting and easily understandable.
Among the films analysed there are the Orson Welles-directed CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, plus JANE EYRE with Welles in the main role. HANGOVER SQUARE, the 1945 film-noir directed by John Brahm (and well-known to Devil Doll fans via its main character George Harvey Bone, mentioned in Dies Irae's sleeve notes) and its CONCERTO MACABRE FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA are also put under Mr. Doctor's magnifying-glass. Apart from the famous soundtracks written for Alfred Hitchcock (AMONG WHICH PSYCHO AND VERTIGO WERE `QUOTED' ON SACRILEGIUM AND THE SACRILEGE OF FATAL ARMS), MR. DOCTOR's BOOK PRAISES A FEW FOR MOST PEOPLE UNKNOWN SCORES, such as A HATFUL OF RAIN and THE EGYPTIAN (OF THE LATTER MR.DOCTOR SUGGESTS TO BUY A VERSION ON THE VARESE SARABANDE LABEL WITH CAT.NO. VSD-5258) and, interestingly, REVEALS THAT THE MAIN THEME OF CAPE FEAR (with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, 1962) WAS "NICKED" BY HERRMANN FROM ARNOLD SCHOENBERG'S FIRST KAMMERSYMPHONIE. No, don't worry: the "fantasy" movies for Harry Harryhausen and the two science-fiction films scored by Herrmann (the masterpiece THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, 1951, and FARENHEIT 451, 1971, of WHICH MR.DOCTOR PRAISES THE STORY by Ray Bradbury and the music but heavily criticizes the flat direction by Francois Truffaut) are all scrutinized, as are the two collaboration with Brian DePalma (SISTERS and OBSESSION) and the final soundtrack TAXI DRIVER, written by Herrmann few weeks before his sudden death in the night between December 23rd and 24th, 1975. MUSIC FOR THE EYES is completed by an analysis of Herrmann's music for television (most notably for Rod Serling's TWILIGHT ZONE: MR. DOCTOR SEEMS TO APPRECIATE IN PARTICULAR THE SCORE TO THE EPISODE LITTLE GIRL LOST), his classical compositions (a Symphony, a Sinfonietta, the opera WUTHERING HEIGHTS, a string quartet, the clarinet quintet, the Moby Dick Cantata etc), a listing of all his recording sessions and an exhaustive Discography. The book, as I said, is very hard to locate but is well worth the effort and I cannot recommend it enough!!

W.Timmer - www.devildoll.nl