Artist: Bernard Herrmann
Description: The month of October is a favorite of mine. I have an expectation for Florida to get a little cooler every October, and though it rarely does it’s sweet when it happens. More importantly, however, is that it is Halloween season. In the modern world, Halloween seems so archaic and strange when you step back and look at it. Not the Marvel super hero costumes or the pillow-case sized bags of brand candy at the store, but the fact that we as a nation partake in the macabre and in superstitions, decorating our homes with skulls, chains, monster eyes in our bushes, tombstones, pumpkins, black cats, witches, and motion-activated leering ghosts, all in the hopes to be cute with terror and death, or in the hopes to scare a trick-or-treater into running from your porch and possibly spilling their begotten sweets all over your yard (which can, in a pinch, be returned to your own candy supply if they are left in reckless abandon).
Perhaps it feels archaic because it is, going back 2000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain that marked the end of the harvest season. During this festival, on Oct. 31st, a night called All Hallow’s Eve, it was believed that the dead rose from their graves as the end of the harvest season marked the start of the cold, dark winter, a time of death, and that the world between the living and the dead was blurred. During this festival, the Celts set bonfires, wore costumes, and left food and wine on their doorsteps to ward off the coming dead.
ANYWAYS, I plan to use October to highlight some horror soundtracks that are worth their merit for writers. Tonight, I start with Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack to Psycho, the Alfred Hitchcock classic. Herrmann’s score is considered the prototype for great horror film music. Hitchcock himself attributed 33% of the film’s tension to Herrmann’s score. All of us can recall the iconic staccato strings during the shower scene. The soundtrack mostly relies on the string section and it showcases enough drama to not be unnerving the entire listen, which contributes to its usefulness as a writing tool as, many horror writers will note, there’s still plenty of exposition, character-building, and tension-spinning moments that go into a good horror story. Therefore it’s not ideal to be in murder-mode the entire time.
This soundtrack will work great for horror stories of many types, especially those written with a building sense of dread, something modern horror film soundtracks are no longer capable of.