Festival explores radio, film career of composer Bernard Herrmann

Film composer Bernard Herrmann is mostly known for a film that he originally disliked.

“When we left the screening of ‘Psycho,’ he said, ‘Wasn’t that the biggest piece of crap you’ve ever seen?’” said the film composer’s eldest daughter, Dorothy Herrmann. “Daddy had no use for Psycho until it became a cult classic.”

However, those shrieking, staccato violins that played during a rather violent shower scene is may be what he’s best known for.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Dorothy Herrmann spoke last weekend during a Bernard Herrmann festival—from April 15 through April 17—in Washington, D.C. The PostClassical Ensemble, Georgetown University, AFI Silver and the National Gallery of Art co-hosted one of few festivals that celebrates the composer’s life and career in film, radio and symphony.

Along with the weekend celebration, AFI Silver screened films scored by Herrmann throughout the month including “Hangover Square,” “Vertigo” and “The Bride Wore Black.”

Along with myself, fans and Herrmann’s family traveled from Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, North Carolina, California and Pennsylvania, to pay tribute to the composer. During the weekend festival, Herrmann historians and musicologists delved into the composer’s work.

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