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Hitchcock by Danny Elfman (Review)

posted Dec 4, 2012, 4:37 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Dec 5, 2012, 6:52 PM ]

Danny Elfman is a self-professed Bernard Herrman fanatic. Herrmann served as main inspiration for Elfman to move into film scoring, and when asked where he got his ideas for Tim Burton's Batman, he simply replied Bernard Herrmann. He adapted Hermann's score for Psycho for Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake, and has frequently paid homage to the classic composer. Now he gets to compose an original score for Hitchcock, a film chronicling how Alfred Hitchcock got Psycho's production off the ground and ultimately made one of the greatest horror movies to ever hit the silver screen.

What Elfman does here is much more than a run-of-the-mill Herrmann homaging pastiche, as one might expect from such a biopic. He fulfills that tip of the hat to his idol through orchestration and instrumentation, but the music is filled with such vigor and dramatic virtuosity that it becomes so much more. A heavy focus on strings relays that Herrmannesque style, but the addition of piano, some light percussion, and an interpolation of cool jazz (hear "Selling Psycho") echo Elfman in full form. It is very reminiscent of his music for The Wolfman, lots of rhythmic violin work and a strong sense of harmony. Cues like "The Swim," "Celery," and "Explosion," are the strongest representations of these musical ideas, the latter being my favorite off the entire album. It is also the longest cue, but only at 3 minutes 11 seconds. The album is about 40 minutes long, which is quite short these days as film music fans have become accustomed to 1 hour plus OST releases and even longer archival ones. The average track length is roughly a minute and a half, so while it may initially feel disjointed, the album works tremendously well as a whole in the end. It breathes and does not feel too quick nor does it overstay its welcome.

In a year of Elfman duds, Hitchcock is a lovely gust of fresh air from the composer. Dark Shadows, Men In Black 3, and Frankenweenie all disappointed, yet this one ultimately delivers and displays Elfman's contemporary drama writing wonderfully. While the "Theme From Hitchcock" is less melodic and developed than other great Elfman themes, the score as a whole will keep listeners delighted without tethering you to your music player for too long.