score by Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho would undoubtedly be iconic and memorable were it only contained to those horrific, ear-piercing screeches that accompany the famous shower scene, and which return whenever Mother reappears. Visuals can be off-putting; sounds can be assaultive. Herrmann’s sounds assault the audience, coming as close as one can in the cinema to stabbing the audience. But that’s not even the theme from Psycho. The theme from Psycho incorporates those same sensations, but in an acceptably cinematic sort of way; it’s almost rousing, in fact. That the theme returns so frequently over the film’s first half (seemingly every time Janet Leigh gets in her car, up it starts again) lulls us into a false sense of complacency, which is subconsciously shattered by the violent turn the music takes. Tobe Hooper recalls seeing Psycho and suddenly feeling he was not in safe hands; those hands are, in part, Herrmann conducting his orchestra.