Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #15: Lissajous Figures (Title Design Sequence from Vertigo)

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

My guess would be that the film is about some woman who is under some kind of trance. The spirals immediately make me think of hypnosis or psychoanalysis. Then, based on the track, I would imagine that something terrible happens to her, or at the very least she is in fear for her life throughout the majority of the film.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

In my opinion, the most powerful image in the title sequence is when Kim Novak's name appears along with the image of the woman's eyes. Even with no other context or dialogue, the audience can already sense the fear and uncertainty of things to come. Her eyes are wide, and her eyes are darting back and forth, as if she is either uncertain what to do or is looking for somewhere to hide from someone.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

They work together wonderfully to create a sense of uneasiness. The score (at least for me) plucks my nerves, so even before the action starts I feel tense and uncomfortable. With the woman's face, you never see her full face at once, so in a sense, you don't see the full picture. The focus on her eyes are especially unsettling. Then the spirals create a bit of a daze, where you don't feel quite as steady, and you still have the score playing in the background. I don't think the images would've worked as well with a different musical scores. It's as if the music is the missing link to evoke what Bass envisions when he compiled the images.

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1.    Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

            My initial impression is that it is in the science fiction genre. The mood is   established mostly by the music, which evokes mystery and curiosity. The whirling graphics look like engineering or sound recording and data measurements on a computer screen. Way ahead of it’s time, still unique and compelling today in my opinion.

 

2.    In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The two images that are central (IMO) to this series of images are #1 the human eye. This image invites the viewer into a subjective reality, where the images then proceed to take on those of a computer imaging program, which works along with the music to set mood and stimulate curiosity. The #2 image that is equally as powerful (IMO) is the double dose of the text image “Directed by Alfred Hitchcock”. This is the powerful BRAND that people have come to admire when viewing this genre of films. It places a viewer in a high state of expectation as the film begins to unfold.

 

3.    How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

They work well together. I would say that Saul Bass is trying to accomplish something here that was ahead of its time and he was not able to, due to software technology / film technology constraints, achieve the best result. He was known for illustration, 2d shapes and figures as well as bold colors. This is an intro that could be achieved on a desktop computer (maybe even a smart phone) with today’s digital software technology. The music on the other hand, is timeless. Herrmann’s work is really top drawer. Psycho is primed with his contribution and I saw a video describing how they took some clips of the Psycho score for a Star Wars scene. John Williams was a friend of Herrmann’s.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

The sounds and images in the title sequence create a mood of psychological turmoil.  The spirals, of course, are incredible and almost remind me of the DNA and RNA double helixes.  They are hypnotic and that also communicates that we will be in the world of the mind and psyche.  There is also an element of the Yin and the Yang.  I love how the spirals are superimposed over the eye.  I also love how the titles swoop down horizontally on the screen.  The music is also eery repetitive rounds, echoing musically the image of the spirals circling.  The echoing sounds and the shrill flute also create a suspenseful mood.  Genius!

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2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

I think the spiral superimposed over the close-up of the iris of Novak's eye as it grows larger and larger and finally erupts to the list of supporting cast names, morphing into a purplish Lissajous figure is the most powerful image. Novak's face is the only one we see.  These spiraling figures are so primal looking--embryos, early life forms.  Morphing is also an important theme of this film.  

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3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The rhythm and tempo of the music follow the spiraling images and camera shots. The minor keys and dissonant sounds also create the psychological mood of a mind in turmoil.  Toward the end of the credits, we hear a theme almost pleading for sympathy for the characters. It is hard for me to imagine any other music because Herrmann's score so perfectly meshes with Bass' visuals and with Hitchcock's shots. 

 

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1.    Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. The title credits reflect a story abut a woman, since it's a woman's face, that with the red showing in her eye that something bad will befall her. The musical score reflects the spinning geometric figures that could reflect spinning or falling. 

 

2.    In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The woman's eye as it darts around then focusing straight ahead and is awash in red. The music moves into a loud ominous crescendo. This to me tells of a suspenseful psychological thriller. 

 

3.    How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I think that the images and music work well together. I find that the repetition of the music and the images along with the images moving larger in the frame create a dizzying feeling. I don't think that anything else would having given the title credits the same feel.

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These opening credits create a mysterious mood and does feel much like you're going into a trance. It also says to me that this movie is going to be a psychological thriller and deal with a lot in the minds and thoughts of characters. Unlike the opening credits for North by Northwest​, it's a subjective introduction and the plot will be heavily involved with the characters' minds.

 

I think the most powerful image to me would be the girl's eye. The screen turns red, which can mean to symbolize murder or at least some darkness later in the movie. Also, as the saying goes, "the eyes are the window to the soul," and that may be the case in this shot. Jimmy Stewart's character has vertigo (and thus, fear of heights), Kim Novak's character has secrets and is not the person she appears to be, and a lot of mind games seem to be played throughout the movie. I think this shot of the eye is an allusion to all this, especially Kim Novak's character, because there are a lot of secrets and fears behind the eyes.

 

Bernard Herrmann's music fits perfectly with the opening credits, and I don't think I could imagine any other score. It fits with the dark atmosphere and the mystery and suspense of Saul Bass' images. If the music was faster, for example, it definitely wouldn't match. Instead, it needs to be slow but powerful--like it is--to create the effect of going into a trance. Overall, they both compliment each other and combine to create an already tense introduction to the movie.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

        Based upon the sounds and images in the sequence communicates to the audience a feeling of on distortion and confusion.

 

2.   In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. 

        To me the single most powerful image is that of the eye of the woman.  The eye widens when the music changes tone and volume.

 

 

3.   How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

 The images work well with the musical score because the images portray the conflict within the main character.  The conflict would not be communicated to the viewer with a different musical score.

 

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1)   Based off this sequence, this movie, I think, would be about a surreal reality mixed with slight paranoia and the feeling of being watched or watching over your shoulder. This sequence tells me that everything will not look like it is supposed to be, and that everything will have several twists and turns in the search of a resolution.

 

2)   The single most powerful image in the sequence, for me, is the close-up of the eye getting wider and turning red with the lissajous figure coming out of it. I picked this because this image tells me that one of the characters might be assuming the identity of someone that does not exist, but is hard to prove otherwise because of not knowing what is reality and what is not. In addition, the lissajous figure tells me that there will be obstacles in trying to find the true identity of this person.

 

3)   Saul Bass’s images and Bernard Herrman’s score are perfect together. These two go back to Hitch’s love of visual storytelling for me because Bass’s images are visually showing what Herrman’s score is providing for the auditory senses.

 

This sequence would not work with any other score. I feel that the images and score were made exclusively for each other and if they were mixed and matched with other images and scores, the effect would be completely lost because their purpose, to be together, would be lost.

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Vertigo is a film I can watch every year (and I do) and find something new. Nothing in the mise-en-scene is by accident or unimportant and the film can be read on so many levels. It's a wonderful puzzle. I love what Scorsese said about the "quiet moments" in this film.  There so much visually going on that quiet moments are genuinely needed to take it all in and digest it. And one of the most amazing quiet moments in any film is when Madelaine/ Judy walks out of that crummy hotel bathroom into the green light.  

 

Trying to look at the titles with fresh eyes, I find myself perplexed with the b/w face. I think a woman's face with darting eyes takes us off on the wrong path as far as predicting what the film is about-- if we take the image literally, that is. However, if we just go with the feelings that this face image gives us, we are set up to enter the Scotty's dizzy and confusing world. 

 

So, the first face image is the  truncated shot which is very creative. I may be wrong, but that is more of what is happening in European cinema at that time, not in Hollywood. It reminds me of Bergman or some director like that. The off-centering immediately establishes a sense of imbalance. 

 

The second face shot I want to mention is when Jimmy Stewart's name is is associated with the female lips. Our brain really wants to create an association between any image that is shown in tandem with text,  so it's jarring to see the man's name over the woman's lips- jarring and odd. Again, we experience a sense of imbalance, perfect for the mood of the film. 

 

 

 

vertigo_contact.jpg

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1. At first we see parts of a women's face, lips that seem to twitch nervously and eyes that look frightened. The eyes dart side to side as the women's anxiety is increasing. Then the eye opens very wide as the women has seen something that terrifies her.The music is very dramatic and is the most intense when the eye is shown covered in red. From these images and the music it warns of dangers to come and the graphics seem to denote a spiraling out of control which makes you feel dizzy but it is also hypnotic and pulls you in.

 

2. For me the the single most powerful image is of the close up of the eye as it opens very wide and the color red dramatically covers the eye and the music is at its most intense. It make me wonder what that eye has just seen and what will happen to the women now that she has seen this terrifying sight.

 

3.The music and the graphics work very well together. The music gets louder and more intense as the image of the women's face shows her nervousness and fear. The music becomes more hypnotic as we see the spirals changing shape and colors.  

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s analysis, the eyes are the windows to the soul.  Once again, Hitchcock uses this concept quite well, but even more disturbing in this case.  What I get the from the title sequence images is that that the film will be about dizziness and hypnosis.  I also get the feeling this movie could be about female objectification, obsession, intrusion, and possibly misogyny.  This brings me to my answer for Question 2.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

The single most powerful image for me is the extreme close-up on Kim Novak’s eye with the spiral coming out of it.   My reasoning is that we have violated this woman to some degree and gotten way too close.  We are reading into her psyche, pluming into her mind.   The spiral starts coming out and it’s almost as if Bass or Hitchcock (or both) are our psychologist, telling us to relax; we’re getting sleepy.   This image sets the tone of hypnosis that carries us through the rest of the title sequence.  And that’s without even mentioning the music at that moment.

Additionally, when Hitchcock uses close-ups of her cheek, her lips, her nose, it all feels rather sexual and objectifying to me.  I feel like I have compartmentalized this woman; taken her apart.  It’s all rather violent in a very subtle way.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

I think it would be helpful in this case to know which came first to answer this question effectively – the title sequence (art) or the score.   Or were Saul and Bernard sitting together in a studio working it out at the same time.

What I will say is that the combination is totally in-sync.  The crescendos come at the perfect moments – jarring us, making us feel uneasy.  The score covers a broad spectrum of feelings – from the soft, hypnotic tempo of the woodwinds to the bombastic horns.   While listening to it I felt like I was riding waves in an unsettled ocean.  All at the same time, the spirals are placing me into a kind of trance.  Because isn’t that what Vertigo, the movie, is all about?   It’s a hypnotic trance, anchored by human lust and desire and obsession.

Could the images work with a different score?   Of course!  Saying no would mean that there’s only one potential combination for a successful piece of art.  In this case we’re just lucky that Mr. Hitchcock had the foresight to pair Misters Hermann and Bass.  

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The opening images and musical score give the impression that something ominous has happened, or is about to happen.  The scrolling figures are hypnotic and trance-like, easily drawing in the viewer's full attention as the credits roll.  The plain, square text of the names is a stark contrast to the Lissajous figures. 

 

The single most powerful image is the close-up of the eye, just before it spins into the title.  The extreme close-ups, along with the other partial images inserted, are meant to make the viewer feel unsettled.     

 

This title sequence is a brilliant mix of graphics and sound, and I think it's probably the most clever (and recognizable) in all of Hollywood history.  Bass and Herrmann created a dizzying and suspenseful mood for the viewers, perfect for Hitchcock's story line.     

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

In the opening sequence the spiraling graphics appear within the woman's red saturated eye is dizzying to watch. We have the premise of the kind of film that will be mysterious, a drama, a film that will take us in circles perhaps not knowing who did what. Include the musical score as the scales are going up and down in conjunction with the spirals and now the viewer knows for a fact this film will be a mystery with a lot of twists. The crescendo's in the music add to the anxiousness of the visuals. 

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

I think the red saturated eye is very powerful, the woman opens her eye wide like she sees something that scares her or maybe scheming against someone. The close up of the human eye can be beautiful but also disturbing.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

The score definitely adds a feeling of going in circles, the musical scales ascending and descending while the graphics spin. The combination gives me vertigo as I focus on the visual and auditory combination. If the score was light it wouldn't have the same effect.

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

The woman's face...all the features are shown...mouth...nose...eyes. I sense the woman will be central to the story. The spinning circles...coming out of her eyes...depicting minds spinning out of control...unable to think beyond the object which causes the mind's constant spinning.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

The close up of the woman's mouth. I think it tells of the lies she will soon speak....as she plays out her act. Then shifting to the eyes where the lies have now caused her life...and those associated with her..to spin perilously out of control.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

The score seems to spin as the images do....repeating itself...just as the images, although different shapes, repeatedly spin. The score and the images work in tandem. A,different score might not relay the thought of somethign repeatedly spinning out of control.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.  Those images pretty much state that this will be an unsettling film about mental conditions or mental anguish or something along that lines.  Who is that woman at the beginning?  She’s not one of the stars, so her random anonymity is fascinating from the beginning.  The images of the various spirals is another matter.  First, they approximate certain aspect of nature, such as shells.  The images move counter clockwise, instead of clockwise, which is unsettling until you think about.  Each image is a different garish color.  Someone could get hypnotized by the credis.

     

  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The women’s face being panned and then turning blood red. However, I had to remind myself how (some of) the spiral designs, which are remarkable,  were done on a very early and primitive computer and how amazing that is because the spiral designs are so fascinating andinricate.  The white one looks like a cocoon where someone is trapped. 

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I closed my eyes and listened to the just the music.  Without the images it is amazing because there is no melody, just a recurring pattern of sound that at one point is going up in pitch in such a way that you feel like you are going up winding stairs, and after a few bars there is a harsh discordant sound, and at one point the sensation of falling is real. 

 

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Daily Dose #15: Lissajous Figures

Title Design Sequence of Vertigo (1954)

 

 

1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

- From just the sounds in this opening film there was a frightening feeling. There was an eerie, scary and uneasy sound. as if something bad was about to happen. From the images of the woman's eyes and the graphics placed in one of them, as well as the music I felt that the movie was going to be about a dark yet secretive madness.

 

 

2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

- The most powerful image in the title sequence is at the very beginning when the Paramount logo appears with frightening music and then a large "V" appears to introduce the Vista Vision title. The music suggest that something very wrong is about to happen.

 

 

3. How does Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

- Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together to bring what seems to be the story of a horrifying plot.

- With a different musical score the audience would not be in suspense and ready for a psychological experience.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 
  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.
  3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

1.  Being mesmerized - by a woman who has secrets (shifting eyes).

2.  Just after the woman's eyes appear, which were filmed in black/white but then are seen through a red filter, the main title appears.  Then, in my estimation, the most powerful image is when the first lissajous figure appears in her right eye.  It is a jarring color combination of magenta overlying red.  You become drawn in by the spiraling as the figure revolves.   Side note: Several of the first figures revolve counterclockwise, just as if you are caught and drawn into a whirlpool - the Coriolis effect in the northern hemisphere.

3.  Example Re my answer in #2:  Just at the point the magenta lissajous figure begins to revolve, the music score - which had a slower, dreamy, unsettling quality to it - strengthens in volume and "spirals" upward.   The score punctuates the images to a great effect.  

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1.  This is an interesting exercise, having seen the film several times.  So I focused on the sounds and images, and the feeling I get is that a woman is going to be in trouble or threatened in some way, perhaps by viewing a crime or something of that nature.  I also sense a psychological element.

 

2.  The single most powerful image is the close up of the woman's right eye.  Imagine seeing that in a movie theater, encompassing most of the screen.  It is while the camera is focused on the eye that the image suddenly shifts to red, which is a bit startling at first.  The color red is not only associated with love and desire, but also danger and power, all things which will come into play in this movie.  The title of the movie, as well as the initial spiral design, also originate from the eye.  If the eye is truly a window to the soul, then this is a soul in turmoil.

 

3.  The images and music work together perfectly.  The rising and descending notes of the strings mirror the swirling images of the spirals.  The  images and music are both mysterious and mesmerizing.  Later the rising and descending notes will be played at a more rapid pace as an undertone, before the strings come on strong again at the end.  This is my favorite film score of all time, it is Wagnerian in scope and shows how truly talented Bernard Herrmann was.  What this opening illustrates is two artists at the absolute peak of their craft, understanding the story and striving to create something of original depth and complexity that would match that story.

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1) Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

From the opening credits alone, you'd almost think it was a horror movie. The score paired with the       mood and atmosphere the images are establishing leave the viewer feeling almost frightened. 

 

2) In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

I think the single most powerful image in the title sequence is the eye turning red, looking up in pure horror. The score gets louder and more suspenseful. I have seen this film multiple times and this part of the opening sequence still freaks me out. It leaves the viewer wanting more, especially a first time viewer.

 

3) How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

Bass' images are thrilling and psychedelic, while Herrmann's score is haunting. The two paired together build up the suspense that follows in the film. Had there been a different score, I don't think we would have gotten the same effect. The score certainly adds to the mood of the sequence. 

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1 Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 
 The whole mood with the images and music tell the story that its about a women how is trying to put us under her spell.
 
2 In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.
I think the most powerful single image to be has to be the Figure spiraling out of Novaks eye it when she begins  to mesmerize us into her spell.
 
3 How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?
 
Both images and music is hunting, the two paired together build up the suspence that we will see in the movie.
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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.                         Two words Brainwashed! The images make you calm and relaxed with the music being played over the images.

 

2 In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

I am going to say the twirly things near the end because those make you really feel dizzy but also your just under the spell of the music and the images at that point like your on drugs.

 

 

3 How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

Both the music and the images compliment each other both set the mood and tone of the film with just images on the screen.   Skipping ahead a few films Torn Curtin, 2 film scores Bernard Hermann's rejected score and the main composers film score....   skip to 2 min 30 seconds  (tried to find the main title for both composers but i could not. so this is a fight scene from Torn Curtain, the first one is with Bernard Hermann's REJECTED score (which sounds great!) the second video is the same scene that is currently in the film.

 

 

 

And the same scene

 

 

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Though discussing the opening, this post has SPOILERS.

 

3) How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The music score in this film by Bernard Herrmann is one of the greatest films scores in history.

 

The music starts the second the film starts, not at the credits, but at the Paramount logo. There is an ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm) of a fallling-rising arpeggio in the violins, and at the same time the  woodwinds play an upside down rising-falling arpeggio.  The piece is in e-flat minor (which I write in text as ‘eb’).  Of importance is the notes in the two figures: In the violins we have D Bb Gb D Bd Db (7 5 3 7 3 5 in the scale of eb).  In the woodwinds we have the arpeggio in an opposite direction playing Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3).

 

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The notes in a chord are 1, 3, and 5. The 7th is called a ‘leading tone’ because melodically and harmonically it wants to resolve to the tonic, or 1. It is the single most dissonant note in a scale, because the need to resolve is the strongest of any note away. Think of the ditty ‘shave and a haircut’

 

                Shave and a hair cut, two---

 

If you DON’T say ‘bits’ you never resolve the 7th, which is the word ‘two’ in that song.  Sing it to yourself to see. Yes, we are used to the words finishing a coherent sentence, so try humming just the NOTES and stop again on the penultimate note. It leaves you hanging because that last note desperately wants to resolve UP to 1, or the tonic. (a scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 )

 

I mention this because that D natural in the violins by itself creates incredible musical tension that never resolves.  Wagner’s famous Tristan and Isolde opera was famous for using music that never resolved, representing unfulfilled longing and desire. The music in Tristan and Isolde ONLY resolves in the end of the Opera when the two are ‘joined in death’ and can finally consummate their love. (Liebestod).

 

The mention of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ is by no means arbitrary. Herman was clearly influence by this monumental moment in musical history, when tonality started to break down.  And Vertigo has so much to do with unfulfilled passion and desire: Scotty desires a married woman he cannot have. Scotty loses her when she dies and cannot give up this longing. Midge has unfulfilled love for Scotty, and she loses him, both to  Madeline and after she’s gone to his trauma. Judy has unfulfilled longing for Scotty who will not love HER as JUDY, but wants to change her into MADELINE.

 

The CLIMAX of Vertigo is one of the single most powerful combinations of the visual and the musical ever put of film. (Think of the final moments of the Spielberg film E.T., told almost excursively with visuals in music barring the two short lines ‘Come’, ‘Stay’. If you watch this scene and you are familiar with the Wagner piece you will definitely see the similarities. The climax of the Wagner is on a downward resolutions.

 

20232117_1610854598945569_78805890113057

 

(the above music is a piano version of the Wagner in C major.)

 

This downward resolution is also found in the Bernard Hermann music. It is a passionate, sighing musical phrase with the resolution a release of tension, even, and exuse the term, and almost sexual climax sense in the piece, both in the Wagner and the Hermman Vertigo score.

 

If you haven’t heard the Wagner, I earnestly ask you to listen to it, and compare it to the Herman moment from Vertigo’s climax. You can find it on Youtube under ‘Wagner prelude and Liebestod’, or follow this link:

 

               

 

                (The place in the link I posted to start listening is the 15 minute mark, with the ‘climax’ occurring at 16 minutes 35 seconds)

 

OK, WHY am I talking about the END of Vertigo when the Daily Dose is the BEGINNING of Vertigo? The answer is because the SEED of the themes, the love theme, and this climax are in the music in the very first second. In the example 1 above, the bottom part (woodwinds) contains the notes: Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3). The C to Bb resolution IS this part of the love theme.

 

Over this ‘swirling’ arpeggio ostinato are played dark noted and chords in the brass. Two notes, again, resolving DOWN one step, just in the climax I mentioned. Is it a coincidence? No as we see what that brass line becomes. We are seeing the first two notes of a 4 note falling theme.

 

20228486_1610854775612218_55127723235697

 

This ominous theme suggest ‘falling’ paralleling our journey into the abyss of obsession. But it is something more than that, it is the second half of ‘the LOVE THEME of Scotty for Madeline’. OK, if it is the second part, then what is the first part? THE SWIRLING OSTINATO in the violins. Let’s put the two together:

 

20156058_1610854952278867_18107400487750

 

Therefor we can hear, perhaps subconsciously throughout the movie, that this LOVE is born from and OBSESSION, a ‘falling into the abyss of that obsession.

 

Going back to the first picture and the ostinato figure. I said it was two mirror opposite arpeggios. This also suggests the DUALITY of the Kim Novak character. It also resembles ‘swirling which is in the visual design representing ‘descent into the abyss of obsession. This duality is heard also during the dream sequence: after some percussion in a ‘Spanish’ rhythm , tremolo violins play both the falling and rising melody at the same time. So the music is constantly reminding us of the DUALITY, established in the opening seconds of the score.

 

The interval between the 7th and the note above it (1) is a half-step, which is a VERY dissonant combination when played together. Since the upper arpeggio starts on 7 while the lower arpeggio starts on 1 – played at the same time, right from the start is a slightly disturbing musical sound. This ‘half-step’ interval is exploited in the dream sequence. I described the percussion ‘Spanish rhythm, and the tremelo violins. The violins alternate between playing a few bars of tremolo notes to another musical figure where the 1st Violins play an octave (1 up to 8 [and 8 is also 1]) and the second violins play a major 7th (1 up to 7). This results with 7 and 8 (which is 7 and 1) being played at the same time. It is an almost ‘screeching ‘, FAMOUSLY used by Hermann in the SHOWER SCENE in Psycho.

 

These dissonances are used on strong beats, and syncopated beats, which emphasizes that dissonance.

 

Speaking of the climax, the Falling Brass note chords (decent into the abyss) is used in tremolo violins in the huge musical build up to the climactic moment of the film, repeated, rising each time, step by step until the musical ‘descent into the abyss’ culminates in a near org-asmic fulfillment of Scotty’s desire for Madeline: She is back alive again!

 

So we see how seeds of the music in the opening represent ideas of falling, an abyss of obsession, out of which is Passion and unfulfilled love, tension, as well as setting up the Love theme and the final Musical and filmic CLIMAX of Judy’s transformation into Madeline.

 

It is in this CLIMAX that not only does the music resolve (as in the Wagner)  but it also triumphantly ends in a huge long MAJOR chord as the scene ends. The music up to this point has been mostly in very dark, minor keys ( like e flat minor) This switch to MAJOR at that moment adds to the glorious moment at that scene, when Scotty is finally fulfilled in his desire – he FINALLY has MADELINE  all to himself!

 

[this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]

 

I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.

 

https://ccoombs1964.wixsite.com/cinemachris/homework

 

In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be consummated. Isolde sings this most famous aria talking about Tristan rising from death to join her in love:

 

Softly and gently

how he smiles,

how his eyes

fondly open

—do you see, friends?

do you not see?

how he shines

ever brighter.

Star-haloed

rising higher

Do you not see?

 

[...and ends...]

 

to drown,

to founder –

unconscious –

Utmost bliss!

 

How similar is THAT to Scotty's feeling for the 'reborn' Madeline at that moment. Even the ideas of 'drowning', the 'smiles' and 'eyes' (think of the opening credit sequence by Saul Bass), of foundering (a ship that sinks into an abyss). I find this comparison fascinating, but most importantly the idea that 'death' will bring them together. (This is why the music is called 'Liebestod' - Literally 'love death').

 

The parallel to the death and 'rebirth' of Madeline, and Scotty finally being able to 'consummate' his love with her (and now he actually has her all to himself for she is no longer Gavin's wife) is clearly visible to me.

 

Anyway, I made the video just for fun. Take into consideration that film scores are written to be precisely timed to hit certain beats in a film - a line of dialogue, a specific edit, a close up or zoom, the length of the shot, etc. - I did not want to re-cut the scene or edit the Wagner (both would be sacrilege to do). So I fit it in as best I could.

 

Again, this is just for fun and in no way am I saying the Hermann is not good. I honestly believe Hermann's Vertigo scores is one of the best film scores ever written.

 

Anyway, hope you like it.

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Chris thanks for all this work!  You've brought together two of my favorites- Hitchcock and Wagner! Both artists plumbed the depth of emotion and the psyche, both tapped into the primal conflicts and desires of human existence.  I won't pretend to understand all the musical examples you gave, but I do understand Wagnerian "non-resolution" and his use of motif, you got me to hear those touches in our Daily Dose as well. The video you made seems to have been removed. Any way to remedy that? 

 

 

[this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]

 

I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ciu0QzdJJ8

 

In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be consummated. Isolde sings this most famous aria talking about Tristan rising from death to join her in love:

 

Softly and gently

how he smiles,

how his eyes

fondly open

—do you see, friends?

do you not see?

how he shines

ever brighter.

Star-haloed

rising higher

Do you not see?

 

[...and ends...]

 

to drown,

to founder –

unconscious –

Utmost bliss!

 

How similar is THAT to Scotty's feeling for the 'reborn' Madeline at that moment. Even the ideas of 'drowning', the 'smiles' and 'eyes' (think of the opening credit sequence by Saul Bass), of foundering (a ship that sinks into an abyss). I find this comparison fascinating, but most importantly the idea that 'death' will bring them together. (This is why the music is called 'Liebestod' - Literally 'love death').

 

The parallel to the death and 'rebirth' of Madeline, and Scotty finally being able to 'consummate' his love with her (and now he actually has her all to himself for she is no longer Gavin's wife) is clearly visible to me.

 

Anyway, I made the video just for fun. Take into consideration that film scores are written to be precisely timed to hit certain beats in a film - a line of dialogue, a specific edit, a close up or zoom, the length of the shot, etc. - I did not want to re-cut the scene or edit the Wagner (both would be sacrilege to do). So I fit it in as best I could.

 

Again, this is just for fun and in no way am I saying the Hermann is not good. I honestly believe Hermann's Vertigo scores is one of the best film scores ever written.

 

Anyway, hope you like it.

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Chris, this is great, even without the inserted video; I can imagine the juxtaposition. (And having the video removed for copyright reasons reminds us of all that behind-the-scenes work our course professors have to do to make all of this material available to us -- not possible without TCM etc. Thanks on that, too.) I appreciate the musicological, technical analysis. I guess that's why Hitchcock movies win so consistently in the technical categories, as opposed to his directorial ones.  Cheers.

 

[this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]

 

 

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Vertigo's opening credits crafted accordingly by Saul Bass and Bernard Herrmann convey a venture into the innermost unknown parts of the mind, a steep head dive into the profound realms of the subconscious. Bass’ visual creations are artfully dizzying, reminiscent of experiencing actual vertigo. The intensifying effects of Bernard Herrmann's score convey a sense of foreshadowing dread. Bass and Herrmann’s works congeal with such illusionary effect, Vertigo's opening becomes hypnotic, easily a means of entrancement.

 

An extreme close-up of the widened eye illuminated via a red camera filter is not only unsettling but starkly jolting. Widening of one's eyes are often indicative of shock, signifying a state of distress which undeniably weighs on one's psyche. This is purely psychological. Hitchcock takes us into the mind of Scottie, the main character, having arguably crafted a subconscious POV shot.

 

A woman centric to the opening of Vertigo paints Kim Novak's character as an enchantress. Incorporating a lone human figure into the mix of visual and aural effects which are intended purposely for psychological disruption, heighten the symbolism of the female figure. One can render an assertion of Scottie’s demise under the casting of such a spell.

 

There are no other appropriate collaborators for such a constructed theme on this particular Hitchcock film. Capturing and thus conveying an intended atmosphere, tone and mood of a film and all within a very limited frame of time is to be laid at the feet of a mere few. And those few; Hitchcock, Herrmann, and Bass used their own artistic sorcery creating an enthralling, unnerving, never before seen (at the time) psychologically penetrating cinematic opening for the ages.

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Chris, this is great, even without the inserted video; I can imagine the juxtaposition. (And having the video removed for copyright reasons reminds us of all that behind-the-scenes work our course professors have to do to make all of this material available to us -- not possible without TCM etc. Thanks on that, too.) I appreciate the musicological, technical analysis. I guess that's why Hitchcock movies win so consistently in the technical categories, as opposed to his directorial ones.  Cheers.

i think i fixed the link. I didn't know you had to use the 'link' button above the text window. i just typed in the link. MY BAD, it should work now if you're still interested! I hope you are.

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