My original interpretation of the opening titles sequence in the film, The Birds, by Alfred Hitchcock and Universal Pictures.


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Comment by KenNickels on June 27, 2014 at 10:44pm

Harmonia, I agree with you about the child's point of view in the titles and in the film in general, which I just now saw for the first time, To Kill a Mockingbird. I read that it took a while for Bernstein to get the essence before proceeding.

Comment by Harmonia on June 25, 2014 at 8:36pm

It's an interesting question - how much should the composer "give away" in the opening titles?  Imagine you've never seen the film "The Birds" and don't know the story - would you want music of shrieking and tearing and insane attacks before the story begins?  I think each person would answer that question differently, but I for one prefer understatement, with just an undercurrent of tension and subtle suggestions of the horror to come.

One of my favorite title sequences of all times, both the music and pictures, is Elmer Bernstein and Stephen Frankfurt's opening of "To Kill a Mockingbird".  In those brief moments, I become Scout and am able to watch the entire movie through her eyes.  Not a hint of lynch mobs, murder, terror, injustice or even honor and integrity and strength in that beginning.  Those are adult topics.  The beginning is all humming and coloring and laughing to lilting themes.   If the opening music had synched more with the drama to come, I think I might have missed the highlight of the entire film (to me) - those few seconds toward the end of the film when Scout sees the man behind the door in Jem's bedroom and recognizes him with a smiling "Hey, Boo!".  Somehow that brief, brilliant scene has grown out of the opening sequence and would have had a different meaning with a different opening.

That's a long way from The Birds, but it takes me back to my original question, "How much should the composer give away in the opening titles?" 

Comment by KenNickels on June 24, 2014 at 6:22pm

And this one too. Melany delivers the love birds to Mitch in their burgeoning romance.

Comment by KenNickels on June 24, 2014 at 6:19pm

Thanks for your comments, Noah. I learned a lot from doing a project of this scope, dealing with technical issues, legal issues, work speed (fast!), organizational hassles, etc. The music seemed the easiest part.

The composer gets some leeway in the titles sequence to show his stuff. I only had 1:60 to make a statement. And it was important for me that it be tight and coherent MUSICALLY, with only a few moving parts, as it were, and it only needed to suggest a mystery. It is an homage to Herrmann. The slashing and tearing comes later in specific cues. I did an hour's worth of music but will only post links to certain cues so you can hear what I mean. So please listen soon, the youtube links may not be up for long.

Comment by noahbalamucki on June 24, 2014 at 3:59pm

I like the tension you establish here, very fitting for such a suspenseful film. The sad, haunting interludes between the chopping passages is also appropriate--of all the victims in Hitchcock films, I think I feel the most sympathy for the ones in The Birds, and your music reflects the tragic carnage. 

If anything, I think the piece would benefit from more aggressive, dense textures. I like the ensemble you use--very Psycho-esque--but the composition doesn't quite sync with the violent momentum of the film. The enemy swoops, claws, pierces, and tears. The enemy attacks in swarms. The enemy kills. Your players, synthetic or not, should sound like they're doing the same thing.

Thanks for sharing!

Comment by KenNickels on June 19, 2014 at 7:09pm

I was wondering about that. I didn't know there was an Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the 80's! From the look of it, it's a comedy of sorts. I also didn't know the author of the theme. It's amazing how a piece of music can sell a mood, isn't it?  

I'm running into technical problems relating to video compression and sound being out of sync.  It's taking a little longer than I expected. Narly buggers.

Comment by Harmonia on June 19, 2014 at 4:52pm

The opening music I was referring to in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" was in the later series - starting in the 1980's, I think. 


The original theme was of course Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette", which I can never hear now without seeing Hitch's profile!

Comment by Harmonia on June 19, 2014 at 11:12am

Ken, this is wonderful!  I love the very beginning which is reminiscent of the opening theme from the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.  After that mood-setting opening, it just gets better and better - perfect music for this incredible film.   I can't wait to see the full feature!!

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