Great Moments In Film Orchestration History: Bernard Herrmann :: Film Music Magazine

Bass Cornetto- Serpent

Bass Cornetto- Serpent

Great Moments In Film Orchestration History: Bernard Herrmann :: Film Music Magazine.

A well written article about the coloristic creativity of Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann, who scored such films as "Psycho" and "Citizen Kane".

Of course, I chose it because the bass clarinet is used in such a sinister coloring as the one described here.

In “Journey To The Center Of The Earth,” (20th Century Fox, 1959) there are two standout uses of unusual color becoming a dramatic element. In a scene involving a giant snake, Herrmann coaxed a low, unsteady moaning effect out of an Renaissance instrument called, appropriately, a serpent. The bass member of the cornetto family, it is a woodwind with a brass-type mouthpiece and recorder-like finger holes, and using a tuba embouchure. Even on a good day it has trouble producing a stable, centered tone. Over a bed of contrabassoon and bass clarinet, it made a perfect bit of sound design for the slithering, menacing super-snake. (For another taste of this effect, see also “White Witch Doctor,” 20th Century Fox, 1953.) For the last (underground) half of “Journey,” Herrmann augmented his usual orchestra with 5 organs (4 electronic and 1 pipe,) again not just as a pinch of varietal spice, but as the overall base of the subterranean look and feel.

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