Don't Just Look, Listen: How Bernard Herrmann Composed a Sonic Gaze in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960)

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Bews, Kirstin Isla




Bernard Herrmann provided strong scoring to accompany nine of Hitchcock's films including, Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). Hitchcock, and his representation of women, has long been a source of criticism by feminist film scholars. This critique expanded into art, most notably by Cindy Sherman. I use the term "sonic gaze" to describe the aural counterpart to Laura Mulvey's, traditionally visual, male gaze. I argue that Herrmann's sonic gaze maintains the perspective of the male protagonists in Vertigo and Psycho, and therefore objectifies and silences the female characters in the narrative. I use Sherman's Untitled Film Stills series as a critical tool to explore how Herrmann's sonic gaze expands the feminist meanings of the still images. I place Herrmann's score over Sherman's Untitled Film Stills to interpret how the imagined underscoring affects the unseen narratives of the film stills. Through this interpretative experiment, I encourage the practice of "listening" to photographs.






Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Arts: 

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Music and Culture

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Theses and Dissertations

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