Happy Mother's Day! Or is it Mothers' Day? If your mother enjoys the music of Bernard Herrmann, then she's in luck. There are two new Bernard Herrmann CDs, both released in the last few weeks.
The first is Conversation Piece: An Unvarnished Chat with Bernard Herrmann, from the Film Music Society. This is a recording of an interview with Herrmann, conducted on September 26, 1970. It's amusing to hear Herrmann's "New Yawk" growl as he holds forth on commercialism and how composers debase themselves to be popular. It's not just an interview but also an ear on the Herrmann household. The phone rings, the dog barks and Herrmann frequently abandons the interviewers to talk to his wife, Norma Shepherd.
At one point Herrmann claims to have discovered The Beatles (when Pete Best was their drummer) and tried to get them a record deal in the US only to be turned down by the top dogs at all the big US record companies. Norma urges him to name the people he pitched The Beatles to, but Herrmann does not.
Herrmann in general does not mention many people by name. He talks about Charles Ives and some other classical music composers and conductors. The interviewers ask him a few times about film composers whose work he admires and Herrmann finally comes up with Aaron Copland and Sergei Prokofiev.
It seems I may go to my grave without learning what Herrmann thought about John Barry's music. I've always been curious. Herrmann is more or less on record as admiring Elmer Bernstein's work, though he seems to have been somewhat conflicted about Bernstein's success. Click here to read Bernstein on Herrmann.
The other new Herrmann CD is offered by Film Score Monthly. The people at FSM are real champions of soundtrack preservation. They've released dozens of wonderful scores on CD, including several by Herrmann: On Dangerous Ground, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, The Egyptian, Blue Denim, Joy in the Morning.
Their latest offering is The Wrong Man. I haven't received my copy in the mail yet so I can't really comment on it. I haven't seen the movie in several years and the only part of the soundtrack I'm familiar with is the Prelude, as presented on Elmer Bernstein's Bernard Herrmann Film Scores album. I've always loved that piece, though, and I'm looking forward to hearing the whole score.
In other news, a few days ago I drank an Anheuser-Busch beer without realizing it. I had no idea. This could be considered a true blindfold test. I was at the Waterfront Ale House, whose tap selection has always focused on American microbrews and exciting imports (Young's Double Chocolate Stout, for instance). When I ordered something called Spring Heat Spiced Wheat, I had no idea it was from the makers of Budweiser.
So without knowing what it was, I tasted it and thought it was awful, garbage-flavored swill. If this happens to you, I recommend the new 2006 bottling of Stone's Imperial Russian Stout as an aid to recovery. That is beer. Drink it out of a glass and make sure it's not too cold.
If I didn't have a gig on Tuesday night, I would be at the Gotham Comedy Club for Jonathan Katz's show. His stand-up is very funny, but I've heard that he will be performing on Tuesday with other cast members of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, one of my favorite TV shows. They're getting together to celebrate the release of the first season on DVD.
Thanks to the internet, I've just discovered all sorts of stuff I never knew about Jonathan Katz. Some of it might even be true! According to his Wikipedia entry (that's where the above link will take you) he was the New York State Ping Pong champion in 1964. Apparently he also hosts a radio talk show. I'll have to check that out.