Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2018 May 21 • Monday

In honor of Margot Kidder, the 518th Soundtrack of the Week is for the brilliantly bonkers Brian De Palma movie Sisters, which has a thrilling score by our favorite, Bernard Herrmann.

The main title is a blast of percussion and horns, with some typically nerve-jangling writing for strings. Percussion is a heavy presence in this score, as is of course the Moog, something new for Herrmann, I think, and deployed to devastating effect.

The main theme is reminiscent of Herrmann music from Cape Fear and The Bride Wore Black, among others, while some cues are similar to some of his "Outer Space Suite", a collection of library cues that were used in CBS television shows, most notably in The Twilight Zone.

"The Dressing Room" is a gorgeous cue, tender and lyrical and atmospheric and suspenseful, the kind of thing that Herrmann did better than anyone and in his own unique voice.

The next few cues, "The Ferry/The Apartment/Breton", offer are, taken together with "The Dressing Room", like movements of a miniature concerto, though in "Breton" things begin to get sinister.

In "The Scar/The Pills/Duo", the horror and danger that are about to erupt are given a musical overture, alternating with an extremely restrained and spare soundscape.

The approaching collision of a sweet gesture with violent insanity can be heard in "The Cake/The Car/ The Candles", and then the music explodes with "Phillip's Murder/Window View", which ties together several of the themes so far and features the Moogs.

De Palma's movies frequently involve doubles, halves, splits, and in Sisters he splits the frame itself in half to show different perspectives on the same scene in the same moment.

Herrmann's approach to this score matches this by having the music veer back and forth between extremes and having cues themselves suggest see-sawing motions with jumps and slides, crescendoes and decrescendoes.

And also of course brutal attacks.

Sisters is a great movie because of what everybody brought to it, including Herrmann and the recently deceased Kidder, who has to be the driving force of the story for much of it.