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The New York Philharmonic presents the seventh season of The Art of the Score, featuring two New York Premiere screenings, both conducted by Richard Kaufman: Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind in Concert, with John Williams’s score performed live to the film, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in Concert, with Bernard Herrmann’s score performed live to the film. Actor and Philharmonic Board Member Alec Baldwin returns as Artistic Advisor of The Art of the Score, which explores some of the most distinctive uses of music in film.

ALEC BALDWIN, Artistic Advisor

Score by John WILLIAMS
September 11–12, 2019

Score by Bernard HERRMANN
September 13–14, 2019

The 2019–20 season of The Art of the Score celebrates two of the most iconic collaborations in film history — Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Steven Spielberg and John Williams — and their overlapping influences. John Williams, who identifies Herrmann as his primary influence, has scored music for both Hitchcock and Spielberg and said that the two directors share a “great trust in music.” Both films also feature a protagonist driven by obsession.

“Film directors and music composers have formed partnerships from the earliest days of cinema, from the collaborations of Ernö Rapée to Max Steiner to Henry Mancini to Carter Burwell,” said Artistic Advisor Alec Baldwin. “With this season’s The Art of the Score, we focus on two of the most powerful and memorable of such teams: Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann and Steven Spielberg and John Williams. I can think of no better way to celebrate these artists than with the great New York Philharmonic performing these impactful scores live to the incredible films for which they were composed.”


The Art of the Score opens September 11–12, 2019, with the New York Premiere screening of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind with John Williams’s Oscar-nominated, Grammy-winning score performed live to the film. Richard Kaufman conducts and the Philharmonic is joined by Musica Sacra, directed by Kent Tritle.

“John Williams reinterprets our films with a musical narrative that nails the suspense we could only hint at,” said Steven Spielberg. “And when our stories make the audience’s eyes brim, John’s music makes the tears fall. Sometimes I think I direct a lot of films just to discover the music that John will write, capturing his lightning in a bottle.”

“The wonderful imagination of Spielberg really inspired the music,” John Williams said. “To accompany such arresting images, the music itself and the orchestration needed to be brilliantly coloristic. It was a fantastic challenge for any composer.”

Mr. Williams recalled devising the film’s famous five-note motif with the director: “Steven had the idea that we should have a five-note musical signature for communicating with the aliens. Initially I’d suggested that we have a slightly longer one, until we both realized that in exceeding five notes, we’d have a tune. A musical signal would be only four or five notes long. So I devised over a hundred five-note variations, and then had several meetings at the piano with Steven to choose the sequence we felt would have the most haunting effect.”

Steven Spielberg’s 1977 science-fiction film stars Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, an electrical lineman in Indiana who becomes obsessed with UFOs after encountering one, eventually bringing together various strangers with similar experiences. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Original Music Score and Best Director; John Williams won two Grammy Awards, for the score and main theme.


The Art of the Score’s second program, September 13–14, 2019, features the New York Premiere screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with Bernard Herrmann’s score performed live to the film, conducted by Richard Kaufman.

Herrmann recalled working with Hitchcock on scoring the film: “Psycho is a very good example of the … freedom with which Hitch thinks about music. Originally the plan was … not to have any music over any of the murder scenes. However, I differed with Hitch about this and I felt that music was needed…. I suggested to Hitch that I would like to show him the [murder] scene with music…. And [after seeing it with the score] he said immediately, ‘We must have the music, of course!’ And I said, ‘But you were against it.’ And he said, ‘Oh, no. All I made was a poor suggestion.’”

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 psychological horror film, based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, a motel owner with a dark past. Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director, the film is the highest-rated Hitchcock film in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 best American movies.

Later in the 2019–20 season, the New York Philharmonic will present Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert with John Williams’s score performed live to the film, conducted by Justin Freer (December 11–14, 2019); the New York Premiere screening of Singin’ in the Rain in Concert with Nacio Herb Brown’s score performed live to the film, conducted by David Newman, on the Spring Gala (May 20, 2020); and Disney’s Mary Poppins in Concert with the Sherman Brothers’ score performed live to the film, conducted by David Newman (May 21–23, 2020).