I recently had a conversation with film composer Harry Manfredini, the guy behind Friday the 13th‘s infamous “tch tch tch…” about the primary influences on modern horror soundtracking and we agreed on the works of Kryzstof Penderecki and Bernard Herrmann being basically ground-zero for fright music for the last 40 years or so of cinematic terror. One specific Herrmann work has informed horror scoring more than any other single piece of music anyone could possibly name: his iconic theme music for Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho.
A novel rendition of Herrmann’s Psycho theme was recently brought to my attention, and, as covers go, is quite masterful in its own right. Joachim Horsley is a composer and orchestrator for television and film and has a few albums under his belt. His 2014 album Joachim Horsley Was Dead the Whole Time contains this particular version of the Psycho theme as played on a piano… with knives.
Horsley is able to coax some odd tonalities out of the piano strings both with the knife blades and by striking the strings with the knife handle, while muting with his palm. These sounds mimic the orchestration of Herrmann’s original score.
Obviously, there’s both symbolism and novelty going on here with the use of kitchen knives, Norman Bates’ personal weapon of choice, but the end result is quite beautiful. Horsley takes some liberties towards the end of the piece and it gets a bit jazzy (maybe even slightly Latin jazzy?) in its climax. It’s cool though. He owns it.
This is totally, pardon the pun, KILLER: