Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies feature characters with disabilities. Often, these characters are protagonists, and Hitchcock systematically manipulates his audiences to identify with these characters through the editing process, sound effects, and music. This dissertation will analyze the ways music represents various disabilities in three Hitchcock films. Vertigo (1958) addresses obsession and phobia as its main themes, whereas Psycho (1960) investigates obsession and madness. Finally, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) explores muteness, hysteria, and identity in the context of two pieces of diegetic music. Hitchcock made careful notes for the music in his films; songs represent disability through lyrics and in their use as part of a film’s underscore in specific scenes. When a non-diegetic orchestral score accompanied one of his films, Hitchcock needed a composer to write music to accompany his visual track. For the three films discussed in length, that composer was Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann’s music choices closely reflect Hitchcock’s desires for that specific film (they worked on eight films together). Herrmann represents disability through his music through several techniques: bitonality, dissonance, atonality, cell-based melodic structures, ostinati, and the use of the minor-major seventh chord. The extensive use of these techniques in Hitchcock’s films distinguishes Herrmann from other contemporary Hollywood composers.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Howe, Blake

Included in

Music Commons