Abstract

Having attacked people at a gas station, setting off a conflagration, birds begin to gather over Bodega Bay, accompanied by an electronic hum that sounds like the grinding of two large stones or perhaps like the wind. This electronic hum recurs at the film's conclusion, as we anxiously wait to see whether the Brenner family and Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) will make their escape from their besieged homestead. Hitchcock himself described this electronic hum as a “brooding silence” that “should give us the feeling of a waiting mass.” The sound epitomizes the experimental quality of the soundtrack of The Birds (1963). The sound accompanies the birds and is caused by their presence but is not quite of the birds, at least not the natural creatures we are familiar with. It suggests their objective presence yet evokes something alien, something larger than, or beyond, nature. Furthermore, if we follow Hitchcock's train of thought, there is a subjective aspect to this sound, as if it is colored with anxiety and expresses the internal “noise” that a fearful, acutely sensitive, self-consciously sentient listener might “hear.”

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