HISTORY & SURVEY OF FILM MUSIC

Jerry Goldsmith

(1929 - 2004)

1966  Blue Max

1968  Planet of the Apes

1970  Patton

1973  Papillon

1974  Chinatown

1976  The Omen

1978  The Boys from Brazil

1978  Capricorn One

1979  Alien

1979  Star Trek: The Motion Picture

1982  Poltergeist

1984  Gremlins

1990  Total Recall

1997  L.A. Confidential

1999  The Mummy

Jerry Goldsmith began his career as a composer of music for CBS radio and television before he was talent-spotted by Alfred Newman and invited to score the contemporary western Lonely Are the Brave. The assignment proved to be the first in a long series of resourceful movie scores composed by Goldsmith, who quickly became a leading light of a dualistic modernist approach that on the one hand updated traditional orchestral techniques with a high degree of dissonance and textural fragmentation, and on the other experimented with the more radical electronic timbres increasingly in vogue during the 1960s and 1970s. 


By 1977, Goldsmith’s credits included several acclaimed films by director Franklin Schaffner (The Planet of the Apes, 1968; Patton, 1969; Papillon, 1973), his scores for which demonstrated unusual versatility in their willingness to adapt to the contrasting requirements of markedly different dramatic topics. Goldsmith had also given a fresh lease of life to two well-worn genres: the detective thriller, which he imbued with a neo-noir atmosphere in Chinatown (dir. Roman Polanski, 1974) and the horror film, his much-imitated score for The Omen (dir. Richard Donner, 1976) earning him his sole Academy Award. Goldsmith habitually worked in close collaboration with veteran orchestrator Arthur Morton (1908-2000), who had been active in Hollywood as an arranger and composer of stock music since the mid-1930s.


In the later 1970’s Goldsmith became closely associated with the burgeoning of sci-fi epics, scoring Capricorn One (1978), Alien, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (both 1979), and thereafter was also much in demand for action films well suited to his propulsive dissonant idiom; his contributions to this genre included the first three Rambo movies (1982-88). He remained active as a film composer until shortly before his death, his last major assignment being Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, and frequently conducted film music in the concert hall and championed neglected or rejected scores by other composers (for example, Alex North’s music jettisoned from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968], which Goldsmith recorded in 1993). Like other film composers with a solid classical training, Goldsmith strongly believed in the value of good film music away from its original context.


from: The Hollywood Film Music Reader, edited by Mervin Cooke (2010)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Goldsmith’s score for The Planet of the Apes is among the most innovative soundtracks found in any Hollywood film. The score incorporates a pallet of experimental sound, notably the use of “prepared piano” (a technique devised by composer John Cage in 1940). Other unusual instruments include steel mixing bowls, bass slide whistle, ram’s horn, Brazilian culka. The main title utilizes a 12-tone row (a compositional technique devised by Arnold Schoenberg in 1924). The score also employs the use of an “echoplex”, which was a tape delay system applied to certain instruments in the orchestra (primarily percussion).

Planet of the Apes (1968) - Main Title

Planet of the Apes (1968) - Theatrical Trailer

The Omen (1976)

The score to The Omen brought Goldsmith his one and only Academy Award. Goldsmith’s atonal choral-orchestral score incorporates liturgical-style Latin renderings, providing an epic context to the “evil” religious connotation. The score redefined the horror genre, and is among the most imitated soundtracks.

The Omen (1976) - Death of the Priest

Star Trek the Motion Picture (1979)

As the first film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture stars the cast from the original 1960’s television series. The main title was later used for the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek the Motion Picture (1979) - Opening Battle with Klingons

Poltergeist (1982)

This Steven Spielberg produced film (directed by Tobe Hooper) utilizes over one hour of music by Goldsmith. The score features one unusual instrument - the “rub rod”, which is a long aluminum rod rubbed with gloves coated with rosin (as used on violin bows). The score also uses the famous “Dies Irae” theme from Medieval plainchant.

Poltergeist (1982) - Ghost in the TV

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