The Composers: Jerry Goldsmith

Few movie score composers are as instantly recognizable in their style as Jerry Goldsmith was. His ability to swing from very traditional and sweeping scores like Legend and Star Trek: The Motion Picture to very daring and avant-garde ones like Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and, in many aspects, Patton, showcase his desire to stretch the boundaries of what film music could be.

Goldsmith’s relationship with director Joe Dante was much like John Williams’ to Steven Spielberg or Danny Elfman’s to Tim Burton. Music for Explorers, the Gremlins movies, InnerSpace and The ‘Burbs all strike that balance between suspense, comedy and emotional underpinning.

Another key element to Goldsmith’s sound was an integration of odd instruments and electronic sounds. Goldsmith seemed to revel in mixing all of them for maximum effect, not merely moving from one to the other. His score for Poltergeist is a good example, as synthetic and orchestral collide, the high pitches of the keyboards signifying the supernatural while the strings call attention to the Freeling family’s steadily growing resolve and unity.

Not every director was indebted to Goldsmith. The music and recording process for the film Alien was considered by many written accounts to be intense and grueling, but director Ridley Scott opted to use very little of it. In the end, the film worked better without as much score, but Goldsmith was displeased with having put so much in, only to have so little heard. Scott hired him on again as composer for his fourth film Legend, and the score stood, as far as the worldwide release was concerned. In the US, however, Goldsmith’s music was replaced with an all-electronic score from Tangerine Dream. In the preface to the European Cut of the film on DVD, Scott himself admitted the film worked best with Goldsmith’s score.

Goldsmith died in 2004. It is fitting that one of his last accepted scores was for Looney Tunes: Back In Action, directed by longtime partner-in-crime, Joe Dante. Here is a brief selection of cues from the film work of Jerry Goldsmith.

A New Ending from Star Trek: Nemesis

Have a Nice Trip from Explorers

Main Title – The Goblins from Legend

Movie Theater – Explosion from Gremlins

Teenage Mutant Gremlins from Gremlins 2 – The New Batch

Night Visitor – No Complaints from Poltergeist

The Key – Box from Logan’s Run

The Skeleton from Alien

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  • Eric S.

    As a longtime Star Trek fan, those scores never fail to generate an emotional response whenever I hear them.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffyjohnson Jeff Johnson

    Nice write-up. Jerry Goldsmith is my favorite composer. What I’ve always loved about Goldsmith is his versatility. As an example of this, one only has to look at two scores from 1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie (with its four distinct styles for each of the four episodes) and Under Fire (with its pan pipes and guitar solos by Pat Metheny). The bottom line is this: when I saw Goldsmith’s name on a movie poster, I had no earthly clue what the score was going to sound like. From a period of time from 1984 to 1992, I saw every single movie in the theater that Goldsmith scored, just because I wanted to hear what he wrote. Discovering a new Goldsmith score was always a joy and it’s still sad to me, even six years after his death, that I will never experience this joy again.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I was always curious about why his scores were rejected. IMDB says that a couple after Looney Tunes were rejected, and I suppose every filmmaker has the option to change musical direction, but Goldsmith’s track record (no pun intended) never seemed to me to be a liability.

  • http://www.theseconddisc.com Mike Duquette

    Goldsmith is undeniably one of the greats in the soundtrack pantheon. It’s always exciting when one of his scores gets remastered and expanded. (Gremlins, which had a really short LP with a small handful of score cues, is still one of the highest-requested soundtracks for independent soundtrack labels, bar none.)

  • Anonymous

    And he never had to steal from Dvorak, Holst and God knows who else. Like some other “popular” movie composers out there (I’m looking at you John Williams).

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Depending on whether this goes on as a series (and I still need to finish the last two 50CCM50 posts!) Williams will be highlighted, and yes, Holst and Wagner will be mentioned within.

  • Anonymous

    Great!!! I’m sure you will do it right. Another name, Vivaldi.

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  • Vistashow1000

    Please shut up. All composers steal, including Goldsmith. I remember a theme in ‘First Knight’ which had striking similarities with a classical piece I’d heard. You’re a cliche. You people make me sick when you bash John Williams. He is a genius. I think they both are.

  • Vistashow1000

    Please shut up. All composers steal, including Goldsmith. I remember a theme in ‘First Knight’ which had striking similarities with a classical piece I’d heard. You’re a cliche. You people make me sick when you bash John Williams. He is a genius. I think they both are.

  • Anonymous

    And so are you! Thanks for your insightful defense of Williams. You really have changed my mind, I don’t know WHAT I was thinking.

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