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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Dw. Dunphy
Dw. Dunphy is a writer, artist, and musician. As a senior editor for Popdose he has contributed many articles (http://popdose.com/author/dw-dunphy/), which can be found in the site's archives. He also writes for New Jersey Stage, Musictap.net, Ultimate Classic Rock, and Diffuser FM. His music can be found at: http://dwdunphy.bandcamp.com/