Monday, November 28, 2011

Jerry Goldsmith: The Landmark

Of the few highly regarded composers for the hardcore film score fans, Jerry Goldsmith typically is on the top of the list.  His output is incredibly extensive, and Goldsmith’s scores are all unique.  Possibly more than other composers, his scores have been restored, expanded and released over the years.  With that, Jerry Goldsmith remains a modern film master.

Goldsmith was born in California in 1929.  Jerry, like many composers, studied music (piano) at a young age and eventually transitioned into studying composition in his teens.  He studied counterpoint and theory with the great guitar composer
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  Goldsmith eventually attended classes at University of Southern California with classes taught by renowned film composer Miklós Rózsa. 

Like so many other composers in his generation, he started composing for radio.  Working at CBS, he began as a typist in the music department, composing for some radio series.  He worked his way up at CBS, for television shows like Climax!, Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason
.  1957’s Black Patch marked Goldsmith’s feature film debut.  From 1960-1961, while still at CBS, Goldsmith composed for a handful of Twilight Zone episodes. Upon moving to Revue Studios (later MCA/Universal Television), he composed the themes for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Kildare.  Goldsmith received his first Academy Award nomination in 1962 for Freud.  His connections with composer Alfred Newman led him to the scoring of the western, Lonely Are The Brave in 1962.  1963 brought Goldsmith several films including Lilies of the Field, with Sidney Poitier.  Around this time, Goldsmith became a part of the 20th Century Fox music department, scoring some of his most well known films there.  Films in the late 60’s began to show Goldsmith’s intricate composition style with a more modern sound.  These films include A Patch of Blue (1965) The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Blue Max (1966), and the extremely inventive score to The Planet of the Apes (1968).  Both A Patch of Blue and The Sand Pebbles were nominated for Academy Awards.  It is also important to note that around this time, Goldsmith began collaborating with longtime orchestrators Alexander Courage and Arthur Morton.

By 1970, Goldsmith was working on epics at Fox.  This includes the WWII epic Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) and the Oscar-winning best picture, Patton.  Goldsmith continued to do television
movies throughout the 70’s including the first ‘Apes’ sequel: Escape From The Planet Of Apes (1971).  He continued his collaboration with Patton director Franklin J Schaffner in 1973 with Papillion.  For one of Goldsmith’s most beloved scores, Chinatown (1974), he replaced composer Philip Lambro and the haunting score was done in 10 days.  It was nominated for the Oscar and currently is on the AFI top film scores at number 9.  In the years following, Goldsmith scored some of his best known scores including The Wind & The Lion (1975), The Omen (1976), Logan’s Run (1976), 1977’s MacArthur and Islands in the Stream, The Boys From Brazil (1978), Capricorn One (1978).  1979 saw two of Goldsmith’s biggest hits and possibly his most popular works: Alien and Star Trek the Motion Picture.  It was Richard Donner’s The Omen in 1976 that Goldsmith won his Academy Award for score. 

The 1980s allowed Goldsmith to continue with harmonically and melodically interesting music.  He began working with varied directors like Joe Dante, which gave Goldsmith lighter scores.  As franchises became more popular, Goldsmith composed music for several sequels.  His scores added more and more electronic components such as synthesizers.  Here are a few highlights of the decade:
1981 – Outland, The Final Conflict Omen III
1982 – First Blood, Secret of NIMH, Poltergeist
1983 – Twilight Zone: The Movie, Under Fire
1984 - Gremlins
1985 – Explorers, Rambo First Blood Part II
1986 – Hoosiers, Legend
1987 - Innerspace, Lionheart
1988 - Rambo III
1989 - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (Goldsmith’s return to Star Trek)

Into the 1990s, Goldsmith continued his complex writing with directors like John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven, David Anspaugh and Curtis Hansen.  This decade musically is in his style with many new styles added.  Like the 1980s, he found himself scoring many blockbusters as well as many cult classics/flops like Supergirl (1984).  He received back to back Oscar nominations for L.A. Confidential and the Disney film Mulan.  Highlights of this decade include:
1990 – Total Recall
1992 – Basic Instinct, Forever Young
1993 – Rudy
1995 – First Knight
1996 - The Ghost & The Darkness, Star Trek: First Contact
1997 – Air Force One, L.A. Confidential
1998 – Mulan, Star Trek: Insurrection
1999 – The Mummy, The 13th Warrior

His friendship with directors continued, and his variety of material continued as well.  He continued doing many thriller scores in the 2000s, and as his health declined, he scored fewer films.  In 2002 he scored his last Star Trek score, for Star Trek Nemesis.  He begun work on 2003’s Timeline, but due to constant re-editing his score was replaced by Brian Tyler, with Goldsmith’s score eventually released on CD.  With his health failing and constant changes to the film, Goldsmith’s score to Looney Tunes: Back in Action was supplemented by John Debney. 

After a long battle with cancer, Jerry Goldsmith died in July 2004 at age 75. 

Jerry Goldsmith had a truly illustrious career.  He was able to bring his own style to films and his meticulous attention to detail.  He was a hard worker and brought his dedication to every project he worked on.  Each work also stands on its own, yet is married to the films so well.  Even with his schedule, he composed concert music such as Fireworks A Celebration (1999) and the cantata Christus Apollo (1974).  He composed the music to the Disneyland ride Soarin’ Over California in 2001.  And of course the fanfare for Universal Studios seen since 1997. 

Even after conducting several of his scores for the film, he would adapt them into suites, which are often performed.  Goldsmith also has the honor of having almost every work recorded and released.  He remains an inspiration to film composers and fans alike.  He is truly a landmark. 

Below is a great video with clips of Goldsmith talking, conducting and playing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Glimpses of MI:4

On Twitter, composer Michael Giacchino has given glimpses into the recording sessions of the newest installment: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.  Here are those images courtesy of Giacchino himself.  Follow on Twitter at @m_giacchino 

Giacchino, Andrew Stanton,
MI4 Director Brad Bird and Music Editor Dan Wallin

Giacchino, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird

Tom Cruise, Conductor/Orchestrator Tim Simonec, Brad Bird, Giacchino

Letting Tom Cruise conduct

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quick Review: War Horse

War Horse
Music composed by John Williams
Conducted by: John Williams
Orchestrated by: Eddie Karem
Music Recorded/Mixed by: Shawn Murphy
Score Recorded at Sony Pictures Studios
Album time: 63 minutes
Available on Sony Masterworks

2011 has been a great year of scores.  There has been some outstanding work from all genres.  This year also marks the debut of two John Williams scores.  Not having done a feature film since 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Williams and director Steven Spielberg reunite for War Horse and also The Adventures of Tintin.  Luckily the scores to Tintin and War Horse couldn’t be more different. 

The film is based on the young adult novel by Michael Morpurgo and the critically acclaimed London play of the same name.  Set in the English countryside during the onset of World War I, the music really gives us a sense of time and place in the beginning of the score. 

The album begins with Dartmoor, 1912.  We begin with a flute solo, which occurs a few other times in the score.  This beginning reminds many listeners of Ralph Vaughn Williams, certainly an influence for this type of score.  It has a slight Celtic flair in melody and rhythm.  The melodic lilts may remind one of his score to Far and Away.  The low strings move on to a driving melody until the whole orchestra enters with an exquisite folk-like melody.  This is a fantastic moment, and from then on I realized I was listening to John Williams (still) in his highest form.  This track serves as a great introduction to the score. 

Orchestration-wise, this score contains many woodwind solos.  The Auction is a track with plenty of these solo moments and a swaying string line.  Bringing Joey Home and Bonding features that slightly comic sounding march of low strings and bassoons that Williams has used in previous films (see Chamber of Secrets/Home Alone).  In this track, Williams is able to have a melody that is noble and reflective, fitting the young main character nicely. 
In this first half of the album, we hear snippets of past melodies, which grow on you each time.  The use of strings/harp with clarinet or horn over them is a staple of many film composers, and this score is no exception.  We hear the theme first heard in the Dartmoor, 1912 return in Seeding, and Horse vs. Car.  It is expanded from the first time and the orchestration changes to add trumpets and cymbals in a very majestic fashion which ends the track.  The writing in Plowing is just as spectacular, with a buildup to a reprise of a few themes heard so far.  We end with the lyrical flute solo with the feeling of nostalgia. 
A melancholic oboe solo begins Ruined Crop and Going to War.  This really is a beautiful track which includes a foreboding section with mournful sounding trumpet solo.  The trumpet continues in the next track as well.  Williams uses this trumpet sound often, and it really works on an emotional level in films. 

For those worried about spoilers in track titles, tread carefully.

In the track Desertion, the fast moving strings drive the music to a crescendo, adding in the brass, reminding me of music written for the Star Wars films.  This track contains one of the loudest moments of the album, if for those fans of John Williams action.  The lighthearted music of Joey’s New Friends is a welcome break in the score, utilizing quick time signature changes and cheery orchestration.  From there, the drama continues in the score.  The lower strings and trumpet become more prominent in Pulling the Cannon as the music grows more intense.  The elegiac strings continue into the next track, one of the most emotion-filled tracks of Williams’ since Anakin’s Betrayal in Revenge of the Sith.  This track blends into the next; underscore gets tenser as the horns and snare drum return.  No Man’s Land contains more boisterous orchestral music and the peak of the action on the album. 

The Reunion (a never-disappointing track name for Williams) gives us reprises of past themes in slightly varied forms.  It is music like this that works very well in Spielberg films – the tug of emotion.  The next track, Remembering Emilie, and Finale, is no different.  The solo piano features a rendition of the theme heard in The Reunion, which gets passed around the orchestra, building each time.  The longest track of the album is the suite The Homecoming.  The main themes return, along with a pseudo-cadenza on flute.  Each reprise is satisfying and by the time they return, we feel like we’ve always known them.  An extremely beautiful listening experience.  [edit: Flute solos are by Louise Di Tullio and trumpet solos are by Tim Morrison]             

It is nice to see John Williams in top form with two contrasting film scores this year.  His work this year is certainly some of the best this year, and for War Horse – this type of film is what Williams can do very well.  It is no surprise that his collaboration with Steven Spielberg has worked extremely well over the years.  John Williams always finds the emotional core of the scenes, making the score extremely moving. 


1. Dartmoor, 1912
6. Plowing
11. Pulling the Cannon
14. The Reunion
16. The Homecoming

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Screen Credit Quiz! (Round 4)

It's been a while since the last Screen Credit Quiz.  Here's new round!
Here are the rules:  I post a shot of the composer's title credit (either opening or closing) and you guess what movie it is from.  Seems easy enough, right?  Post your guesses in the comments!






Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Billboard Top Film Songs


It is no surprise that songs from films have been on the radio.  The radio has always been an important tool and a variety of types have appeared on the radio for film scores.  I’ve scoured the US Billboard Top 100 lists (1960 and on) and here’s what came up.  We have the title themes/songs written for the movie and pop songs that were written for the film.  It’s no surprise many of these films are from the 1970s and 1980s, with film songs slowly disappearing from the airwaves.  You'll notice most of the top songs in the 1990s ended up being the Oscar winners.  Or did they get played because they were the Oscar winners?  With many song titles being the film titles, I won’t repeat them twice.  Years are from the Billboard charts, not the year of the films.    

This list has some James Bond songs, Disney songs, popular artists doing covers, and yes – My Heart Will Go On.

Here are a bunch of songs, Oscar winning Best Songs are highlighted in green.

1960 - Theme from a Summer Place (Percy Faith/music: Max Steiner)
1960 -
Theme From The Apartment (Ferrante & Teicher/music: Adolph Deutsch)
1961 - Exodus (Ferrante & Teicher/music: Ernest Gold)
1962 -
Moon River – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Henry Mancini)
1963 - Days of Wine and Roses (Henry Mancini)
1965 - Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey/music: John Barry)
1996 - Born Free (Roger Williams/music: John Barry)
1967 - Alfie (Dionne Warwick/music: Burt Bacharach)
1967 - To Sir with Love (Lulu/music: Mark London)
1968 -
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Hugo Montenegro/music: Ennio Morricone)
1968 - Mrs. Robinson (Simon and Garfunkel)
1968 -
(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls (Dionne Warwick/music: André Previn)
1969 - Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet (Henry Mancini and his Orchestra/music: Nino Rota)
1970 – Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (B.J. Thomas/music: Burt Bacharach)
1971 - Theme From Shaft (Isaac Hayes)
1971 -
Love Story (Where Do I Begin) (Andy Williams/music: Francis Lai)
1972 - The Candy Man – Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Sammy Davis, Jr./music: Bricusse and Newley)
1973 -
Live And Let Die (Wings/music: Paul and Linda McCartney)
1974 - The Way We Were (Barbra Streisand/music: Marvin Hamlisch)
1974 -
The Entertainer – The Sting (Scott Joplin, arr Marvin Hamlisch)
1974 - Tubular Bells – The Exorcist (Mike Oldfield)
1976 - Theme from Mahogany (Diana Ross/music: Michael Masser)
1977 -
Evergreen (Love Theme From "A Star Is Born") (Barbra Streisand)
1977 -
Theme From "Rocky" (Gonna Fly Now) (Bill Conti)
1977 - Star Wars Theme-Cantina Band (Meco/John Williams)
1977 - Star Wars (Main Title) (London Symphony Orchestra/music: John Williams)
1977 - Nobody Does It Better - The Spy Who Loved Me (Carly Simon/music: Marvin Hamlisch)
1978 - You Light Up My Life (Debby Boone/music: Joseph Brooks)
1978 - You’re the One That I Want – Grease (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John/music: John Farrar)
1978 - Summer Nights­­ - Grease (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John/music: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey)
1978 - Grease (Frankie Valli/music: Barry Gibb)
1978 - Stayin’ Alive – Saturday Night Fever (The Bee Gees)
1980 - Fame (Irene Cara/music: Michael Gore)
1981 - 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)
1981 - Arthur's Theme(Best That You Can Do) – Arthur (Christopher Cross/music: Burt Bacharach, et al)
1981 - For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton/music: Bill Conti)
1982 - Eye Of The Tiger – Rocky III (Survivor)
1982 - Chariots of Fire (Vangelis)
1983 - Flashdance...What A Feeling (Irene Cara/music: Giorgio Moroder)
1983 - Far From Over - Staying Alive (Frank Stallone/music: Stallone, Vince DiCola)
1984 - Footloose (Kenny Loggins)
1984 - Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)
1985 - The Power Of Love – Back to the Future (Huey Lewis and The News)
1985 - A View To A Kill (Duran Duran)
1985 - St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) (John Parr/music: Parr, David Foster)
1986 - Take My Breath Away – Top Gun (Berlin/music: Giorgio Moroder, Tom Whitlock)
1986 - Spies Like Us (Paul McCartney)
1986 -
Glory Of Love (Theme From "The Karate Kid Part II") (Peter Cetera/music: Cetera, David Foster, et al)
1987 - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life – Dirty Dancing (Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes/Franke Previte, et al)
1987 - Somewhere Out There – An American Tail (Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram/music: James Horner et al)
1987 -
Shakedown (From "Beverly Hills Cop II") (Bob Seger/music: Harold Faltermeyer)
1988 - Kokomo – Cocktail (The Beach Boys)
1989 - Wind Beneath My Wings – Beaches (Bette Midler/music: Larry Henley, Jeff Silbar
1989 - Batdance – Batman (Prince)
1990 -
It Must Have Been Love – Pretty Woman (Roxette/music: Per Gessle)
1990 - Blaze Of Glory (From "Young Guns II") (Jon Bon Jovi)
1991 - (Everything I Do) I Do It For You – Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (Bryan Adams/music: Adams, Michael Kamen, Mutt Lange)
1992 - Beauty And The Beast (Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson/music: Alan Menken)
1992 -
This Used To Be My Playground – A League of Their Own (Madonna)
1993 - I Will Always Love You – The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston/music: Dolly Parton)
1993 - A Whole New World – Aladdin (Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle/music: Alan Menken)
1994 - Can You Feel The Love Tonight – The Lion King (Elton John)
1994 - Streets Of Philadelphia – Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
1995 - Gangsta's Paradise – Dangerous Minds (Coolio)
1995 - Kiss From A Rose – Batman Forever (Seal)
1995 - Exhale (Shoop Shoop) (From "Waiting To Exhale") (Whitney Houston/music: Babyface)
1995 - Colors Of The Wind – Pocahontas (Vanessa Williams/music: Alan Menken)
1996 - Theme From Mission: Impossible (Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen/music: Lalo Schifrin)
1996 - Because You Loved Me – Up Close & Personal (Celine Dion/music: Diane Warren)
1997 - Go The Distance – Hercules (Michael Bolton/music: Alan Menken)
1997 - Don't Cry For Me Argentina – Evita (Madonna/music: Andrew Lloyd Webber)
1997 - You Must Love Me – Evita (Madonna/music: Andrew Lloyd Webber)
1998 - My Heart Will Go On – Titanic (Celine Dion/music: James Horner)
1998 - I Don't Want To Miss A Thing – Armageddon (Aerosmith/music: Diane Warren)
1998 - Wild Wild West (Will Smith feat. Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee)
1999 - Iris - City of Angels (Goo Goo Dolls)
1999 - Music Of My Heart (N Sync and Gloria Estefan/music: Diane Warren)
1999 - When You Believe – Prince of Egypt (Stephen Schwartz)
2001 - Lady Marmalade – Moulin Rouge (Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink/music: Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan)
2001 - There You’ll Be – Pearl Harbor (Faith Hill/music: Diane Warren)
2002 - Hero – Spider-Man (Chad Kroeger feat. Josey Scott)
2003 - Lose Yourself – 8 Mile (Eminem)
2006 - Life is a Highway – Cars (Rascal Flatts/music: Tom Cochrane)