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An Appreciation for Jerry Goldsmith

Every film composed by Jerry Goldsmith possesses his stamp of lyrical and layered composition. Whether it was the sci-fi adventure “The Planet of the Apes” (1968), the paranormal thriller “Poltergeist” (1982), or the romantic drama “The Russian House” (1990), Goldsmith generated scores that accommodated every film he was a part of.

Inspiration struck collegiate Jerry Goldsmith into becoming a film composer after attending music courses taught by “Ben Hur” (1959) film composer, Miklos Rosza. Goldsmith originally planned to become a concert composer and to think that if Goldsmith had not been inspired, a lot of films and television series would be missing his intense and beautiful scores. In 1962, Goldsmith was working for Revue Studios when he scored his first film, “Freud” (1962). Goldsmith received his first Academy Award nomination for his music. Soon after, with the help of fellow film composer Alfred Newman, Goldsmith was put in charge of scoring his own films. And Goldsmith was not afraid to take risks.

With his most famous score for “Planet of the Apes” (1968), Goldsmith was innovative with the use of many different instruments including horns without their mouthpieces. Goldsmith’s musical pieces for “Planet of the Apes” balanced out a rush of orchestral energy with traditional instruments such as the piano with more non-traditional instruments such as the snare drums, stainless steel mixing bowls, and xylophones to create a primitive yet contemporary atmosphere for the sci-fi adventure film. Goldsmith was nominated for Academy Award for his efforts and his score was recognized as #18 in AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores list. Composer Danny Elfman’s score for the 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes” possessed traces of Goldsmith’s original score but the new combination did not leave as much of a lasting impression as Goldsmith’s work.

For Steven Spielberg’s “Poltergeist” (1982), Goldsmith had an interesting interpretation on how to score the film, “. . .The human side of the film is what’s important not the hardware. Most people saw it as a ghost story and a horror story. I saw it as a love story and wrote the music with that emotion in mind.” Goldsmith’s theme for “Poltergeist” combination of the simple stringing of the Japanese instrument called the “koto” and the playful melody voiced by a childrens' chorus, brings out a creepy yet melancholy mood. It comes with no surprise that Goldsmith garnered another Academy Award nomination for his score but would lose to John Williams’ score for Spielberg’s “E.T” (1982).

In throughout his career, Goldsmith’s films scores were recognized for nineteen Academy Awards, only winning one for “The Omen” (1976). He was also nominated for five Grammy’s and countless Emmy nominations. However, it is not the accolades which make Goldsmith’s scores so wonderful, it is the scores themselves. Goldsmith once said, “If our music survives, which I have no doubt it will, then it will be because it was good.” And we have no doubt that Goldsmith’s extraordinary work will live on for a very long time, if not forever.

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