Sunday, February 01, 2004

Goldsmith the Tunesmith

I'm listening right now to Jerry Goldsmith's score to the movie Legend, which was not used because the film's producers got panicky and basically shredded the movie to the point of giving it an entirely new score prior to its American release (a sequence of events which repeated, almost exactly, with last year's Timeline). Jerry Goldsmith's luck, with regard to his film assignments and what happens to his scores, is generally about as bad as John Williams's is good. If you ever find yourself watching a perfectly ghastly movie and yet saying to yourself, "Hmmmm, this movie blows, but the music's rather good," odds are you're listening to a Goldsmith score.

I've never been as keen on Goldsmith as many other film music fans. He's written a great many magnificent scores -- Legend, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Total Recall, The Wind and the Lion, and each of his scores for the Omen films are favorites of mine -- but generally speaking, criticizing Goldsmith tends to be looked upon by a lot of film music fans as the equivalent of loudly breaking wind in the midst of a coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey. You just don't do it, and there are times when I observe discussions of some score of his that I found lackluster in which everyone else is waxing poetic about how amazing it is, and I wonder if I'm even on the same planet. (First Knight and Star Trek Nemesis are good examples -- the former fails to stir my blood and the latter actually bores me, but many consider them to be at least minor masterworks.)

Over the last ten or fifteen years, in my ears, Goldsmith has displayed a tendency to write a barnburner of a theme, but then pound that theme into the ground so relentlessly that by the end of one of his score CDs (which tend to not be very long, for long and boring reasons) I am quite ready to never hear that theme again. This may have come about because of how his Legend score was treated -- Goldsmith pulled out a lot of stops for this one, only to see the tapes end up in the vaults and the film scored by Tangerine Dream.

Anyway, Legend really is a top-notch score. Check it out -- it was issued by Silva Records a while back. It certainly represents a level of compositional complexity to which Goldsmith just doesn't seem to aspire anymore.

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