Yesterday, I commented briefly on how amazing Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was. In addition to that score, in 1979, this workaholic also scored the sprightly The Great Train Robbery and the bone-chilling Alien. You can not ask for three more diverse scores than they.
Goldsmith is a composer whose work often is what defines a genre. In the 70's, he recreated film noir with his brilliant 1974 Chinatown score. He also brought the demonic chorus into vogue with The Omen in 1976 (for which he won an Oscar... to date his only). The cold sound of the modern erotic thriller comes from his 1992 Basic Instinct score. And don't get me started on the brilliance of 1968's Planet of the Apes.
Goldsmith's oevre is huge. It encompasses all genres. There is no type of film that he hasn't scored. He has composed more music in one decade than many composers do their entire lives, and he does so under the sorts of constraints that would drive most people mad... Chinatown was written in a week as it was a replacement score, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was constantly being re-edited as he was recording the score... there are any number of stories like these that can be told.
What is interesting is not only that he can compose so much music, but that so much of it is excellent (no matter what the quality of the film he is composing it for; in fact, it is a common wry comment in the film music community that some of Goldsmith's best music was written for some pretty lousy films). There is something else about his scores that also stand out; they are, first and foremost, film music.
In a way, Jerry Goldsmith is one of those composers, like Bernard Herrmann, who define to me what the sound of a film score is. The Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, for example, has three main thematic concepts: the title march and variations, the lush music for Ilia, and the logical and cold music for V'Ger. When listening closely to cues like "The Cloud" and "Vejur Flyover," one finds that Ilia's theme is being incorporated into the V'Ger music, which foreshadows the eventual fate of the character.
Goldsmith also has had unique opportunities. His score for Legend (which was replaced in the American edit by a Tangerine Dream score; the DVD restores Goldsmith's music) is written for a full orchestra, mixed choir and a battery of electronics all conspiring to create a fairy-tale atmosphere to match Ridley Scott's visuals. The third film in the Omen series, The Final Conflict, remains to date the only epic horror film score.
Goldsmith is a composer whose work is as engaging as it is diverse. He can move us from the harshest depths of the most unpleasant hell to the rapturous reaches of pleasure within seconds. This is a great talent.