Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jerry Goldsmith: A musical genius

I love science fiction. I get lost in it. Heck, I even started a short story in college that I never finished.

There are two movies that absolutely stand above all others in the sci-fi genre. The first and foremost is 2001: A Space Odyssey, co-written by the late, great Stanley Kubrick and Arther C. Clarke. 2001 is the perfect marriage of science and fiction. Though the dialogue in the movie was barely more than 18 minutes, it's musical score helped propel the movie and hold sci-fi aficionados utterly spellbound. Kubrick originally wanted Pink Floyd to do the entire soundtrack, but as we all know, that never happened. Which, is too bad. It would have been interesting to listen to. If you want to get an idea of what it would have been like, take a look at this clip. It is the last part of 2001 entitled, "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" coupled with my personal all-time favorite Floyd song, Echoes *sigh*. It's more than apparent that the music hinged on the progression of the final part of 2001.

The second movie that stands above the rest of the sci-fi competitors is Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien. At the time, Scott had no intention of being anywhere near sci-fi, but he took the director's chair anyway. Needless to say, the movie probably wouldn't have been such an immense hit with such a huge cult following if it weren't for the nightmarish, sexually repressed, yet strangely beautiful mind of Hans Rudolf Giger. Giger has always had his finger on the pulse of the dark and obscene, and knows just how to make you squirm. His designs for the creatures and the derelict spacecraft in the movie continue to inspire thousands of artists and sci-fi buffs everywhere.

But aside from the visual aspects of the movie, its perfect use of lighting, narrow passageways, and the unknown to induce fear, there is the musical score that could come only from the mind of Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith passed away on July 21, 2004, but not before leaving behind an enormous legacy. His music can be heard in over 100 movies and television shows, and he is the recipient of 18 Academy Award nominations, 7 emmy nominations, and 9 Golden Globe nominations, one of which was the score for Alien, which did not win. The judges must have been bought and paid for.

Goldsmith's score for the movie is everything that music for a sci-fi/horror film should be. Beautiful, dark, brooding, mysterious, pensive, edgy, unnerving, and at times, just downright creepy. It fits Alien so perfectly that it is virtually inseparable from the visual content of the movie. It makes you feel the vast emptiness, grandeur, and loneliness of space, the suspense and fear of being trapped in a narrow tunnel with nowhere to run, and the fear of one who is ultimately doomed from an unseen presence. Even the orchestra sounds alien at times.

An FYI, Scott is currently drawing up plans for a prequel to Alien. Hopefully, this will make up for the last two pathetic excuses for what Fincher, Jeunet, and the ever inept Joss Whedon tried to pass off as sequels, not to mention the Predator crossovers. Mr. Scott, if you're reading this, please, please, please, please, please, please, PLEASE contact me!

So here for your listening pleasure is the score from Alien (in 9 parts), followed Howard Hanson's Symphony Number 2, "Romantic" which played throughout the ending credits. Turn down the lights, put on your head phones, close your eyes, and listen. Because they just don't make 'em like these anymore.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Romantic.

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