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Score of the Month #7 - Planet of the Apes (1968) by Jerry Goldsmith

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Score of the Month #7 - Planet of the Apes (1968) by Jerry Goldsmith

Welcome back to #ScoreOTM... Today we're going way back to an era of serious orchestral sound design and vast experimentation because yep, I'm naming Jerry Goldsmith's score for Planet of the Apes (1968) as my 7th Score of the Month entry!

Let me just start by stating that Jerry Goldsmith is, and always will be in my eyes a legend... I have so much respect for him, he stood his ground when it came to his approach (often causing some contention during spotting sessions from what I have read), but his results were seemingly always highly original (despite there being nods to Stravinsky, Holst and Herrmann in this score); he complimented the films he worked on in a way I am sure many directors, producers and indeed audience members would not have anticipated.  

So a little back story before we start... Planet of the Apes is to me is an absolute classic and while the newer films may be full of loud bombastic scores, high tech special effects and humorous characters, this film for me will always be the number 1. What with the release of the new "War for the Planet of the Apes" film, I found myself browsing Apple Music for the new score and was reminded of this one and well, the rest is history. I first came across it in 2013 while in my final year at University was so impressed, I based the entire "Landmark Score Analysis" module on it. I will be stealing some parts of that work for this blog post, I mean it's mine after all right? ;)

Any composer who starts getting microtonal and instructing his players to perform a one 1/4 tone up has my respect, but for some real scope on what I mean by experimental orchestration sound design, let's just start with the list of instruments Goldsmith introduced into the score...

  • Stainless Steel Kitchen Mixing Bowls

  • Bass slide-whistle (A wind instrument with a tube piston on the bottom to vary pitch

  • Brazilian Cuica - (Used to simulate Ape sounds)

  • Shofar (A Rams Horn traditionally used in Jewish religious ceremony)

  • Boo Bams - (Hollow bamboo stems which sound like tuned congas)

  • Electric Harp

  • Electric Bass Clarinet

  • Bells

  • Water Drop Bars

  • Tibetan Horn

  • Gong

  • Slit drum or ‘log drum’

  • Conch Shell

  • Anvil

  • Prepared Pianos

What I love about the careful design of his orchestra, is that these instruments are voiced throughout the entire soundtrack, they really are part of the world of the Planet of the Apes which in turn means the score definitely blurs the lines between what is diegetic and non-diegetic;  each of these instruments will at one stage or another take a leading role as both the world and story begins to unfold. These "instruments-as-sound design" elements blend perfectly with what is otherwise a fairly conventional score in terms of musical story telling.... We have action, romance, triumph, creeping "up-to-no-good", loss and anger motifs voiced throughout as you would normally expect, it's the clever execution, blend of timbres and rigorous performance instructions which really make it interesting for me! 

So let's talk about stand out cues... this is really difficult because I almost feel like naming the entire damn soundtrack, but let's be realistic about this and cut it down to 4 cues!

Firstly, for me the opening cue which was very practically named "Main Titles" is without a doubt in the list ; Goldsmith has been very cleaver here as he does not hang around in terms of introducing us to his very bold pallet of sounds and instruments from the very first frames. Not only does this set the tone of the film and introduce the audience to the world they are about to explore, but it's a great way of easing them into hearing these sorts of instruments and sounds, most of which they would not have heard before. We hear the prepared pianos, cuica, slide-whistle, shofar and gongs during this cue for the first time and it has to be said, the use of tape delay on those violin pizzicato notes really take my interest. 

Secondly, both "The Searchers" and "The Search Continues" (I mean it's basically one cue) really stands out for me! Those delayed pizzicato notes start the cue with a little more assertiveness than before and we are introduced to a real sense of mystery as the strings and horns take the audience on a journey of the planet for the first time. It's also the first time the audience is given a sense of dread, like something is not right here! As a side note, I think its worth noting that I really believe Vangelis took a lot of inspiration from these cues for his work on titles such as Blade Runner, while that score is hugely electronic, it is still based on an orchestra. The way Goldsmith has voiced the horns here, particularly during"The Searchers" for example, starting at around 01:32 give me a very similar vibe to what Vangelis replicated some years later. 

Thirdly, how could I not mention "The Hunt", it's probably the most famous cues for a start, but that aside it's just awesome. The piano ostinato is rude and makes absolutely no apology for being son, and I love it when it's doubled with the brass! The cue creates so much tension even listening to it now without those chaotic visuals it gets your blood pumping, the cuica is probably hear the most here ("The Intruders" and "The Forbidden Zone" are also good cues to listen to if you are looking for this sound) as Goldsmith attempts to voice the presence of the apes. 

Finally, and this has been really hard given I limited myself to just 4 cues, it has to be "A Bid for Freedom", simply because I feel it voices the work and way of live of the apes perfectly... It's a real observation cue as we view the apes going about their work and patrolling areas of the camp, the military-eqsue trumpets towards the end of the cue are a perfect example of that.

And that brings us to the end of this months #ScoreOfTheMonth, to finish this post off, I have decided to attach a PDF link to my score analysis, cue sheet and written work from the Landmark Score Uni module I mentioned above!, I got a 1st for it which I was thrilled with at the time... Perhaps a slightly abstract thing to do as it's not in line at all with my other posts, but anyone studying landmark scores may find find it useful or at the very least, interesting! I hope you enjoyed the post and will visit the soundtrack; see you next month folks! 

Film Score Analysis of Jerry Goldsmith's Planet of the Apes + Cue Sheet

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Score of the Month #6 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton (2017)

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Score of the Month #6 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton (2017)

Thanks for staying tuned and welcome to #ScoreOTM #6; this one absolutely had to go to Daniel Pemberton for his work on Guy Ritchie's new film "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"... If I ever saw this man in a public house, I would send over a pint without a second thought! 1hr 32mins of pure entertainment....

Being a reprobate and breaking my golden rule yet again, I listened to the soundtrack before watching the film and my first thoughts were, wow... This score is for lack of a better word, just rude! It's loud, angsty, bold and totally brutish while making absolutely no apology for being so in any way, shape or form; I just love that!

First of all, let me just clear up any anxieties people may have with regards to the film itself as for some unknown reason (to me at least), it got absolutely slated by the critics. Did Guy (Ritchie) piss some people off in Hollywood or something? I mean the "TOMATOMETER" over at Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film in at just 27%; the "Audience Score" however was much higher at 78%, I know which side I'm on! I guess what I'm trying to say is, go and see the damn film and don't worry too much what's being said about it, it's a film for the big screen without question and it would be a shame to miss it... Okay, okay back to the score...

You get put into Medieval England pretty quickly from the very first cue "From A King Comes Nothing" in which we hear a loud blast from what may as well be a Carnyx ensemble sounding out a battle cry, this is followed by a short, sweet and beautiful violin melody which also helps to set the scene for us cinema goers. Then it all kicks off, I legitimately started to jig in the cinema to the second album cue, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" which we hear as the main titles and credit into to the film are shown, this is Arthur's theme and Pemberton gets us used to it pretty quick! It's rhythmic as hell and 100% like something you would hear on a Pagan Metal album, but just on a huge scale! From here on, any outside thoughts I had lingering around my head were gone as I began to relax and take in the story; here comes cue 3, "Growing Up Londinium" and later "Run Londinium"... I mean what is happening now, we have this heavily distorted drum section and percussion thundering through the cinema accompanied by some seriously heavy rhythmic breathing, guitars and scratching string, I was loving it! These cues work perfectly to voice the fun, youthful and playful side of the film which is portrayed by Arthur and his gang living and grafting in the streets of Londinium.

Cue's such as "The Story of Mordred", "Vortigen and the Syrens" and "Tower & Power" deal with the darker side of the story and voice the dark forces and mystical beings Vortigern is toying with perfectly as they have the right amount of a fear-and-wonder element while maintaining a creepy and eerie core.

And of course, I can't finish this blog without speaking about the "The Power of Excalibur"... For starters, I love that loud Carnyx ensemble sound yet again which kicks off the cue; I love the build in tension as we begin to hear distorted basses and high strings in unison before the addition of a huge percussion section and string runs. I loved being led into that classic heroic feel through the use of the horns as Arthur begins to realise the power of Excalibur, followed by the humble cascade as we are brought back to earth... The cue worked amazingly well to picture!

If you have not already, please go and see the film, listen to the score and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below; until next time....

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