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jerry goldsmith

Score of the Month #10 - Rambo: First Blood by Jerry Goldsmith (1982)

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Score of the Month #10 - Rambo: First Blood by Jerry Goldsmith (1982)

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First off! Where have you ben Mike? I know its been a while since I wrote for Score of the Month, but after much hiatus for personal reasons and going a bit mental for a while, I am firmly back.

Anyone who has had any sort of lengthly conversations with me regarding my favourite composers, will know that Jerry Goldsmith is pretty high up on my list… In fact, this is the second time he is featuring as part of #SotM after my lengthly review of his 1968 score for Planet of the Apes.

I had sadly all but forgotten the Rambo score, that was until my mate Ric suggested it during a conversation on a new video for Off The Record. Since listening again, I have been filled with life and yet again my admiration for Goldsmith’s compositions are at the foreground…

One of the many interesting thing about this score, is the fact that there was a more “poppy” arrangement of “It’s A Long Road” composed and arranged for singer Dan Hill.. I guess in some ways, it loosely links to my comments in SotM #9 for Junkie XL’s Divergent where he had teamed up with Ellie Goulding to incorporate her into the score, but this takes it a little further. I’m almost certain that someone else may have come in to rearrange Goldsmith’s cue for the Dan Hill version of “It’s A Long Road”, but i could be wrong there, it may have been Goldsmith working on these arrangements all the way through (If anyone knows, please let me know).

“It’s A Long Road”, is basically the opening cue “Home Coming”, it’s as sad as it is lonely, but it is also hopeful and peaceful all at the same time. I really love this opening cue, the trumpet for the main theme supported by the arpeggiated guitar lines really sets the character up and the string lines are so lush, they really pull on your heart strings and they just sound for lack of a better work, perfect. As the cue comes to a close, we hear those heroic french horns and woodwinds before the strings join the composition again and highlight a more adventurous and hopeful sentiment.

Cue two, "Escape Route”, features those famous “wandering around and up to no good” Goldsmith piano ostinatios which I really love... A lot of the orchestration, style and choice of instruments in the following cues are actually very reminiscent of his earlier work for Planet of the Apes, which really isn’t a bad thing in my book. From here, the score album mixed very nicely into “First Blood”, which has a very military vibe to it, intrinsic to Rambo’s character. This cue mixes and blends very cleverly with key motifs from “Home Coming” and “Escape Route” as the score begins to show Rambo in action while also reminding us of his softer side. The use of this merge is consistent throughout the score, “The Tunnel”, “Hanging On”, and “Mountain Hunt” are good examples of this and a great example of pacing and motif done well.

”Mountain Hunt” is an interesting cue to me, because the tension in it reminds me of parts of Alan Silvestri’s score for Predator! While this film came out later in the 1980s (1987 to be precise), I definitely feel Goldsmith’s approach Rambo (perhaps through experimentations he had had while scoring Planet of the Apes) were a case study for Silvestri while composing the Predator score.

Another favourite cue of mine is “My Town”, mainly because it underpins crucial parts in the story where we really start to learn of the horrors that Rambo has been suffering post war, but it’s also musically intriguing. The rhythmic build, french horn section and slower arrangement of the “Home Coming” cue are brilliantly powerful within this scene.  

When you really dig deep into the score, there is actually not a great deal of music, but I think it is an absolutely classic and a strong example of how really amazing music and key motifs can be arranged, rearranged and reorchestrated in truly powerful ways. It took me a long time to realise this as a film composer, if only I had listened to Goldsmith earlier.

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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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