Monday, April 30, 2012

Joel Goldsmith (1957-2012)

First, the father. Now, the son. May they rest in peace.

Joel Goldsmith was more than just a footnote in Jerry Goldsmith's life. Joel was born November 19, 1957. He was the elder of Jerry Goldsmith's six children. It was early in his career that he helped his father program the synthesizers that made those years so distinctive. Joel was a composer in his own right. He provided Stargate's many series with top grade episodic music. He scored several films, including Diamonds, Kull the Conqueror, Moon 44 and co-scoring Star Trek: First Contact with his father.

I visited his website,, today. His death is not mentioned there yet. On his site, Joel is still alive. He still embraces Sophia, who is adorned with a Jaffa insignia on her forehead. His site shows off his many works, his impressive workstations and custom studio.

It is a depressing thought to know his projects page will never be updated again. There will be no more new works, new stories or snapshots of the man who was still in his prime.

If you never heard any of his works before now, please do so. He may be gone, but I pray he will never be forgotten. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jane Eyre: Bernard Herrmann

"Dear readers, I married him" (Jane Eyre, Chapter 38)

Charlotte Bronte's renowned story, Jane Eyre, has been remade many times for the silver screen. Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine appeared in the 1943 film version of the novel. Bernard Herrmann scored the film with a dark and brooding work with an occasional lightness. This was written in his early days of film scoring, written only three years after Citizen Kane.

The original recordings are available in various guises. One such option was released by a company called Trumpets of Jericho. This release came as a two CD set, which threw in David Raksin's "Laura" and Charles Chaplin's "Modern Times". The sound quality is terrible for all three scores presented in this release. Even with the archival sound, it is hard not to appreciate what Herrmann brought to the film.

Another option that is readily available is a rerecording from the Naxos label. It is attributed to Adriano and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.The Naxos presentation offers more music than any of the versions of the original recordings.

The main theme for the film is in minor key. It is first heard in the opening track, "Main Title" or "Prelude" on the Naxos rerecording. The second track contains a pleasant ditty in the major key. This piece, along with the main theme, are the two ideas Herrmann uses throughout the score.

Both the original recording and the Naxos rerecording are worth looking into. The archival sound of the original is oddly satisfying. The newer recording is clearer, and therefore better for really analyzing Herrmann's compositions.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Limited Editions: Good Or Bad?

Film music will never be considered a mainstream market. Score fans are on the outer rim of the music business, where only a few companies care to release these seemingly unprofitable works. Many fine film scores with little hope of attaining mass appeal or profitability are either not released, or released in limited quantities.

When an older score is finally released as a limited run, people often go crazy for them. These customers can be divided into groups; those who buy the CD to enjoy the music and those who buy to sell later on at a profit. Some of the latter people will buy multiple copies, and then sell them online at a later time for a profit. There are CDs that can cost up to three, even four digits on the second hand market.

It must be said that it is a good thing indeed to have any particular score available in the first place. There are many excellent works that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. "The Omega Man", "Predator" and "The Poseidon Adventure" are three scores that come to mind.

In recent memory, both these scores have been re released by either the same company or a different label. Those who bought earlier editions hoping to make a buck are left with obsolete, often unsellable items. They have lost money.

One could rightfully wonder if the limited edition CD is really so limited after all, if someone else makes a second printing, or releases it with some new feature (better sound, more music, etc). Why should they pay an arm and a leg on a rare score, such as Predator or Dragonslayer, if these CDs will most likely be re released in the next year or so? It is a game of Roulette, with the collector's wallet at stake.

Limited editions, if viewed from the standpoint of musical enjoyment, are not an evil. It is what people do that makes the molehill a raging mountain.One could say this; that those who buy film music CDs solely for profit are foolish. A CDs rarity is an unwise determining factor in a purchase. In the end, the music itself should be the primary reason for investing money into one's collection.

Buy a CD. Enjoy the music, not the promise of money.

Doctor Who: Series 5

I decided to give the Doctor another try. This time, I chose the two-disc set from season five. The eleventh doctor's first season received the first 2-CD set for the show. The music seems far different in tone from the first disc I purchased ( which I also reviewed here). There is a more unified sound, with a touch of remote control in the music. Particular episodes are highlighted, rather than compiled into suites.

Murray Gold does a superb job at capturing the essence of Matt Smith's Doctor. The new Doctor's theme starts simply, then develops into a full-blown, orchestral blast. The core of the new theme is a figure which ascends with four notes, descends with four and repeats. It often appears in a minor key, though with major and minor harmonics. A secondary figure is layered on top, and is used as a leavening of what could be an otherwise moody action theme.

Gold has also re-orchestrated Ron Grainer's theme for the third time. The introductory segment is the most notable difference between this and the previous two incarnations. Its faster and more frenetic than the earlier renditions. The two CD set features only one full performance of the theme, unlike the first CD I reviewed earlier, which had the opening credits and the full version book ending the presentation. It would have been a nice way to finish the second disc, which seems to end abruptly.

There are many highlight tracks throughout the set, notably the new theme for the Doctor, which can be heard in "I am the Doctor" and "Onwards!", and "Amy's Theme". The set is a warmly recommended addition to any CD collection. ****

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Poem

Here is a poem, written on the fly, about nothing in particular. It may or may not contain references to film music. It is stream of consciousness. So here goes my attempt at poetry (if you're still reading after this point, I salute you).

A Short Poem
The sweetest voice speaks music to my ears,
and sings to my heart, which joins in the chorus
with its own quickening, rhythmic phrases. 

Another Poem
The sky bleeds blue onto the floor,
the clouds burst open in atmospheric gore,
the sun has fallen, and we too will descend,
into the depths of everlasting darkness. 

Yet Another Poem
Rose are red, unless they are white,
or pink, which is a possibility.
Violets are violet, which could be considered a bluish hue.
Sugar is sweet, but too much can cause negative reactions.
So you also can cause negative situations within the finely tuned system,
whichever system in which you inhabit.
But this is not to say that you can not be sweet...

And Still Another Poem
Songs of innocence
abound in the spring and
bear witness to the dawn of the new day
in every corner of the world,
new and renewed lives and loves
affirm the season's sweetest songs.

The Last Poem in the Cycle
With twenty four frames a second,
and a picture worth a thousand words,
there are thousands upon thousands of words worth of images,
summarized with a few well-placed notes,
by hands more skilled than my own.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Art of Collecting; The Pains of Choice

There are those who listen to film scores, then there are those who devour film scores. I would consider myself as somewhere between these two categories. I love to listen to film music, though I have not bankrupted myself to purchase every score I have ever wanted.

Not long ago, I was glancing through my score collection of roughly 500 discs. I wanted something of a certain sound, a vintage if you will. I found at least three possible candidates for the job, with an oddball thrown in for fun. I had time only for one score. I had to decide; would I listen to Bernard Herrmann's Jane Erye, Charles Chaplin's Modern Times, Max Steiner's Treasure of the Sierra Madre or Murray Gold's Doctor Who (Fifth season). I settled on the first option. I then realized I had two options for Jane Eyre. I could either listen to the original recording or the rerecording from the Naxos label. I chose the rerecording, as the sound quality is much better.

That was an easy day. There are days which I take much longer to decide. There are times where I choose nothing at all. It is like having a thousand channels on television but not being able to stick to one program. Either there are too many things to watch or nothing that immediately jumps out and screams "pay attention to me". Maybe I should invest in an MP3 player one of these days. This would mean setting up a playlist and transferring music from disc to hard drive. I am too lazy to do this.

 Let us try an experiment. You are a film score collector with a collection of more than a thousand discs. You must travel somewhere. Your trip will give you enough time to listen to one or two entire scores while on the road. You must choose from your thousand CDs only two discs to bring with you. Will you decide by genre, composer or by emotive quality? If you choose genre, go to choice A. If you choose by composer, turn to choice B. If you choose by emotive quality, turn to choice C. If you decide not to take anything, hang up and dial again (or just turn to choice D).

CHOICE A --By Genre
You decide to choose two CDs by their genre. You have broken your collection into five categories; action/adventure, comedy, drama, Sci-fi/fantasy and other. You must decide on a genre. If you want action/adventure, turn to section 1. Choose section 2 for comedy. Section 3 is drama. Section 4 is for Sci-fi/fantasy and section 5 is for other. Choose one and pay.

 CHOICE A: SECTION 1 -- Action/adventure
You have chosen action and adventure. You feel like something bold, brassy; something propulsive and explosive for your otherwise mundane driving experience. Three scores pop out at you from your collection; Cutthroat Island by John Debney, Mission Impossible 3 by Michael Giacchino, and The Rock by Someone who may or may not be Nick Glennie-Smith, in addition to an untold number of other composers and musicians.


You have chosen comedy as your main source of jollies for your long road. You find a few items in this genre which are sure to please. You Can choose either John Debney's Inspector Gadget (Subsection 1) or Ernest Gold's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Subsection 2).


CHOICE B -- By Composer
You decide to select two CDs by composer. You nominate at random four composers for the task of keeping you entertained on your long journey ahead of you. They are Georges Delerue, James Horner, Hans Zimmer (and company) or Bernard Herrmann. To choose Delerue, turn to section 1. To choose Horner, turn to section 2. For Zimmer (et al), turn to section 3. For Herrmann, go to section 4. If you wish to make a call, please hang up and dial the operator.


CHOICE B: SECTION 1 -- Delerue
You have graced Delerue with the honor of entertaining you. You narrow your choices down to two options: Joe Vs the Volcano and Our Mother's House. For Joe, turn to section 1. For Our Mother's House, turn right at the light and continue 30 feet. Your destination is on your left (section 2).


CHOICE C --By Emotion
You want to have a welling of emotions on your long drive. You narrow down to three emotional responses; for happiness, go to section 1, for depression, take some medication and go to section 2, for anger and rage, tear your way to section 3.


CHOICE D --Nothing
You decide not to take anything. You hang your head in shame. A real film score fan would have chosen something, anything, but you have chosen the way of pain. Christopher Lee will surely hunt you down and toss you from the highest of the Two Towers. You know of what I speak. THE END

ALL OTHER CHOICES IN THIS STORY CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE...I said this was an experiment, not a full fledged story. If you want more, leave a comment to let me know if this experiment has either succeeded or failed. Your thoughts are very much appreciated.

What a test! This is how it feels sometimes to pick a single score for the long drive each day. It is the pains of choice we face in our art of collecting film music.