Planet Of The Apes – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Planet Of The ApesSo much has been written down through the years about the influential career milestone that was Jerry Goldsmith‘s score for Planet Of The Apes that I’ve resisted reviewing it for a long time. It’s well known that it’s an unsettling, unconventional listening experience, with or without the movie. What is there to add to that?

The funny thing, however, is in giving it a fresh listen and finding that a lot of it is actually in a familiar orchestral vein. In some ways, it’s the exact opposite of Goldsmith’s later score to 1976‘s Logan’s Run, which starts out synthetic and becomes lushly orchestral only when the characters leave their artificially constructed, computer-regulated environment. Planet Of The Apes starts out aboard a futuristic spacecraft, familiar ground for many a science fiction flick, but then both the movie and the music ditch those familiar trappings for a desperate, primitive quest for survival.

Frequently, this is accomplished with a wall of percussion that, up until this point, viewers and listeners just didn’t expect to hear next to an orchestra. But it really isn’t until “The Search Continues” that Goldsmith pushes the music into a space where it’s barely recognizable to our ears as music. Using some novel instrumental effects, he creates the disconcerting audio equivalent of chittering apes. “The Hunt” uses the call of a primitive horn to raise the tension as Taylor (Charlton Heston) tries to lead a colony of humans to freedom.

Goldsmith eschews some obvious avenues for more traditional scoring at other points too – the short cue “A New Mate” is anything but sexy; instead it’s uneasy, as the apes prod him and a primitive human woman together. “The Revelation” plays up Taylor’s horror at discovering what’s happened to his surviving shipmate.

“The Trial” again uses existing instrumentation in unconventional ways to play out the parody of the Scopes monkey trial in which Taylor is railroaded and fast-tracked for execution simply because of what he represents. After that, the score is surprisingly low-key, seeming to rumble toward what seems like either an inevitable grim fate or a daring escape… only to culminate, like the movie, in both at the same time.

Rounding things off is a 16-minute suite of music from Goldsmith’s only follow-up in the Apes film series, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, which presents a nice “highlight reel” of that movie’s music, which was all the more surprising for not following in the footsteps of what Goldsmith created for the first movie. (Varese would later release the entire Escape score on its own as a limited edition in 2009.)

Jerry Goldsmith did accomplish some amazing sounds with Planet Of The Apes, but perhaps even more significantly, he laid the groundwork for the use of unconventional percussion in film scoring to signify the otherworldly and the uninviting. 4 out of 4The percussion lexicon he all but created here led to such things as the Sand People music in Star Wars, Bear McCreary‘s wall of eastern percussion throughout the TV remake of Battlestar Galactica, and many, many others. The shadow cast by the music of Planet Of The Apes looms large over many familiar future scores in the same genre. Jerry Goldsmith just happened to get there first.

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  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:15)
  2. Main Title (2:12)
  3. Crash Landing (6:39)
  4. The Searchers (2:26)
  5. The Search Continues (4:57)
  6. The Clothes Snatchers (3:09)
  7. The Hunt (5:10)
  8. A New Mate (1:05)
  9. The Revelation (3:22)
  10. No Escape (5:40)
  11. The Trial (1:45)
  12. New Identity (2:26)
  13. A Bid For Freedom (2:38)
  14. The Forbidden Zone (3:23)
  15. The Intruders (1:10)
  16. The Cave (1:20)
  17. The Revelation (Part II) (3:25)
  18. Suite: Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (16:27)

Released by: Varese Sarabande / 20th Century Fox Film Scores
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 67:29

Raymond Scott – Soothing Sounds For Baby, Volume 1

In the formative days of electronic music, one name stands out because it wasn’t associated only with that genre. Raymond Scott, whose unorthodox jazz pieces were less improvised than they were drilled to perfection (long before they were appropriated by Carl Stalling to serve as the soundtrack to the early Bugs Bunny cartoons), was a major American innovator in electronic music. Now, keep in mind, this is far enough back that “electronic music” meant generating and tweaking sounds electrically, and it often yielded results that tended more toward musical abstraction than precision or perfection. (Which is surprising considering Scott’s don’t-deviate-from-the-program jazz days.) Raymond Scott, however, saw the potential of the studio, and purely electrical devices, as instruments in their own right. (If you need evidence of Scott’s pedigree in electronic music, he once counted Robert Moog as an employee.)

Billed as “an infant’s friend in sound,” volume one of Soothing Sounds For Baby relies heavily on mesmerizing repetition – a sort of sonic highway hypnosis. To adult ears, it might seem tinny and grating, but after a while it’s quite relaxing. And with a one-month-old child to test it out on, I can offer an answer to a question that doesn’t come up often when doing music reviews – “Does it work?” – with a resounding yes. Though I’ve already introduced him to such things as the Moody Blues Days Of Future Passed and the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, Soothing Sounds helps to get my son to sleepyland in short order, even if he’s agitated by a loud noise elsewhere in the house or some other recent disturbance. Mr. Scott’s electronic music box gets him right back to sleep, and that’s why we call him the miracle worker.

Now, in some cases, I’m not quite sure how these miracles work – the last two tracks out of five drive me nuts. “Nursery Rhyme” sounds a bit like the alarm on an ’80s digital watch going off, while “Tic-Toc” is exactly as advertised – several minutes of a two-note “tick-tock” sound, which almost seems like it was played on the electronic equivalent of cowbells. But nothing knocks the kiddo out like “Tic-Toc”, so what do I know? Soothing Sounds For Baby seems to have gained new life as a historical curiosity and an 4 out of 4early footnote in ambient music, but let’s not forget that it does exactly what it says on the box. And for that reason, I’ve gotten very well acquainted with it indeed and can recommend it to anyone whose baby needs some tunes of their own.

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  1. Lullaby (14:05)
  2. Sleepy Time (4:19)
  3. The Music Box (6:13)
  4. Nursery Rhyme (5:48)
  5. Tic-Toc (8:03)

Released by: Basta
Release date: 1962 (CD reissue in 1997)
Total running time: 38:28

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy soundtrackThis is an item that took years to track down for my soundtrack collection, and the history of Starfleet Command – and its rarity – is a story unto itself. Bearing the slightly inaccurate legend “Award-winning music from the composer of numerous TV series and Star Trek movies, Ron Jones” (Jones never scored a Trek movie, and over half of the CD’s music was composed by someone else), this CD is the soundtrack from the hit computer game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. But what’s with the rarity? Surely anything bearing the Star Trek name would be mass-marketed to a fault, wouldn’t it?

In 1998, indie label Sonic Images (started by Christopher Franke of Tangerine Dream and at the time best known for its ongoing series of Babylon 5 “episodic” CDs, each containing the entire score to just one show), won the license to give the Starfleet Academy soundtrack a general release. And around the same time, Sony was prepping its nicely remastered and gorgeously packaged re-release on CD of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack, which had been out of print for several years.

But there was one other thing that happened in 1998 that nixed both of those releases: Paramount wanted to give priority to marketing the then-upcoming Star Trek: Insurrection. The studio told Sony and Sonic Images to hold their releases back; Sony later released The Motion Picture 2-CD set in 1999 (which worked better anyway, as that was the film’s 20th anniversary), but Sonic Images’ license was not renewed by Paramount. The label had a warehouse full of pressed CDs, and wanted to renew the license and release that inventory. But Paramount wouldn’t budge – and so Starfleet Academy‘s soundtrack, for most, never saw the light of day.

Rumors abounded about the cause of the cancellation, including the possibility that Rick Berman, who had input into Star Trek product licensing, nixed the release to retaliate against former Star Trek: The Next Generation composer Ron Jones’ less-than-flattering comments about his time on the series. Whatever the reason, the only copies of Starfleet Academy that made it into the public’s hands came in the form of premium offers, a limited edition run of the game which included the soundtrack CD, and advance copies of the CD sent out to video game and music journalists ahead of the Sonic Images release. With its cutscenes starring William Shatner and George Takei, and its lush musical score composed and conducted by someone who had actually been connected to the franchise, Starfleet Academy was something of a big deal at the time. Thus ends the tumultuous story of the soundtrack’s premature demise.

Where the music itself is concerned, the first ten tracks will be familiar to those who fondly recall Jones’ music from the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. His signature sound is sweeping, nautical, and dramatic, paying homage equally to the Star Trek film scores of James Horner and the late, great Jerry Goldsmith and melding those sensibilities nicely. Some of the passages of Starfleet Academy’s musical score are very reminiscent of Jones’ fourth-season Next Generation episode The Nth Degree, and it’s all great stuff – the sort of adventurous bombast that became verboten on the TV series, and yet makes the soundtrack for this computer game sound like a legitimate entry in the movie series.

Jones protegè Brian Luzietti provides the remainder of the music for Starfleet Academy, and while it’s interesting to hear someone attempt to reach toward the same style, some of Luzietti’s tracks don’t quite have the “oomph” of Jones’ music. Then again, that’s probably also a side effect of hearing the music outside of its intended medium – these things would probably Rating: 4 out of 4go unnoticed buried under the layers of sound effects and pre-recorded dialogue that typically accompany a computer game from the 1990s. Luzietti is at his best when he’s doing his own thing and not trying to meet Jones halfway stylistically, and some of his tracks are quite listenable indeed – and legitimately Trekkish, with throwbacks to the Alexander Courage fanfare for the original series.

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  1. Starfleet Academy Theme (4:07)
  2. Surrounded (2:22)
  3. Evasive Maneuvers (2:22)
  4. Exploring The Unknown (1:57)
  5. On The Edge (2:49)
  6. Crew Introduction (1:50)
  7. Red Alert (2:49)
  8. On To Victory (2:22)
  9. Discovery (1:59)
  10. No Way Out (2:22)
  11. To Stop The Vanguard (3:41)
  12. Personal Problems (0:40)
  13. Romulan Suicide (1:04)
  14. Kirk’s Briefing (1:19)
  15. Venturi Suite (3:03)
  16. Sneaking Instincts (1:21)
  17. The Vanguard’s Plans (1:35)
  18. Log – Looking Grim (1:04)
  19. Log – Mission Accomplished (1:04)
  20. Log – Situation Normal (1:05)
  21. Thoughts Before The Briefing (1:38)
  22. Forester – Captain Of The Enterprise (4:00)

Released by: Interplay Productions (1998 Sonic Images release cancelled)
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 46:44