So 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. The 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.
- 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:15)
- Main Title (2:12)
- Crash Landing (6:39)
- The Searchers (2:26)
- The Search Continues (4:57)
- The Clothes Snatchers (3:09)
- The Hunt (5:10)
- A New Mate (1:05)
- The Revelation (3:22)
- No Escape (5:40)
- The Trial (1:45)
- New Identity (2:26)
- A Bid For Freedom (2:38)
- The Forbidden Zone (3:23)
- The Intruders (1:10)
- The Cave (1:20)
- The Revelation (Part II) (3:25)
- 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