My Goldsmith Summer
Updated: Sep 12
Getting to know a favorite composer — My Adventures in Underscore, Part 20.
Jerry Goldsmith isn’t the most-recognized name outside of film music circles, but, boy, is he having a moment in our club. The composer of many well-known themes (and many more forgotten ones) didn’t have the benefit of having worked regularly with directors on the level of Hitchcock or Spielberg (except in passing) or becoming a pop music darling thanks to Westerns or Spy movies. But he applied his craft so consistently and remarkably that many of us soundtrack fans put him at the top.
My distinctions in this area have been honed over a lifetime, as I evolved from a consumer of mass media to a producer of content. I first heard (and responded to) Jerry’s music as a child, and his career nicely mirrored my interests, with many of his most significant scores being attached to my favorite TV shows and movies. I know many fans who sought out films because of his involvement—I was fortunate enough to follow my own way and find him as a regular companion.
Twenty-five years ago, when I became art director for Film Score Monthly magazine, and later, designer for several music labels, I was able to fill in the gaps about many composers’ work. I went from being an enthusiastic collector of a couple hundred soundtrack albums to a film music obsessive, endlessly trolling the bins at Amoeba Records for titles I didn’t own, artists I didn’t recognize, and eventually churning through 6000 CDs in my collection.
All because, as I’d proudly say, it was my job.
Over the course of that accumulation, I was studiously reading liner notes (and occasionally writing them), editing and typesetting 75 issues of FSM magazine, and personally laying out 800 compact discs of movie and TV music. Through it all, I was listening to the soundtracks in my collection (and streaming those I didn’t), but the one constant, most reliably enjoyable disc that I could spin on a moment’s notice, was probably one of Jerry Goldsmith’s.
Since mostly retiring from the music industry, I’ve drastically reduced my record collection. I still listen to film scores more than any other genre (primarily because I can get a wide variety of sounds, presented with that certain familiar, dramatic arc that I appreciate). I’m still connected to what’s happening in the collector’s market as a consultant. I didn’t, however, expect to have such a year of rich film score experiences.
Traveling to Scotland with Intrada to record two vintage Bernard Herrmann scores was certainly a peak perk. But this summer, I’ve enjoyed a trifecta of opportunities that brought a lifetime of experience to bear in such a tremendously rewarding way, that I had to write about it. And they all revolve around you-know-who.
Jeff Bond has been a friend and colleague since my earliest days in the soundtrack biz, and along with our mutual pal Taylor White, we’ve shared our interests in sci-fi and fantasy movies, models and miniatures, comics and artwork, and soundtrack music… the lingua franca of late baby-boom monster-kid aficionados. As fanboys turned fan-professionals, it was inevitable that we’d work together on certain projects of interest.
When author Jeff turned his lifelong fascination with Goldsmith into a two-decade-long series of articles and liner notes, it was only a matter of time until publisher Taylor would offer to transform them into a book—and yours truly the creative director would be drawn in to help produce it. Together we launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and mobilized the composer’s dedicated fanbase, not only to fund the books (which had grown to a two-volume set) but to enhance the project with a treasure trove of notes, images and other contributions from fans.
I’ve just completed two weeks line editing Jeff’s book. It reminds me of the old adage, “if you love your job, it ain’t work.” While I tweaked subordinate clauses and verb tense with one eye, I was devouring the juicy tidbits and collective insights with the other. Reading the book, even in the line of duty, was the culmination of a lifetime of pleasure. And though The Jerry Goldsmith Companion is a music appreciation book, not a biography, I’ve gotten a better picture of the man who made the music I love.
This is one of the biggest obstacles that we fans have with celebrities. All we really know about an artist are their creations. But if we connect with the work, it becomes an intimate relationship that we carry forever. Outside of our heads, it can be an unequal (and potentially unhealthy) relationship that’s impossible to surmount when a fan meets the object of their admiration. Maybe that’s why autographs are so prized—it’s a tiny, tangible expression of something that can’t otherwise be expressed. (Also perhaps why celebrities wear dark glasses—to protect themselves from the searing gaze of their followers.)
It amuses me to refer to Jerry by first name—I only spent one evening in the same room with him, at a Film Music Society event in 2000, but couldn’t muster the courage to introduce myself. What would I have said? I love your work? Yeah, me and everyone else in the room. I prefer to keep my distance. But I can pretend we're pals.
I’m grateful for this book because I feel like I’ve gotten to know Jerry a little better, and come to understand him a bit more. To be precise, reading Jeff’s book has helped me crystallize what I love about Goldsmith’s work, how I view his contributions to music and cinema, how he stacks up against his peers and why his career may have followed its path. As for his personality, and what makes him tick? It’s all inference and speculation, but I’ve got a few clues.
I’ll remember 2023 as the year of my Goldsmith summer. In addition to the book, which anchored it, I have enjoyed watching Leigh Phillips re-record some of Jerry’s earliest scores with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and share this rare opportunity with backers. The final results, are splendid. And finally, I got to speak at length about my career AND my favorite composer with Yavar Joseph Moradi and W. David Lichty on The Goldsmith Odyssey. Even after all these years, it’s a delight to nerd out with a couple of knowledgeable music buffs. I hope you’ll check it out.
I won’t bother to list my favorite scores because it’s all covered in the podcast. Suffice to say, everything’s a little better with Jerry’s music in the background, if you ask me.
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