Tribute to Joel Goldsmith
When you only had access to music shops in town (except you had discovered Rosebud in Valencia or Discos Vinilo in Madrid), buying your favorite composers soundtracks was almost Mission: Impossible for any fan in the 90s. Finding Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Out of Africa or Rocky was more or less easy… But finding Medicine Man, Rudy, Jaws 2, Die Hard 2, Pet Sematary, The Eiger Sanction, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Extreme Prejudice or Brainstorm, to name but a few, was more than difficult.
So, when the music fair came once a year, my friends and I managed to get inside first and check the “goodies” from all around the country. There I got real treasures, such as George Delerue’s A Summer Story or Brad Fiedel’s The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Still with the pesetas going and well into the 90s, I found one Joel Goldsmith’s CD, Silva Screen’s release of Moon 44, for 1,500 pesetas (it still has the price on it…). It did not take me much to listen to it and, without having seen the movie, both the cover and the music took me to space. In fact, to a far better adventure than the one I saw some years later, to tell you the truth.
That CD was my first introduction to Joel Goldsmith and, from then on, I started collecting his works: Diamonds, Shiloh, Kull the Conqueror,Stargate SG-1… But it also had its touch in my life. Once a year we borrowed a camcorder from Oviedo for shooting short films. Once shot, it was three people for the editing.
Forget about computers or editing tables. Just the three of us, a VHS, the camcorder and a music player. And the certainty that dubbing music meant erasing the original sound, so we had to take that into consideration while filming.
At that time, I wrote and directed an amateurshort film titled Extreme Vengeance. A mixture coming from David Mamet’s bastard brother and Extreme Prejudice’s script. You can imagine. As in all other my shorts, there was lots of preexisting music, “borrowed” to improve our adventures and, considering my taste, almost every note from Jerry Goldsmith. For the extremely (no pun intended) long car chase, I used a cue from Moon 44, Armed and Dangerous No2. Once edited, both my friends were amazed of how well the music fitted, even with the tempo adjustments.
On writing these memories, all those Stargate SG-1 seasons I saw included, I yearn for the chance to listen to a new piece of music composed by Joel Goldsmith. Jerry Goldsmith’s loss was appalling, but Joel’s, younger and with years ahead, was a blow. All the more since he was at his peak. What remains is a musical legacy for that new generation of fans keen to discover a composer who nurtured melody, who mastered epic adventure, who could frighten (Watchers) or move (Diamonds) at will.
Thanks so much, Joel. I am eternally grateful.
I grew up in an environment where name dropping wasn’t a big thing. We judged artists on the quality of their work, not the recognizability of their names. So, when I first became aware of the name, Joel Goldsmith, in connection with the movie, MOON 44, the name “Goldsmith” was only of mild interest to me. It was all about discovering the work of a new composer.
I saw the movie and bought the CD, which I really liked. I found an interesting article about the Munich recording sessions of the score, in a German film music magazine. The accompanying review of the soundtrack album was not very kind, pointing out how closely the score was adhering to Joel’s father’s style. The score actually featured several memorable moments (including that odd-yet-beautiful main title theme) and kick-ass action writing.
I later discovered some of Joel’s electronic music gems such as the delightful THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (We need an album release!). There’s a wonderful sense of excitement and experimentation to his work with synths, which was put to good use on some of his father’s music such as the theme track from HOOSIERS.
I was particularly grateful for the detailed liner notes of the expanded STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT album, as it identified individually which tracks Joel had written, including some bone-chilling music for the Borg. Joel Goldsmith refined his craft with every new project, working in several contrasting genres, even Westerns.
While Joel is best known for his varied body of work on the STARGATE television shows, my favorite score of his has to be the exquisite DIAMONDS. That main theme, starting intimately with a piano solo, strings and harp, soon turns into an uplifting statement for full orchestra, a phrase that repeats a couple of times, each time reaching higher, before returning to the piano solo and a chamber-music feel. It’s the kind of honest, emotional statement from a true artist one can never forget.
All about Edwin Wendler in www.edwinwendler.com
I first met Joel Goldsmith in October 1997 in his studio in, I believe, Sun Valley. He had recently completed scoring KULL THE CONQUEROR, a film based on one of Conan the Barbarian-author Robert E. Howard’s other barbarian heroes. I was interviewing him about that film and a few other recent works for Soundtrackmagazine, and I found him to be an affable, easy-going, shy and modest guy and many a joke were shared between us during my visit.
At the time, the KULL movie was cinema’s latest foray into sword and sorcery, and was also Joel’s biggest film project to date. Joel described the challenges of writing a symphonic score for a film that tried hard to capture heavy metal feel. “I was at a meeting with the director and the producer, and the director said that he thought that we should handle the fight scenes with heavy metal music, and I thought he was kidding, so I just kind of let it go,” Joel explained. “And then in a phone conversation later in the day I realized that he wasn’t kidding, and he was serious! And I had to make the choice whether or not I was going to continue on the project or not, and I decided to continue on the project and just do the best job I could.”
The film was a flop and thus failed to project Joel into the higher echelon of film scoring it might otherwise have done; and I think he also suffered from audience derision toward the production decision to use those rhythmically-counterproductive heavy metal guitars, which he of course was not responsible for.
I’ve often felt that Joel was a wonderful composer whose career was being constantly held back; just when he was on the cusp of emerging with larger projects, something happened that prevented him from achieving the kind of greatness his talent deserved. He’d composed some fantastic scores, but recognition was limited since many of the assignments weren’t seen by widespread audiences and the number of his scores then issued on CD were few.
We’d kept in touch a few times over the years and I interviewed him again in 2008, covering STARGATE in details and other significant scores of his career. At that time Joel had also created his CD label Freeclyde, which was allowing his music to reach a wider audience and giving him some well-deserved and increasing attention.
In that first interview, I’d asked him if being Jerry Goldsmith son had been challenging as his own career began to rise. “Oh, there’s no question that’s there are benefits, because it gets you in the door. There is a certain amount of name recognition,” he told me. “But there’s also a different thing, because I’ve also had producers say, ‘Now, I want a score that sounds just like Jerry Goldsmith,’ which is inane. I don’t even know how to respond to stuff like that. And also there are a lot of people who would love to see me fail, and love to be able to see “well, see, he only got the job because he’s Jerry Goldsmith’s son,” so it works both ways. But there’s my own feeling about it, and there’s Jerry’s feelings about it, too. Neither of us want to look like jerks. I’m very proud that Jerry Goldsmith is my father; he’s one of my favorite film composers. I’m very lucky that I can confide in Jerry Goldsmith for advice.
“My father’s been very honest with me over the years, about letting me know when he truly likes something and telling me that when he’s impressed by something, and when he’s not impressed by something, he always approaches it in a constructive way – ‘you’d be better off doing this,’ or ‘in the future, what you can do is this…’”
Randall D. Larson writes regularly in various media about soundtracks, most notably on BuySoundtrax (BSX). More about Randall in IFMCA where he is a member.
In the case of Joel Goldsmith, being a composer was as difficult as it was easy. Difficult, on one side, because his legendary father (probably, the most absolute film composer ever existed) cast a long shadow, with critics and fans ears taking measure of each and every work with the same scale as with Jerry… And easy for being lucky enough to work, absorb and learn from the master himself all techniques and secrets, the value and the essence of film music.
Joel Goldsmith also helped and taught his father. He was an essential part in the development of Goldsmith senior in the field of electronics and synthesizers. As a composer, he was always a long-distance runner, who started from the simplest, the straightforward B Series, with shy, likable works, on his own or in collaboration with the great Richard Band (Laserblast) or in odd movies, as J. Goldsmith ─the Spanish Counterforce or The Rift─ for, step by step, growing into symphonic music, as it is the case with the memorable, dynamic Moon 44.
He worked a lot on TV in Stargate,The Untouchables, Helen of Troy or, for the movies, in undervalued scores such as Shiloh and Diamonds, the excellent Kull the Conqueror(where the combination of rock and symphony orchestra was pure genius), while at the same time he would work with his father again in Star Trek: First Contact, proving to have his own style, without hiding his father’s positive influence.
His untimely death was not fair play, a stroke when he was excelling, destined to reach total maturity. A maturity he was building work after work.
Germán Barón Borrás teaches Audiovisual Media. He composes music for shorts, is partner in organizing the Film Music Festival City of Úbeda, and is fan and crazy about soundtracks since he noticed them at an early age.
The news had shocked and saddened me. He still had so much left to offer but fate decided differently. He was an extremely gifted composer and a very sweet human, sadly missed by his loved ones and the fans of his great work.
If there is an afterlife, I am sure him and Jerry have been busy catching up and composing some spectacular music, the Goldsmith way!
Rest in Peace Joel, I miss you buddy.
Godwin Borg was born in Malta in 1973. He has been active in music in various roles since the late 80s. In 2008 he founded Kronos Records, an independent music label specializing in Soundtracks, both vintage and contemporary ones. During the seven and a half years of activity Kronos Records has released over a hundred soundtracks on CD. In 2016 he launched Vulkan Records, which specializes in Metal music.
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Special Thanks to Oscar Salazar for the translations