Jerry Goldsmith: Music Scoring for American Movies by Mauricio Dupuis

As difficult as this is to believe, this is the only book on the market that examines the film scores of the great Jerry Goldsmith.  This one is an ambitious little book that perhaps bites off a bit more than it can chew.  By that, I mean that this book should have been either four times longer, less concerned with comparisons to other composers, or perhaps both.  I’m leaning towards both, given the depth and breadth of Goldsmith’s composition catalog and how much had to be glazed over.

The book is essentially five parts.  Part one is the composer’s life and career in context.  Part two is an examination of the Goldsmith’s creative process, spotlighting orchestrations and working relationships with specific directors.  Part three is an overview of Goldsmith’s many genres, which is quite the challenge in itself given that he’s done a bit of everything.  Part four concentrates on his work in the Star Trek franchise.  And the final part deals with rejected scores, the composer’s catalog, and the sources used to compile this book.

Any one of the first four parts could — and should — have been the size of this book or bigger to accommodate the author’s intentions, noble as they are.  Intent is not final presentation, however.  This book really could have used an editor to help to keep it streamlined and on point.  The author is clearly enthusiastic about Goldsmith’s work and film scores as a whole, and that comes across, but he tries to cram way too much into the ideas presented at virtually every step.  For those novices wanting to learn more about Goldsmith and film scores in general, this book is useful, but it’s not beginner level.  A working knowledge is either needed up front, or the reader is encouraged to utilize internet resources to cross reference.  Honestly, I’d recommend listening to the scores being highlighted just on account.  If you’re willing to do the work to stay on the same page as the author, the discovery will pay off big, not only in terms of Goldsmith’s catalog, but also in regards to those composers whose works are being compared and contrasted.

There are some technical problems with this book, though minor.  This was translated, I believe from Italian, and there are a couple of points here and there where it was a bit awkward in terms of sentence fragments.  Nothing I couldn’t work through, though, again, I think this would have benefitted greatly from an editor’s hand, both in translation and in its original language.

All in all, as a first effort to get the conversation about Goldsmith started, this book suffers a bit from overreach, but it does accomplish quite a bit in a small space.  I think readers will benefit from revisiting this book as the discovery of the music continues.  The idea behind this was a 5 star attempt, but execution falls a bit flat for reasons I’ve discussed.  Could be better, but still ultimately worth the read, especially for a Goldsmith fan like myself.

3 stars.


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