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Goldsmith - Planet of the Apes analysis

Discussion in 'Score Study Resources' started by Sean Barrett, Jun 30, 2018.

  1. I was going to post this in the Goldsmith masterclass sub-forum, but I didn’t see one so I am posting it here. After watching the Goldsmith masterclass, I was inspired to transcribe the main title from Planet of the Apes to see what was going on under the hood. Someone in the video asked about the harmony so I wanted to share my findings.

    The cue starts out with a single piano note that is played with a finger touching the string, which deadens the tone and adds harmonics, obscuring the tonality. As Mike mentioned, this is setting up the listener for the rest of the cue, which is not tonal. In fact, this is a pretty straight forward 12-tone composition.

    PotA piano intro.png

    The piano phrase is played twice. The first time it is punctuated with a bass slide whistle and an electric harp hitting a low buzz-y note. The second punctuation adds gong scrape, ram’s horn, timbales, and various percussion. This section is the intro. Goldsmith is letting us know this is not going to be a typical score. He is introducing us to the unique sounds he will be using throughout the movie.

    The next thing we hear are violin pizzicatos which were recorded separately from the rest of the orchestra and ran through a tape delay (one of the effects that Mike mentions in the masterclass). Similar to the intro, the violin pizzicatos are punctuated with a loud figure consisting of piano, wood drums, scraped gong and what’s sounds like a thunder sheet, but according to the score is just air blow through the horn, possibly ran through a bunch of reverb.

    PotA pizzicato.png PotA piano.png

    This 6 measure phrase will act as an anchor for the rest of the cue, and can be considered the A section. The section is repeated four times, played exactly the same each time with the exception that each repetition adds a section of strings (violas, then cellos, then basses) to thicken the textures as other instruments are added.

    The pizzicato notes may seem random, but there is actually a method to the madness. These 5 bars are setting up a 12-tone row. Ten notes are played here: C A Bb Eb D B C# G# F# and G. The missing notes E and F would complete the 12-tone row, but Goldsmith is probably leaving these out to let us know there is more to come. The piano riff punctuating the phrase may also appear random, but in fact it is just a reiteration of the first 6 notes played by the violins (C A Bb Eb D B C#).

    On the first repeat of this phrase, two elements are added: a log drum and a piccolo. The log drum will act as another anchor for the rest of the cue, providing a rhythmic foundation. The log drums are slightly pitched (tuned to Bb minor pentatonic), but the notes aren’t as important as the constant eighth note rhythm that is provided to keep the listener grounded.

    PotA melody.png

    A melody is finally introduced with the piccolo, but I hope you weren’t expecting something singable :) This melody may seem to consist of random notes, but hopefully you are catching on that a lot of thought has gone into this cue. Look closely and you will see that the notes in the first phrase of the melody are just a repeat of the notes of the incomplete 12-tone row played by the violins, but now the E and F are included: C A Bb Eb D B C# F# G E F. The second phrase of the melody consists of a different 12-tone row: C Eb D A Bb C# B E F# F Ab G. The melody ends on the downbeat of the sixth bar with the piano, drum, gong figure punctuating the phrase.

    But wait, there’s more! If you thought the second phrase of the melody was random, think again :) If you strip away the rests and repeated notes and put the notes in order, you’ll see that the second phrase is just an inverse of the first phrase (see below, some octaves adjusted to better show the inverse). This means when phrase 1 goes down a minor third (C to A), phrase 2 goes up a minor third (C to Eb), when phrase 1 goes up a half step (A to Bb), phrase 2 goes down a half step (Eb to D), and so on.

    PotA inverse.png

    The melody is played three times, exactly the same each time but played in a different octave and by a different instrument. First played in the piccolo, then in the oboe two octaves lower, and finally in the clarinet another octave lower. The repeats of the melody introduce interjecting woodwind figures that add to the chaos and stopped horn crescendos that help build to the big piano figure each time.

    Following the third repeat of the melody, the cue is closed out with muted piano notes, similar to the intro. This bookend technique is an effective way to end a cue, calling back to how the cue began.

    In a score absence of any tonal/functional harmony, it can be easy for the audience to get lost, but Goldsmith guides the listener through the cue with very clear structure, orchestration and repetition, providing anchors that help to counter the atonal harmony, frantic melodies and sporadic rhythms.

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