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Chinatown: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks
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Sparse But Remarkably Elegant, Memorable, Powerful
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 05/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film score for CHINATOWN is as famous for the conditions under which it was written as it is for the music itself. Shortly before the film was to debut, producer Robert Evans discarded the score written by composer Phillip Lambro and handed the project to Jerry Goldsmith, a composer then best known for his work on such television series as The Waltons, Barnaby Jones, and Room 222.
Goldsmith had ten days to both write and record a new score before CHINATOWN debuted. The resulting score was extremely sparse, making use of several songs popular during the 1930s and resting upon a single original theme--but it proved the perfect additive to the film, and it is extremely difficult to image CHINATOWN without it.
CHINATOWN is one of a wave late 1960s-early 1970s films noted as much for substance as for style, and more than a quarter of a century later it continues to be regarded as one of the great artistic triumphs of the era. Directed by Roman Polanski from a remarkable script by Robert Towne, the film paints an ultimately pitch-black portrait of greed, corruption, and evil in 1930s Los Angeles. The primary theme blends several idioms, opening first with a shimmering, metallic-like chord from harp and the rising with other strings to create a oddly American, oddly Asian tone; it then glides into a slightly plaintive trumpet solo that seems to blend both 1930s and 1970s music styles. The overall effect is inviting yet mysterious--and mingles elements of romance and danger.
Both the basic theme and elements from it repeat throughout the film, sometimes making a full musical statement, at other times echoing within more distinctly unsettling tones. The film also makes use of several songs popular in the 1930s, perhaps most notably the memorable "I Can't Get Started" and "The Way You Look Tonight."
The original 1974 vinyl release of the CHINATOWN soundtrack ran just over half an hour. It did not offer the entire soundtrack, which in this context would have been somewhat repetitive; instead, it presented the musical cues that offered the fullest statement of Goldsmith's various constructions. The vinyl edition went out of print during the 1970s and it was not until the Varese release of 1995 that CHINATOWN became available on CD. The Varese release duplicates the original vinyl release exactly in both sequence and content and has very good sound quality; it also offers enjoyable and informative notes as well. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
The Genius of The "Chinatown" Score
Christian Anderson | Southern California | 08/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This score, written in just 10 days, remains (in my humble opinion) my favorite all-time orchestral soundtrack. Several other composers come to mind who have written works of art as film scores.... and whos music stands as great art apart from the film....Korngold, Steiner, Newman, and Sarde all have at least one such masterpiece to their name. This score, however stands as unique among them all..... at once haunting, etheric, yet genuinely flavored with that "lonely trumpet solo of the 1930's" sound. I am reminded of the minimalist compositions of Toru Takemitsu, and his work in Japanese film.. .... where the music becomes part of the atmosphere of the film, and adds to the films texture and mood. In many ways, "Chinatown" does this, but even more so, because here you are also treated to the sentimental, romantic, and the hope for those characters in the motion picture ..... this score is magic, becomes locked in the subconcious.... those characters are embedded within those notes, too ..... Noah Cross, Evelyn Mulray, Jake Gittes, and poor Ada Sessions....they are all there and are all immortalized within it."
Possibly the best film score ever composed.
Ryan Harvey | Los Angeles, CA USA | 06/12/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jerry Goldsmith's work on Chinatown may be the best work ever done for a film score. Utilizing an avant garde ensemble (four pianos, four harps, percussion, strings, and solo trumpet) the composer paints a soundscape both eriee and nostaligic -- imagine listening to thirties jazz echoing through layers of deep water. The cumulative effect of this perfectly organized album is one of quiet, aching despair. The three tracks of source music add to Goldsmith's remarkable achievement. A must for anyone interested in serious instrumental music."