THE SPIRAL ROAD (1962)
Music composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
34 Tracks (Playing Time = 65:04)
Music supervised and conducted by Joseph Gershenson. Album produced by Robert Townson. Mastered by Erik Labson. Music recorded at Universal, Universal City, CA, January 17, 19, 23, 25-26 and February 8-10, 1962. CD art direction by Joe Sikoryak at designWELL, Berkeley, CA.
Varese Sarabande VCL 0310 1105
Limited edition of 3000 copies.
1962 was an important year for Jerry Goldsmith. It would see his first score nomination for FREUD and would also feature a rather interesting update on the demise of the Old American Western in LONELY ARE THE BRAVE. Both of those scores have now been released satisfying the composers fans but there was another score that year that is a real curiosity in Goldsmith’s canon for an uneven Rock Hudson adventure, THE SPIRAL ROAD.
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE allowed for an often restrained Americana sound that, like FREUD, featured music that got at the interior lives of the characters. Where the former was more lyrical, the latter tended toward more experimental orchestral sounds with angular themes and atonal writing that is still striking to hear.
In THE SPIRAL ROAD, we hear a different approach. This is a score with one foot heavily in the 1950s. Though Julie Kirgo’s notes are excellent she says nothing of the very Herrmann-esque sounds that Goldsmith created throughout most of this score. In fact, the shimmering gamelan-like sounds which he created here sound like something out of the Harryhausen universe that Herrmann scored so well. This is the first surprise in this score. But Kirgo points out that without the Indonesian instruments available, Goldsmith arrived at his sound through orchestral choices—that may be why it sounds more like Herrmann. There is some confusion whether or not he managed to get the real thing as a number of musicians listed were noted for their abilities on ethnic instruments like those whose sounds are approximated in the score.
What does happen as the score progresses is that we begin to hear less and less of Herrmann’s “sound” and begin to hear signs of what Goldsmith would develop in later scores. The most striking cue, “Frightful Frolick,” is a chilling musical moment that does standout amidst a progression of several scenes of more “horror-like” narrative. It is perhaps the one cue most like what would become the composer’s signature style. The more lyric side appears in “Worth Waiting For” and the wryly humorous “Interrupted Idyll.”
For Goldsmith fans, THE SPIRAL ROAD will likely remain a curiosity. The music has plenty of exotic musical elements that are on full display throughout the score. More importantly, we might be able to piece together what the composer learned from this score. Was it more important not to be over the top with exotic elements since that tended to take over his musical sound? Was it a conscious decision to link the musical qualities to that Saturday Herrmann matinee sound or was it the result of solving the lack of ethnic instrument availability?
We can only hear what Goldsmith chose to do later in THE SAND PEBBLES and other scores where Asian backdrops were part of the story line, but interestingly enough, his scores through the 1970s would inadvertently lead to a redefinition of scoring for adventure B-pictures.
Perhaps THE SPIRAL ROAD was the composer’s straw that helped him see that he could be himself that would lead to the superb results in FREUD and later in PLANET OF THE APES among so many other musical journeys along the way.
---Steven A. Kennedy , 24 March 2010
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