Elliot Goldenthal.


The music of composer Elliot Goldenthal has always attracted me, his film scores, I think have all been inspired works and although quite complex are always filled with a plethora of rich and lavish sounding motifs. He writes music for movies that may seem out of place if you are listening to it away from the movies it is created for, but when we see image and music working together up on the big screen it is a magical thing and the work of a genius. I think it was after hearing his music for Interview with the Vampire that I was completely hooked and blown away by his obvious talent to create luxurious and dramatic pieces that supported and enhanced but did much more as in ingratiating each scene and adding to it a greater atmosphere, often elevating the scene or the sequence to a higher level.

His score for Titus, is in many ways like Interview with the Vampire, with both works having many attributes in common. Titus is a score that literally overflows with gracious, exciting, and fully symphonic compositions, with just a hint of electronic support in which the composer utilizes vocals, tragic sounding strings, which can be affective and moving beyond belief, yet still yield a luscious and sweeping sound that is spine tingling. Bellowing brass that is on occasion brash, but still highly effective and dominant, both the scores I have mentioned for me contain everything, darkness, light, romance, irony, sinister connotations , sensual and malevolent undercurrents and so much more that will satisfy the most discerning and critical amongst us.  I think if I were asked what two Goldenthal scores I would choose to take with me to a desert island they would be Titus and Interview with the Vampire, both are inventive and innovative, and at times complex but pleasing.

The Finale from Titus is a triumph of composition, the composer fashioning an emotive but at the same time commanding and powerful piece, that literally demands your full attention for its over eight-minute duration. The tragic and melancholy elements shining through, and these being underlined by a more shadowy, and uneasy musical persona, which is subtle but effective, the combination of these musical textures, styles and colours create a piece that should be looked upon as a masterful work and a masterpiece from this composer.

The movie Titus is based upon the writings of Shakespear, and was adapted for the screen and directed by Julie Taymor, (Goldenthal’s partner). War gives rise to revenge, in the interesting take on the original play.  General Titus Andronicus (Sir Anthony Hopkins) returns to Rome with hostages: Tamora (Jessica Lange), Queen of the Goths, and her sons. He orders that the eldest son is to be killed to appease the Roman dead who fell during the campaign. He declines the proffered Emperor’s crown, nominating Saturninus (Alan Cumming), the last ruler’s venal elder son.

Saturninus, to spite his brother Bassianus (James Frain), demands the hand of Lavinia (Laura Fraser), Titus’ daughter. When Bassianus, Lavinia, and Titus’ sons flee in protest, Titus stands against them and slays one of his own. Saturninus marries the honey-tongued Tamora, who vows vengeance against Titus. The ensuing frenzy serves up tongues, hands, rape, adultery, and racism. Anthony Hopkins is superb in the title role and Goldenthal’s score is an integral component of the movie and its stormy storyline. The music at times becoming close to the operatic its sweeping style stirring up moods and creating turbulent atmospherics.

Goldenthal’s dark and ominous score for Interview with the Vampire is perfectly suited to the malicious and virulent central character Lestat played by Tom Cruise (in my opinion his best role). The music caresses each scene, at times the  composer utilising spidery sounding harpsichord to send icy chills through the listener as in Lestats Recitative, which for me evokes shades of Bruno Nicolai’s Count Dracula and Il Trono Di Fuoco, soundtracks. On other occasions the Maestro brings into the equation hollering brass and driving strings to create pace and express a sense of chaos and impending doom as in Louis Revenge, which is not only powerful and frantic but maintains a level of thematic material. Then there is a slightly lighter side in the form of Santiago’s Waltz, which is a whimsical piece for woods, strings and piano. Lavish and lyrical sounding strings underline certain scenes and give these a greater depth, the introduction to Born to Darkness, for example and the heartrending and exquisite Madelines Lament, which is oozing with emotion and poignancy emotive whilst purveying an ever-present underlying atmosphere of apprehension, and uncertainty.

The composer builds tension and a taut and menacing sound in Armad Rescues Louis, via a spiky violin solo, and thundering percussion which is a treat. Listening to the opening cue Libera Me is an enriching experience, the voices and the boy soprano performances are flawlessly angelic yet are slightly threatening, the growling brass and dark strings of the composition Theatre of Vampires makes one realise that this is a score that will never grow old and will forever be a popular work. It is a smorgasbord of sounds and themes. Goldenthal’s motifs and musical passages are mesmerising and alluring drawing the listener in before enveloping them in a rich and darkly romantic sound, the score is filled with a grandiose sense of drama and foreboding. Its lush and opulent sounding passages are hypnotic and iconic.

The same can be said about the composer’s music for Alien 3, in my opinion this is the finest score for this franchise it far more chilling than any other and attains heights in musical excellence that far outshines the works of both Goldsmith and Horner. An intelligent and innovative work, that becomes a part of the movies storyline and integrates itself into the scenarios and sub plots within the film.

Again, complex, and unconventional in many ways, but vastly superior and totally supportive and sophisticated. The icy and slithering strings creating an unsettling atmosphere throughout, with the composer’s imaginative use of percussive elements adding a thundering backdrop and edgy feel to the proceedings, add to this experimental use of brass and woods that combine effectively with the percussion to fashion a harrowing and at times chaotic and frenzied style which is terrifying and ominous. This is film music at its best, with the score focusing totally on enhancing the action on screen and doing so wonderfully and effectively.

In Dreams I thought was an all-consuming movie so much so that one felt exhausted after watching it. A thriller which starred Annette Bening and Robert Downey jnr, with a strong supporting cast that included Aidan Quinn, Paul Guilfoyle and Katie Sagona. The housewife and artist Claire Cooper (Bening) is married to a pilot Paul Cooper (Aidan Quinn) and their little daughter Rebecca (Sagona) is their pride and joy. When a stranger kidnaps a girl, Claire dreams about the man but Detective Jack Kay (Paul Guilfoyle) ignores her concerns. But when Rebecca disappears during a school play, Claire learns that her visions were actually premonitions, and she is connected to the killer through her dreams. She has a nervous breakdown and tries to commit suicide. Her psychologist sends her to a mental institution and soon she finds that her husband will be the next victim of the serial-killer via terrifying dreams. Further, the serial-killer was interned in the same cell in the hospital where she is. It is an entertaining movie, directed by Neil Jordan, with a fantastically supportive musical score from Goldenthal.

The music is dark and apprehensive, with hints of melodies that lull one into a false sense of security, only to then give you a start and a wake up call with a crash of percussion or a spiky and sinewy spurt of strings. It is a sinister sounding work, but also one that has tinges of hope and calm within it. A fusion of symphonic and electronic, it is an accomplished score and again one of Goldenthal’s cinematic triumphs. 1000 feet below the ocean, navy divers discover an object half-a-mile long. A crack team of scientists are deployed to the site in Deep sea Habitats. What they discover is a perfect metal sphere, which transpires to be a space craft of some sort that has been buried under the coral for three hundred years. What is the secret behind the sphere? Will they survive the mysterious ‘manifestations’? Who or what is creating these?

They may never live to find out. This is the synopsis for the movie Sphere which was released in 1999 and directed by Barry Levinson. The films cast was headed by Dustin Hoffmann, Sharon Stone and Samuel L Jackson. At the time many critics remarked that this was an A class cast involved with a B class movie. Goldenthal wrote a serviceable score, which on listening to now is in my opinion far to superior to the motion picture it was written for.

The music shall we say has endured better than the movie, and although it does have its set piece action cues this is a more subdued sounding Goldenthal. Building affecting and somewhat calming themes that are spread throughout the work giving support to the more robust compositions. The composer is not only known for his film music but has excelled in the writing of music for concert hall performance, his most notable being “Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio” (1996). He was born on May 2, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a painter and decorator, and his mother was a seamstress.

As a youngster Goldenthal was fond of music and theatre, he played with his school rock band during the 1960s. and in 1968, he staged his first ballet at The John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, from which he graduated in 1971. He attended the Manhattan School of Music, studied under Aaron Copland and John Corigliano and earned his MA in composition.

In the 1990’s he scored two Batman movies for director Joel Schumacher which were Batman Forever in 1995 and Batman and Robin in 1997. He also composed the score for the movie Michael Collins, (1996) which starred Liam Neeson and was another collaboration with director Neil Jordan and penned the score for  the De Niro Pacino thriller Heat in 1995.

During the 2000’s he worked on movies such as Frida, Final Fantasy-The Spirits Within, Across the Universe, S.W.A.T. and Public Enemies.

In 2005 he was nearly killed in an accident in his home leaning back in a chair at his kitchen table, he fell, smashing the back of his head on the floor and causing a double hematoma. He spent months in therapy regaining the ability to speak. In 2020 he worked on The Glorias. There is certainly no doubt of the talent of this composer, his music is outstandingly beautiful, and undoubtedly iconic and innovative.