Musings About Music In Film

Capricorn One

capricorn07 When you think of the word "muscular" in musical terms, it's hard not to hear Jerry Goldsmith's Capricorn One in your head. His score to the 1977 conspiracy thriller has long been held up as one of his greatest achievements, but amongst his other scores - especially from that era - it's perhaps been an understandable omission, especially as it's been out of print so long. But really, it needs to be recognised for what it is: a masterpiece.

Depending on your mood or philosophy, the first thing you remember about Capricorn One is either the iconic main title or the delicate love theme, two sides of the same coin which further emphasise how good the score really is. The main title is just huge, a revelry of brass that opens the score in a spectacular fashion. Those massive echoing drums, the soaring strings, the scorching tuba; it's absolutely exhilarating and a complex piece. Very much an overture by everything but name, it perfectly steels us for the dangerous - yet exciting - journey ahead.

By contrast, Kay's theme - a love theme between one of the astronauts and his wife - is a tender yet powerful piece. Incredibly emotional, it's absolutely stunning as a theme but has further depths in terms of the feelings it evokes. Full of sadness and regret, it captures the state of having an empty place in you that's normally taken up by the one you love and the emotions in dealing with that, but with a sense of hope that things might work out for the better. 'Bedtime Story' has a wonderfully evocative rendition played initially for piano, with strings later embellishing the simply stunning melody.

The reading of the theme that has always stood out for me is the climactic 'The Celebration'. Starting with a small but intimate piano, it develops with building strings to create a wall of melody that is absolutely gorgeous and gives you a huge rush, just a perfect feeling that Goldsmith was able to evoke on an incredibly regular basis. It ends in a huge fanfare with brass and virtuoso piano tinkling, just sublime, before the end title comes straight in, the latter being the main title theme bookending a soaring version of Kay's theme.

These two melodies pin down Capricorn One's backbone, but the entire score is just enthralling. This is peak Goldsmith, a pure example of just how good his action music was. It's tense as hell, and at times oppressive, but always great to listen to. Honestly, it's amazing just to sit back and listen to the way his themes break into fragments and motifs and how he intertwines them in the score to recognise the importance of character as well as narrative. The use of electronics, probably subtle by Goldsmith's standards, serve to extend the colour palette, with some wonderfully ethereal moments that are classic examples of the composer's masterful control of both acoustic and synthetic elements.

Intrada's release is fantastic, and different enough from their earlier release to perhaps justify a new purchase. The tracklisting is slightly different, now including the two 'Abort' cues in the body of the score, and there is an alternate to 'Docking' as well as some source music. The sonics are excellent,  absolutely vibrant with a perfect sense of dynamics and clarity. Simply put, you need to own this album. A beautiful presentation of a masterpiece of a score, Capricorn One is a shining example of just how great Jerry Goldsmith was, and he is so sorely missed today.

-Charlie Brigden

Capricorn One is available on CD from Intrada Records