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Section Header
1988 Silva

2007 Intrada

Composed by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Conducted by:
Lionel Newman

Performed by:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra

2007 Album Produced by:
Mike Matessino
Nick Redman

Labels and Dates:
Silva Screen Records

Intrada Records
(November 20th, 2007)

Also See:
Alien 3

Audio Clips:
2007 Album:

CD1, 3. The Landing (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD1, 23. End Title (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD1, 30. Out the Door (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD2, 16. It's a Droid (Unused Inserts) (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

The 1988 album from Silva Screen was a regular commercial release but fell out of print in the 1990's. The 2007 2-CD set from Intrada Records is not limited, but it retails for $30.

  Nominated for a BAFTA Award, a Grammy Award, and a Golden Globe.


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Sales Rank: 69665

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Buy it... on the 2007 Intrada Records album if you seek a comprehensive examination of how Jerry Goldsmith intended for his challenging score to be placed in the film.

Avoid it... if you expect the listening experience to be pleasant, for outside of the ten or so minutes of Goldsmith's whimsically romantic title theme of mystery, the remainder of Alien is difficult to enjoy for purely entertainment purposes.

Alien: (Jerry Goldsmith) While Ridley Scott's 1979 space thriller Alien is looked upon with high admiration thirty years after its debut, the film owes James Cameron's 1986 sequel for much of that praise. The Scott production wasn't the knockout blockbuster of the summer season that 20th Century Fox had hoped, losing the box office battle to several other major pictures. That said, Alien has acquired significant respect through time, mostly due to its conceptualization and the subsequent development of the idea into further stories. From the depiction of Sigourney Weaver as one of the big screen's first major female action stars to the design of the terrifying alien creature itself, Alien was a successful haunted house-style of story set in the already perilous and unfamiliar setting of space. The title character in Alien, as well its strikingly grotesque reproductive process, is about as memorable an adversary ever to challenge a group of unsuspecting human beings. Despite all of the accolades that Scott has received through the years for Alien's various production qualities, there remains one area in which the film was a total disaster: its music. Scott was enthusiastic to work with veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, arguably at the height of his career at the time, for this production. Equally pleased was Scott's former sound and music editor and, for Alien, his lead editor, Terry Rawlings. Upon securing Goldsmith for the assignment, Rawlings, with Scott's blessing, had assembled a wealth of Goldsmith's previous music for employment as a temp track in the film. Goldsmith, who was never a fan of temp tracking in the first place, was disdainful of these placements and completely disregarded them when fashioning his music for Alien. From there, matters only got worse. The composer completed the recording of almost an hour of music for Alien and moved on to other projects, returning to the production for a handful of re-scoring duties not long after. To his horror, the finished version of Alien would only place one (yes, one) of his cues in its entirety and in its proper place in the film. His music had been completely mangled by Scott and Rawlings, chopped into pieces and moved indiscriminately throughout the film. To make matters worse, significant portions of Goldsmith's 1962 score for Freud and a 1967 recording of Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2" were interspersed between Goldsmith's original Alien material as well. It was, in short, a nightmare.

In the long and illustrious career of Jerry Goldsmith, there was perhaps no film score assignment that bothered the man more than Alien. While both Scott and Rawlings showered praise upon Goldsmith for some of his efforts for the film (as well as his career in sum), they never withheld the fact that they considered his approach to some of the film's sequences to be plain wrong, claiming that the score did not solicit the proper emotional response that Scott had desired. Unfortunately, anyone familiar with Scott's career before and after Alien will easily recognize that the director has never had a keen sense for a cohesive musical arc in his films. His insistence upon using any particular piece of music from any genre for any scene without consideration to the overall musical identity of a film is a persistent problem for him. Goldsmith claimed at the time that Scott simply didn't know what he was doing in terms of musical direction because of his youth. But that's too easy on Scott; instead, the man's inability to gauge the musical needs of his films is plainly evident, and Alien is the most clearly recognizable testimony to this fact. Goldsmith's approach to Alien was one that was far more intelligent that Scott's. The composer handled the film's opening (and briefly in it is closing) with a whimsical atmosphere of mysterious fantasy. This was his way of defining the wonders of space travel without forcing the horror elements down the audience's throats (insert face hugger joke here as you see fit) from the very beginning. In fact, Goldsmith maintains a level of fantasy without the burden of heavy suspense for quite some time in the score as he wrote it for the film. Only upon the fierce battle between the alien and the Nostromo crew does Goldsmith truly emphasize his exotic instrumentation and stinger tactics for the outright horror of the plot. He then returns to the somewhat romantic tone of fantasy for the resolution and end titles of Alien, creating a solid sense of cohesion. Unfortunately, Scott completely refused all of these romantic leanings that Goldsmith had assigned the score, insisting that the composer re-score the early and late cues without the statements of the score's primary theme and instead emphasizing the suspenseful motifs and instrumentation from the start. Goldsmith complied with these requests, but even such alterations didn't save the score from its ultimate butchering. The entire process exposed Scott's refusal to recognize the intelligent (and, in retrospect, obvious) progression of the composer's work.

One of the reasons why the music for Alien has taken so long to receive proper treatment on album (and, consequently, be rewarded with much editorial discussion such as the review you are now reading) is because of these extremely sticky circumstances of the score's creation and dismemberment. Only in 2007 did Alien experience a proper album release (from Intrada Records, a foremost champion of Goldsmith's work), and it is based upon this presentation of all of the music that Goldsmith wrote for the production that this review is based. The composer did manage to exorcise some of the demons of this troublesome situation when he arranged the 1979 LP record of his music for Alien. For that album, he took 35 minutes of material that included the major substance of his balance between mystery, fantasy, suspense, and horror and created a listening experience that was faithful to his thinking rather than Scott's. But even this presentation was rearranged in many places, and only when hearing the 57 minute complete score as written for the film can Goldsmith fans (or reviews of this work) get a clear idea of what the composer intended. Evident on all the album releases, but not in the film, are three main motifs that Goldsmith remains loyal to throughout Alien. First is the representation of his choice to handle the opening and closing with a romantic sense of fantasy, performed most memorably by a solo trumpet. The eventual swelling of this idea to the full ensemble in "End Title" produces one of the composer's most notable science fiction concert arrangements. It's a surprisingly thoughtful theme, extending into "Hyper Sleep" and "To Sleep" as though to address the contemplation that such a condition of stasis could yield. Goldsmith smartly mutates the rising opening trio of notes in this idea for situations in which crew members are startled during otherwise seemingly safe environments later on. The second main motif is built around a descending duo of notes in the upper woodwinds, heard immediately in conjunction with the title theme and further representing an element of mystery. This versatile idea was retained by Scott and appears extensively throughout. The final motif is more of a sound effect for the alien itself, using musicians on serpents, didgeridu, and massive conch shells, passing those sounds though the composer's echoplex machine (of Patton fame) to produce truly eerie, otherworldly sounds. Scott was reportedly enamored with this final recurring effect, and it is this sound that he eventually encouraged for insertion immediately at the start of the picture.

Outside of these motifs, Goldsmith's music for Alien is distinctly unnerving and largely atmospheric. He generates an intriguing balance between wonder and tension in his plucky string techniques, often relying upon the electronic mutation of this section as well for added suspense. The constructs are usually quite sparse; outside of the predictably pounding and shrieking action sequences, the composer was not afraid to leave a fair amount of open space in his work. As such, Alien is not often a very dense work, tingling and groaning quietly in the treble region during most cues. The composer's recording of several different stingers for brass was abused by Scott, who used many of these short recordings (and the bulk of the lengthier suspense cues) and simply utilized them like a library from which to pull and rearrange individual sequences. Hearing Goldsmith's score in its entirety, for a strict enthusiast of the film, may actually come as something of a shock. An entirely different discussion is due to the question of whether or not Goldsmith's original version (and, of course, Scott's mutilation of the music) is palatable as a listening experience. There is no doubt that the composition is a piece to be admired in its original form. There is even ten to twelve minutes of Goldsmith's whimsical material that makes for a very satisfying presentation on album. But even as Goldsmith intended the music to be used, Alien isn't the kind of score you can readily enjoy out of context. Without extended periods of density, the score doesn't offer as many rambunctious highlights as James Horner's music for Aliens (which itself suffered in the editing room). Still, while Alien may not be a particularly enjoyable score on album, its technical merits still stand. Goldsmith once commented that it would be too difficult to try to go back and re-record the score because of all of the unusual techniques used directly on the recording stage, techniques that would be very difficult to recreate. Perhaps some of that unwillingness to look back at Alien with any hope was due to the composer's poor decision to join Scott once again for Legend. As if Goldsmith hadn't learned his lesson, he produced a strong fantasy score for Legend that was thrown out almost completely by the director, cementing the composer's poor opinion of the director. In both cases, Scott completely missed the mark when assessing the general tone that the films needed to develop over their lengths, a circumstance even more damaging to Legend than Alien for several reasons.

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Given the composer's disinterest in revisiting Alien and the lack of a discovery of decent master tapes until the late 2000's, Goldsmith's efforts were represented for a long time by his LP arrangement. This edit of the soundtrack was pressed to CD in 1988 by Silva Screen, a product that served as the lone digital offering of Alien for about ten years. In the late 1990's, fan-created bootlegs began circulating, some of which including the music from Freud and Hanson to recreate Scott's version of the soundtrack's edit. In 2000, a DVD release from 20th Century Fox with two isolated score tracks (original and alternate) assisted in these black market endeavors, yielding relatively good sound and a second round of bootlegs that consistently ran longer than an hour. A 1996 re-recording of several cues commissioned by Varèse Sarabande was painstakingly faithful on a strong Alien-related album. In 2007, however, Intrada Records finally worked with Fox on the newly discovered master tapes to produce a definitive 2-CD edition of the complete score and a plethora of additional related material for Alien. The first disc begins with the 57 minutes of music that Goldsmith had originally intended to be placed in the film, in chronological order. Following this are the seven re-scored alternative takes that Scott requested of Goldsmith, mostly exhibiting the removal of the composer's primary theme. The lack of a re-scored conclusion to the film may indicate that Scott and Rawlings had already decided by that point to use the Hanson piece instead. The second disc in the Intrada set includes the complete 35-minute presentation of Alien that Goldsmith arranged for the LP. This material was carefully recreated using the newly discovered masters, so it will not be identical to the sound and edit that owners of the Silva album may recall. Finally, a series of bonus cues is included on the Intrada set as well, ranging from even more additional performance takes to a series of stinger recordings (with Lionel Newman and Goldsmith studio discussions in between) and a Mozart source cue recorded for the film. Given that Alien isn't the most attractive listening experience to come from Goldsmith, the set may be a bit of a case of overkill, though it's so rare that a score receives this kind of treatment that you have to admire its production values. Perhaps the inclusion of the Freud and Hanson material would have made it an even more fascinating study. As it is, though, there's really no reason to retain the previous album incarnations of Alien; the Intrada set is a non-limited album, meaning that it has remained readily available for reasonable prices for several years. Outside of its ten minutes of romantic highlights, however, Alien remains a challenging score worthy of dutiful appreciation rather than casual entertainment. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for Film: ****
    Music as Heard in Film: **
    Music as Heard on Album: ***
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,513 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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   Re: Disdain for Scott?
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 Track Listings (1988 Silva Screen Album): Total Time: 35:28

• 1. Main Title (3:34)
• 2. Face Hugger (2:35)
• 3. Breakaway (3:04)
• 4. Acid Test (4:37)
• 5. The Landing (4:33)
• 6. The Droid (4:45)
• 7. The Recovery (2:47)
• 8. The Alien Planet (2:31)
• 9. The Shaft (4:00)
• 10. End Title (3:02)

 Track Listings (2007 Intrada Album): Total Time: 126:20

CD 1: (76:54)

The Complete Original Score: (57:06)
• 1. Main Title (4:12)
• 2. Hyper Sleep (2:46)
• 3. The Landing (4:31)
• 4. The Terrain (2:21)
• 5. The Craft (1:00)
• 6. The Passage (1:49)
• 7. The Skeleton (2:31)
• 8. A New Face (2:34)
• 9. Hanging On (3:39)
• 10. The Lab (1:05)
• 11. Drop Out (0:57)
• 12. Nothing to Say (1:51)
• 13. Cat Nip (1:01)
• 14. Here Kitty (2:08)
• 15. The Shaft (4:30)
• 16. It's a Droid (3:28)
• 17. Parker's Death (1:52)
• 18. The Eggs (2:23)
• 19. Sleepy Alien (1:04)
• 20. To Sleep (1:56)
• 21. The Cupboard (3:05)
• 22. Out the Door (3:13)
• 23. End Title (3:09)

The Rescored Alternate Cues: (19:48)
• 24. Main Title (4:11)
• 25. Hyper Sleep (2:46)
• 26. The Terrain (0:58)
• 27. The Skeleton (2:30)
• 28. Hanging On (3:08)
• 29. The Cupboard (3:13)
• 30. Out the Door (3:02)
CD 2: (49:26)

The Original 1979 Soundtrack Album: (35:44)
• 1. Main Title (3:37)
• 2. The Face Hugger (2:36)
• 3. Breakaway (3:03)
• 4. Acid Test (4:40)
• 5. The Landing (4:31)
• 6. The Droid (4:44)
• 7. The Recovery (2:50)
• 8. The Alien Planet (2:31)
• 9. The Shaft (4:01)
• 10. End Title (3:08)

Bonus Tracks: (13:45)
• 11. Main Title (Film Version) (3:44)
• 12. The Skeleton (Alternate Take) (2:35)
• 13. The Passage (Demonstration Excerpt) (1:54)
• 14. Hanging On (Demonstration Excerpt) (1:08)
• 15. Parker's Death (Demonstration Excerpt) (1:08)
• 16. It's a Droid (Unused Inserts) (1:27)
• 17. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Source) (1:49)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the 2007 set includes extensive information about the score and film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Alien are Copyright © 1988, 2007, Silva Screen Records, Intrada Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/15/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.