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Section Header
Basic Instinct
1992 Varèse

2004 Prometheus

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Alexander Courage

Performed by:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra

Labels and Dates:
Varèse Sarabande
(March 17th, 1992)

Prometheus Records
(May, 2004)

Also See:
Sleeping with the Enemy
L.A. Confidential
Total Recall

Audio Clips:
1992 Album:

1. Main Title (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (262K)
Real Audio (163K)

5. Pillow Talk (0:26):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (227K)
Real Audio (141K)

9. Roxy Loses (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (260K)
Real Audio (161K)

10. An Unending Story (0:21):
WMA (157K)  MP3 (192K)
Real Audio (119K)

2004 Album:

3. Catherine & Roxy (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (274K)
Real Audio (171K)

8. Beth & Nick (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

13. That's Real Music (0:25):
WMA (168K)  MP3 (205K)
Real Audio (127K)

21. She's Really Sick (0:29):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (234K)
Real Audio (145K)

The 1992 Varèse Sarabande album was a regular U.S. release. The 2004 Prometheus album was not one of the label's limited club titles, but was still only available through soundtrack specialty outlets for $20 to $25.

  Nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

Basic Instinct
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Sales Rank: 992193

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Buy it... on either of the albums featuring this score if you are ready to hear truly unique erotic thriller music that perfectly balances the inescapable sensuality and chilly dread of the film's shamelessly lurid plotline.

Avoid it... if even a clever exploration of the noir genre in Jerry Goldsmith's contemporary methodology cannot keep you from being disturbed by the score's legendarily turbulent, challenging, and musically graphic sex and orgasm sequences.

Basic Instinct: (Jerry Goldsmith) The times never got better for director Paul Verhoeven after the early 1990's, his popular hits RoboCop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct proving far more immensely popular than his subsequent efforts. Although his graphic depictions of violence were already well known by 1992, Basic Instinct established the director as a man without reservation in his interest in graphic (and often equally violent) sex in the mainstream. The controversial Joe Eszterhas script was a target of claims of discrimination from the gay and lesbian community before it was even shot, forcing police to hold back protestors from the San Francisco filming locations during production. The story is a convoluted murder mystery revolving around a hot bisexual female writer who is suspected of killing her victims by stabbing them with an ice pick during sex, an act described in her novel. In this role is Sharon Stone, who was a relatively unknown commodity at the time, but her paltry salary of $500,000 on the otherwise high-budget project, along with the flashing of her vagina during the famous interrogation scene, launched her to stardom. Michael Douglas plays the troubled detective attempting to solve the gruesome initial stabbing, his inability to control his indulgences leading to a torrid affair with not only his psychologist, but Stone's character as well. This love triangle is brutally explored in Basic Instinct, eventually revealing unexpected connections and leaving the audience hanging with a tormenting false resolution at the end. While the movie was not considered high art by critics, it was a sensation that brought in $350 million, making it one of the most successful cinematic ventures of the entire decade. One of the few aspects of the film to receive universal praise was Jerry Goldsmith's score, a triumph of orgasmic suspense that led to Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

It was an admittedly arduous and difficult assignment for Goldsmith, not only because Verhoeven is a challenging director to work with, but due to the story's unusual blend of sensuality and chilly atmosphere. There is no love on display in a positive sense in Basic Instinct, making the sex aspect difficult to adhere to the noir-like suspense that otherwise dominates. An ice-cold allure is precisely what Basic Instinct required in its music, and Goldsmith admirably succeeded in defining that oddly balanced soundscape. He also managed to capture the musical essence of an orgasm as well, perhaps more orchestrally graphic than ever heard before. His ensemble is familiar to his collectors, building off of the noir ambience of the National Philharmonic Orchestra and utilizing his usual array of synthesizers on top of it to accentuate the contemporary and chilly personality of the thriller. The dangerous seduction embodied by the score represents the best entry in its sub-genre since John Barry's Body Heat, terrifying in its intelligent use of lighter instrumental tones to foreshadow unspeakable perversions. Hearing mystifying strings, woodwinds, harp, and piano as representatives of sexual tension beckons you to come closer while simultaneously trying to warn you that an ice pick in your eye socket is just around the corner. The string section carries the burden of the work, whimsically weaving through every cue of the score in high, ghostly tones suitable for a romantic haunted house story. Of equal ominous innocence is the variety of woodwind tones, some of them actually keyboarded samples (as clearly evident at the end of "Catherine & Roxy") to accentuate their eeriness. An aggressively hammering piano in the extremely low ranges adds a distinction to this score that serves to illuminate the danger and suspense of the eroticism. Reverberating sound effects bounce around in the soundscape as a perfect representation of the mind-numbing (and drunken) confusion felt by Douglas' character.

Sinister, sensual, dark, foreboding, and passionate are the electronic effects all at once in Basic Instinct, the bubbly, fluid, and falsely hopeful aspect of a hazy and confusing experience foreshadowing channel-sparring sounds heard with greater volume in The Shadow a few years later. A few strikingly bold and powerful action sequences in Basic Instinct remind of Goldsmith's previous collaboration with Verhoeven, Total Recall, allowing brass and drum pat hits to explode with angry force. When the gravity of the film's weight begins to collapse in on Douglas' character, Goldsmith increasingly applies extremely heavy, deep bass strings that also establish the dread of the sex scenes. In fact, the most momentous crescendos of fear in this score are almost entirely string-based. Thematically, Basic Instinct is a rich tapestry of three constantly battling themes, often overlapped or finishing each others' statements. All built upon melodramatic and sometimes shared minor key structures, these themes are so prevalent that it's challenging to find any extended sequence without one of them. The primary theme is a sultry descending and ascending figure that blows in the wind with little tethering, an ambiguous expression of false romance heard in concert form during the opening and closing titles. While this theme is the most famous representation of the score, adapted in various guises throughout the picture, Goldsmith's two secondary ideas for Basic Instinct are where the real action is happening. The first of these themes is the "travelling motif," an elegant if not slightly urgent idea that stretches across more than an octave in its dynamic and futile search for resolution. After being heard first in the middle of "Catherine & Roxy" on high strings and with an accelerated pace and depth in the opening minutes of "Night Life," Goldsmith saves the most truly noir-like performance for trumpet at the outset of "Unending Story." Structurally, the twists and turns of this theme make it the strongest identity in the movie, and it's interesting to ponder how it could have been manipulated to serve as the primary theme as well.

Often under this theme is the other identity in Basic Instinct, a rumbling bass figure of eight to ten notes usually performed on piano to represent the suspense of the story. Its use underneath the travelling motif increases as the score progresses, culminating in an impressively forced merging late in "She's Really Sick." Likewise late in the picture, it begins to interrupt the flow of the main theme as well, "It Won't Sell" and "Unending Story" both exhibiting this encroachment. The suspense theme eventually prevails completely in the last moments of the film, supplanting the main theme in a full ensemble performance during the strikes about five minutes into "Unending Story." A few lesser motifs also exist in the score, highlighted by the literal stabbing motif for the killing scenes and their suggested equivalents. Goldsmith also seemingly plays an in-joke in "Pillow Talk," reprising the tone and a phrase of the music heard in an early scene in Total Recall involving Stone in bed. The sex and orgasm motifs in this score are the last piece of the puzzle, but obviously very memorable ones. Pulsating strings reaching for painful rhythmic crescendos to accompany the graphic sex scenes with remarkable accuracy, the rapturous tempos for these scenes almost a bit too amusing to appreciate outside of context. Overall, Basic Instinct is a score with too many built-in contradictions to describe, a perfect but sometimes overwrought accompaniment for the unusual behavior in the story. The battle between innocent violin and woodwind tones and the deep bass strings and thunderous piano is perpetual, as is the dissonance punctuating the start of each measure during the sex scenes. While the title theme and the material for those raunchy depictions of depravity are the most lasting highlights of this soundtrack, the secondary themes are just as compelling and complete the narrative of the film wonderfully. The musical arc in Basic Instinct is extremely clever, creating an emotional roller coaster with all the twists and turns of the film, especially by the time Goldsmith leaves untrusting listeners perplexed by a concluding track that is desperate and unfinished. Another general asset of the score is a simply stunning recording, the crystal clear sound quality a precursor to the wet ambient sound that defined the composer's scores of the late 1990's.

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While fans of the score have always claimed that the complete recording has not been commercially released (going so far as to unnecessarily worship amateurish double-CD bootlegs of the music), the two available albums are more than sufficient. The Varèse Sarabande album released at the time of the film's debut offers ten tracks totaling over 45 minutes that serves as an adequate representation of Goldsmith's various thematic ideas and instrumental motifs. A dozen years later, the Prometheus label released an expanded album for Basic Instinct that presents the bulk of Goldsmith's effort in film order, advertising itself as complete but confusing some fans due to some rearrangement of material that happened in the final editing phase of the movie's creation (the director shifted around the music heard in "First Victim" for multiple applications). While casual fans could probably remain content with the original 1992 album, any significant Goldsmith collector should definitely investigate the longer 2004 album of 75 minutes. As time has passed, Basic Instinct has proven to be an even more fascinating and unique work in Goldsmith's career, and while the material absent from the original album is not earth-shattering, it is still as interesting and top notch as the music previously released. The shorter filler cues for the film are just as eerie and tense as the rest, and they expand upon the mood of the original 45 minutes with numerous impressive ambient sequences. Highlights on the expanded album are "Catherine & Roxy" and "Don't Smoke" (with great electronic work performing the travelling theme), "Beth & Nick" (a pivotal and disturbing cue), a slightly longer alternate version of the first killing cue for the unrated cut of the scene, the elegant piano of "It's Won't Sell," and the "That's Real Music" source cue for the clip from the movie Hellraiser on a television seen in the background of a scene (there's more 1950's horror in this cue than Christopher Young's tone). Ultimately, either album is a winning presentation of Basic Instinct, though the expanded 2004 offering does sustain its length quite well. As disturbing as this score can be when you match the music to the visuals, it's a solid listening experience in the suspense department. Music for graphic sex scenes and vaginal flashes has never been the same. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 138,497 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings (1992 Varèse Album): Total Time: 44:25

• 1. Main Title (2:15)
• 2. Crossed Legs (4:50)
• 3. Night Life (6:03)
• 4. Kitchen Help (3:59)
• 5. Pillow Talk (5:00)
• 6. Morning After (2:29)
• 7. The Games Are Over (5:36)
• 8. Catherine's Sorrow (2:41)
• 9. Roxy Loses (3:17)
• 10. An Unending Story (7:56)

 Track Listings (2004 Prometheus Album): Total Time: 74:30

• 1. Main Title (2:13)
• 2. First Victim* (1:39)
• 3. Catherine & Roxy* (5:14)
• 4. Shadows* (0:41)
• 5. Profile* (0:49)
• 6. Don't Smoke* (2:26)
• 7. Crossed Legs (4:49)
• 8. Beth & Nick* (2:21)
• 9. Night Life (6:03)
• 10. Home Visit* (1:13)
• 11. Your Wife Knew * (1:44)
• 12. Untitled* (0:52)
• 13. That's Real Music* (0:27)
• 14. One Shot* (1:27)
• 15. Kitchen Help (3:58)
• 16. Pillow Talk (4:59)
• 17. Morning After (2:29)
• 18. Roxy Loses (3:37)
• 19. Catherine's Sorrow (2:41)
• 20. Wrong Name* (2:22)
• 21. She's Really Sick* (1:31)
• 22. It Won't Sell* (1:02)
• 23. Games Are Over (5:53)
• 24. Evidence* (1:39)
• 25. Unending Story/End Credits** (9:23)
• 26. First Victim (alternate version)* (1:34)

* previously unreleased
** extended film version

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the original 1992 album includes a note from the director. The 2004 album's insert features detailed information about the film and score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Basic Instinct are Copyright © 1992, Varèse Sarabande, Prometheus 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 12/13/96 and last updated 9/16/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.