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Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith 1

Today we take another slight departure from our course, or should I say our flight plan, to talk about the music of Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith (1929-2004) is one of the most well known and prolific American composers for film and television. His numerous nominations and awards span over a career of 200+ film scores. One of his main mentors was Miklos Rozsa, who I will talk about in the next blog post. While Goldsmith didn’t write any concert music for brass alone (it is noted in his biography that Goldsmith originally wanted to pursue just concert composition, but it did not allow him as much of a musical outlet as he wanted) much of his music for film has been arranged and transcribed for ensembles such as brass band. The particular arrangement we will look at today is from the score of Air Force One.

Arranged by Rodney Newton, this medley of themes from the film does a fairly good job at capturing the original intent. Goldsmith’s sweeping string and horn lines translate easily into brass, although in my opinion, the tenor horn is not a true substitute for the sound of the (French) horn. The inclusion of percussion is a must, as the middle section of the piece is highly punctuated and dependent on the percussion in the original. Again, Goldsmith’s brass writing is easily transferred to a brass band setting. Perhaps the weakest part is the slow section starting at rehearsal H. Here, the brass band simply cannot capture the ease and ethereal quality of sustain by other winds and strings.

 Here is a video performance by the Celebration Brass:

Elliot Goldenthal


Elliot Goldenthal (b. 1954) is an American composer of film, concert, and theater works. In 2002 he won the Academy Award for his original score to the movie Frida. Goldenthal was a student of both Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, both of whom we’ve explored in previous posts. Besides his film scores, of which there are over 25, Goldenthal is perhaps best known for his work in musicals and ballets. For brass ensemble, he wrote the following:

 Brass Quintet No. 1

 Brass Quintet No. 2

Brass Quintet No. 2 is comprised of three movements entitled “Quinque,” “Cortege,” and “Rondo Burlesque,” respectively.  Here is a sample:

Goldenthal Quintet 2 mvm 3 excerpt

Bramwell Tovey


From someone extremely well known to me, we turn now to someone whom I had never heard of… Bramwell Tovey! Tovey (b. 1953) is a Grammy and Juno award winning Canadian composer whose commissions include works for the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony, and the Canadian Brass. He is the director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He is also a film composer, writing the original score to the Canadian movie Eighteen. Tovey was also Artistic Director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, and has worked closely with the Fodens Brass Band. His concert work for brass includes the following:

 Pictures in the Smoke – for brass band

 Coventry Variations – for brass

 Santa Barbara Sonata – for brass quintet

 The Bardfield Ayre – for brass band

 Manhattan Music – for brass quintet and orchestra

 Echoes of Jericho – for brass and percussion

 Requiem for a Charred Skull – for choir and brass band

 The Night to Sing – for brass band

 Nine Daies Wonder – for brass band and violin

 Urban Cabaret – for solo trombone, brass, and percussion

Santa Barbara Sonata was written in 2004 for the Canadian Brass and is “a sonata in four movements, each associated with an aspect of Santa Barbara, California in the summer months (when the Music Academy of the West is in session). Movements include: Cakewalk on a Tightrope, Preacher on the Pier, Magic Horn Tango and State Street Stomp.”

Here is a clip of the first movement:

Santa Barbara mvm1 excerpt

John Corigliano


John Corigliano (b. 1938) is both a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Symphony No. 2 as well as an Academy Award winner for his score to The Red Violin. Another of his most famous works is his Symphony No. 1, a stunningly tragic work influenced by the AIDS crisis. Corigliano also wrote music for the films Altered States and Revolution. As a whole, Corigliano is one of the most influential recent composers and composition teachers in the country.  For brass instruments alone, Corigliano has written the following:

 Antiphon – for 8 or 10 brass

 Fanfares to Music – for on- and off-stage brass

 Two Works for Antiphonal Brass – for brass ensemble

 Utah Fanfare – for brass and percussion

Nino Rota


Back to film, sort of… Italian composer Nino Rota (1911-1979) is perhaps best known for his original score to The Godfather. In his career he composed the music for over 150 films, ten operas, and many other concert and chamber works. In perusing the catalogue of his concert works, I only came across one piece for brass ensemble, his Sonata per Ottoni e Organo/Sonata for Brass and Organ. This piece, written in 1972, features two trumpets, two trombones, and organ. As an interesting contrast, 1972 was also the year that The Godfather was released…

Here is a video of the work:

Elliott Carter


We take a quick break in the realm of film composers to address a work by American composer Elliott Carter. The piece in question is Brass Quintet, a wildly difficult work composed in 1974.

      1. This piece brings up several emotions. As mentioned in class, one for me is a tinge of boredom. For a single movement work, twelve minutes is lenghthy, and the relative lack of approachable or easily tangible musical elements draws out that lenghth even more. At a point, I say to myself “I get it, let’s move on.”

      2. Carter created this effect by, as mentioned above, crafting a single movement work that, upon initial listening, has no cadence points.

      3. I think the hardest measure to perform would be a measure that contains implicit interplay between two or more parts, such as in measure 43 or 281. However, the issue of difficulty makes me wonder if this piece is meant to be performed in a Babbitt-ian sense or a Strauss-ian sense. That is, does every black mark on the page need to be exactly precise, or is it more the effect that is important, with the notation just showing one example of how it might look?

      4. I think it is valuable in a course such as this to explore all types of brass ensemble music. Although this piece does not fall in line with my personal compositional aesthetics, others may feel differently and be moved accordingly. However, the infrequency at which this piece is performed does raise questions to its relevancy.

      5. Carter studied with Nadia Boulanger and Charles Ives, which explains the avant garde style with shreds of tonality. Perhaps more enlightening are the influences of thinkers like Einstein and James Joyce, lending to his music the element of complexity. Davison’s quintet is much more traditional in the sense of formal and harmonic structure.

Aaron Copland


Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is often associated with codifying the sound of American music. His compositional style featuring open intervals and the incorporation of jazz and folk tunes contributed to the success and popularity of his music. While best known for his concert works including music for solo instruments, symphonies, and ballets, Copland was also an active film composer, scoring films such as Of Mice and Men, The North Star, and The Heiress.

 His music for brass ensemble is perhaps best represented by one of his seminal works, Fanfare for the Common Man. However, less known is his work Ceremonial Fanfare, written some 27 years after Common Man. Upon an initial listening, Copland’s open harmonies remain present, but the overall tonality is considerably more dissonant, perhaps a product of his study into the Second Viennese School (of which he didn’t fully agree with/adopt). Here is a video with a performance by the Cincinnati Pops:

Malcolm Arnold

Composer Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was a British composer of film and concert works, whose original score to The Bridge on the River Kwai won him an academy award in 1957. In his life he composed over 100 film scores, and many concert works including nine symphonies.

For brass instruments he wrote the following:

Quintet for Brass, Op. 73

Brass Quintet, Op. 132

Little Suite No. 1 for Brass Band, Op. 80

Little Suite No. 2 for Brass Band, Op. 93

Little Suite No. 3 for Brass Band, Op. 131

Fantasy for Brass Band

Symphony for Brass Instruments, Op. 123

His Symphony for Brass Instruments was written in 1987 for the Phillips Jones Brass Ensemble, and consists of four movements, totaling 25 minutes. It was first performed at the Cheltenham Festival in the United Kingdom. Here is a clip of the fourth movement:

Arnold Symphony for Brass – mvmt 4 excerpt

Leonard Bernstein


A Renaissance man of the musical world, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a composer, conductor, writer, and also accomplished pianist. He is perhaps best known for his work from West Side Story and his time with the New York Philharmonic (quick tempi and all!). While his compositional output is tremendous, his work in the film genre is rather limited, with On the Waterfront as one such original film.

For brass instruments in a concert setting, Bernstein wrote Brass Music, which consists of five movements, the first four being for trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba (respectively) with piano, and the final movement a brass quartet entitled Fanfare for Bima. Here is a short clip of the work:

Fanfare for Bima Excerpt

Michael Kamen


Michael Kamen (1948-2003) was a composer of primarily television and film music. His musical background is unique, although when compared to other film greats, follows similar trends. Kamen was part of a rock band, in which he performed, among other instruments, the oboe. Being well versed in pop music led him to be desirable as an arranger, which down the road led to his own compositional voice being able to be heard. As a comparison, Danny Elfman started off in a rock band, and John Williams started in a jazz combo, of which he was an arranger. His most notable film scores are from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Three Musketeers, although music enthusiasts will often also known his work in Mr. Holland’s Opus.


While Kamen’s work was primarily for film, he composed several concert works, including his Quintet for brass. This piece was commissioned by the Canadian Brass, and was written just prior to his passing. Here is a video of the piece, as performed by the Canadian Brass: