Did it ever feel like Jerry Goldsmith’s scores were so good, and sometimes the movies were so bad, that it was as if he was scoring a much better movie in his own imagination?
In the old days...that’s sort of how all composers had to operate. No MIDI, no video playback. At best, they had a noisy flatbed editing machine to rewatch footage.
For the most part, they worked off of timing sheets—like the above. This is from a page for The Illustrated Man, which I picked up in my travels at FSM (making the CD).
Composers would map out their cue based on the timings above, figure out where the bars landed, and write the music (with pencil and paper).
It really seems insane, in this day and age. But that was standard operating procedure.
So in many ways they really were scoring the movie of their own imagination—trying to remember what they had seen at the spotting session, and reconstructing it with the timing sheets.
Not only that, but the score existed in their own imagination—and only there, until the moment of performance. They could realize some themes on piano, but the orchestration lived entirely in their minds until it came alive via the musicians on the scoring stage.
And to think that was the first time that anybody had heard it—not just the director, producers, studio, etc., but the composer!
I’m not one to reflexively say that everything used to be great, and everything now sucks (or vice versa). There are complicated dynamics.
But there definitely was an art and a craft that was lost when everything switched to on-demand computer recording, playback and presentation.