During the early nineties, Jerry Goldsmith scored several now-classic suspense entries – The Russia House (1990), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), and Basic Instinct (1992) – and each soundtrack has managed to withstand the test of time, not because the composer re-emphasized orchestra power after a lengthy indulgence in heavy synth integration (culminating in the effective Criminal Law), but due to a reliance on emotive, central themes tailor-made for their emotionally unsettled characters.
Sleeping is ostensibly about a young woman’s flight from an abusive OCD prick, and her final efforts to reassert herself when he inevitably attempts to reclaim her as his rightful possession.
Goldsmith’s score has several central elements: a gentle flowing theme for the fragile Laura, filled with tender strings that flow and ebb, and harmonics that evoke her gentility; and contrasting metallic sounds which, in their sparing application, infer either desperation, or the ominous spirit of brute husband Martin. The brass in cues such as “The Storm” turns Goldsmith’s theme into something harsh and strained, matching Laura’s struggle under natural elements and severe emotional stress; and the bell chimes and matching stiff metallic chords (“Broken Window”) that recur are organically tied to Berlioz’ "Symphonie Fantastique," which is both Martin’s main theme and his preferred classical piece (heard to grim effect at the end, when he stalks and attempts to punish Laura in her new life away from his Hell).
Like the aforementioned scores, Sleeping serves as an ideal example of crafting theme variations that may not be diverse – there are no abstract or minimalist reconfigurations, for example – but still chart a character's desperation, and Goldsmith's slight variations in instrumentation beautifully capture Laura’s gradual independence.
La-La Land’s CD presents Goldsmith’s complete score, including the brief theme statements and bridge material left off the otherwise satisfying 1991 CD which featured several source songs. The 2011 disc is all-score (plus two alternate cue mixes), and it captures the ideal balance of orchestral and synth ingredients in a Goldsmith score, where keyboards, samples, synth percussion hits, and watery effects and drones (“Broken Light”) aren’t dominant and gimmicky.
The newly added cues – many averaging just over a minute - now function as teasers and lead-ups to the score’s previously released gems, such as the eddying “The Ring,” with its marvelous whizzing motifs and gripping urgency; or as portents of meatier suspense cues, such as “The Carnival.” There’s also a decisive effort by Goldsmith to evoke the classicism of Bernard Herrmann, as in “What Did He Do?” with its slow, pensive strings that devolve into sterile, electronic renderings before a rich flip to orchestral writing (including some lovely woodwind gestures).
Beautifully mastered, the CD is accompanied by Julie Kirgo’s liner notes which provide a solid background on the film’s central themes and Goldsmith’s stature which in 1991 was at its peak.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan