If you have a copy of the Poltergeist soundtrack (1982, Jerry Goldsmith), have a listen to the first track (The Calling/The Neighborhood). Pay attention at about 3:24 to 3:47, which is the sprightly theme where we come into the neighborhood and all is sunlight and mischievous kids and men on small bicycles carrying beer.

The perky neighborhood theme is on the strings, and it repeats a phrase of about the same shape with a rise comes back between the middle and the end of the phrase, and eventually it evolves from the dominant theme to become figuration (an underlying support theme) for an equally perky rendition of Carol Ann’s theme.

Maybe you don’t have the CD or the MP3. This YouTube video has the section I have in mind from 2:19-2:40. Note that I can’t get the time marks to consistently come out the same. The start time varies for me as much as 5 seconds.

You can hear it again in The Rebirth on the album (5:29-6:00) morphed into a gentle ostinato of low winds and quickly reduced once again to figuration for higher winds and strings which carry the action. The theme is like the drumbeat as we wait to see what will happen with the rescue of Carol Ann. I do not find it in the video I linked to above.

But now cue up Escape from Suburbia. Jump, if you want, to 4:30 or just a little before, and listen until 5:00 (in the linked YouTube video from 8:46-9:27). Yes, that’s the neighborhood theme again, starting strong in the tuba and winding up as figuration for strings and middle winds that carry the action. But it’s not quite the same, is it? And not simply because we are in a lower register, or because the theme is now quite insistently aggressive. It’s because the melody is close to being an inversion of the theme when we come into the neighborhood; where the first theme goes higher, with a happy rise in major tone, this one sinks and goes grimly minor.

I’ve never seen the printed score, so I can’t give you textual proof that the neighborhood escape theme is a perfect inversion (or transposition) of the neighborhood entry one, but Goldsmith’s play here is unmistakeable, and it’s also unmistakeable as the same theme brought back and morphed.

I’ve yet to see any critic mention this phenomenon. We shouldn’t be surprised: Goldsmith was a genius after all.

The image at the head of this post is of Goldsmith’s grave marker in Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles. It was taken by Arthur Dark and released under a CC SA-4.0 International license. It lives in Wikimedia Commons in its original form.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: