score by Jerry Goldsmith
As a film, Chinatown seems to become more prescient every passing day, a genre period piece that said more about the future than the past, an examination of the foundations of urban consumption and survival, rooted in violence, depravity, corruption, and theft, which presaged its eventual consequences and its current all-importance. Jerry Goldsmith’s score, similarly, became the archetypal noir sound, despite being written for a neo-noir film and bearing little resemblance to the actual noir soundtracks from the 40s and 50s. Dipping back into jazz experimentation barely a decade old, Goldsmith utilized a patina of shimmering notes to evoke a strange, familiar Orientalism, interrupted by the harshness of discordant piano harmonies, then finished by a lone trumpet, mournful and wary. Goldsmith musically defined the most American genre in distinctly multicultural but American terms, sounding a note so true we still can’t separate its rhythms from the actual time period portrayed. Like noir, and Chinatown, itself, Goldsmith’s score is the archetype of the American urban experience, seductive, multi-textured, corrupted, lonely, and suffused with paranoia.
Essential tracks – Noah Cross, Jake and Evelyn