Jerry Goldmith’s musical education was initiated early in his life, beginning with classical piano lessons at the age of 6 and moving into composition and music theory by the age of 14. Inspired in particular by the Miklós Rózsa’s score for the Alfred Hitchcock film Spellbound, Goldsmith began to explore film composition, studying with Rózsa himself for a time at the University of Southern California. Eventually he moved into television working for CBS and contributing music e.g. Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone, as well as several other series.
After leaving CBS, a 1962 Oscar nomination for the biopic Freud, his film commissions began to proliferate in earnest; by the start of the next decade he had dozens of scores under his belt, including contributions to Seven Days in May (1964), Seconds (1966), Planet of the Apes (1968), and Patton (1970). By the mid-1970s, he had become one of Hollywood’s top film music composers and his output became almost entirely devoted to that field - his peak being reached with his sinister soundtrack to The Omen (1976), for which he earned an Oscar.
Quite a few of Goldsmith’s soundtracks from the 70s onward were composed for science fiction and thriller/horror films, and some of the most inspired examples of those genres are amongst his credits. Besides the already mentioned Planet of the Apes and some of its sequels, and the two subsequent chapters in The Omen- series, he scored Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking Alien (1979), Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist (1982 and its 1986 sequel), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), both Gremlins films (1984 and 1990), and Total Recall (1990). Perhaps his most recognizable theme was created for the first of the Star Trek motion pictures in 1979, later adapted for the Next Generation television series in 1987. Psychological thrillers such as Basic Instinct (1992) and The Vanishing (1993) also benefited from his atmospheres.
Goldsmith is notable in his field for his willingness to explore unconventional methods and his openness to different musical forms. The integration of electronics into his work began as early as the 1960s and was used frequently in the subsequent decades, culminating with his first purely-electronic score for the Michael Crichton-derived film Runaway in 1984. He remained active and in-demand right up to the year of his death in 2004.