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Music Conducted By
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrations By
Arthur Morton

Recorded By
Bruce Botnick

Performed By
The National Philharmonic

Album Produced By
Jerry Goldsmith
Robert Townson

Quartet Records

Previous Release(s)
Varese Sarabande
302 066 197 2

Varese Sarabande CD

Year Of CD/Film Release

Running Time

Limited Edition Release

Reviewed By
Andre Seewood


Cues & Timings



01. The Dream (3:38)
02. First Meeting (1:11)
03. Secret Agent (0:54)
04. The Implant (2:44)
05. Where Am I? (1:07)
06. The Aftermath (0:33)
07. Old Times Sake (3:03)
08. Clever Girl (4:34)
09. The Johnny Cab (3:50)
10. Howdy Stranger / The Nose Job (3:54)
11. The Spaceport (0:50)
12. A New Face (1:30)
13. The Mountain (1:31)
14. Identification (1:02)
15. Lies (1:04)
16. Where Am I? (4:00)
17. Swallow It (3:06)
18. The Big Jump (4:35)
19. Without Air (1:17)
20. Remembering (1:48)
21. The Mutant (3:16)
22. The Massacre (2:37)
23. Friends? (1:39)
24. The Treatment (5:40)
25. The Reactor / The Hologram (5:39)
26. End of a Dream (5:49)
27. A New Life (2:25)
28. End Credits (3:49)

Total Disc Time: 77:21



01. The Dream (3:34)
02. The Hologram (5:38)
03. The Big Jump (4:36)
04. The Mutant (3:18)
05. Clever Girl (4:34)
06. First Meeting (1:12)
07. The Treatment (5:33)
08. Where Am I? (3:58)
09. End of a Dream (5:49)
10. A New Life (2:26)


11. The Implant (alternate opening) (2:43)
12. Clever Girl (original performance) (4:28)


13. Divertimento in D* (0:53)
14. Rubble City** (3:19)
15. Mutant Dancing** (4:36)
16. Running Out of Air** (3:02)


17. Rekall Commercial (0:52)
18. Environmental Source (1:09)
19. ESPN (1:13)
20. Saturn (0:31)
21. Mars (1:11)
22. Rekall (Background) (0:47)
23. Botco (0:10)
24. North West (0:35)
25. Rekall Commercial (Alternate) (0:51)

Total Disc Time: 67:15

*Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
**Composed by Bruno Louchouarn

* World Premiere Release

Soundtrack Ratings







Total Recall (Deluxe Edition Review)

Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Paul Verhoeven’s film Total Recall (1990) represents a fantastic achievement in that it manages to transcend both the action and science-fiction genres wherein which the film is situated.  Not surprisingly, the score transcends because of its eccentric orchestration of modern electronic synthesizers juxtaposed with a voluminous traditional orchestra.  Goldsmith had always had a penchant for experimental orchestration, most notably with his elegant and sinister score for Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) which featured,” strings, four pianos, four harps, two percussionists, and a trumpet”.(1)  It is in this way that Goldsmith reminds us of the irascible Bernard Herrmann who also had an eccentric ear for orchestral instrumentation.  “Goldsmith had watched Herrmann conduct “Crime Classics” programs [for CBS Radio] and, until 1956, had idolized him.” (2) Thus, like Herrmann we find that Goldsmith’s music is so integral to the drama, psychological mood and action of the story that the score, itself, becomes another character within the film.  What these odd orchestral arrangements also provide to their scores (both Herrmann and Goldsmith) is a richer emotional expressiveness and a timeless quality that keeps the films fresh even after repeated viewings over the course of many decades.  Just as Herrmann’s work gives a timeless quality to Hitchcock, so does Goldsmith’s work for Verhoeven, Polanski, and many others.

Another Visionary

Total Recall begins with a single sustained synthesizer note before launching into a bravura heroic statement punctuated by thunderous percussion, a pulsating synthesized bass and soaring horns and strings.  This opening captures the essence of the futuristic dramatic journey within the story.  Our hero Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a former double agent from a human colony on Mars who has had his memory erased and is now living a “normal” life as a construction worker on Earth.  After indulging himself with a new procedure called,’ Recall’, where your interplanetary vacation dreams can be implanted into your memory within a few hours in a doctor’s chair, Douglas Quaid violently re-experiences a “total recall” of his past life as a double agent for a Martian colony revolutionary movement and as a corporate henchmen for an evil CEO named, Cohaagen (Ronny Cox).

Goldsmith’s opening dramatically captures the militaristic aspects of the story with its marching electronic snares; the pulsating bass synthesizer and opening synthesizer note captures the futuristic setting of the story; and finally the triumphant horns and strings sing of the hero and heroine discovering themselves within the story.  With this opening credits theme of Total Recall which acts as both a summary of the story and an introduction to the heroic journey within the film, Jerry Goldsmith situated himself comfortably with the other visionary film music composers of the 20th century: Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein, Nino Rota, Henry Mancini, and of course the aforementioned Bernard Herrmann.  All of these composers used the opening credits of a film to translate the thematic concerns of the story into an opening musical thematic statement of the score.

Total Recall is a dense, dramatic, comical and alternately rhythmic and ambient score.  It is the alternation between the dense and exciting rhythms with the soaring and synthetic ambient harmonic lines that gives the score much of its seductive and dynamic qualities.  But before addressing those overall textures, I would like to draw attention to two peculiar and stunningly effective aspects of the score: Suspense and Mimetic Effect.


Throughout the various cues of Total Recall there are sections where suspense is generated in-between furious scherzo-like movements.  This suspense first becomes noticeable on The Hologram cue which is punctuated with a metronome-like clicking.  This ‘clicking’ was used between analog synthesizers to synchronize themselves to each other when repeating pre-arranged musical sequences.  The daring and unconventional idea to leave the ‘click track’ -as it used to be called in those pre-digital days- within the finished musical cue reveals Goldsmith’s intuitive ability to utilize all sounds, music or otherwise, to heighten the dramatic effect of a particular cue.(3)  The ‘click track’ as used in The Hologram cue generates suspense in that it acts as a musical caesura by mechanically holding the rhythm while long synthesized string lines build anticipation for the full orchestra’s return.  The Hologram is clearly one of the most ‘rousing’ cues of recent cinematic history and much of its electrifying intensity is built on the suspense it sustains until its finale.

Later in The Big Jump cue, this ‘click track’ is given a musical interpretation with the synthesizer alternating between two notes in the same demonstrative rhythm.  In fact, the entire Big Jump cue is a recapitulation of this rhythm in various orchestral and synthetic permutations which sweep the listener along with timpani, horns, synthesizers and bass alternating in a dazzling display of rhythmic virtuosity.

The Mimetic Effect

The other peculiar aspect of the music of Total Recall that makes it a dynamic action score is the use of what I define as the mimetic effect.  In short, the use of timpani strikes, horn stings and rapid churning string phrases to musically re-create the violence of human fisticuffs.  This is not an altogether original effect, many composers have found such bursts entertaining, but it is Goldsmith’s rhythmic insistence and his skillful use of the technique first in The Hologram cue and then in various cues throughout the score that succinctly captures the violence within the story and makes us imagine that violence with our ears.  This mimetic effect adds to the physical rhythm of particular fight scenes (e.g. the fight between Lori (Sharon Stone) and Melina (Rachel Ticotin) by intensifying the physical rhythm with a sensational musical counterpoint.  We should also note here that the opening fight sequence between Douglas Quaid and his co-worker Harry (Robert Costanzo) who was a corporate henchman hired to watch him is completed without musical accompaniment.  This decision to proceed with the first fight scene in the film without music heightens the dynamism of the later fight scenes that are accompanied by music.  Since the story of the film itself builds on paranoia, double identities, and alternate realities it was a wise choice to allow the music to build up with the action and the story line.

Rhythm and Ambience

The alternation of rhythm and ambience is the final dialectical configuration within the score that ultimately gives the film its dynamic and exciting quality and also allows the score to transcend the conventional expectations of the action/science-fiction genre.  Throughout the score there are iterative rhythms that trap the listener in their pulsating repetition.  These repetitions are then layered with bold horns or soaring strings which alternate with one another to create a wall of sound that is the musical thematic equivalent of the paranoia within the story; it feels as if there is no way out and that danger is relentlessly on the hunt.  Many of the film’s thrilling escape scenes are scored with these rhythms, but rather than simply compliment the action of the escape, these rhythms seem to work counter-punctually; that is, while the characters are attempting to escape the rhythm of the music is trapping them in a perpetual loop.  There is little room for a true escape only pauses along the way to ‘catch one’s breath’ to borrow a theme from the film.

The particular cue that brings these paranoid rhythms to their greatest fruition is “The End of a Dream”.  With pulsating bass strings, synthesizer slaps and the heroic lines for horns and strings that gradually build in intensity, this cue uses repetition and rhythm to its most dramatically satisfying fixation.  Indeed, many of the breaks in the rhythm –with its whirling strings, horns and percussion, are reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s musical violence in the Skyline movement of his “Music for a Great City” (1963-64).  Continuing along with this comparison, one could also say that Total Recall is the apotheosis of Copland’s “Music for a Great City”.  Yet, we should not think of this as Goldsmith being derivative of Copland, but instead as a form of musical humor and homage.  Just as Herrmann used phrases from Wagner’s Ride of the Valkeries during the clean up scene after Norman Bates’ first murder in Psycho, Goldsmith uses the staccato and whirling rhythms similar to Copland’s “Music for a Great City” as whimsical breaks during the sudden terrorism and violence of the corrupt new city on Mars in the score of Total Recall.(4)

The ‘otherworldly’ ambience created in cues like: A New Life, The Mutant, and The First Meeting are soaring string arrangements coupled with synthesized “flute” sounds played in a perpetual rhythm that conveys the futuristic wonderment of the great Martian landscape and the danger lurking within.  In one of the film’s finest sequences where the mutant rebel leader Kuato psychically invades Quaid’s mind and reveals the true function of the alien machine buried underneath a mountain, The Mutant cue highlights the grandeur of the super-machine that has the power to generate a ‘breathable’ atmosphere for the entire planet; this is the secret the evil Cohaagen does not want known. Within this cue and its use in the film we are trapped in this “psychic mind-lock” between the two characters with a rhythm driven solely by the synthesizer surrounded by strings (real and electronic) that sweep in and out in time with the visuals that swoop up and down revealing the vast machine and Cohaagen’s plans to keep it secret.  Not since the intimate collaboration between filmmaker Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone has a film sequence of a landscape been so elevated and synchronized to the score.  The Mutant cue conveys both the grandeur and immensity of the machine in its landscape with its strings and the trance-like state between to the two characters with the rhythm of its synthesizers.

We see here within a single cue why the score for Total Recall was so effective for this futuristic/action film and why the entire score represents an advance over traditional science-fiction and action film scores.  By melding the electronic with the traditional orchestra Goldsmith was able to evoke and dramatically shift between moods and rhythms beyond what synthesizers or an orchestra could do alone.  If I had to surmise why this score of all of Jerry Goldsmith’s brilliant work is so robust, dense, rhythmically exciting and dramatic, I would say that it was because of a serendipitous confluence of great talents (Director Paul Verhoeven (Robo Cop), Writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (Alien) and Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger ) and the rich literary source material from visionary writer Phillip K. Dick’s short story,” We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.  Not altogether uninspiring group of people to say the least!

Our Collective Inner Ear

When we lose a master film composer like Jerry Goldsmith, whose death in 2004 was a great shock to me and many others, we realize, perhaps too late, how much their music, their vision has been a great part of our lives every time we see an old film that we love and suddenly we see that composer’s name in the credits.  Bernard Herrmann was a great champion of film music because he believed that the film composer’s work,” reaches a world wide audience,” but more than this the film composer’s work becomes such an indelible part of the experience of the universal themes within a film’s story that it becomes part of our ‘collective’ cultural memory.(5)  So although the film composer may be untimely silenced his work lives on in the ‘inner ear’ of our souls and in what ever format the films that they have scored can be seen.  It’s not just a world wide audience but a world wide audience of many generations and many more to come.         

Andre Seewood is a multiple award-winning independent writer and filmmaker.  His new book, SCREENWRITING INTO FILM: Forgotten Methods & New Possibilities, will be released December 2006 through


1) C.f, Kevin Mulhall, CHINATOWN, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, liner notes.

2) Page 204, A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven C. Smith, University of California Press, 1991.

3) Compare Herrmann’s use of a common violin tuning technique to create the terrifying ‘Murder’ cue of PSYCHO.  (Ibid, page 239)

4) If it is not an unfair comparison, one could also say that CHINATOWN’s theme is the apostasy of David Raskin’s theme in his score for LAURA; if we concede that LAURA is drenched in a new found romanticism and in CHINATOWN we find that romanticism dissolute and degenerating into evil.

5) Cf., Bernard Herrmann on Film Music (recorded early 1970’s) in Elmer Bernstein Conducts The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Herrmann Film Scores, Milan Entertainment 1993.