By Mary Ann Skweres
Critical to a successful score in any motion picture is a harmonious collaboration between composer and music editor, and no such collaboration can claim to have been as prolific or as fruitful as the one between Kenny Hall and Jerry Goldsmith.
During his almost 50 years in the film industry, music editor Hall has edited the music for some 900 films and television shows. He has worked on several Oscar-winning and nominated movies including E.T., Star Trek: The Motion Picture, L.A. Confidential and Mulan, and earned a pair of gold records, for E.T. and Mulan. He’s been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for over 35 years.
Hall began his film music career in 1958 as an apprentice at 20th Century Fox Studios under the tutelage of legendary composer Lionel Newman. This led to work with some of the industry’s greatest composers, including John Williams, Henry Mancini, John Barry, Alexander Courage, Bill Conti, Lalo Schifrin, John Debney, Marvin Hamlisch, Quincy Jones, Stewart Copeland and Tangerine Dream. But most notably he spent 20 years collaborating with legendary composer Goldsmith, who died earlier this year.
Below the Line: Tell us about your early days with Jerry Goldsmith.
Kenny Hall: He was my hero. He wrote great music, wore great clothes and drove sports cars. When I was young, as he was becoming a star composer, we had a connection. I could speak to Jerry about anything.
BTL: How did you begin working exclusively together?
Hall: It really evolved with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was a very difficult time for both of us because we were literally scoring by scenes. They were changing every day. We ended up having 22 scoring sessions at night. There were a few all-nighters where I’d record until midnight, put it together until three or four in the morning and then there’d be more material coming in. It was a crazy time in my life. After that, Jerry started requesting me, but I was still bouncing around, working with other composers. Poltergeist was the second initiation of our contact. That led to E.T. with John Williams and something with John Barry and then all of a sudden, I’m doing all Jerry Goldsmith pictures.
BTL: Why would you say your collaboration was so successful?
Hall: Jerry was the most complex film composer I ever worked for. He wrote a lot of odd metered bars. On one picture, one guy did the patterns incorrectly. The orchestra couldn’t play it. Jerry told me “You’ve got to come with me.”With Jerry it was always a challenge. Recutting scores, you’re always representing the composer. If you make poor edits or poor choices, they come back to haunt you because it’s the composer’s music. The music editor is there to protect the composer and also protect the film.
BTL: What score of Jerry’s is your favorite?
Hall: Basic Instinct. I ran the film at in a projection room with nothing. It was a semifinal cut. It had no extra sound effects, no temp music, no clean dialog, and I was riveted. Then Jerry wrote a score for that picture that took it to a level that I didn’t think was possible. I remember Jerry came into one day and saw a signed score sketch from John Williams for E.T. and he said, “You don’t have one of mine.” And I said, “You never asked me before.” He said, “Which one do you want?” I thought for two seconds. He gave me an original sketch from Basic Instinct.
BTL: What, to you, is the greatest thrill in film music?
Hall: To hear mock-ups with synthesizers in a studio and then hear a full-blown orchestra playing the same thing. Pretty amazing, the depth and scope of the same music. I think that was Jerry’s thrill, too.
BTL: What is Jerry’s legacy?
Hall: The greatest tribute I can give Jerry is he would never finish a cue until he was happy with the material. His son, Joel put it a great way at the funeral. “Jerry always went for the subtext of the scene, never went for the obvious.” That was Jerry.
BTL: What story did you tell at Jerry’s funeral?
Hall: Jerry was conducting a film score he had written. [Film composer] Bernard Hermann walked on the stage and started screaming at Jerry. “Stop recording! Stop playing that music! That music’s too good for that crappy picture.” Jerry didn’t listen. He always gave his best score whether the picture was a masterpiece or something not as special. Because of that Jerry and his music will live forever.