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Planet of the Apes (1968): The Hunt (opening) By Jerry Goldsmith Analysis

Below is a complete analysis of the A2 Music work Planet of the Apes (1968): The Hunt (opening) looking at all the elements of music with some taster questions at the end. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you. 

Be sure to check out the other A2 musical pieces and AS musical pieces I have analysed on Ask Will Online.


  • Planet of the Apes was written by Jerry Goldsmith who wrote up to 200 film scores such as Alien and Star Trek.


  • There is a homophonic texture at bars 1 – 3 with the strings playing the accompaniment. The texture is then monophonic when the piano at bar 4 plays the main theme.
  • The Horns are in unison at bar 54 creating a sound like a bellowing Ram’s Horn.
  • The texture is thickest at bars 55 – 57 when Goldsmith uses the full orchestra.
  • Bars 55 – 58 uses the Bassoon, Double-Bassoon, First Trombone, Cello and Double Bass playing very low to make a droning noise.
  • The texture thickens at bar 89 – more instruments are being played with the added use of side rum rolls. This increases the tension which signifies the music moving to the next section. In this case, the score finished but, ‘The Hunt’ continues.


  • The harmony throughout Planet of the Apes: The Hunt contains a lot of dissonance. This helps to create panic which is what the audience would be feeling as they see the humans being hunted by apes.
  • In the double bass part at bars 52 – 57, There is an E flat to E natural over a bar at a time. The dissonance comes from the sustained E flat in the Harp which clashes when the double bass plays the E natural.
  • The clashing E flat and E natural at bars 55 – 58 in the Bassoon, Double-Bassoon, First Trombone, Cello and Double Bass.
  • A minor second interval is sustained at bar 75 in the Violin I/II.


  • The piece is not atonal but based around C – the C is used like an anchor.
  • The tonality switches more to G when the piano riff moves from being based around C to G.
  • C is used as an anchor note at the start in the Timpani and piano.


  • The piece uses standard percussion instruments plus tamboo, timbales, bass resin drum, conga and vibra-slap.
  • There are an unusual instrument selection such as an electric harp, electric bass clarinet and piano: these are not common instruments in an orchestra.
  • The English Horns or ‘Cor Anglais’ will sound a fifth lower than scored.
  • The Bass Clarinet will sound an octave lower than recorded.
  • A ‘Ram’s Horn’ sound is used at bar 52 to create panic. This is a Jewish religious instrument. A ‘ Tibetan Horn’ is also used at bar 52 onwards during the climax. This is a ten foot long horn.
  • The Horns, Violins, Flutes and Piccolos are playing at the top of their range at bars 55 – 58.
  • FLutter tonguing (‘flutter’) is used by the Trombones along with a mute (‘a 2 plungers in’) at bars 55 – 58.


  • The piano plays the main theme which is first heard in bar 4. The piece begins and ends on C which provides a slight sense of a tonality.
  • The piano plays the main theme again at bars 8 – 9. This theme, again, begins and ends on C The tone row is from surrealism music which is where the motifs come from.
  • The piano melody uses notes from the chromatic scale. This supports the piece being a surrealism piece.
  • There is an ostinato of the main theme at bars 11 – 22. It has been transposed to G now instead of starting and stopping on C. Although dissonant, there is a tonality at heart.
  • There is an inverted pedal at bars 11 – 13 in the Violin I/II part. This inverted long-held note moves to a semi-tone dissonance at bar 13.
  • The piano motif transfers to the Electronic Harp and Woodwind at bar 23.
  • The Trombone has the ‘long-held note to dissonance’ motif at bar 23 which has been made one beat longer. There is also the first time use of a crescendo during this motif in the Trombone creating anticipation.
  • At bar 26, Strings are playing fragments of the Wind parts from the start of the piece, bars 30-13 and 35 – 37.
  • The double bass adopts the Congo rhythm from bar 16 at bar 27.
  • There is the reversal of the ‘long-held note to dissonance’ motif a bar 40 in Flutes 1/2. The motif starts with a dissonance first and then to a long-held note.
  • The main theme, first heard in the piano at bar 4, returns. The ostinato starts in the piano again from bars 45 – 51 moving back to C as the tonal center.
  • The Electronic Bass Clarinet which ‘squeaks’ and Electronic Harp with a ‘slow reverb * buzz’ at bars 52 – 54 is used to represent the chatter of apes.
  • There is a glissando is the Horns at bars 55 – 58.
  • The main theme/ostinato reappears at bars 59 – 73 based on G. The motif has changed though. At bars 11 – 21, the motif is in triple meter. Now, though, it is in quadruple time. As a result, two more quavers have been added to the motif’s riff being G sharp and D sharp. This creates a semitonal dissonance to the G natural and E natural in the right hand of the piano.
  • The Violins doubles the piano ostinato at bars 59 – 73.
  • The Cello and Double Bass now has three motif motif at bars 59 – 73.
  • The crescendo on the sustained not (long-held note to dissonance motif) has been transferred to the muted Trumpet at bars 63 – 65.
  • Dissonance occurs at bars 68 – 69 from the ‘long-held note to dissonance’ motif. However, the dissonance is not a semitone anymore but a tonal dissonance. The dissonance has been doubled by the Piccolo and Xylophone forming a three note figure.
  • There are ‘harmonics’ at bars 68 – 73.
  • There is a brief relaxation in tension during the minim movement at bars 76 – 80.
  • The 3rd ostinato of the final section is shadowed by the Bassoon playing crotchets.
  • There is the expansion of the third ostinato (descending semitones) at bars 90 – 91 in the strings, English Horns, Bassoon and Double Bassoon.
  • The Viola is shadowed by the English Horn at bar 89 with the Viola and Cello moving in contrary motion.

Rhythm and Metre

  • The piece starts in 3/4 (three crotchet beats to the bar).
  • The time signature changes to 5/4 (five crotchet beats to the bar) at bar 10. This is used to mark the end of the section.
  • The Conga Drum creates syncopation at bar 16 with it’s quaver riff with decoration notes.
  • There are cross-rhythms between the Wind and String instruments at bars 42 – 43 creating syncopation.
  • There is a diminution version of the ‘long-held note to dissonance’ motif at bar 75 which is at the start of a minim movement.

There are three ostinato-like motifs in the final section starting at bar 84:

  • Ostinato 1) The piano is playing like a syncopated percussion at bar 84 with clashing inverted major sevenths of B flat and A. It could also be seen to be playing repeated minor seconds.
  • Ostinato 2) There is a rhythmic variant of a semitone pattern in the Flute and Piccolo.
  • Ostinato 3) The repeated quaver based figure in the lower strings (Viola and Cello) that begins and ends on B flat and A and is falling in semitones.
  • These three ostinato motifs creates syncopation from each other.


  • The structure is dictated by visual images from the film.
  • The motifs of the main theme gives the piece a bit of structure.
  • The end of the first section is at bar 10 due to the change in time signature.
  • The next section lasts from bars 10 – 22 (where the time signature changes again.
  • The first climax of the piece is at bar 41.
  • The second climax is at bar 52.
  • The final section starts at bar 84 and is based on the three simultaneous ostinatos previous to the final section.

1. What is the relationship between the parts for bass clarinet, first bassoon and horns in the first three notes of bar 10? Remember to take account of the transposing instruments.

All the instruments have the same rhythmic feature of two minim followed by two quavers (one quaver for horns). The horns and first bassoon are playing in unison because the horns are in F. Therefore, if it is scored as a G, they are playing a C lower down which is what the first basson is playing. The bass clarinet is playing a tone higher being a D providing a minor 2nd clash creating dissonance.

2. What is the sounding pitch of the trumpet in bar 63?

The trumpet is playing in B flat. This means the trumpet will sound a major 2nd lower than scored. At bar 63, the trumpet is playing a sustained high A. This is transposed to the sounding pitch of G.

3. What term describes the relationship between all of the strings and horn notes in bar 75 beat 1?

At bar 75 beat 1, the strings are playing in unison with every part playing G.

4. What special effect do the trumpets use in bars 71-73?

The trumpets use a sudden forte followed by a piano in bars 71-73. The dynamics changed on the long held sustained note with a diminuendo and then crescendoing.

5. Compare the piano part in bars 11 and 59.
At bar 11, the piano part has an ostinato based on G (this is the main theme). At bar 59, the piano has the same ostinato on G. However, the meter has changed from triple to quadruple time. Therefore, as a result, two extra notes have been added to the ostinato being G sharp and D sharp. This creates a semitonal clash with the G natural and E in the right hand of the piano creating dissonance.

6. Explain the terms riff and cross-rhythms, giving examples of each from NAM 44.

A riff is a short repeated phrase, frequently played over changing chords or used as a background to a solo improvisation. There is a riff in the piano part at bars 11 and 59. A cross-rhythm is a is a form of polyrhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is contradicted by a conflicting pattern and not merely a momentary displacement that leaves the prevailing meter fundamentally unchallenged. This is present in the piano’s ostinato that moves throughout the piece from triple to quadruple time and so on..

7. What helps establish a sense of tonality is bars 1-22 of this work, and what helps to destabilise that sense of tonality?

The tonality is stabilized by the use of a pedal note on C at the start of the piece in the piano and timpani. This first time the main theme is heard in the piano at bar 4 also starts and finishes on C, suggesting the piece is in C. When the piano starts it’s riff at bar 11, it is transposed to G. Although dissonant, there is a tonality at it’s heart.

The tonality is destabilized from the dissonance of the piece due to semitonal clashes such as at bar 41 (at the climax) in the flute, clarinet and violin I and II. This piece does not have any cadences in it making it difficult to center the piece around any tonality. Instead, we have to see what pedal notes are used when to determine it’s link to a slight tonality.


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