Eerie Yet Beautiful
The awesome trick about this score is it sounds like something smooth and jazzy enough to listen to on a romantic date…until the screeching trumpet kicks in. Then it gets real creepy, real fast.
In fact, Chinatown's score perfectly accompanies the movie's own shifting tone—alternating between detective cool and something darker. (You can listen to part of the score here).
The composer, Jerry Goldsmith, wrote the score in only ten days. He replaced Phillip Lambro, who'd already written a score, but his version apparently made a preview audience dislike the movie.
Goldsmith said,"When I first saw the film I immediately got a flash as to the orchestral fabric I wanted. I had no idea musically what it was going to be but there was a sound in my mind and I wanted to use strings, four pianos, four harps, two percussionists, and a trumpet." (Source)
Good job, Goldsmith. The sound we heard in our minds after we first saw Chinatown was ourselves screaming in horror.