Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 27

Space.... is alive.... with the sound of music.

Question: "What is the best piece of music from the Trek universe?"

Scott's Answer: Gee, pick a hard one! Star Trek is what got me into film music. The one piece I can listen to over and over again is James Horner's "Stealing the Enterprise" from Star Trek III. It plays during the sequence in which Kirk and Co. hijack the Enterprise in order to find Spock while Starfleet sends the ill-fated Excelsior after them. It's exciting stuff, even if Horner liberally quotes from Prokofiev at the beginning.

Some honorable mentions (who am I kidding - they're all great!) include Jerry Goldsmith's "The Enterprise" from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Jay Chattaway's theme from "The Inner Light", Gerald Fried's famous fight music from "Amok Time", and Cliff Eidelman's "End Credits Suite" from Star Trek VI.

Andrew's Answer: Hands down, no contest whatsoever, the theme music to Voyager (by Jerry Goldsmith). Man, that's an incredible piece. I love the opening with the horns, the drums, and then the slow build. That is utterly fantastic! ENJOY!

49 comments:

Commander Max said...

The best will go to Alexander Courage, without his work we wouldn't be enjoying so much Trek music today.

Next Jerry Goldsmith with the opening of TMP, it fit the bill perfectly. Especially when sitting in the audience back in 1979. For me it was one of the the best film openings I've ever seen(at least the most anticipated). When the K'Tingas came on screen it only got better.

After that Jerry Goldsmith again with the Klingon theme from STV. When a film doesn't carry my attention I go right to the soundtrack. STV had a good one.

Plus I liked the soundtrack to First Contact. Jerry again, but I didn't care as much for the movie.

ScottDS said...

Max -

True... Courage set an example for others to follow, though I was surprised to find out he only composed music for a handful of episodes, with other episodes recycling the same scores as stock music. And supposedly, Roddenberry originally wanted Goldsmith to score "The Cage" but he wasn't available.

I grew up watching TNG so you can imagine the confusion when I first watched ST: TMP only to hear the same theme. :-)

I've always loved the Klingon theme, especially since it sounds suspiciously like a Jewish tune played on the ram's horn (shofar). I once asked our cantor about it and, while I have no idea if she knew what the hell I was talking about, she said that Jerry Goldsmith was a nice Jewish boy and no doubt found inspiration in the temple for some of his work. (Man, Hebrew school seems like it was a lifetime ago!)

And you may or may not know, but the first six Trek film scores plus FC have been expanded and remastered over the last few years. Ever since Paramount started licensing their music catalog, it's been an embarrassment of riches!

DUQ said...

Here's a question: I wonder what would have happened with the music if John Williams had done it? His stuff is always so unique, I wonder if we would have gotten another Star Wars theme?

ScottDS said...

DUQ -

That's a great question. I really have no idea what a young "Johnny Williams" might've done with the original series, but...

...I'm not sure the first film called for a Star Wars-style score. Music for the Klingons and the Enterprise, sure... but all the cerebral V-Ger material... I don't know.

To get a good idea of what Williams might've done, I think it's worth looking at two scores he did just before Star Wars: Alfred Hitchcock's last film Family Plot and John Frankenheimer's Black Sunday. (A couple of cues from the latter film were used in the trailers for ST: TMP.)

You can find samples from those scores here and here.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I have a love/hate thing with the original series music. It fits the show perfectly and I truly enjoy it in that regard, but I don't find it to be music I would want to listen to outside of the show itself.

The opening to TMP is truly inspired. What a great piece of music which fit the needs of the film perfectly!

After that, however, the only music I really remember from the films was VI, which had a very tense feel to it which fit well.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, What's funny is that I forgot about TMP soundtrack because I ignored the movie for years, so when TNG came along, I had no problem seeing it as "new" music which belonged to the TNG. Then I re-watched TMP and had to laugh.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Interesting question! Williams certainly has a knack for creating unique and memorable pieces. I can usually hum all of his themes because they are so unique. It would have been interesting to see what he would have come up with for Star Trek. Who knows? The theme from Star Wars could be the Star Trek theme today if things had gone differently?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree that the plot to TMP would not have called for the Star Wars theme, but who knows? If I had to guess, I would say he would work with 2001 and find something similar to its music.

ScottDS said...

Speaking of classical music, Nicholas Meyer originally wanted to score Star Trek VI with Holst's The Planets but it cost too much money.

Tennessee Jed said...

DS9 and Voyager were both big and bold. Very John Williams like. They are probably the best of that type. There is something very very special about the opening notes of the OST. But, strangely, I give my vote to Enterprise. Not only is it quite good, it is very different in style than the others and that sets it apart.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Other than the song, I don't remember much of the music from Enterprise. I think by that time, the producers had become a little more flexible when it came to composers trying new, cool things. For the longest time, Trek overlord Rick Berman hated bombastic music, preferring the music to be "wallpaper" instead.

That's why a lot of the music from the other modern shows was more or less bland and forgettable. (There were exceptions - the TNG scores of Ron Jones, for instance. Too bad he was fired!)

Mountain Man said...

Not surprised that no one chose this piece of crap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8OpsPok6iQ

Can you imagine? A forgettable, drippy, emotional pop tune for Star Trek... What were they thinking?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm always amazed that it could cost too much to get a piece of music for a film? With the millions tossed around for effects and actors, how can they not afford a piece of music?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The opening notes of TOS are special. It's just after that I don't think it's a great piece musically -- too "television." As I note above, I love the Voyager theme. What a fantastic opening!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and Jed, While I like the song, I have to say that it bothered me that Enterprise began with a song. That didn't fit the rest of the series or films at all and it felt cheap to me somehow.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I imagine the Holst estate simply wanted more money than Paramount was willing to shell out. Instead, Meyer had newcomer (read: cheap) composer Cliff Eidelman compose a Holst-like score.

It's a shame Eidelman's career never quite took off into the stratosphere like some other composers. He's still working, but he's just not getting the big A-list projects.

AndrewPrice said...

Mountain Man, Yeah... I didn't like that at all. I'm ok with the song itself, but it doesn't belong in Star Trek. It just didn't fit.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's the other thing. If you can't get a piece of music, then fake it. Come up with a knock-off.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I never had a huge problem with the Enterprise theme song - my bigger problem was that they dropped Star Trek from the title. Then, when the show was in trouble a couple years later, they added it back. Even Rick Berman admitted in an interview a couple years ago that this was a stupid idea.

As for Star Trek VI, I'd say the score holds its own. :-)

Commander Max said...

Scott,
The TMP theme was really huge because we had quite a wait. The last Trek we had was the animated series(six years earlier). TMP was firing on all cylinders for the comeback of Trek. Which it did, regardless of all of the criticism.
The music had a great deal to do with that.

Andrew I do listen to the music of the old show. I like to listen to soundtracks, that got me interested to study music theory many years ago. Which ironically gave a lot of insight into other design fields.

ellenB said...

Ok, not to get yelled at, but I don't pay that much attention to the music. :(

shawn said...

Genesis Countdown by James Horner for the movie The Wrath of Khan. Gold baby, gold. Next up would be Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek the Motion Picture opening theme.

shawn said...

Phooey, didn't get the link to work. Oh well, "Genesis Countdown" can be heard here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1PejM57F8s.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I have a lot of issues with Enterprise along those lines. They thumbed their nose at a lot of Trek and made a big deal about how they wouldn't use it, and then they went right back to it whenever they needed ratings.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, Don't tell Scott! You'll break his heart. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, That's a good one too. Here's your link: LINK

Jason said...

Some of my favorites have already been mentioned, so I'll name one that hasn't yet: the soundtrack to the TNG two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds." Ron Jones was an awesome composer. His work on "The Neutral Zone," a foreshadowing of the Borg to come, was also great. Chilling, haunting, exhilarating stuff.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

At least you think I have a heart! I have a friend who likes to joke about my "robot power pack." :-)

And it's fine - most (normal) people don't notice such things. And I've often wondered, "Which god did I piss off to be given such esoteric interests?!"

Having said that, Ellen makes a good point - something I mentioned recently: should film music be noticed? How good could the movie be if we're focused on the music? Or how good could the music be if we stop thinking about the movie itself? Like I said then, these are questions with no answers.

Scott said...

"Battle in the Mutara Nebula". While the rest of the soundtrack for Star Trek II is fantastic, this is the piece that sticks out in my head when I think of the movie.

Scott said...

I'll also add the opening theme to Star Trek: First Contact. Excellent piece.

ScottDS said...

Jason -

Great call! Ron Jones scored pretty much every other episode of TNG during the first four seasons... until he was canned for not following orders.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Jones (and scoring the show in general) can be read here.

ScottDS said...

Scott -

Star Trek II was my first Trek soundtrack purchase, and my second soundtrack purchase period. I used to listen to it all the time (hell, I still do) and that cue is one of Horner's best.

I always felt Goldsmith's FC theme sounded like something from a high school graduation - that's not a put-down, just an observation.

Doc Whoa said...

I really like the fight theme from the original series. :D

Jason said...

LOL...I have to admit FC does sound like a high school graduation commencement. I did like it, though. At least I do remember it. ST:I, I don't even recall the score for that one.

Glad to hear Eidelman is still working. Loved his score for Star Trek VI.

I'd also add that I liked McCarthy's score for Star Trek Generations. Nice mix of bombast and the ethereal, which fit the movie's tone well.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, Those episodes definitely had excellent music!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott (and Ellen), I think music should be noticed in the sense of making a scene better. It should pull you in and give you some memorable hook that you can associate with that moment. If it seems to be doing it's own thing, then it's bad. If you don't remember it, then it's bad. But when it hits that combo of being memorable because it made the scene that much more impressive, then it's great.

And with my favorite pieces, I can always connect them to certain visual moments in films.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I like the Nebula piece as well. I have a hard time remember the rest of the music from the film though.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, It is memorable. :)

Dave Olson said...

To boldly comment on what has come before:

John(ny) Williams WAS a TV musician before he did the score for that little movie about three guys fishing. Among his credits are "Gilligan's Island", if you can believe it, and "Lost in Space". I suspect that his contribution to the latter was the excellent third season opening titles. Too bad the show had gone into the crapper by then, talking veggies and all that.

"Mutura Battle" from TWOK is as good as it gets, from the Genesis cave to the death of Johachim. Eight minutes and six seconds of pitch perfection. It swings giddily from hopefulness to tension to resolution, back to tension, then to rage, confusion and suspense. Horner's music was so good in Kahn that he cannibalized whole swaths of it for "Aliens". The "Punch it, Bishop!" music is lifted note-for-note from the Prefix Code sequence. ("Where's the override? The OVERRIDE!") I know that Cameron was pressing for time, but still.

The theme from "Enterprise" sucked goat arse. 'Nuff said. The theme was most of the reason I didn't stay with the show beyond three episodes.

The forgotten theme is Star Trek 4. It doesn't get the respect it deserves. Maybe it set the bar too high. It gave the impression of another "Kahn"-esque swashbuckling adventure, and it was just "Far Out Space Nuts" on a bigger budget.

IMHO, 3 and 5 are just weak interpretations of themes that have come before. To rank the 6 Classic Trek themes: 2, 6, 1, and 4 all very close together, then 3 and 5 in a tie for last.

ScottDS said...

Dave -

When it comes to Horner and cannibalizing, you can literally trace a direct line from Battle Beyond the Stars to Star Trek II to Krull to Aliens. Hell, even Cocoon!

Seriously listen to this! It's from Cocoon but lifted from the scene in Trek where Spock's in the radiation chamber.

The score for Star Trek IV has grown on me over the years. Did you know Leonard Rosenman originally adapted the Courage theme for the opening? It wasn't used and I can't find a clip on YouTube but you can stream a sample of it here. Just click on "Main Title (Alternate)"

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and Dave, I didn't pay that much attention to soundtracks when I was young (like 10-12 years old) but when I went back to watch Krull later in life, I could not believe how much like Star Trek II that film was technically -- the special effects and the same music.

Jason said...

Ah, Battle Beyond the Stars. The movie that exists to be cannibalized...LOL. (See "Space Raiders" if you don't know what I mean)

The theme for Star Trek IV has also grown on me. I think it's because it's a "happy" tune that fits well with the movie's mood.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, I know what you mean about Battle Beyond the Stars, that seems to be a forgotten film that everyone wants to steal from.

ScottDS said...

I actually watched Battle Beyond the Stars for the first time a few months ago - for what it was, it was... okay. You can definitely tell what its influences are but considering its origins, I suppose it could've been much worse. It's not a long film but it did drag at times.

(It was also a breakthrough film for a young art director named James Cameron.)

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Horner and re-Horner. If he were one of my students I would fail him for plagiarizing himself. :-) Braveheart and Titanic were the most obvious examples.

I will put in a good word for Michael Giacchino's latest score...

Enterprising Young Men was good. Hard to match Goldsmith of course... but good stuff overall.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qu0QO1za64E

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I know what you mean about plagiarism! This may upset Scott, but I always feel that Danny Elfman's stuff sounds a lot like other people's stuff.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I think Elfman's been on autopilot for a while (though I certainly haven't listened to every score of his). I know he was influenced by Bernard Herrmann but at the same time, what was once unique is now ubiquitous so is it possible other composers simply sound like him?

(I'm not debating your point BTW!)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't know who copied whom, but whenever I hear Elfman's stuff for a while now I've gotten the sense I was listening to stuff I already head elsewhere.

Simon Fallaha said...

Will always, always love Horner's work for Star Trek II and III. And Leonard Rosenman's theme for IV. And Eidelman's work for VI. And Goldsmith.

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