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Who do you think is most responsible for the musical sound of Star Trek?


karelm
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I spent a lot of time creating a poll with tons of composers from Star Trek in its various incarnations to ask this question and it crashed when I posted so I won't do that again.  Regardless, who do you think is most responsible for the musical sound of "Star Trek"?  So many great composers have contributed wonderful music to this series over the decades.  I am listening now to Alexander Courage's "The Cage" pilot and I hear so much that references Bernard Herrmann's sci-fi scores and also was borrowed by Horner in TWOK that I missed on first hearing other than I just heard the CD as part of the new remaster.  Other music (country theme song in Enterprise) is quite un-Star Trek.  What composer do you think is most responsible for "this is what Star Trek should sound like"?  Courage?  Goldsmith?  Horner? Rosenman, Eidelman?  Steiner/etc?  Giacchinao?  McCarthy? Jones? Chattaway?  Russo?

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I'd say there isn't a Star Trek sound. That universe has an enormous variety of musical voices within it. There's no established sound that a new composer has to stay consistent with.

 

The only one I've heard that really screamed "not Star Trek" is the fourth film. So...everyone except Rosenman, I guess? :lol:

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I'd want to say Courage, really because of the Star Trek fanfare which is like the opening of the 007 theme. Those few notes are a signature. 

It hasn't really provided the entirety of the franchise with an established sound, though. 

For numbers it's easily Dennis McCarthy, but when I think Star Trek music in general, I associate it with Goldsmith more than anyone else but I'm not familiar with the original series music to form any opinion on that aspect of the franchise. 

 

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Steiner. I'm trying to think of an analogy, but Courage created the framework (and some damn good scores) but Steiner really filled it in.

 

Then you have to ask, who had more of an effect on Trek music? Justman or Berman? I tend to ignore most of the music post TOS on TV.

 

The TNG composers copied both Goldsmith and Horner.

 

I'm sticking with Steiner, but it's certainly not a definitive answer.

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There’s a really good FSM podcast (shame they still don’t do then as they are all really interesting) about this from the time of the first Giacchino score (so 2009) that goes through the sounds of the various shows and movies.

 

Their view was that Gerald Fried more strongly defined the tone of the original series with such scores as Amok Time etc which had a heavier sound than Courage (notwithstanding that he defined the show in other ways with the opening fanfare and theme). For the movies both Jerry and James Horner were influenced by Holst and other romantic era composers, not necessarily in terms of thematic material but more the harmonic tropes that define operatic space music. They noted that Eidelman’s thematic material for The Undiscovered Country was based on intervals of a fourth like the original Courage theme. There wasn’t so much on the later movie scores (aside from the lovely First Contact theme) or the tv music. The conclusion on Giacchino’s music was that it was very much standard noisy blockbuster scoring to cut through noisy sound effects and action sequences. 

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8 hours ago, Kasey Kockroach said:

John Williams. 

I think, that's not completely wrong. I think, Star Wars had a lot of influence on Jerry Goldsmith's decision to chose a march as the main title theme for Star Trek The Motion Picture. Like for so many other movies at that time.

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Mostly Courage, partially Goldsmith.

 

There's a reason why, when the Abrams movies and Kurtzman abominations want to evoke nostalgia, they always go straight for the TOS themes.

 

But Goldsmith's TMP score is still strongly associated with the franchise. It's that good, incredibly influential on the TNG-era music, and easily the best of the film scores.

 

 

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I've been working my through the Star Trek universe, chronologically.

While I can't make any particular comments about the music for TOS - except, of course, that a) I like it, and b) there seems to be a lot of repetition (heck, I even like the music for TAS) - when it comes to the films, TNG, DS9, and Voyager (I can't comment on Enterprise, and what I've heard from Picard, and Discovery is, frankly, not worth listening to), it's clear to me that Jerry's influence extends far, far beyond five films and a new theme.

The series' composers' attempts to sound like Jerry, or JW, or even Horner sometimes, are at once, flattering, fanciful, and jarring.

Ron Jones seems to have the most original voice of the composers, but even this gets a little tiresome, after a while.

I have no wish to criticise these guys out of hand, and I'm sure that it's not their fault. I'm sure some director or other said "We need a bit of Jerry here, a touch of JW there, and a sliver of Horner, somewhere else", and they do their best to interpret these requests, while trying to retain their own musical identity.

It's not easy.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and, if that is so, then it's a pleasure to listen to their scores and to pick out bits of personal favourites (there's a scene near the end of the TNG episode "Disaster", which contains - purposefully, I'm sure - a reference to "Planting The Charges", and I've lost count of quotes from Star Trek: V).

I don't begrudge these composers wanting to sound like other composers, especially those who are an influence on their work. If I composed music, I'd want it to sound like my musical mentors.

When it comes to the STU, however, Jerry's music and his spirit reigns supreme. He is to Star Trek what JW is to Star Wars, and Elfman is to Batman: the source, from which all other music flows.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

There’s a really good FSM podcast (shame they still don’t do then as they are all really interesting) about this from the time of the first Giacchino score (so 2009) that goes through the sounds of the various shows and movies.

 

Their view was that Gerald Fried more strongly defined the tone of the original series with such scores as Amok Time etc which had a heavier sound than Courage (notwithstanding that he defined the show in other ways with the opening fanfare and theme). For the movies both Jerry and James Horner were influenced by Holst and other romantic era composers, not necessarily in terms of thematic material but more the harmonic tropes that define operatic space music. They noted that Eidelman’s thematic material for The Undiscovered Country was based on intervals of a fourth like the original Courage theme. There wasn’t so much on the later movie scores (aside from the lovely First Contact theme) or the tv music. The conclusion on Giacchino’s music was that it was very much standard noisy blockbuster scoring to cut through noisy sound effects and action sequences. 

 

Oh yeah, as far as the sound of the TOS episode scores goes, I'd say Fried and Steiner provided the most memorable material. Kaplan too. Courage's theme music is fantastic, but his episode scores are relatively subdued.

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5 hours ago, Nick1Ø66 said:

But Goldsmith's TMP score is still strongly associated with the franchise. It's that good, incredibly influential on the TNG-era music, and easily the best of the film scores.

 

 

 

As much as we adore it for itself I'm going to lay its longevity and popularity at the feet of TNG. I know too many people (including those old enough to know better) who have wondered why The Motion Picture uses the TNG theme. (I don't even see how logistically that could happen!)

 

I think if it wasn't for TNG that Jerry's Star Trek theme would have been discarded along with The Motion Picture. Would Shatner have hired him for V without TNG? Difficult to say.

 

But you're right. When anyone (I just watched the Prodigy titles) wants to lay on the STAR TREK they bust out the first four mysteriouso notes or the Courage fanfare. Seriously, after The Motion Picture how much good will did Horner buy Wrath of Khan just by opening the film with that tune?

 

And when they want to say 60'S STAR TREK they bust out the Courage theme.

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2 hours ago, Datameister said:

 

Oh yeah, as far as the sound of the TOS episode scores goes, I'd say Fried and Steiner provided the most memorable material. Kaplan too. Courage's theme music is fantastic, but his episode scores are relatively subdued.

I forgot to mention Steiner, in fact he was probably who I was thinking of rather than Fried but they both shaped the original series' music distinctive style very effectively. As you say, Courage's music is somewhat more low key. I always wonder whether his theme might have seemed more sweeping and adventurous had it been written in another era. The original bongos and soprano arrangement is bonkers really, but when it's reworked for a standard orchestra (like MG's version from the 2009 onwards movies, albeit the orchestration is a bit clunky), it's actually quite a lot more grandiose and even quite epic sounding.

 

Listening to the Orville scores, it really does make me wish they'd done that for TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. Sure it's pastiche, but it would have provided some much needed drama. Like others have commented, I enjoy the Ron Jones scores, but they still have a slightly plinky plonky 80s synth sound to them that hasn't aged well, good though the material is (although Best of Both Worlds is a certifiable classic). Then again, when you're only doing a dozen or so episodes a season it's easier to treat each one as a movie but churning out 24 a year is a whole different story... I have to admit that I don't really why people are down on the Jeff Russo scores for the more recent series. The main themes are pretty good musically, even if I'm not sure they necessarily fit the tone of the shows, and the underscore is a lot more interesting than most of the Berman era. Although best Trek music on TV currently is Lower Decks, but that's been oddly overlooked. The parody of TWOK/TNG in the first season was brilliant.

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18 minutes ago, Datameister said:

Really, most Trek scores sound more like non-Trek scores from the same era than Trek scores from other eras.

Haha that’s true. But I think a number of original movie scores have a timeless quality that sets them apart due to their classical allusions as much as anything. 

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