The Aural Adventure is Just Beginning

Posted: January 16, 2013 by J. Marcus in Music, Music Review, Science Fiction, Television
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Star TrekFor those who may be new here, I am J. Marcus.  Aside from being one of the founding members of The Podwits, I am the Podwits’ resident Star Trek expert.  By no means do I know which starship has the most efficient warp-core design, nor do I know Yeoman Rand’s cabin number (cheap shot, I know), but I do know a thing or two.

The_Enterprise_Incident_332I appreciate Star Trek for what it is.  A fantastic look at a future that we should aspire to shrouded in fascinating stories told by a team whose dedication shines through.  Some have criticized the original Star Trek for it’s lackluster special effects and “Christmas tree light” sets.  I have said before that these people are, for lack of a better word, imbeciles.  The special effects of Star Trek were cutting-edge for the time (remembering that up until that point, most spaceships flew on wires and had smoke jutting out of the back).  The sets were equally impressive for their time.

Another bit of Trek that gets the short end of the critical stick is the music.  Often the unsung hero of the original series, the music is as much a part of the show as the famous starship itself or the Vulcan first officer.

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15-Disc Set Available Now From La La Land Records (Click to Enlarge)

La La Land Records has finally decided to fulfill the wishes of original series fans throughout the world by releasing their 15-disc limited edition box set of ALL of the music from the original Star Trek.  As would be expected, I plunked down my money THE MINUTE the set went on sale and received my copy a few weeks ago.  It has taken until now for me to write this review because I wanted to give the set my full attention.  Fifteen discs is a lot to get through.  And while I won’t go through the whole set track-by-track, I will walk you through the wonder that is the music of Star Trek.  And for those who may feel that a 15-disc set is a bit much for a show that was only on the air for three years… it should be noted that, in this author’s opinion, the music written for Star Trek accounts for some of the best music written for a television show in the history of television.  It can be, at times, heartfelt… rousing… romantic… and action-packed.

The set is handsomely packaged and is separated into its respective seasons.  Each season gets 5 discs and a booklet that gives you the flavor of that season’s music.  The season booklets unfortunately don’t take you track-by-track the way you might expect from your standard liner notes, but give you a brief episode synopsis and a general idea of what the musical tone for the episode was.  The set also has an additional booklet of liner notes which paints the history of Star Trek‘s music and gives insight into each of the composers involved.

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The original GNP Crescendo release of the music from “The Cage”/”Where No Man Has Gone Before”

The set begins, predictably enough, with the first season, and disc one is the music from the two pilots “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  The soundtracks for both these episodes have been released many years ago on LP by GNP Crescendo and reissued as a CD.  That release PALES in comparison to this new release.  At the time of the LP’s pressing it was claimed that a fire at Paramount had damaged the masters for the music to these episodes.  This excuse was used to cover not only the fact that the sound quality was not all that great, but that there was a lot of music missing from these episodes.

While that theory is not addressed in this set, it seems to be debunked by the fact that the music appears in all its crystal brilliance AND in it’s entirety.  As I have mentioned before, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was originally formatted differently than your standard Trek episode and was presented to the network in ‘act form’ (as were many shows at the time, like The Fugitive).  This presentation required music that was not present in the final broadcast version.  The new soundtrack restores all of these pieces and expands the musical journey of the episode nicely.

For the next four discs we’re treated to music from “The Man Trap”, “The Naked Time”, “Charlie X”, “Mudd’s Women”, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, “Balance of Terror”, “What Are Little Girls Made Of”, “The Enemy Within”, “The Conscience of the King”, “Shore Leave” and “The City on the Edge of Forever”.  Star Trek was known for using a method called “tracking”.  This was a process by which music for one episode could be used over and over for other episodes at the discretion of the music department.  As such, these episodes not only had the music for the first season, but they laid the groundwork of music that would be used throughout the show’s entire run; music that would be indelibly imprinted on the viewer’s mind.

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The GNP Crescendo release of “The Doomsday Machine”/”Amok Time”

Season two picks up with music from “Catspaw”, “Friday’s Child”, “Amok Time”, “The Doomsday Machine”, “Who Mourns for Adonais”, “Mirror, Mirror”, “By Any Other Name”, “The Omega Glory”, “Metamorphosis”, “Return to Tomorrow”, “Patterns of Force”, “The Apple”, “Wolf in the Fold”, “I Mudd” and “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  Again, “Amok Time” and “The Doomsday Machine” were previously released by GNP Crescendo but, also again, that was NOTHING compared to this new release.  Music that was originally trimmed has been reinserted and the music has been reorganized to more precisely reflect its use in the episode.

Here is where some of the best music in Trek’s run is born.  You know that fight music that everyone likes to use?  The one that was even used in “The Cable Guy”?  It comes from “Amok Time”.  Most of the exciting/action music that was used in the rest of the show’s run came from “The Doomsday Machine”.  And you will not find a greater romantic score for television (pound for pound) than George Duning’s score for “Metamorphosis”.

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Rerecorded Orchestral Suites of season 3 music by Fred Steiner were previously available

The third season set gives us music from “”Spectre of the Gun”, “The Paradise Syndrome”, “Elaan of Troyius”, “Spock’s Brain”, “The Enterprise Incident”, “Plato’s Stepchildren”, “Whom Gods Destroy”, “The Way To Eden”, “Is There In Truth No Beauty”, “The Empath”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, “And The Children Shall Lead” and “The Savage Curtain”.  This is an introduction of sorts to this music, as La La Land is quick to point out that NO third season music has ever been made available before.  This is mostly true.  Symphonic re-recordings of the music have been available since the ’80s at least, but they are a far cry from the original.  The music for episodes like “Spectre of the Gun”, “Is There in Truth No Beauty”  and “The Empath” have been available as orchestral suites.  Here, for the first time, they are presented in their original frenetic madness and soulful feeling.

Journey_to_Babel_160Each season is also accompanied by a collection of “library music” which was composed for use throughout the season.  The second season’s “Fight on Captain’s Theme” was a great companion piece of fight music that appeared in such episodes as “By Any Other Name” and “Journey to Babel”.  “Ship in Orbit (Big)” started more episodes than I can think of off the top of my head.  In fact, the most fun of this set is finally being able to learn where the music that you love came from—which episode it was written for.

And herein lies probably the greatest disappointment about the set, though hardly something for which the folks at La La Land can be held accountable:  While you will hear EVERY piece of music from the show in its original form, it’s perfectly possible that you may have fallen in love with it in a DIFFERENT form.  For example, take the climactic scene from the episode “Obsession”.

Obsession_238A killer cloud is bearing down on Captain Kirk and Ensign Garrovick as they lay a trap in the form of a massive bomb.  The tension builds as the two crewmen have to use themselves for bait for the trap.  At the last possible second, the trap is tripped and the two men are beamed up to the ship, but all is not as easy as that.  The explosion has messed with the transporter, and Spock and Scotty are having trouble beaming them back.  The music for this scene is as dynamic as the action that takes place.  Unfortunately, the music was written for “The Doomsday Machine” and taken from a few different tracks.  And so, if you’re looking for this particular piece of music in this form… you’re out of luck.  Kind of.

A little time and creativity can bring you what you really want.  Don’t believe me?  If you’re truly a fan and know what I’m talking about, take a listen to this sample that I put together that follows the original as close as I can:

And, to be honest, I whipped that together with the original release of the soundtrack and not the new one.

balanceofterror318How about one more, while I’m showing off?  At the end of the episode “Balance of Terror”, Kirk visits a young officer in the ship’s chapel.  She has just lost her fiance in battle.  In fact, their wedding at the beginning of the episode was interrupted by the crisis at hand.  Kirk has gone to try to console her.  The music for this scene was cobbled together from bits from “The Cage”.  Here I present to you the music from the scene in “Balance of Terror”:

My point is that now we, as fans, have everything we need to hear the music we love the way we loved it.  It’s not that hard.  And it’s worth it all.

TOS_2x10_MirrorMirror0031-TrekpulseYes, there is some repetition in the use of certain musical themes within certain scores.  The Romulan music from season 1’s “Balance of Terror” was reworked for use in season 2’s “Mirror, Mirror” as part of the “Blackship Theme”.  Astute listeners, however, will pick up on various minute differences in orchestration the second time around.  Minor bits from season 1’s “Mudd’s Women” were integrated into the larger tapestry of music for season 2’s “Who Mourns for Adonais?”.  Again, the way the music is used almost makes you forget that you heard it before.

There is a lot of repetition in this set as that cues that were reused from season to season had to be rerecorded in order to be used.  As such, you do get a few pieces over and over again.  Once again, it is the way that different composers interpreted these tracks that make them viable despite the repetition.

theapple_000And, we should be clear about something… If you don’t like the THEME to Star Trek, than this set is not for you.  Evidently, it was an editorial edict on the show that some variation of the theme be played whenever the Enterprise is shown on screen for an establishing shot.  While this wasn’t necessarily done 100% of the time, we’re presented with enough variations on the theme in this set that if you’re not a fan, it will drive you a bit bonkers.

Much like the Star Trek: The Motion Picture 3-Disc set that I reviewed here before, we’re also treated to an incredible set of firsts.  Chief among them is the first time that the theme was played by an orchestra.  The opening strains sound a little off, but as you hear the takes unfold, the theme takes on the shape we all know by heart.  You also get a little bit of insight into the creation of the show’s famous transporter sound effect.

Metamorphosis_194In all, the set is everything we could ever have asked for as fans.  The music, brilliantly written and performed, is so integral to the program that it does what only the best scores can.  It makes you want to see the show again.  The music alone is like the blanket you had as a child.  Not only is it comforting, but it takes you back to that special time in your life.

The liner notes are chock full of so many insightful goodies that I won’t spoil them here.  Though you may be surprised to learn that the man who wrote the theme to I Love Lucy also had his hand in the Star Trek musical universe.

Limited to only 6000 units, you will have to act fast if you want to join the aural adventure.  And for a price of $224.98, it’s certainly not cheap.  Though given what you get, I have no problem saying that it DEFINITELY is a bargain.

All screen grabs courtesy of Trek Core

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