Michael Giacchino’s ‘Star Trek’

So now that I’ve thoroughly digested Giacchino’s Star Trek score, and seen the film twice (yes…twice on opening weekend…let the name calling begin), I felt it time to publish some thoughts on Giacchino’s contribution to the Trek film score legacy.

As intimated in my latest Film Score Friday list, my first ear trip through this score was fraught with hesitation.  I wasn’t sure I liked what Mr. Giacchino was doing.  It sounded like a Giacchino score, which is well and good, I have liked everything of his I’ve heard (which is a good chunk of his TV and Film work, but by no means all), and liked it all…but this is Star Trek, which has a distinct flavor to it.  My first time through…I heard more Giacchino and less Trek.  I also didn’t like just how mono-thematic the first part of the score was, mainly because I wasn’t sure I liked the theme.  It sounded flat and didn’t seem to go anywhere, as my friend and fellow blogger Herr Vogler said, his initial impression was that is seemed more like like a counter-melody.

But a funny thing happened after I got through the score…I listened to it again almost immediately, and I really started to like it.  A lot.  I reminded myself that this is going to be a different Trek, the previews had showed us that, so I tried to distance myself from the other scores, and listen to it on its own, and there is a lot of like.  The typical Giacchino playfulness is here, along with his talent for writing heart-wrenching moments (I don’t know of many others who can really make me feel a sense of longing like Giacchino can), though many of those moments reminded me of Lost scores.

Then something else strange happened, I started hearing the other Trek scores.  Little bits of Goldsmith mixed with a heaping cup of Horner.  Certain orchestral colors and harmonies started popping out from the score that made me think of Horner and Goldsmith, and even the 60s TV scores.  And I maybe wrong, but it almost seems like the main theme was derived from Horner in some way, or written so that it could easily be adapted to some of his harmonic language from Trek II and III (this can really be heard in the cue “That New Car Smell,” I love his cue titles!). 

And is it just me, or does the music for Nero sound a lot like the music for Isengard (especially in “Nero Fiddles, Narada Burns”?)  Maybe its just the trombone writing.

If there is a major complaint I have with the score it is actually not with the score itself, but the release.  Really?  Only 39 minutes of music, of which 9’11” is the end credits?  I know that there is a lot more music in the film, can we please stop with the half-hearted chopped up releases and just give us the complete scores that we all want?

Along with the subtle hints at earlier scores is the way he slowly teases the audience with the opening four note original Trek theme motif, the intervals show up a few times in the score, but usually hidden, or at soft levels (the first time in the film itself, I believe, is when we camera shows the shuttle with Kirk in it lifting off from Earth with the Enterprise under construction in the background…now why you build a starship on the ground in Iowa, I have no clue).  And finally, we get the notes in their normal presentation at the very end when they lead into the original theme played during the end credits.

And this is part of a larger game I believe Giacchino is playing with his score.  We get these hints at aspects of the oloder score scattered throughout the film score, and it’s a sort of meta-commentary on the film’s plot of the characters becoming those that we know from the original series/films, so in this sense it is reasonable, dare I say logical, for the score to mirror this aspect of the plot.  In this sense, it also liberates Giacchino from much of the pressure of having to strictly follow the examples of previous scores.

As many have said elsewhere the previous week, the release of a new Star Trekscore is an anticipated event within the film score community.  A pressure Giacchino was keenly aware of.

One last thought, I just really love how Giacchino used the erhu to represent the Vulcans.  Not exactly a far leap to make, but still an inspired piece of instrumental color choice.  But even that color does seem to harken back to aspects to Horner’s scores, especially in the aforementioned “That New Car Smell.”

So, in the end I do give this score a 5/5, putting it right along Goldsmith’s Motion Picture and Horner’s Wrath of Khan in the pantheon of Trek scores.  Keep up the good work, Mr. Giacchino.

P.S. – The movie is also pretty awesome!  It’s fun and enjoyable, and while it may not have the deep philosophy of a previous Star Trek films, it does recapture the kitchy/campy essence of the original series that made so many of the episodes a pleasure.  I do hope that for the planned sequels that Abrams and Co. do start to explore the philosophical element of Trek because it is a large part of what made the franchise have a lasting impact on our culture.

P.P.S. – I promise to get the third part of paper up soon…this past week has been really busy with end of semester stuff.

2 thoughts on “Michael Giacchino’s ‘Star Trek’

  1. Of all eleven Trek scores, my personal favorite is still Horner’s Wrath of Khan score. Don’t get me wrong, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Motion Picture is pretty awesome and captures the sense of space opera the film makers wanted, but something about the nautical aspect of Horner’s score is, to me, incredibly satisfying.

  2. And a quick note about the idea of complete releases…

    The score for Star Trek was recorded in Hollywood. The reuse fees are different for scores recorded here in the U.S. Here in the U.S., musicians are paid reuse fees (basically a kind of royalty) based on how much music goes on the album (I don’t remember but I think they get paid based on 7 or 8-minute chunks), meaning they get paid on the back end of the deal. Scores that are recorded overseas (London or Prague, for example) pay all the reuse fees up front. That’s why you find so many scores recorded overseas that receive longer album releases. James Horner does this a lot, as does Team Zimmer. Don’t get me wrong, I love having as much music as possible from a film, but one has to remember this: rare is the score where every single cue is actually worth listening to. Sometimes a score album can even be too long (see any Tyler Bates score album that’s been released).

    One note about the End Credits on the Star Trek album. Perhaps we should be grateful that it’s not like a John Williams recording wherein is contained a great deal of music that is already somewhere else on the album. I’m pretty sure that none of the music in Giacchino’s End Credits is elsewhere on the album.

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