Abrams On Music And Trek XI Composer Giacchino

Among the many facets to JJ Abrams is his love of music. He plays a number of instruments and even composed the themes for both Alias and Felicity. In a new interview with Helio magazine, the Trek XI producer/director talks music and how he grew up listening to movie scores. He lists John Williams, Tom Twyker, John Barry and even Tangerine Dream among the composers he admires. Regarding his choice for composer for Star Trek XI, Abrams had this to say…

Michael Giacchino, is a genius in terms of current working composers. I’m biased, but I think he’s as good as it gets, with contemporary composers.

Abrams says that he worked very closely with Giacchino on Alias, down to each scene. However on Lost he feels that Giacchino "doesn’t need anyone to tell him to tell him anything." Also noting "working with a composer who gets the characters and story as much as Michael is an absolute joy."


VOTE!: Who was your favorite Trek film composer? pick one in the new poll (right column)


see Helio for the full interview

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Of course, in the old days, we had James Horner score ST:III and a fine job he did of it, too. It’ll be interesting to see if Abrams comes up with something new and “edgy”, while keeping the majestic flavour of Star Trek”s “glory days” in the mix.

Personally.I loved Leonard Rosenmann’s score for STIV. It was upbeat and joyful. Of course John Williams remains the master.

I will mis Jerry goldsmith, he hit the spot everytime. but the epicish music from james horner was great to.

I would love they used the music from TOS, that would be sweet!

I’ve often wondered why Horner never returned to the Trek universe, his scores for II and III in large part define those films and give them the ambiance they are notarized for.

The “Spock Trilogy” of II,III, and IV is probably some of the best Trek ever produced, everything just fell into place and as Nimoy has often pointed out they were really on a roll continuously.
If Abrams can capture 50 percent of the passion of drive that made up those three films we will be just fine.

Here’s a very rarely mentioned factor as to Trek’s failure under Berman. Berman did not like to use music as anything more than background. On TOS, music was usually a major part of the action. TWOK, Kirk/Spock fighting in Amok Time, Doomsday machine, etc. TOS music was almost like a character itself. Nice to see Abrams gets it.

Hm, I don’t really like Giacchino’s work. The score for MI:3 was terrible in my opinion. He ruined the Mission Impossible theme. Brian Tyler, Steve Jablonsky or even Hans Zimmer would have been my favorite choice for ST:XI.

I thought the music Giacchino did for The Incredibles was brilliant…a jazzy mix of James Bond meets Jonny Quest. Most of all it underscores his understanding of what the movie was trying to be…a perfect example of how musical style compliments and helps achieve an end result. I thnk a lot of what we hear will be very much a return to the style of the original Trek. Can’t wait!

re: 1

“It’ll be interesting to see if Abrams comes up with something new and “edgy”,”

let’s hope not

re 5

I’ve heard that too. The music was largely ambient rather than dramatic. Composer Ron Jones who did Best of Both Worlds, left partly for this reason. I also loooove the Amok time Kirk/Spock battle music. It’s one of my favorite pieces, and I never tire of it. But that’s not to say there isn’t music from TNG that I don’t love… Jay Chattaways “Inner Light:” Suite is also one of my favorites that I never tire of.

I got to say, though… As a fan of classic and TNG era Trek. I really take issue with the “Failure of Berman” line. Your opinion to like or dislike Berman’s take on Trek is fine… But, let’s be real… Trek under Berman for 20 years was not a failure in any measure.

I do agree with many reasonable and thoughtful criticisms about his reign. I hated the last 2 movies, could barely tolerate Enterprise, and thought generally that Voyager was bland. Trek lost it’s way in the last 5 years for my tastes to be sure, but can we at least be objective about this. I’m really sick of hearing about Berman’s big failure.

Trek under Berman was a huge success up until the end…, financially and critically, with thousands upon thousands of fans and is anything but a failure overall. It’s failure at the end is as much the studio’s fault for milking the franchise dry as it is Berman’s or anyone elses.


#7 Ditto that. “The Incredibles” was one of my favorite scores of the past ten years. He seems to have a gift for being able to reference a lot of different genres without it sounding like pastiche — he puts an original spin on things. There’s some great tracks available to listen at his site:
Click on the “Works” button at the top — “The Trouble with Lou” has some great tracks. Also “Los Gringos.” Couldn’t be happier to hear he gets the job.


“… Jay Chattaways “Inner Light:” Suite is also one of my favorites that I never tire of.”

Definitely one of the better sets for Trek. Haunting. And, able to be pulled forward for another “instrument (the keyboard)” as an accompaniment.

“The music was largely ambient rather than dramatic.”

I wonder how much of that is a product of the time period in which the TV series were being produced?

I acknowledge that I didn’t watch much in the way of broadcast television during the 90s (aside from TNG, DS9 and VOY), so I may be basing my question on a potentially-unrepresentative sample of few scattered episodes of other TV series during the period.

By comparison, I do recall TV series from the 1960s (and later-watched reruns of shows from the 50s) and 70s where the scores were more a part of the episode — as you point out — suggesting their roots from stage performance type entertainment.

I think Berman’s version of Trek had SOME successes, in terms of conventional television… but it’s overall failure to truly satisfy Trek fans is the issue, I think. Consider that, to this day, many people still giggle about the cheesey sets and effects of TOS, yet many of those stories still resonate with viewers, more than most episodes of TNG thru ENT. No matter what, TOS portrayed a future full of positive direction and intention. When the Berman/Braga version of Trek started to get dark, overshadowing the positive vision that Roddenberry proposed. We already have a dark and gloomy world, so I think any attention that can be placed upon a vision of a positive and enlightened future does us some good…

Someone mentioned Leonard Rosenmann’s score for Trek 4. It worked fine in the overall scheme of that particular movie, but anyone listening to his scores will notice that most of them are nearly identical. He never seemed to do more than one score that he simply altered for each subsequent movie. Put on the score for the animated “Lord of the Rings” or any of his biblical film scores and they are interchangable, even down to “Robocop 3.”

He was good; but only at one score, really. And for one episode in ST’s film history, it sounded good and seemed to fit in just fine.

“Berman did not like to use music as anything more than background.”

sonic wallpaper

The Score for ST:TMP is by far my favorite. There’s something about it that just sounds totally epic and masterful. Even with or without the infamous blaster beam.

re 4

James Horner was asked to return to Star Trek a couple of times but made it publicly clear that he was beyond that kind of movie now. Too bad. Trek II was an almost perfect score. My problem with Horner is that he like Rosenmann recycles his stuff too much. My son and I were discussing the fact that straight elements he used in Trek II were reused in Trek III, Aliens and Titanic (and I’m sure, others we haven’t heard.) I loved his score for Braveheart, but I really haven’t heard anything from him in years that had an effect on me.
I wasn’t aware that Giacchino did The Incredibles until I read it here. Now that’s some great music folks! This guy could be just the man to give us all a fresh and wonderful Trek score.
For the record, Jerry Goldsmith is still the ultimate Trek composer in my book.

Horners’ earlier score for “Battle Beyond the Stars”, a Roger Corman film, was excellent and a precursor to ST II.

Personally, I welcome any and all new blood to this project.

With all due respect to those who love to dwell in the past, I hope that Abrams and Giacchino (if that is his final choice of composers) DO come up with something new, fresh, original, and edgy in terms of music. I don’t mind the occassional nod to the past, but predominantly, I would like to see them strike out on their own and forge new territory.

It’s great to honour what has come before, but let’s not let nostalgia prevent us from moving forward in fresh and exciting ways.

While reading the posts about the music, I was reminded of something, that, if given the right context, is important. We all loved TOS for different things such as the stories, the drama, the interaction of characters and the world they inhabited. What’s interesting is taking an objective look at Shatner’s role in all of this. Some giggle at his “over the top” acting style, but I’m coming to realize now, looking back on it, how perfect it was for the material at hand. You had larger than life situations, some pretty “out there” themes and plastic/ cardboard sets that had to be seen to be disbelieved! What better actor as Captain of the whole shebang than a charismatic “scene-eating” thespian who knew no bounds like William Shatner? The man was the perfect fit for the material and probably a big reason for TOS’s longevity in our minds. Put it this way, if Jeffrey Hunter had been the star for that original three year run, can you imagine how bland that would have been? Would we even still be talking about the show? No wonder people keep shouting, “Bring back Kirk!”. All hail King Shat!

The score for the game Starfleet Academy by Ron Jones is almost
perfect Star Trek music. It would have made for a much better
music score than what Berman-Braga slapped on “enterprise”.
Goldsmith’s work will never be topped only copied. Horner should
come back because he understands the emotional level that music
adds to films. As far as Rosenmann’s music as stated it can work
well with certian aspects of a film but it can’t stand repeated listening on its own because it begins to sound like everyhting he’s
done like the animated Lord of the Rings and Beneath the Planet
of the Apes. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for ST-TMP was epic beyond
the film and holds up very well in repeated listenings. Giacchino
is now one of the new guys and is capable of a great score.

re: 15
I happen to think TMP’s score was amazing, like the first scence showing the flight of Klingon battle cruisers or the theme when Scotty takes Kirk to see the refitted Enterprise, no other music works for that scene, its awe inspiring. If this new guy can come up with something grandiose like that i’d love it.

Let’s talk music, shall we? (Just got back from skiing in Park City- listening to film scores on my iPod for a few days, and boy are my ears tired….)
Horner’s scores are notorious for being self-referencing and derivative.
“Battle” sounds an AWFUL lot like TWOK, for example. (Actually, in some ways superior!) And how many times have we heard that “Apollo 13-esque” snare drum riff in his scores??
IMHO, Rosenmann’s IV score was a throwback that was inappropriate, laughable, and irritating. My least favorite.
Goldsmith’s TMP score was justifiably Oscar nominated and remains my all-time favorite. Sadly, his later Trek scores became somewhat derivative as well, especially when compared to some of his other scores of the same era, such as his score for “The Edge.”
Yes, Berman wanted “sonic wallpaper” for his shows, and that’s what we got- aside from Ron Jones, who’s creativity and theme-based material got him fired.
Giacchino’s work on “The Incredibles” was exemplary. He seems to exhibit the skills and versatility to pull off something that will equal if not surpass the genius of the original classic Trek scores. Good choice.
My second choice ? Patrick Doyle, with his sweeping classic style. (I believe he’s doing the next Batman.)

BTW, Hans Zimmer is WAY overrated.

Nice to see that I’m not the only one who’s noticed that James Horner, while a great composer, was very repetitive, often rearranging scores he already produced. “Battle Beyond the Stars” (one of my favorite Roger Corman films) pre-dates TWOK, and sounds very similar. And, if anyone is able to actually sit through “Krull,” you’ll notice that Horner’s score is just the music for TWOK with the melody only slightly altered. Horner’s good, but only a one note composer, pardon the pun.

Unmentioned here so far is Cliff Eidelman’s amazing score for ST XI:TUC. The opening title music is extremely powerful, building seemlessly up to the explosion of Praxis. Also, his music for the scene where Kirk and McCoy arrive on Rura Penthe is very stark and evocative.

Of course, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for TMP is far and away my favorite, but he fiddled with it too much for STV, and it lost some of its grandeur being used for TNG every week. At the time, Goldsmith had put together the largest orchestra ever for a film when he recorded the TMP score and the impact is apparent. I can listen to that score anytime.

Giacchino is a great choice for Trek XI. If he puts half of the enthusiasm into it that he did for The Incredibles, we’re in for a musical treat.

Just a tag line to my #19 post: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of what Shatner did with TOS, but I, like many others, have mixed feelings at best about his chubby, wrinkled self being stuffed back into a Starfleet uniform NOW. The past is the past and we’ve (most of us) moved on. Loved his work THEN, don’t really want to see him NOW. Seeing him as Kirk current day would be like watching a fat, bloated Denny Crane dressing up as Captain Kirk for a Halloween party! Be careful how you handle this Mr. Abrams!

Like it or not, there’s going to be a new trio. More important than resembling the originals facially and phonetically, if that’s what Abrams will go for, is matching the originals’ physically. Spock is tallest and most fit, Kirk is a few inches shorter and fit, but a little stocky. And McCoy is as tall as Kirk, but more lean. Would it not be great for the new Kirk actor to actually hail from Iowa and new McCoy to come from Kentucky?

Goldsmith’s Star Trek-The Motion Picture score was incredible.

I still prefer the real series music to anything done since. I like how the same themes popped up often in different episodes and how the music was not just shoved in the background most of the time.

People should bear in mind that this film is probably a movie based on the TV show Star Trek, rather than the Star Trek movies. This movie can be as radical a departure as TMP and TWOK were from TOS, musically or visually.

I liked TWOK’s score when I first heard it years ago, but as others have said, when you hear nearly the EXACT same cue popping up in other movies, it takes me out of the film everytime. Which is kind of a cardinal sin for a film score. Horner holds no interest for me anymore.

Digging around on Giacchino, I sampled some of his “Medal of Honor” scores on iTunes. Some of them actually would have sounded completely at home in a TOS show. His use of horns and percussion is reminiscent of a lot if what the original composers did [also some of what Horner did, but subtler and more varied]. I’m getting more and more geeked for this score just thinking about it!

#12 Mikeg
“but it’s overall failure to truly satisfy Trek fans is the issue”
Frankly, when did you start speaking for me?
This thread isn’t about this subject..the Trek vs. Trek crap that permeates almost every thread. I recognize your opinion… but please don’t assume you speak for all.

Regarding music, I look forward to a fresh theme that still hints at Trek’s origins. And I agree, Horner was repetitious. But I do like the nautical flavour it took that lent itself to ST:TWOK’s battle scenes.

#25 Driver, McCoy’s from Georgia I believe… but a nice thought.
Superman’s (Routh) is from Iowa.
I’d like to see an Iowa actor for Kirk, but not at the expense of a good performance.
I’ve suggested on other threads that a great opener to the film (IMO) that would start in rural Iowa along a creek, with a gold-shirted man looking over the scene, skipping a rock, crossing the creek on stepping stones. But we never truly see his face as the shot pulls back and we see him (over the shoulder) pull out a communicator and ask for “one to beam up”. This would be a great, quiet start that would allow the opening stanzas to blend with the water and wildlife sounds and haunt us until the shot “follows” the man upward to a view of a cresent Earth and then a grand march opening theme swells as we slowly accelerate through the stars.

I’ll accept screen credit and 4 comp tickets and airfare to the opening. Thank You. (LOL) or a walk on.

#9, just staying on the air doesn’t make you a success. TNG was not created by Berman. It was created by GR. It’s a lot easier to “improve” an existing show than it is to create one. Berman had almost nothing to do with DS9. He was too busy butchering the final seasons of TNG, preparing to ruin Voyager, and killing the movie franchise. Voyager and Enterprise were miserable failures. Every single year since 1994, Trek lost ratings. The audience abandoned Trek significantly, annually, at a rate higher than “other shows losing ratings.”

Trek in the Berman era was a complete and utter failure. He was like Isiah Thomas on the Knicks. He ran the team into the ground, made some stupid moves, yet as the team fell further and further in the standings, he got more power, and now that he’s coached the team to a .400 winning percentage, which sucks, he got a CONTRACT extension. Longevity does not always mean success. The only reason Berman lasted as long as he did was because he brown nosed people ahead of him who were just as clueless about what made Star Trek great as he was.

And incidentally, enough with the “fat Shatner” thing. The man has aged, but the Kirk he’d be playing would be the older Kirk. He has more energy than the entire TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT casts combined, even at 76 years old. And complaining about weight is comical when Riker looks like he ate two Shatners and a Doohan.

Michael Giacchino is a not a bad choice and I am not surprised chose him. I loved what he did for MI3 and the Medal of Honor games. Allthough I would of preferred Jerry Goldsmith, or maybe David Arnold.

^Allthough I would of preferred Jerry Goldsmith, or maybe David Arnold.

Jerry Goldsmith is dead.

Giacchino is a new generation composer. Saying you’d prefer Goldsmith is like saying you’d prefer Aaron Copland over Jerry Goldsmith in 1979. And, let’s face it, Jerry did very little of interest in Star Trek after TMP. STV:TFF was a pretty dull rehash of old themes, Joel Goldsmith provided the most interesting themes in First Contact and who remembers much of the music from the final two films.

I’m afraid, in spite of the self-plagiarism, I’ll always like Horner’s Trek music the best (until someone does something better!)

The exciting thing about the new Trek is that we’re getting to see a whole new generation take on a 40-year-old concept, meaning the possibilities are limitless!

Giacchino’s score for THE INCREDIBLES was, well, incredible. Good capture of style, kind of a mix of James Bond and Johnny Quest. I loved it.

I’m a regular Trek music listener (got a smart playlist in iTunes called “These are the voyages…”); my top playback counts:

* THE MENAGERIE SUITE (from an Erich Kunzel/Telarc compilation)
* The “Mirror Universe” Titles from ENTERPRISE (damn, I hated that vocal theme; this was what it shoulda been)

Other oft listens include BATTLE IN THE MUTARA NEBULA. Y’know, that to me was pinnacle Trek battle music; Horner gave it a real “big sailing vessels going broadsides” feel.

If I had to pick soundtracks:


After that, just selections from various soundtracks, though I still love the old TOS series stuff. Wish they’d do a re-recorded series on the TOS scores; I love my old discs with recordings from THE CAGE and that era, but the sound is not great.

#35 Dom
“we’re getting to see a whole new generation take on a 40-year-old concept, meaning the possibilities are limitless! ”

true…but remember that possibilities are not always positive…

I usually don’t like to see a new take on an old thing…
If it was good to begin with, it doesn’t need a new take…
If it was bad to begin with, why bother?

For the most part Star Trek music has been up to this point exceptional. The only Star Trek music I don’t care for is Voyagers theme and that is just a personal preference not to say it is horrid. As for this new compsoser I say with this what I have been saying with most aspects of this new film. Awesome, give us some real fresh blood who truly understands what is needed to bring Star Trek another 40 years of life. Give us something new yet mildly (and I mean very mildly) familiar and don’t waver. Whoever composes this film you have a god given talent to be creative so use it don’t just rehash. For all you cannon fodder people (cannon fodder TM) who are scared of change and are so stuck in your own past that you are scared of the potential for greatness in the future. Listen to the Shat’s famous line and chill out…

“…Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant…”

William Shatner really said it best.

Aaron Ringewold

P.S. Insurection and Nemesis both had very very strong soundtracks no matter what you think of the plotlines. I like to put my Nemesis CD in just to listen to the music and daydream what a great movie that could have been but sadly wasn’t.


No No Kirok you misunderstand The Fat Shatner is a good thing, he is powerful and splendidly bloated, swollen, red faced and infinately puffy.
We of the Fat Shatner persuasion pay homage to the Fat Shatner and his magnificent girth and waddle like countenance, not ridicule, because let’s be honest, he is kinda like Fat Elvis, he STILL kicks your ass and owns you.

#23- Yes, Goldsmith used a HUGE orchestra for his TMP score.
The re-release with the extra tracks is a masterpiece. I just don’t know what he was thinking later on when he kept repeating that da-da-du-DAAAA-da line from TFF on to NEM. It’s like he got “Horner-itis.” (Or was it Berman holding him back?)
His NEM score has grown on me, though.
And Eidelman? His TUC score was GREAT! What ever happened to him?

Shatner and Elvis are similar in the respect that neither ever met a dinner they couldn’t finish! (ba-dum-bum).

Shat is 76?!?! Wow I thought he was late 60’s ;-) I love the Shat and think on his 79th b-day we should celebrate 79 years of his life and 79 eppisodes of him in TOS with no girdle… All mighty shat you are so the man, hair transplants and all.

Aaron R.

P.S. If you haven’t Over the Hedge yet see it! The Shat MADE that movie!!!

Disclaimer: I am in no way teasing or making fun of persons with hair loss problems. Problems like this such as Alopecia, male pattern baldness etc. etc. are a serious problem many Americans face everyday and corrective hair transplant surgery is a deffinate possitive way in which these individuals are able to fight this problem. I should know I too suffer from male pattern baldness and have come to the conclusion that I can deal with it one of two ways. Shave all my hair off and be cool like Bruce Willis or get corrective hair transplant surgery and continue to rock on like the Shat.


Aaron R.

Hi Stanky (37)!

TOS was a series bubbling over with youthful energy: a young captain who lived life to the full, a gung-ho attitude to exploring space.

The TOS films were middle-aged. TNG and its successors, picking up on the movies and the age of their creators were also middle-aged, bordering on patrician, in tone.

Abrams and his team open up the possibility of capturing Trek when it was vibrant, daring, full of piss and vinegar. I’m not scared of Abrams’ film, because, if it fails, there’ll be no harm done. Trek pretty much died a few years back. Even if we’d had an official ‘final’ TNG film, what then?

This film is probably the one thing left that can prevent Trek becoming a footnote in TV and film history. It needs to be bold and strike out in its own direction. Like Kirk in TWOK, Star Trek needs to feel young again!

with all due respect, Trek XI should open with the a star field and the TOS fanfare with the new Kirks’ voice over and those immortal words, “These are the voyages…”. Then the new Enterprise coming in from a distance, then slowly going across the 2.35 to 1 wide screen so we can have good look at it.

#36. (Ralph F.)
> “Wish they’d do a re-recorded series on the TOS scores;
> I love my old discs with recordings from THE CAGE and that era,
> but the sound is not great.”

Do you have the set of three GNP Crescendo TOS CDs?
I don’t have ’em, but the samples on iTunes sound adequate
for my ears. Ditto the two Varese Sarabande TOS CDs.
I’m not an audiophile though.

Some TOS music still hasn’t been released AFAIK, notably
“Elaan of Troyius”. (An old Usenet post claimed that GNP Crescendo
mastered a CD including “Elaan of Troyius” more than a decade ago,
but that release was cancelled for some reason?) :-(

Of course it starts with “Space, the final frontier….”. How fallible of me.

I can’t believe how often people leave out Cliff Eidelman’s STVI score. It was beautiful, haunting and managed to go in a totally new direction while still retaining thematic elements from past pieces. The subdued music that plays while Spock & Valeris are talking in his quarters & the final battle piece are absolutely stunning.

Not to go totally negative here, but whoever was saying Nemesis had a great score is smoking something. It was cheesey, over-the-top and embarassing (much like the movie).

The Star Trek IV score was terrible. I remember leaving the theatre thinking how bad it was. It sounded SOOOO not like Star Trek it really took me out of the movie many times. Rosenman also did the animated Lord of the Rings movie in 1978 and the music was very similar to ST:IV and just as bad.