Star Trek Composer Dennis McCarthy To Receive ASCAP Golden Note Award

Dennis McCarthy, the prolific composer who scored much of Star Trek on TV and Film from 1987-2005, is being honored by ASCAP this summer with the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award. More details below.



McCarthy’s Trek To ASCAP

Dennis McCarthy composed the music for 260 episodes of Star Trek, more than any other composer. His career with Trek spans from Star Trek The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager to Enterprise. In fact McCarthy scored the first episode of TNG ("Encounter at Farpoint") and the last episode of Enterprise ("These are the Voyages"). McCarthy also scored the theme for DS9, the end credits for Enterprise and feature film Star Trek: Generations. He has previously won a number of ASCAP awards for his work on Trek and was nominated for nine Emmys, winning only one (for his DS9 theme).

McCarthy conducts the Star Trek orchestra on the last day of recording for "Enterprise"

At the 25th annual ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards, McCarthy will be honored with the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award. This award is presented to songwriters, composers, and artists who have achieved extraordinary career milestones. Past recipients include Mark Snow, Andre Previn, Garth
Brooks, José Feliciano, Alan Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Jay-Z, Tom Petty, and Stevie Wonder. In a statement ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said of McCarthy: "Dennis has composed scores for beloved TV series and films for over three decades, and he is still at the top of his craft. His music for Star Trek has earned him industry accolades and captured the hearts of multiple generations of Trekkies. We are proud to give the Golden Note Award to Dennis in recognition of his long and illustrious career."

The release includes this profile of McCarthy:

One of today’s most in-demand composers for film and television, Dennis McCarthy got his first major breakthrough when country/pop star Glen Campbell asked him to play keyboards on hits "Gentle On My Mind" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." Campbell eventually brought McCarthy on board as an "on the road" arranger/conductor, then hired him as musical director on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour variety show for four years. McCarthy served as musical director for The Barbara Mandrell Show for several years, then acted as scoring assistant to legendary composer Alex North before embarking on his own composing career in the early 1980s. McCarthy’s first Hollywood scoring job was for the Dukes of Hazzard spin-off Enos in 1981. Warner Bros. hired him to score V: The Final Battle, the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone, Dynasty, MacGyver and a slew of movies-of-the-week. In 1987, McCarthy got his most prominent job to date when he became a regular composer for Star Trek: The Next Generation; he has since contributed music to every subsequent Star Trek series, and scored the Star Trek: Generations film in 1994. McCarthy’s musical versatility brought him numerous feature films and made-for-TV movies, including Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, McHale’s Navy and Letters from a Killer. He recently jumped into theatre work, composing music for numerous plays for South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA. McCarthy is a seven-time Emmy nominee, and won the award in 1993 for his theme to Deep Space Nine and again in 1996 for his music for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Unification, Part 1." Among his latest projects, McCarthy is scoring the sitcom Related for Warner Bros.

In addition to McCarthy, Star Trek music vets Michael Giacchino and James Horner will be honored for their 2009 work in Up and Avatar respectively. The 25th annual ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards takes place June 24, 2010 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

More information at 

McCarthy Trek music

Here are a couple of selected tracks from McCarthy’s time with Trek

McCarthy’s theme for DS9

Overture from Generations

Archer’s Theme from Enterprise

More info on Dennis at, including videos of his last scoring session with Star Trek.


POLL: Favorite composer from Trek on TV?

Over the decades Star Trek has employed a number of composers to create the iconic music for the franchise. Although McCarthy was the most prolific, there were others that composed many episodes. So which one is your favorite from Trek on TV.



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I love the DS9 Theme. He is a great composer and He deserves all the awards he gets. Would not mind seeing him pen the music for the Next Trek Movie.

All good. I didn’t think he had it in him, but his score for “Generations” is one of the film’s high points, especially the closing credits. I am sure it was done on a shoestring with almost no time, but it was quite rousing, despite the tragic end of the film.

I also have the first TNG CD, and “Farpoint” is memorable as well. Waiting for Jay Chattaway and Ron Jones to follow suit.

I put down Ron Jones as my favorite music author for Star Trek: TNG. The reason is clear, he wrote the most masterful, suspenseful music for “Best of Both Worlds”.

“Archer’s Theme” is a nice melding of orchestral and pop elements. Really good stuff.

Loved “Archer’s Theme”. The best piece of music from “Generations” was from the scene where Kirk dies. The scene sucked, but at least the music evoked emotion.

I don’t think I have a favorite tv composer; they all did a good job for the most part.

Hard to vote, so I didn’t. There are parts and pieces from each composer that will endure throughout Trek Music history. I enjoyed the scores/soundtracks so much to the point that I could tell who was composing which episode of TNG, DS9, or VOY just by their individual styles even before the credits rolled.

And as with millions of others, I owe a debt of gratitude to these gentlemen and others like Jerry Goldsmith, Johnny Williams (as he was credited for the original “Lost in Space”, my first taste of SciFi fare) and James Horner for helping me appreciate and enjoy classical music, the theater and operas by first loving the music of films and TV.

Congrats, Mr. McCarthy! Well deserved.

Ron Jones was the best composer TNG ever had..
That’s why Berman fired him.
Because he had no sense of the true value of music in film, which was always quite obvious.

Without Jay Chattaway, you would never have had such wonderful themes as those from “Inner Light”, “Power Play” “The Game” “Tin Man” “badda bing badda bang” and the rousing Species 8472 action themes from the excellent two parter “Scorpion” and many more.
Jay Chattaway gets my vote everytime.
Checkout this brilliant site for a list of composers and the episodes they scored.

I hated the Generations music, to me it was a TV soundtrack. Not a glorious film score.

Still, the music he wrote for the TV shows, in particular DS9 are excellent.

personally I enjoyed the season 3 TNG music, where they weren’t afraid to experiment. TNG later developed a kind of tonal music, which was readily identifiable but kinda like lift music.

Love the TOS music.

Some of you may understand where I’m going with this.

Spinoff Producer (you, the reader, can pick the name): “We can’t have any theme’s in our show. If we do it will be too similar to TOS, and I hate that show. In my mind it doesn’t exist. So here’s what we’re going to do. Jay, Denny, I want you to write the blandest things you can think of and make it meander a bit so it has no relation to what is on screen. Also, Ron, your music is too recognizable. And that “Best of Both Worlds” theme…..what were YOU thinking?! You’re history.

Denny, Stop using that awful Picard theme. I don’t want a leit motif for any of OUR characters. What do you think this is, TOS? Why would you want to be like THAT show?

Now, let’s see. Now that the music has been castrated I will now write another Holodeck story. Or, I got it! I’ll write a story with 3 plot threads that never intersect one another. I know the preview said, “This week the Enterprise faces disaster” but let’s push that back to the last 3 minutes and make the first 40 about Data’s cat. Oh, and if we have to put Kirk in a story, let’s make him cook eggs in a cabin. That’s what real fans want to see.”

Authors note: Whew, that felt good.

I thought the new Trek soundtrack sounded alot like Lynch’s Dune.

Goldsmith was a genius, and Courage is still tops.

My feelings are uncertain where TNG-Enterprise soundtrack music is concerned. I was always frustrated that there was a sameness to the music in all the series – TNG, DS9, Vger & Ent. I found it maddening.

Still, there were good moments. I love the DS9 theme. I like Archer’s theme.

BTW, #10, I love your post.

I think the theme “The Nexus/A Christmas Hug” was some of his best music. I loved the version they played when we see Kirk in the Nexus. Loved it when Kirk looks at the clock and says, “I gave this clock to Bones…”

#10 that is truly a great post

To judge McCarthy is quite hard. For me, he did some really nice music in TNG’s first two seasons, but after that he started to get bland (thanks to Berman I guess). But still I would always prefer Ron Jones and Jay Chattaway over him, mostly because I really loved the recurring themes Jones used and most of the time his TV scores sounded like a mix of the movie-scores with a bit of TOS in it, and I really loved how he could combine all that into his scores. After he left, TNG’s music was really bland, but Chattaway did some really outstanding scores for later episodes like the already mentioned “Scorpion”-two-parter, and later in Enterprise (especially Season 3) his music got really epic. So, Chattaway gets my vote for this. (Regarding McCarthy, I really like his score for Generations and his main themes for Ds9 and Ent, but for the episodic scores himself, I think he’s too undramatic, his music is way to “harmless”.

Wow. That is a TOUGH poll. I see that Alex Courage is leading at the moment (we’ll see whether that holds out). I’m not really sure why: the only really great work he did for Trek was the TOS theme song. Other than that, he only did the soundtracks for “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, which were both weirdly whiny and dissonant and too much ’60’s sci-fi, plus a handful of other unremarkable scores. Not that Courage isn’t an excellent composer overall, and not that the TOS theme song isn’t fantastic. But I’m sure the TOS theme isn’t the best music ever written for Trek, and, even if it were, I’d be mystified by Mr. Courage’s high poll numbers. I wonder whether people are getting Courage confused with Fred Steiner, who gave TOS the musical voice we still remember today. Now here was a brilliant Trek musician. Look him up sometime. You’ll start recognizing his iconic musical bits almost immediately. Fried is legit, if only because of the Amok Time fight song. Dun dun dunnn dunnn dunnn dunnn duh da da daaa duh. How many’d he do, though? Five? That’s less than Courage. Seems like too little. Ron Jones is the next big contender, up there with Steiner. The first three seasons of TNG were strange and new and flashy. No, a lot of it didn’t age very well. The synth is sometimes so ’80’s it hurts. But Jones gave the TNG score an emotional power, a shape… a characterization, even. It was daring then, and it remains enjoyable now. And no one can mention Jones without mentioned his score for “The Best of Both Worlds,” which was an unbelievable triumph. It sounded weird and alien and yet completely awesome, with emotional impact, great action, terrifying Borg themes, and (of course) possibly the most well-known score for a single scene in television history, with that final cliffhanger from part one. I heard that he was fired because his music was “too noticeable.” If true, that would have to be the single dumbest thing Rick Berman ever did in twenty years on Star Trek. I think of Ron Jones as the Murray Gold of the early 1990’s. And Murray Gold is up there with Bear McCreary as my tied-for-favorite TV composer. We come to the man of the hour, Dennis McCarthy. Congratulations to him on his win! It’s well-earned. I love his Generations score. I love his DS9 theme. Archer’s Theme should have been the ENT theme song (no offense to “Faith of the Heart”). I can definitely see why people would vote for him as best Trek TV composer. However… I can’t. Though McCarthy is a rockin’ composer, his actual episode scores, in my opinion, were really pretty boring far too much of the time. Try listening determinedly to the “All Good Things…” soundtrack sometime. It’s really hard. There’s not very much substance. Just a lot of McCarthy trumpet mush. This probably isn’t his fault; if the story about Berman firing Jones for being interesting is true, it is probably that Berman ordered McCarthy to write boring music for the episodes, and McCarthy only got to break out on big numbers like Generations and series theme songs. For years, I found Jay Chattaway’s music surpassingly dull. STRINGS! Flah. I really don’t like anything about the “Caretaker” soundtrack except the main theme song — by Goldsmith. However, as time went on, and Dennis McCarthy became (in my opinion) more and more boring, Chattaway got dramatically better. “Azati Prime” is probably my favorite single-episode soundtrack ever. “Terra Prime” and “Demons” were solid. “Badda-Bing Badda-Bang” was unforgettable. So, nowadays, I consider myself a Chattaway fan. But his first few years were too bleh for me to want to cast my vote his way. Now, David Bell. I haven’t heard a whole lot of his scores, but what I’ve heard was always pleasant. More than that, it was always a break from the usual from Chattaway and McCarthy. I don’t know. In fact, I must say the same of Baillaergon, Velton Bunch, and quite a few others. But Velton Ray Bunch… he has done some really good work. Not nearly enough of it, I’m afraid, but what he’s done was excellent, and (perhaps more importantly) he’s made his Trek scores pretty available online, which has made his work a lot more visible — to me at least. I said earlier that “Azati Prime” is my favorite television soundtrack ever. But “Azati” is not available to us in the real world. Velton Ray Bunch’s “Similitude” is my favorite soundtrack that I actually have a copy of (I recently donated it to, if you’re interested in getting it for yourself). It’s really good. So’s “Silent Enemy,” also available on the Internet.… Read more »

Glad some of you liked my post. I’m sure some will accuse me of doing the whole TOS=Good and TNG=bad thing, but that’s not true. I’m not getting into an apples and oranges argument with anyone. However, my earlier post does sum up my feelings about the spinoffs production from 1991-2005 . If I had the time and resources I’d love to re-cut some early eps of TNG with incidental music from the later seasons just to see what it would be like.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved TNG and still do. But, everyone has to admit that there some stories that could have used better music and less “personal matter of the week” storylines. I can understand writers and actors trying to develop characters, but we’ve seen characters develop in other shows and films where the development was a direct result of the incident that the GROUP was facing.

The other comment that I made above regarding the “preview that doesn’t match the story AT ALL” always irritated me. A perfect example of this is a little episode called “Hollow Pursuits”. Now, don’t get me wrong….It was fun, funny and gave us a really goofy character that provided us with a different insight into life aboard a starship. But, watch the trailer and you will see what I mean.

Granted they were setting up their advertisement(s) so that people would come back the next week to watch and….let’s face it….If the preview guy had said “Next week, on Staaarr Trek: The next Generayyyytion. The new guy loves the holodeck and haaaaates Riker” we would have all said….FORGET THAT. But, again, it’s just an example.

Again, this is not an attack on that show. But it is an example of the “WTF?” I felt many times when I tuned in to TNG (and the later shows). Another example is “Booby Trap”. Did we need the holodeck fantasy subplot? Answer: NO!

As for the music. I’m a professional musician. Have 2 degrees and I think I know a little bit about music so that’s why it is a pet peeve of mine. I feel that all of the composers were good…great even….when they were allowed to be (early years are proof of that). However, the meandering incidental music that Chattaway wrote (which he was forced to write, OK!) was really just……. annoying. There was nothing special about it. Yes, “Inner Light” was nice, but “Tin Man” was a hell of a lot better and it’s a shame these guys were relegated to writing wall paper music instead of giving TNG and the rest of the shows a really unique identity. Not saying they had to go all “James Bond Theme-like” on everything, but seriously, the only time they ever used the Jerry Goldsmith theme in the later years was for the credits. Ron Jones used to weave it into his scores all the time, especially in the early episodes of season 2. So did McCarthy for that matter.

In any event, these are just my opinions. Hard to believe how we fans are so rabid about this stuff sometimes. Why is that. It’s just a show?

While some music in TNG was good, such as The Inner Light, a great deal of it was meandering atonal garbage. It’s as if they were instructed to write music that had no dramatic or artistic content whatsoever, so they did not have to match what was happening on the show. The music from TOS was far superior, though it was limited in amount.

Like dennis the best, Thought generations was very well done.

I have to agree regarding alexander courage. He gave us the iconic star trek theme, The music for two episodes as well but that is where it ends.

Courage didn’t write music for the remaining 78 TOS episodes (if you count the cage)

Ron Jones was the best, hands down. McCarthy’s stuff earlier on was OK, but then he got bland. I think that McCarthy is actually the worst of the Trek composers. His GENERATIONS score was so uninteresting and pedantic, it’s no surprise that the producers realized that they needed a serious upgrade for the subsequent movies, and brought back Jerry Goldsmith.

Rick Berman proved himself to be musically retarded by firing Jones, the only composer that actually had music as a contributing character to the series.