Over the weekend Star Trek composer (and Oscar-winner) Michael Giacchino was the guest speaker for a screening of the movie in West Los Angeles. The discussion covered his approach to the first Star Trek, the Klingon music that didn’t make it into the film, possible ideas for the sequel and more. We have full video from the event, plus some highlight bullet points on what he had to say.
Michael Giacchino on Star Trek 2009, Star Trek 2012 and more
The chat with Giacchino, moderated by "Music of Star Trek" author Jeff Bond, was very interesting and is very much worth watching in full for any fan of Giacchino’s and/or film and TV music (see 40 minute video below).
And for those with short attention spans, here are some highlights
Giacchino on Star Trek (and sequel)
- Giacchino says he "grew up" with Star Trek and was a "huge fan" including collecting figures and toys which he recently shared with his son. Describes Trek as "my Star Wars before Star Wars"
- It was Michael’s idea to buy his team Star Trek shirts for one day when they were recording the score (as seen at ScoringSession.com)
- Giacchino notes there was "no shortage" of outside ideas on how he should approach scoring Star Trek and it was initially "hard" to come up with a main theme and a "a lot of music was thrown out there"
- Michael’s first approach was to create "space music" and "something you would expect", but JJ Abrams told him "it certainly sounds like space music, but it doesn’t sound like our movie" and it was Damon Lindelof’s advice saying "we are just making a movie about two guys who meet and become friends, there is nothing else you need to know…space is irrelevant…one guy has had a really tough life and the other guy has had a little better go at it, and it is just about how they became friends"
- At one point Spock’s theme was a contender for the main theme of the Star Trek film
- Says "Star Trek was the first time I didn’t pay attention to my own rules of story-telling because I was so wrapped up in it being "Star Trek"
- On the process of finding the right approach to the film for the team "JJ, Bob, Alex, everyone went through that thing where they were fans of the series so their first reaction was to do what you think people want and then realize that is not right thing and to come back and take a look and do what is right for the story, we all went through it painfully in our own way"
- Approach to scoring music for opening scene of Kirk’s birth was inspired by Giacchinno’s work on Medal of Honor games and writing something "completely opposite" to the action and give the music "a sense of import" by focusing on the "emotional center" instead of the action, which is something JJ Abrams had him do in Lost and Alias…noting for Star Trek’s opening "it wasn’t going to be about that they were being shot at and the ship is blowing apart…it is about this guy sending his wife off and she is having his baby that he will lever see"
- Says it was not his idea to include the Beastie Boys song "Sabotage" and his first reaction was "when i first heard about it I was ‘what!?’, but when you see it in the film I was ‘he is right, it works’"
- On choosing where and how to use music from past Star Trek’s "That was a tough thing. In the very beginning we had a lot of conversations. Is there any music from the other movies we should use and any time you tried it it didn’t work because this film is so different stylistically. To me if you are going to strip away all the music from Star Trek the one thing you would hold is that original Alexander Courage theme, to me that is Star Trek. I knew at some point we would have to hint at it, in the body of the film maybe once or twice…and JJ and I always talk about that giving maybe one or two hints at it and at the very end just smashing with it and take it really big…because to us it wasn’t really Star Trek until they are all on the bridge at the end of the film."
- Giacchino wrote music for the deleted Klingon scenes, but "would not want anyone to hear it" as it didn’t think the scenes worked and didn’t think the music worked, and his "happy to have it gone"
- Would not use the Klingon music in sequel, noting "when and if they do bring Klingons back, I know it will be for the right reasons and will be part of the story and it will be easier for me to write music because I will have something to react to"
- On sequel and if they will use original Trek music: "I have no idea. It depends on the story" later saying "I have no idea until I see the film. I don’t know what the film needs – what it asks for until I see it. I could sit here and say I really hope so, it would be fun to find a moment to do something like that. And certainly as fans we all deserve that kind of fun. I hope so, but I can’t say no"
- Specifically on using the famous Gerald Fried "Amok Time" fight music I asked since it has been used in comedies, does it run the risk of becoming parody, Giacchino replied "You always want to watch for that, if you do that you are not paying attention to the story…so if it is going to ruin that you don’t do it, but you never know. You might be able to orchestrate it in such a way where it suddenly doesn’t sound like what you are used to hearing, but it still is the same thing. Because that music only sounds funny to us now because we know it as it was so well, but you could do something different with it. Still have the soul of it but do it seriously and without making fun of it"
Giacchino on other work and his creative process:
- Currently "in the middle of" scoring the music for the new Star Wars Star Tours II attraction
- Contrasts Star Tours work with Star Trek saying "with Star Trek I get to make up what I want, with Star Wars I am working with the existing stuff that is there"
- Generally starts working on piano, then begins writing, then creates synthesized orchestrated score "mock up"
- On Lost used parts of crashed plane as percussion instruments (mostly on first season)
- On his musical influences: "that is a very long, odd list", cites Louis Prima, Benny Goodman, John Phillip Souza, John Barry, Max Steiner, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams
- Soundtrack to Star Wars and liner notes was "the beginnings for me of the workings of an orchestra"
- Describes himself as a "movie geek" and "soundtrack geek" and when he was recording the score for Up, he brought out the original music for Peter Pan and made a new recording of it for fun
- On emotional musical opening scenes from Up, "there was a lot of pressure on us to make that work right, because if we didn’t get it right, by the time the dogs were flying the airplanes, you would have been so checked out the film would have tanked"
Jeff’s book and Giacchino’s Star Trek score are available at Amazon.
Varese Sarabande also produced a limited deluxe edition of the Star Trek soundtrack, which sold out but is available on the secondary market (at a premium) from some Amazon resellers.
Well, I’m a musician, and, as a kid I wanted to score movies (and sometimes still do), so it’s fun to be… “first” (it looks like).
I enjoyed the score and savored little hints of Horner’s score to STII here and there. I personally would have liked a longer main theme — felt very short and more superhero-esque.
Thanks, Anthony, for a great site. I post here once in a while, and I was at the STIV screening, incidentally. Worked it into a little vacation time (I’m not from SoCal).
No way would I sell my deluxe edition of the score… I already have troubles listening to the original version because it now seems so truncated! I love this score.
While I don’t think it’s up there with the two classics (TMP and Khan), it’s still an excellent score, and much better than some of the others. I love Spock’s elegiac theme and like the emotional, courageous main theme. On the flipside, for me the worst Trek movie scores are TVH (too hapharzard and sprawling) and Nemesis (anodyne, Goldsmith phoning it in).
Wow Nice Interview and thoughts from MG—Knew some of it from the Star Trek DVD—Everything made sense musically. THe opening sequence one of the best from the whole movie….because it concentrated on the emotion n love story and sadness of the birth and death at the same time…music perfect for this sequence…then the build up and bombastic main theme with the giant Star Fleet Logo..wow…
Cant wait to see what MG comes up with for next Trek. Sure hope he will be the composer and jj director again…
Would like to hear his Peter Pan score he did for fun. haha…What a great and detailed interview thanks Anthony!
ST 09 is deffiantly on if the best movie scores out IMO.
It’s deffo (in no order) ST09, STTMP, STTWOK, STTUC. Amazing.
Except for the truly awful main theme (which, sadly, is expected to stand in for about 80% of the score; at least, it seemed that way while watching), there’s some really good work in Star Trek’s score. When you don’t nail the main theme, though, and you don’t bother to compose original music for most scenes, it pulls the legs out from under the whole thing. I don’t know what he would’ve needed — more time, different sources of inspiration, a good whack upside the head — but I wish he’d received it while he was still writing. Yes, I know that I must seem like a troll to those who’ve been Trek-deprived long enough to find ST09 acceptable. Such is the internet.
Love this guy
I hope that they include Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music from the Star Trek Insurrection end credits at the end of the next Star Trek film. They should have used it at the end of the last film. It would be good if they also include Russell Watson’s ‘Where My Heart Will Take Me’ (the excellent album version). The Original Series theme music and new theme music in the last movie was unnecessary. The soundtrack was disappointing overall. ‘Labour of Love’ was the best part of it.
This guy is VERY overrated. Don’t get me wrong, the main theme music was good, I really like it. HOWEVER.. if you really pay attention to the movie, the music theme NEVER CHANGED throughout the WHOLE MOVIE! It was just the same main music them from the opening credits, recycled over and over again.. just with slight variations in instrumentation, tone, etc. There weren’t any distinctively different themes (for example: Reliant/Kahn in ST: II, Klingon music, etc, etc). The music for Nero was the same as the opening credits, the theme for the Enterprise was the same, Old Spock, etc, etc. Same theme, over and over again, for every scene (just played a little differently for each). I’m sorry, but that doesn’t impress me. Anyone who disagrees with me should watch it again, and really pay attention to it. It doesn’t change at all.
E P I C ! =)
no offense to Micheal G. but I’m not the hugest fan of his Star Trek score, but I do love Up and Incredibles. He hit the right notes on those two films, and hit them out of the park as well. I also am a huge fan of his Lost work.
Oh dear: so we’re not going to get more (any) of the Star Trek Music! The Klingon Theme, Kirk’s Theme, TMP theme, etc., are fantastic pieces of music that ought to be in the sequel if at all relevant to the story. The music in star trek 2009 was so generic: it could have been the soundtrack to pretty much any blockbuster music; apart from the final theme, there was no ‘Star Trek’ in the star trek score. Returning to JJ’s favourite subject, Star Wars, that franchise (like every other) has key pieces of music that are instantly identifiable and play at certain moments or emotions: Imperial March, Force Theme, Yoda’s Theme, etc. His Star Trek could have had something like this. Finally, the music in Trek 2009 was also very repetitive: the main crescendo, though good, played three or four times: almost whenever it was a major action set-piece. Compared to the work of Horner and Goldsmith, even the unsung Eidelman, I thought that Giacchino’s was not great, frankly.
I think he’s great, and I like his other work, but his score for Trek 09 was pretty lame. Probably not his fault, it sounds like.
His list of influences sounds like my CD collection — I knew there was a reason I loved this guy! ;)
Happy Star Trek Day everyone!
When I was in deepest doubt before the release of JJTrek, I heard the soundtrack, and it was the first thing I really bought into. I hear a lot of complaints about his soundtrack, but the title sequence music is a bold piece of music which fits the film and Enterprise reveal perfectly. The music when the Enterprise drops from warp to save Spock by destroying the Narada’s missiles, and then when she escapes the Black Hole are memorable and well delivered.
How well can you recall the music from ANY Next Generation film? Except for the trumpet piece when we get the Locutus flashback zooming into the Borg cube, I honestly can’t recall music from any TNG film that wasn’t written by Gilbert, Sullivan, or Irving Berlin.
Wow its been 44 years ago today thar Star Trek aired for the first time. My how time flies. Giacchino’s film scores are amazing even his work on some video games is awsome…but his score for Trek 09 is just OK and function well for the movie but its hardly his best work…maybe next time he’ll do better.
If you don’t want to be thought of as a troll, perhaps you might avoid insulting everyone that liked the movie and score by implying they were desperate and simply didn’t know any better. It’s kind of like the people that say anyone who didn’t like the movie is an old crank that simply can’t let go of the past. They’re both trolls, see, even though they’re on opposing sides. It’s weird how that works!
A very memorable score that did the job more than well enough when needed.
And I’d be delighted to hear some of the wonderful original music reworked in the next movie.
(and Kyle @ No1 kudos to you for grabbing boasting rights on making it to No1 and yet still make a worthwhile post. Very refreshing! ;-) )
If there is any doubt where the film scores should come from just listen to the Original Series. It’s music is perfect.
Was totally underwhelmed by MG’s take on Star Trek. Which is funny because I love his work on Up, Incredibles, Lost etc. But he felt way off the mark in so much of what he did for this film. I’m hoping he’ll remember to bring back a sense of the fantasy that really works in classic movie and TV Trek and not just the straight ahead action/jazzyiness he did that in a couple of years will really date this first ‘new’ Trek film…
omg, its jeff bond ! Haven’t heard from that guy in a long time.
Thanks for asking my Amok Time quetion. I agree with MG that it could be reorchestrated to not be a ‘laugh-line’. Perhaps at first those who recognize it will react but that’s a good thing, esp if it could be used to ramp up an action scene.
If he’s talking about the film composer it’s John Barry, not Berry.
Spock’s theme SHOULD have been the main theme.
The main theme sounds like an unfinished afterthought.
Still, I love MG’s work, AND the score as a whole.
You said what I’ve been thinking ever since I watched it the second time on Blu-Ray. The epic scope, the action, the drama, the HUGE spectacle of Star Trek… it was treated so very blandly overall in this film, from a soundtrack perspective. The main theme does get recycled over and over and over and over… just lame. What a missed opportunity.
I really hope the music is improved for the sequel.
Personally, I happen to have loved Giacchino’s Star Trek score, and having the Deluxe Edition certainly gives a better picture of the score than the original soundtrack CD.
This is an excellent score in many ways, but is also a very different approach to scoring Star Trek, precisely as required by the film.
If there’s one thing that would be seen as missing, it might be the graceful romanticism we see in the other Star Trek movies. It’s more punchy as opposed to stately and grand.
Ironically, this subtle difference in approach nudges the music closer to the original series than past movies, and this was the right way to go.
I suspect that the next movie may have the opportunity to produce some of the grace and grandeur that Trek 09 did not have the opportunity to present.
It may be that the pace was that much faster, so the score may not have had a chance to breath in quite the same way as previous films.
Think of Star Trek III, when Kirk sees the Enterprise destroyed, and he asks “whay have I done”, with Bones’ “what you had to do” reply, and the music for that scene.
Or in Star Trek II, when Kirk enters the Genesis Cave with Carol Marcus.
Or in TMP, when Kirk sees the Enterprise for the first time.
There is a sense of wonder, almost a pause to take in the beauty or power of a scene, and that is, I think, what may have been sacrificed in Trek ’09.
It is my favorite of the movies, and one of my favorite scores.
I really want to know what that unused “space music” sounded like.
His work on ST09 was alright. Not the best, but good nontheless
26 – I have to disagree slightly. I understand what you mean, but the sweeping, touching and beautiful ‘Labour of Love’ track deserves consideration here.
28 – Good example and point.
27 – It would be curious to hear, but it may be at the stage of synth mockups to picture, before the score was even fleshed out and put to the orchestra on the scoring stage.
There fact that the Klingon scene was actually scored and recorded is a bit of a revelation, actually.
This guy is really good. The soundtrack to Trek is safe in his hands.
12 – He’s been around on the Film Score Monthly boards forever, and has his fingers in a lot of thier releases. I think he works with them, and wrote the liner notes to The Edge from LaLaLand (don’t quote me on that, I’m going from memory here).
He’s also at Comic-Con every year, often on the Starship Smackdown panel on sunday nights (usually one of the last panels before the Convention Center kicks us out). He’s got a great sense of humor, as that panel can attest.
Sorry, said it before, will say it again; Giacchino is not the man for Trek. He’s a fine composer, but his handling of the ST09 score was vacant, detached, and eminently disappointing. Its the first Trek score I truly regretted purchasing. I think its simply a matter of a mismatch in styles.
I will offer props to the overture as Kirk is born and the ship plows into the Romulan vessel, but that’s one small gem out of a bland score.
Granted, it isn’t fair to compare Giacchino to a master like Goldsmith, but if you take on that franchise, the comparisons are going to come. ST 09 deserved better.
I wish we could expect a true, defining theme in the next Trek feature, yet I fear we won’t be getting one. What a shame. Truly an opportunity lost.
32 – I 100% disagree.
The music is extremely emotional at times, with Vulcan’s destruction, older Spock’s appearance, and yes, Kirk’s birth. Hardly “detached” or “Vacant”.
Big fan of Giacchino’s — have loved his scores for years, notably THE INCREDIBLES (Johnny Quest meets James Bond sound), ROAR! (end credits music from CLOVERFIELD and an excellent homage to kaiju film scores), and especially SPEED RACER — hell, it was his work on SR that made me so excited he was doing STAR TREK. SR has the old cartoon theme (and incidental themes) woven throughout it, and his end credits (excellent, excellent piano work) are perfect.
TREK just kind of fell flat for me; I loved how he brought in the TOS music at the end, and I understand the whole “after they’d earned it” viewpoint, but I was truly hoping to hear some TOS music in the mix.
34 – The next movie, it would be more appropriate.
If the music does not fit the movie, game over for both.
I’m still baffled by people insisting that Giacchino should be quoting Goldsmith or Horner or whomever. In eleven films, six composers have never quoted each other. They’ve used Alexander Courage’s fanfare and theme, but otherwise only their own material.
Jerry Goldsmiths theme is just as much a part of trek lore as Alexander Courage’s original theme and it would be such a shame if it were to be cast aside – it would be like star wars losing the imperial death march/ darth vaders theme!
Mr Giacchino if you do read this im sure you can think of a suitable way to incorporate Goldsmiths theme!!
IT WAS THE SAME FREAKING LINE OF NOTES — over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.
Did I make my point?
His UP score was fantastic. I hope that if he does the next move his is as inspired as he seemed to be on the animated flick.
I am done.
37 – Goldsmith’s theme was simply not a part of TOS, which in spirit, this film is the origin for. There is simply no way to introduce that theme in an appropriate way. Believe me, I LOVE Goldsmith’s main theme for Star Trek: TMP, which was kind of a love theme for Kirk and the Enterprise (see “The Enterprise” on the soundtrack), as well as a fanfare (see “Leaving Drydock”). 38 – The theme may have the same notes, but there was actually a lot of variation in it’s use. The introspective “Hella Bar Talk” sounds nothing like the bombastic “Enterprising Young Men”, nor does it sound anything like the slightly mysterious opening cue “Star Trek”. And yet they use the same theme over and over again. There is also a great weaving of the theme as a “B Theme” bridge to Alexander Courage’s original theme from TOS in the end credits, with Courage’s theme in the high strings before returning to the main theme. As far as someone’s excellent research made out, there are at least 6 major themes: Main Theme – a 16 note theme that the composer has referenced as Kirk’s Theme, but is used throughout the score liberally in many scenes with and without Kirk. Introduced in the film quietly over the opening logos, strains of it are next heard when Kirk’s mother clutches her stomach when leaving the Kelvin. Giacchino’s original intentions were not to have the fully orchestrated version appear until the first shot of The Enterprise in space, but in the final film it appears over the Main Title (as the music is tracked from the Enterprise reveal scene). After that it is used very often in the score, never going more than a few cues without reappearing again. Nero’s Theme – Nero’s evil 7-note theme is used for Nero and his crew during the first half of the movie, however after the sequence over Vulcan it only used two more times before the End Credits. Spock’s Theme – This 5-note theme is usually played on the erhu to emphasize Spock’s Vulcan side, but is often played in a faster setting with the rest of the orchestra, weaving in and out of the Main Theme or B Theme. Cadet’s Theme – This 5-note theme is occasionally intermingled with the Main Theme during scenes where the cadets and other fleet members are involved in the action. It debuts over a shot of the hangar at Starfleet as everyone scrambles to help Vulcan, as is last heard when Spock appears on the Enterprise at the end of the movie wishing to join its crew. Vulcan Theme – A 4-note theme introduced quietly on string as Spock mourns the destruction of his planet. It is next played during Kirk and Spock Prime’s mind-meld, and is then used throughout the finale for Spock and the Jellyfish as attempts to get revenge on Vulcan’s destroyer. Main Ostinato – This quick 6-note motif moves the action along when needed. Like the Main Theme, it too is introduced quietly over the opening logos in the film, however it does not appear again until the Cadets leave to go face the threat over Vulcan. It is then used frequently throughout the rest of the score, usually in action scenes involving multiple members of the crew. Add to that another six minor themes that have been picked out: Suspense Theme – Used twice in the score for scenes involved Starship captains flying towards The Narada to meet with its crew. The Narada Theme – A 11-note secondary theme for Nero is used only twice in the film – first when Captain Robau takes a turbolift on his way to the shuttle that will take him to Nero’s ship, and a second time as the Narada opens fire on the Enterprise over Vulcan. Sacrifice Theme – The same theme is played when George Kirk sacrifices himself to save The Kelvin and when it appears that Spock will sacrifice himself to destroy The Narada. Unknown Theme – A brief theme heard as Bones smuggles Kirk on board the Enterprise reappears towards the end of the film during a conversation between Kirk and Sulu over the intercom. Action Ostinato – Another ostinato is used in the score, but only for two major scenes. The first is when the shuttle with Kirk and Bones approaches The Enterprise and then The Enterprise enters warp; The second is when Kirk has to rescue Sulu from the Drill Platform when Sulu falls off, and Chekov races to rescue them both. It also appears in the End Credits. B Theme – The Main Theme has an 8-note B section that is occasionally used before or after the Main theme, usually to amp up the action as it is always played… Read more »
For more information about these themes, and the music composed, see this thread on jwfan:
40. …”Hardly detached or vacant.”
The exception proves the rule. The entire work was very much possessed of both of these characteristics, and the fact that one must stretch to identify this one piece to attempt a refutation of the argument does more to enhance the point than disprove it. Yes, that *one* piece was compelling. But that one piece does not an entire, cohesive movie score make.
Vacant descxribes the fact that there is no true resonating, overarching theme. It creeps close a few times, and fails. At worst, its a bunch of notes repeated (and repeated, and repated). I was never a Horner fan for his gross (and typically barely disguised) duplication, but his scores for Trek had more depth than that of ST09. That someone else struggled and ached to pick out eleven “sub themes” (or whatever it might be termed) is a monument to the score’s fractiousness.
To say it is “thematically strong” is monumentally generous.
As I said before, Giacchino is a fine composer, and has some other fine work to his credit. The work set before him for Trek was simply not suited to his style, and hence the two simply don’t work together. I truly wish another composer would be given a chance for the sequel.
Guess you and I will have to agree to disagree.
I was underwhelmed with the score on my first and second viewing of the film. “Restrained” was a word that came to mind. Third time out, I was surprised that I recognized the ‘theme’ at all. When I finally purchased the album, I was surprised again at how good it sounded.
I’d love to hear more hints at the original series classic motifs in the sequel.
(Had to post something on TOS’s anniversary!)
41 – How many themes did Star Trek: TMP have? How about TWOK?
That someone else saw FIT to struggle an find the themes, shows that at least in his opinion, the score deserved such attention.
The score was different primarily because the movie was different.
Guess you’re right, we will agree to disagree on this one :)
on the Vulcanian thing:
To be fair, Vulcans have been called Vulcanians before. I mean, the name is canon.
Source: Mudd’s Women
My bad….I commented on the wrong article lol
#6, #9: I noticed the same problem while actually watching the movie. The main theme repeated… and repeated and repeated and repeated. It became incredibly tedious on more than one occasion.
Then I got the soundtrack, and suddenly the problem was much less noticeable.
Then I got the *deluxe* soundtrack, and I haven’t complained about the main theme overuse since.
I don’t think M.G. did anything wrong in the score. I think he was ill-served by whoever was cut the music together into the movie. (Who was that? Ben Burtt?) Some of the best tracks on the soundtrack — particularly “Enterprising Young Men” — got processed into mincemeat on the movie soundtrack.
That was my impression, anyway. I definitely hear the problem you’re referring to. I just don’t think the problem was M.G.’s fault.
Was “Sabotage” JJ’s idea?
Also: for the record, a few more hat tips in the next movie to Courage, Steiner, Goldsmith, and the gang would be MUCH APPRECIATED. I liked this score a great deal, but it felt very naked as a Star Trek movie without a little bit more of the grand inherited orchestral tapestry woven into it.
I did notice occasional hints and nods at Courage in this movie, but they were so short and out-of-place that you had to stop, go back, and listen again to be sure it was real. We need more than that. This is Star Trek. For better or for worse, it has musical motifs built into it
#17: True that. :) Hard to resist sometimes, but I know I should.
#32: I don’t know if a “mismatch in styles” accounts for his overuse of the main theme. He’s done some really great music for other films, and I think he could’ve done just as well for ST09 if he’d been driven to.
#36: I agree with that completely. Goldsmith’s Klingon theme, for instance, was awesome (I like to think it’s based on the simple two-note calls of hunting horns, smartly echoing the Klingons’ warlike nature), but I wouldn’t want to hear it recycled by another composer. I’d want him (or her) to aspire to something equally iconic, but appropriate to that movie.
#46: I’ll have to give that a listen sometime. I remember seeing Stealth (remember that?) once or twice, getting the score by BT, getting used to how that sounded, and then being surprised at how some of the cues were cut together in that movie when I saw it again.
M.G’s score for UP is sublime; one of my favorite recent soundtracks.
My wife and I always tear up at the ‘Ellie’s Failing Health’ music. And the balloon/house launch theme was simply gorgeous.
That Oscar was sooo well-deserved.
Can’t wait to hear what he cooks up for the next Trek movie…
I think there is a new James Horner on the block…. ; )