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.