Speaking at the concert performances of "Star Trek Live" in Lucerne, Switzerland over the weekend, composer Michael Giacchino has talked in detail about his score for Star Trek Into Darkness including giving insights into the characters of the film. We have all the details below plus a short clip of music from this Star Trek Into Darkness score which was preformed at the event and an a bonus interview too! Beware of minor spoilers. [UPDATE: Added longer clip from STID]
GIACCHINO TALKS STAR TREK SCORING IN SWITZERLAND
Composer Michael Giacchino has been in Lucerne, Switzerland this weekend for a series of three concert performances of "Star Trek – Live To Projection" (see TrekMovie article with pictures and video from Friday’s performance). At each performance Giacchino has participated in Q&As. Video of these are online (and can be seen below). Here are some key excerpts from his talks about Star Trek scoring, including insights into the new movie.
Into Darkness Over 100 minutes of music + Movie/Character Details
During the Q&A sessions on Friday and Saturday Giacchino talked about the score for Star Trek Darkness which he said has "over 100 minutes of music." Here are some key excerpts from what he had to say.
Giacchino on his score for Star Trek Into Darkness differs from the score for the 2009 Star Trek film:
It is a much darker film. I think [Star Trek 2009] has more of a sense of adventure going on, whereas [Into Darkness] is more of a sort of psychological danger that is happening behind the scenes. So the music is quite different. It is quite darker. It is more internal. It is not as celebratory as [Star Trek 2009] is in many moments. And the film itself speaks to themes of the world today–sort of the geopolitical situation in the world. And it also kind of leans heavily on what is happening in the world today to tell the story.
The composer goes into more detail on writing music for Benedict Cumberbatch’s character:
It was really interesting to get inside the head of the new characters. Benedict Cumberbatch is in the film and he is amazing…In watching the film I was able to get so much out of his performance. The first piece of music I wrote for was his theme–the villain’s theme. And I’m not going to tell you who the villain is–because I’m not allowed…But watching his performance gave me an idea and I couldn’t wait to sit down and write his music for the movie.
UPDATE: Here is a longer clip of Harrison’s theme from the score of Star Trek Into Darkness, which was performed as an encore. (thanks to Stefan von Schulerst).
Clip of Harrison’s Theme from "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Giacchino spoke about other new elements of his score for Into Darkness, saying:
[In addition to the "bad guy" them] there is a new theme for a new character–this Admiral that is involved [Presumably Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus]. There is some unspecified aliens that make a appearance in the film [likely talking about Klingons] there are themes for them. There is a bunch of new stuff.
But he also talked about how elements of his score from the 2009 Star Trek film play in his score for Into Darkness:
Of course [for Into Darkness] I used some of the themes that are present in [Star Trek 2009]. Kirk and the Enterprise kind of share a theme. They are always meant to be together–the ship and the captain. So that main theme is there. There is also a variation on Kirk’s theme which is a more personal theme for him. [Into Darkness] really does delve more into the personal issues that he faces and where he is in his life. So it felt more appropriate to adapt that theme into something more emotional.
During the audience Q&A Giacchino was asked if he used any other themes from classic Star Trek, and Giacchino said there was a bit (thanks to Twitter!):
In [Into Darkness] I did sneak in one…there is a very short moment where I did sneak in one. The only reason I did that is that I had just finished writing and shut off my computer and said I’m done done. I went downstairs and went on Twitter and someone tweeted to me "Can you please use one of the themes from one of the old series in the new movie"…and I thought "OK, OK" and so I went back upstairs and there was one I always particularly loved…so that will be there for you to find.
Soundtrack to "Star Trek Into Darkness" available for pre-order on both CD and Vinyl at Amazon
Terrified to do Star Trek 2009
Giacchino also talked at length about developing the music for the 2009 Star Trek film. He spoke about how he struggled at first after getting the job:
It was both exciting and terrifying all at once. These guys were my heroes. Alexander Courage was absolutely. Jerry Goldsmith’s music is amazing and James Horner–I grew up listening to their music and it was a huge inspiration to me. When I got the job with Star Trek I thought ‘I should not be doing this movie – I have no business being in the same room with these guys, let alone in the same series with these guys. So it was very difficult. I spent a lot of time writing – ‘what is the main theme going to be? what is the main theme going to be?’ I wrote maybe 20 or so versions of the main theme and all of them sounded like Star Trek music – like big space opera music. And every time JJ and I would sit and listen to it JJ would say ‘it just doesn’t sound like our movie.’ And he was right–what we were trying to do was sort of break away from what Star Trek was and try to do something new with it–something different. Not just me but the costume people, the
visual effects people. Because with everything you had to just keep what was important about Star Trek but leave everything else behind. And I remember I was very frustrated with this and then Damon Lindelof–who I worked with on Lost–he said ‘why don’t we forget we are working on Star Trek…he ‘said just imagine you are working on a movie about two people who meet and are working together and become the best of friends.’ And I thought ‘that makes sense.’ That was suddenly a lot easier for me. I was able to focus on these two guys who become the best friends. How do they get to know each other and respect each other. That is what the movie is about. Once that happened I wrote another theme and JJ said ‘that’s our movie.’…That was theme for Kirk and the Enterprise. Interestingly the Spock theme is a variation of a theme I wrote for the main theme. But we liked that theme so we changed it a bit and it evolved into what became the Spock theme.
The composer was also asked about using Courage’s iconic Star Trek theme as part of his end theme, and why it was held to the end of the movie.
It could have been that we would use not any of it at all–Paramount said ‘do anything you want.’ But it was important to us to use Alexander Courage’s music. If you take everything else away from Star Trek, what you have left is that theme which is so recognizable and wonderful. We wanted to use it so the question was where were we going to use it. It can’t get used in the film very easily. If you know the film the storyline doesn’t allow for that–it is kind of a happy theme and there aren’t many happy moments–but the end we thought we could do it in a huge way like we have never heard it before. A celebration of the Star Trek franchise. So we chose to use it at the end as a sort of celebratory moment.
Giacchino goes into more detail on developing various parts of the original Star Trek soundtrack and his future plans. You can watch/listen to the Q&As below (via Kanal von Schulerst ):
MORE: An Interview with Michael Giacchino
In addition to his on stage Q&A sessions, Giacchino also did an interview with the Swiss site Owley.ch (which is in German), but the guys from Owley were nice enough to send over the original English transcript from the interview.
Your score for "Star Trek Into Darkness" marks the first time you write music for your "own" sequel. Was it easier to revisit the themes you wrote for the first one?
Yeah. It was much easier – I already knew the foundation, the characters and the world, so I felt much more comfortable. I was able to just get started writing and it was a very quick process for me, as opposed to the last time, which was really tough.
This isn’t your first project with Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, you were already here last year. How did these collaborations come together?
Well, I met them in Spain actually, at the Úbeda Film Festival, several years ago. They asked me then if I’d be interested in coming to a concert and told me that they wanted to perform my music, so I said "Sure!". We did that last year, in March. And over dinner one night, Ludwig, the conductor, who is an amazing conductor, said "I would like to do Star Trek!". So, that’s pretty much it.
He’s an amazing guy, who loves film music and loves what music does for the picture, and you know, what they’re doing here is amazing to me. I love Ludwig for bringing it to the people in a concert like this, that’s such a wonderful thing to see: An orchestra play to the picture. We don’t have something like that in the States…
Are there any plans for future "Live to Projection"-concerts?
Yeah, it would be great to do the next Star Trek movie, but we’ll see how everything goes. At the moment, there’s nothing planned.
Speaking of interesting collaborations: Christopher Ryan’s "LOST: Music from the Island for Solo Piano" is by far the most played album on my iPod. What led to this EP that you produced?
A friend of mine sent me the link on YouTube, and I just thought "Wow!". You see a lot of that stuff, fans playing and adapting your music, but his was really good. He came at it as a fan, and I thought his arranging skills were great. What he was doing on just a keyboard, I wanted support that. I thought the fans should be able to have this. So I just called him up – I never met him before – and I asked him, if he was interested in coming to Los Angeles to record this. And he came, and did a really wonderful job. It was fun to work with him. And I’m glad you like it – I’m sure Chris will be happy to hear that!
Lost: Music from the Island for Solo Piano is available on iTunes
You spoke of how 80’s soundtracks influenced you, and your music often reminds me of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. Do you think their music had an impact on you?
Yes, sure. But they write the way they write, and I have my style. What we have in common is that we all like composing in a thematic way. I always liked movies that contained melodies and themes that develop – and it wasn’t just John’s or Jerry’s movies, also Max Steiner, for example. When you listen to King Kong, to the themes Max wrote – they are so wonderful. So, naturally I would gravitate to that sort of score, those were the kinds of things I loved. And then later I started to get interested into more atonal and more strange music, which Jerry Goldsmith was a master at. He was fantastic at that. So for me I actually like blending the two together.
How likely is it to hear you composing for TV or for video games again?
Television is very difficult to do, week to week, especially when you’re working in movies as well. It’s a very grueling schedule. But I suppose if one of my friends did a show, Damon Lindelof or J.J. – those are people that I’d definitely do something for. But there is nothing specific at the moment. And it’s the same thing with video games: I wrote for "Medal of Honor" and "Call of Duty" and I’ve probably written more WWII music than anyone in the world. I think I did enough of that. Also, there’s a lot of guys writing great music for video games, so I’d leave it to them. But again, if a project seems interesting, maybe I’ll do it.
Does that mean, you will be onboard for the next Star Wars film, which J.J. Abrams is set to direct?
All I can tell you is that the thing, that excites me most about a new Star Wars film is the possibility of hearing new John Williams music. I would much rather hear John Williams’ Star Wars score than my music for Star Wars.
So can you tell us anything about your (other) future projects?
The next thing I’m working on is Jupiter Ascending, with the Wachowskis and then also Tomorrowland, with Brad Bird. I’m excited about both of them, because they are friends and it’ll be a lot of fun. Also, there is a project I cannot tell you about. And, a future Pixar thing. I can’t tell you about that either.
Michael Giacchino with conductor Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Orchestra for ‘Star Trek – Live To Projection’ – Lucerne, Switzerland April 12, 2013 (Photo: Kai Engelbrecht)
Thanks to Owley, Kanal von Schulerst and Kai Engelbrecht