Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Karen: Today we're taking a little break from the episode reviews so I can share with you a fantastic experience I had this last Sunday, April 3rd. My husband and I went to the Mesa Arts Center to see and hear Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a live concert experience featuring the music of Star Trek! This is a touring show, which started in January of this year and sadly is coming to a close this month. You can find the schedule at this link. If you can find a venue near you, I highly recommend that you go. The music was performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Justin Freer. Interestingly, Freer was mentored by composer Jerry Goldsmith, who was responsible for the music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

From Row G at the Mesa Arts Center before the show (no photography allowed during the show)

Karen: We were seated close, in the orchestra section, row G, and had a wonderful view of the very large screen on which all the TV and film clips were shown. We could also see the performers easily, although during the performance they were partly occluded by the set design, which looked somewhat like the Next Generation bridge. During the show, the lighting would change colors from purple to blue to orange and so forth with the different musical pieces. It was a very unique and beautiful staging. 

Karen: The show featured music from every TV series and many of the films, It was broken into two hours, with a 20 minute intermission. The show interwove both chronological themes, starting of course with the original Star Trek, but also featured themes such as exploration, the captains, lifeforms, close bonds, and so on. Michael Dorn, the actor who played the Klingon Worf on both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, narrated the program. Sometimes entire scenes were shown with dialog and sound effects; other times, montages of clips were shown, mixing different shows, casts, and eras. All of it flowed well. Some of the more memorable music for me included 'Main Title', 'Klingon Battle', and 'Ilia's Theme' from Star Trek: The Motion Picture,  'The Ancient Combat/2nd Kroykah' from the 'Amok Time' episode of classic Trek -with full scene shown!-, and 'The Inner Light Suite' from Next Generation

Photo from Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage website

Karen: If I had any criticisms, it would be that the music could have been louder. It seemed a bit restrained in volume for my tastes. I spoke with a friend in California who saw the show there and he echoed my sentiments, so I don't believe it was just a problem with my venue. Also, while I enjoy the film clips, I'd like to have less dialog, so I could enjoy the music more. But honestly, we had a great time and I would tell all Trek fans to run out and see this show! Trek, in its many incarnations, has had some beautiful music. Composers like Alexander Courage, Gerald Fried, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Jay Chattaway, and many others have contributed so much to Trek with their compositions. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Freer, and Cineconcerts have done them proud.


Anonymous said...

I've seen almost every episode of TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager but only two episodes of Enterprise out of the entire four seasons. I just wasn't interested in a prequel series - keep going forward not backwards !

Redartz said...

Looks like a great experience Karen! Glad you got to see it, and that you shared it with us.

Karen said...

OK, I hear the crickets. But surely someone must have some thoughts on the music of Trek? The stirring original TV theme? The classic 'fight music'? Come on!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

It’s astonishing how evocative of time and place music is, but none more so than Sci Fi music. Rick Wright from Pink Floyd once said that when a piece of music is vividly associated in your mind with a particular time in your life, it stops being what it is and becomes a label for how you felt about everything at the time.

I think the best time to first see ST is when you’re young, because Roddenbury’s idealistic Weltanschauung settles easiest on those who are innocent and still have it all to play for. I guess also seeing it in the 70’s , which was a simpler time, or at least we thought it was, helps. That music catapults me back as soon as I hear it. It sounds like you had a wonderful time, Karen, but I bet you drifted off and took a few strolls down memory lane as those images filled the screen.

I remember in 2004 when the BBC launched the new adaptations of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide. I rushed home from work, determined to hear it live on the radio. Despite the fact that I had heard it’s theme (the Journey of the Sorcerer by the Eagles) a thousand times since and the Guide had lived on as albums, a TV series, a stage play, novels, comic books, computer games and God knows what else, when I heard those first notes coming out of my radio, just as they had 17 years earlier, I shuddered from head to foot. I rather imagine it was like that when the orchestra hit those first, single notes of the ST theme.


Anonymous said...

Interesting you mentioned the "fight music", Karen; I always liked that faster pace that signalled some upcoming action. I thought it worked especially well in Amok Time, one of my favourite episodes.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry, Karen - it's been one of those days.
First, I have to say I enjoyed your review (also, loved your use of the word "occlude" - you spend a lot of time writing technical/scientific texts don't you?). I would honestly not mind going to this myself.

Second, I *love* the music of Trek. Love the theme music for the original, the various background music during the episodes (esp. the fight music as in Amok Time, as Mike W. noted), the theme music for the Motion Picture (which was then used for TNG), and, heck, the them music for DS9 and Voyager as well. (But not for Enterprise. Couldn't stand that song...)

Karen said...

Thanks for your comments today guys. Yes Edo, thankfully we did not have to sit through the Enterprise theme song, with its faux Rod Stewart crooning! Why that ever made it to the final stages of production is beyond me. I understand wanting to be different, but at least be good!

It's funny how often the 'fight music' has been parodied or used in other media. I've heard it used in a lot of videos in recent years. It seems like people know what it implies without necessarily having seen the show. I suppose the composition has succeeded!

What was interesting to me, being a musical illiterate, was how so much of the music sounded like "Star Trek," whatever that is. I wonder if the later composers picked up on motifs and things within the original theme which I simply cannot detect but they have used to give the music some sense of unity? Or am I merely applying a similarity because I know the music all comes from one large, inter-related topic?

Martinex1 said...

I am going to have to pay more attention to the music. I have a question on the opening theme. Are there different versions and how many? In the ten or so shows I've seen I think it sounded different sometimes but I didn't pay close enough attention. I thought one sounded more orchestral and one more electronic. Is that right?

Karen said...

Martinex, you are correct. The original theme, by Alexander Courage, did have a more electronic (as Roddenberry derisively called it, 'outer-spacey') sound, with electronic violins. It was in the episode 'Balance of Terror' that composer Fred Steiner recorded a new theme, without the violins and other 'spacey' sounds, and with a more traditional sound, featuring a stronger brass section.

I believe the themes was completely re-recorded for the remastered blu-rays.

Martinex1 said...

Thanks for the info. It's interesting they changed the theme within the first season. I bet that didn't happen frequently. I could see changing it for season 2 like Gilligans island. They must have had a fair amount of confidence in the series.

Martinex1 said...

And one last question: were there any vocals to cover things like Uhura's songs from the first season?

Karen said...

No, there were no vocal offerings, so no renditions of "Beyond Antares" or "Charlie's our darling" and sadly, we were not graced with "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen." There was a brief clip of Spock jamming out with the space hippies though (that's third season Martinex..."The Way to Eden", an episode that draws strong opinions from most fans). No music from that scene though, it was just part of a montage.

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