To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before

Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Cue soundtrack.


I had some dental work done this week. Don’t you spare me a moment’s thought of sympathy, though–it was elective, cost a bajillion dollars and made me feel pretty. And I benefited, in large ways and in small. Why? I got to spend the better part of an afternoon under the lovely sedative grooves of Nitrous Oxide.

I wrote a post a couple of years ago (click here to read it) about the joys of nitrous. Nitrous and I get along well. It’s a creative booster shot, allowing me to get into a completely different frame of mind. I don’t use drugs, but after an hour with the nitrous, I get a glimmer of understanding about why some people might. Chasing the high, I think they call it, what drives most addicts into their addictions in the first place.

Anyway, because this procedure was going to take a while, they suggested I listen to my iPod.

So I queued up something I knew would take my mind off of things. The soundtrack to Star Trek, by the most brilliant Michael Giacchino. Giacchino does a lot of work with JJ Abrams, most notable the themes for ALIAS, LOST, and of course, STAR TREK.

I’m a huge Trekkie. So I was concerned about the re-energization of the franchise. Sometimes that can fall flat on its face, but Abrams did a masterful job. I can’t say enough good things about this movie – it moved me, made me cheer, captured my imagination, allowed my Dad and I to both indulge in our fascination with all things chaos and quantum, started me down a new avenue of research for a possible future book, and entertained me to the point that I saw it twice in the theater and I’m still hankering to see it again.

Part of the mastery of the movie is the script – so brilliantly rendered by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman that I have to single them out – their interpretation and masterful devices allowed the series to be regenerated into films for the modern era, and for that I salute them. The casting is incredible – I adored Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, as well as everyone else.

But another aspect of the movie that not a lot of people are talking about is the score by Giacchino. It is so subtle, so powerful, and so perfectly matched to the story that I honestly really didn’t even hear it the first time I saw the movie. Oh, it was there, and there were moments when I heard it, but for the most part, it did its job. Scores aren’t meant to be flashy and in your face. They are a compliment, the eggs that bind the batter so it can be made into a cake, the tray that holds the ice as its being frozen into cubes. In other words, absolutely necessary: the lynchpin of a good movie, the tent pole. Seen but unseen, heard but unheard.

Unless you’ve seen the movie, then downloaded the soundtrack, this may sound silly, but through the music, I can recreate every single moment of that film in my imagination. It’s so successful as a score that it becomes an immediate rewind button. Remarkable. That doesn’t happen to me very often. I’ve had soundtracks that I love, of course (Dances with Wolves, Harry Potter) but rarely am I so moved by the music that I can relive the movie, moment by glorious moment.

Giacchino’s score is wonderful – sweeping, poignant, visceral in spots; playful, sexual and seductive in others. There’s no question which music belongs to the heroes and which belongs to the villain. Nero, the Romulan mining ship captain and driving evil force in the movie, benefits from an especially powerful and ominous theme.

Listening to it under the influence of the nitrous, I wondered if Giacchino was influenced at all by Prokofiev – for some reason, I hear the three horns of the Wolf (from Peter and the Wolf) in the notes to signify Nero’s ship. We all know wolves are bad, bad, bad, and Nero qualifies as a wolf – a threat to the Federation of primary importance. (For those of you who are familiar with this, listen to the Andante molto and tell me what you think.)

Talk about evoking emotions with a classical piece – I can recreate the voice-over to Peter and The Wolf just by listening to the album. The fear, the joy. Ah, Disney at its finest (with the attendant happy ending for Sonia the Duck, too.)

It wouldn’t be the first time a composer has been influenced by an old master – the John William’s distinctive two-note heartbeat JAWS theme is suspiciously similar to the Allegro of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony #9 in E minor (aka The New World Symphony.) Strangely enough, if you meld the Prokofiev and the Dvořák, it really evokes Nero’s theme in Star Trek. Hmm...

While most of you know my passion for wine, few of you know my undying addiction to classical music. I’ve been using classical for years – to drive me, to tell stories, to layer into my books for effect, as themes for each of my books, to get drunk to, to make love to. I played clarinet for years, with brief forays into flute and saxophone, and shared my first kiss with a trumpet player, so I’m kind of partial to orchestral music. Opera works the same way for me, I adore it. It changes me, alters me, if only for a moment. I've always loved the line from PRETTY WOMAN, where Richard Gere explains the obsession with opera:

People's reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.

I couldn’t agree more. I adore the stories told through the music – the emotions it evokes, the fact that just the right note can make or break a piece. It’s what I love about a perfectly pitched scored, like the Star Trek soundtrack. It becomes a part of my soul.


And somehow, I managed to remember this line of thought whilst under the influence of some serious drugs. I must admit, listening to the score under the influence was eye-opening. Mind-expanding, if you will. I felt the music in a completely different way than before. The closest I can remember coming to this was a long time ago, under the manipulative control of Grand Marnier (which is like absinthe to me) and listening to Phantom of the Opera over and over until I was in some sort of wicked trance.

I highly recommend you see the movie, download the score, and have a bit of your favorite non-inhibitor and experience this for yourself. It’s truly something to behold. Kind of like space.

Or maybe I was just stoned out of my gourd.

So how about you, ‘Rati faithful? Favorite movie scores? Favorite operas and classical pieces? And did you like the new Star Trek film?

Wine of the Week: De Toren Fusion V - A South African entry recommended by a dear friend. It's a bordeaux blend that's been compared to the finest Chateau Latour wines. Can't wait to try this one!

(Said dear friend also turned me on to the Kurtzman-Orci interview, so many thanks for both recommendations!)