I love music. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't know a damn thing about music. I once authored a suggested listening list for the local library called "Getting Started in Classical Music" (or something like that) but I cribbed most of it from a dear friend who actually knew something about the stuff. I've had no classes in music theory, and if you ask me to read sheet of music, you'll find me counting lines on the scale. I guess that's the musical equivalent of moving your lips.
But I've listened to music obsessively all my life, starting with a little portable white and turquoise record player, handed down from my siblings, graduating to a Sony boombox and a Fischer component system with a real turntable, and finally down to my trusty little green iPod, Brainiac 6.2. (Brainiac 5 was so named because he was green. He was unceremoniously stolen from my car in my own driveway by a neighbor who thought other peoples' cars are for shopping. Brainiac 6 was bought with insurance money but quickly suffered disk failure. 6.1 was inadvertently set down in a cupholder full of water (I never use the cupholder for my devices anymore... much.)
My first favorites were "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "On Top of the World," Disney's Mary Poppins (sung by Marni Nixon, not Julie Andrews) and, for reasons I cannot fathom to this day, Helen Reddy. My mother listened to Country music, and I enjoyed that. Then, in High School, riding the bus for about half an hour and trying to avoid falling asleep and cracking my head on the window, I listened to Q107, a local pop station, and I discovered Rock. It was at this time that my parents became very grateful that I also discovered headphones. I was never a metalhead, though. Styx, Kansas and the Alan Parsons Project were more my speed.
During those bus rides I could lose myself in music and think about the things I wanted to think about. Mostly comic books and TV shows and the great stories I was going to tell someday, and the beautiful women I was going to have grand romances with, and the fast friends I was going to take on the world with. Anything but have to listen to the mundane, even idiotic, conversations going on around me. And god how I hated it when the DJs decided to talk! Like they had anything interesting to say! (The last time I tried to listen to the only surviving commercial rock station from my youth, I discovered that, while still nominally a music station, you could go thirty minutes, not counting commercials, and never hear a note. Someone had told the DJs they were funny, and it had gone to their heads.)
Alas, sometime around age 15 or 16, I lost the ability to tune people out simply by having music playing nearby. I could no longer read, write, or focus on a task if someone was speaking nearby, no matter what they were saying. As I've gotten older, I can't even deal with music with lyrics while I try to read or write. But I must still have music. Thank god for classical and for movie and TV soundtracks, which I began collecting around the time I realized I had a focus problem. Now, with Brainiac 6.2 and a set of headphones, I can drown out the noise that inconsiderate people make around me, pull out my laptop, and get some work done, even in a crowded room. Good thing too, as I've concluded in middle age that just hearing the stupidity spoken by most people most of the time will rot your brain. Most of us (I include myself) really don't have anything intelligent to say most of the time, but, dammit, we do keep talking anyway!
So I have a huge collection of instrumental music. Soundtracks are wonderful because they tend to be packed with emotion, and they inspire creativity. And few soundtracks resonate with a science fiction fan born in the 1960s the way the music of the original Star Trek does. Yes, I have the music of all the Irwin Allen series, and of Space:1999 and UFO, as well as Dark Shadows, and even Logan's Run, but Star Trek was Star Trek.
What could be better, then, for someone like me, than a CD library of every musical cue recorded for the 79 episodes of the original Star Trek? Enter the fine folks at La La Land music, who are releasing movie and TV music hand over fist on CD (haven't noticed a digital download option.) Last fall they announced their complete Trek collection: every cue recorded for the series, including some that were never used. Indeed, the set includes the first piece of music written for the series, a dance theme by Wilbur Hatch to with actress Susan Oliver could perform her now iconic dance as a Green Orion slave girl. The music was replaced in the final soundtrack with a theme by premiere Trek composer Alexander Courage, but now we can hear what Susan heard as she danced (and about killed herself sweating under all that body paint!)
The pieces are presented in the order that the episodes aired, with a few exceptions. This allows the listener to track the evolution of themes and styles, and to notice how a few composers created a huge library of surprisingly homogenous work, the most prolific being Courage, who wrote the two pilot scores and the one for the first aired episode, Fred Steiner and Gerald Fried who introduced many of the familiar intro themes for the Enterprise and the love themes most associated with Kirk being an intergalactic horndog, and George Duning, whose romantic scores are the most beautiful of the series.
The exceptions to the episodic order are the "library" pieces. Several of the composers recorded 30 minutes or so of variations on their themes, for use wherever they were needed. A couple of these are as familiar to viewers as the Trek main title theme itself, but they're not considered particular to an episode.
Only six original recordings of full scores have been released previously on CD, short-changing composers like George Duning, who wrote five or six beautiful scores over the course of the series. His haunting work for "Metamorphosis," is available here for the first time anywhere.
Thirteen New scores or partial scores never before released, plus the original recordings of Sixteen scores that were previously only available as re-recorded selections or suites, and a half dozen or more "practical" (what did they call these?) tracks from episodes where music was incorporated, even if no original score was written. Okay, maybe you'll never want to listen to the faux folk music from "The Way to Eden," but wouldn't it be nice to know you could if you wanted to? And no previous soundtrack collection has included Nichelle Nichols' original recordings of "Charlie is my Darling" or "Beyond Antares," sung in the rec room during early episodes. There are a surprising number of sound effects on here too, all created musically, including alien planet backgrounds and the sound of the Enterprise transporter, originally created as a planet background.
You can't listen to this music and confuse it with anything else. Is that because you've heard it so often, or is it because it just has its own special sense of identity? A oneness only partially brought on by the frequent variations on Courage's main title melody (who knew it was a Welsh folk song?) and his Enterprise Fanfare.
The later series also had some fine music by fine composers, and I have a lot of it, probably all that's been released. But the music for the original series does not sound like TV music, it sounds like a collection of film scores. Much of what was done for Next Gen and onward sounds like TV. It lacks that boldness, uniqueness and sense of identity.
This collection and its accompanying liner notes (four substantial volumes of them) do not come cheap. Retail is in excess of $200. If you have to have your music, though, as I do, or if you're serious collector of film scores, this one is a must-have.