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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Familiar Themes Surface in Music Score for Episode IV

Jazz musician and composer Andy Farber grew up in New York City during a golden age in STAR TREK “re-run” history.  In the 1970’s, one could actually see episodes four times a day running on various TV stations in the metropolitan New York market.

Farber’s passion for the themes of STAR TREK composers Alexander Courage, Gerald Fried, George Duning, Joseph Mullendore, and Fred Steiner inspired his career in music.  And now Farber himself is adding to the STAR TREK music canon with original music composed for “The White Iris,” the fourth episode of STAR TREK CONTINUES.

Follow STAR TREK CONTINUES on Facebook to find out what “Captain” Vic Mignogna heard on the scoring stage in a soon-to-be-released video showcasing Farber and the Rochester, New York students who are bringing Farber’s melodies and familiar STAR TREK themes to life.

Speaking from his New York home, Farber answered our questions about his interest in STAR TREK music and what it is like to hear his music associated with his favorite TV show.

How did you first hear about STAR TREK CONTINUES?

I can’t remember!  It was just one of those things that I found on the internet.  I had seen other web productions, but I like STAR TREK CONTINUES because the strong actors and the stories were quite good.  Like any other fan, you’re starved for quality after watching the original 79 episodes for 40 years.  I’m old enough that the only Original Series episode that aired during my lifetime was the very last one,  “Turnabout Intruder,” in 1969.

So you’ve been wanting to write Original Series STAR TREK music for some time?

Yes!  That was the first film/TV music that I knew before I became a professional musician.  I come from a musical family, and there was always music in my house.  But STAR TREK was probably the first underscore that I really remember – that and Johnny Cota's music from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood!  There were six or seven original scores written for STAR TREK each season, so it’s almost like a repertoire of familiar themes and music that were “tracked” and re-used from episode to episode. STAR TREK’s editors tracked music from different composers in the same episode.  George Duning’s compositions were mostly strings.  Gerald Fried used mostly woodwinds and brass.

In the silent film era there would be a piano player with a book of generic “chase” music.  Onscreen there’s a girl tied to the railroad tracks.  Cue the suspense track!  If you fast-forward to STAR TREK, the editors were cutting the episodes in a familiar way.  There’s the classic “James Kirk action” cue from “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  There’s Spock’s mind-meld music featuring jazz guitarist Barney Kessel on Fender bass guitar .  These are classic motifs – just like Wagnerian opera.  So I started to notice that and it was probably Original Series STAR TREK music that got me interested in music as a career.

You’re a professional musician now?

I’m a jazz saxophonist, composer, and arranger professionally.  I also teach jazz composition and arranging at the Juilliard School in NYC. I’ve also written a feature film score and a documentary film score. I’ve done orchestrations and conducting for other film composers, and I've written countless TV commercial underscores.  I live in New York City, and have chosen a career as a jazz musician.  I’m interested in music that has real players and real instruments – not “MIDI mockups.”

When we listen to Episode IV, what musicians will we hear?

Well, I was going to put together an orchestra of STAR TREK fans who are professional musicians in New York – but that would have limited us to some woodwind and brass players and some percussion. I could have gotten some string players and a harp as well but not the full sections that we got up in Rochester. I wanted a wider palette and as much of a full orchestra as possible.

A colleague, composer and trumpeter Jonathan Kruger, suggested that we use an organized group of music students from the Eastman School in Rochester New York.  They call themselves the Empire Film Music Ensemble, or "EF-ME" for short.  I supplemented those terrific players with trumpet player Chris Rogers, a friend who is the nephew of STAR TREK composer Fred Steiner.  And I brought in woodwind player Kurt Bacher.  The students were terrific.  I think you’ll be very pleased with what you’ll hear.

How did you create the familiar themes?  Does written music exist?

While the original scores do exist, there wasn’t time to track everything down.  So I had to transcribe it.  I put on the CD and listen very carefully with headphones to try to figure out what they're playing. You know, the melody, rhythm, orchestration and all that. There are some classic cues that we use in Episode IV – such as Fred Steiner’s “suspense” music from “The Corbomite Maneuver” and we utilized a cue from Gerald Fried used in “Friday’s Child.”  You know Gerald Fried is the only living STAR TREK composer.  We’ve been in touch by email and had a wonderful phone conversation. We discovered that we had the same oboe teacher.

How do you write themes for specific characters?

I read the script, and at a certain point I wanted to be able to “spot” the film – which in the old days would be watching the edited film with no music.  Vic Mignogna has strong convictions about the right music for each scene, and pulled from the existing library of STAR TREK music.  So where appropriate to have classic Original Series cues, we decided to keep them that way.  And we also re-recorded as many of them as possible, also allowing us to customize them in terms of tempo, adding some instruments that weren't on the original recording, etc. Where we needed new thematic material, I composed original music.  However, in some cases I used familiar motifs like the Alexander Courage “Kirk” melody that Courage used frequently and will be familiar to viewers

What will it be like to have your name associated with STAR TREK the same way that it is for Courage, Fried, Duning, Mullendore?

They’ve always been influences of mine!  STAR TREK CONTINUES is a fan production and I'm doing it for the love of it.  It’s pretty cool to be listed as making a musical contribution to STAR TREK.  I can’t wait to see the final result with everyone else at the end of May.  As far as I’m concerned, more STAR TREK CONTINUES is more, real STAR TREK!


Jeff Ragsdale said...

Beautiful stuff, the new of which is unintelligible from the Original Series material - masterful job...

Michael Kurland said...

At some point, I'd like to see an album (or at least a mock-up) of all of Andy Farber's work from "Star Trek Continues."

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