I've recently had a run of buying soundtrack music from TV shows of the 1960s and 70s and it's providing a lot of pleasurable listening. There's a wealth of wonderful material lying more or less forgotten in the studio vaults. So when I saw a bargain copy of a 3 CD set of vintage Star Trek scores, I thought about it for a split second and then scooped it up.
The deciding factor for me was the presence in this collection of Gerald Fried. Fried is an intriguing composer. He was a friend of Stanley Kubrick and got his start on Kubrick's first feature Fear and Desire. The groovy label Film Score Monthly have released an excellent 2 CD set of Fried's obscure horror scores which provide an excellent starting point for any acquaintance with his work.
The Star Trek set consists of the music from six episodes, two of them by Fried, three by Alexander Courage and one by Sol Kaplan. When I started listening to the discs, naturally enough I was mostly concentrating on Fried's compositions. Yet Alexander Courage also immediately made an impression.
Courage wrote the famed Star Trek main title theme which begins with Jerry Goldsmith-style Americana horns and then transforms into Les Baxter-style exotica female voices. For some reason I thought his music for the series would alll sound the same, but it's spiritedly diverse, evoking everything from crime jazz to electronic sonar noises.
But it was Gerald Fried who is the hero of this week's post, particularly his music for the episode Amok Time. This lovely score is distinguished by the unexpected presence of an electric bass guitar, an inspired choice and an unexpected one in a richly orchestral science fiction context. The bass guitar features strongly on the theme Contrary Order, with mysterioso strings. That electric bass creeps back in, giving a Spaghetti Western feel after some beautifully angular Hebraic strings, on Marriage Council. And the bass is back on Processional, twanging fatly in a track that sounds like a stripped down version of a march from Rozsa's Ben Hur, with ram horns that call to mind Jerry Goldsmith's Planet of the Apes themes. Meanwhile, The Ritual, another stand out track, is also reminiscent of Alex North's Cleopatra.
In fact, this cue The Ritual (full title The Ritual/Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah) has achieved legendary status among fans, known simply as the 'Star Trek Fight Music'. It has appeared in the movie Cable Guy and the TV cartoons Futurama and The Simpsons. These links, showing the various uses of the music were helpfully listed in Wikipedia's Gerald Fried entry.
If you only listen to one of these Star Trek CDs I recommend the one featuring this music from Fried's Amok Time and Sol Kaplan's Doomsday Machine. But I suspect any of the releases will repay your attention. This is wonderful stuff and it emphasises the point that I'm coming to realise: vintage TV music is a treasure trove.
(Image credits: The cover shot of the boxed set is from Zyx Music. The individual CD covers are all from the extremely useful Soundtrack Collector.)