If an unused cue from a TV or movie music score is the musical equivalent of a deleted scene, an entirely unused/rejected score (or, in this case, demos) are the musical equivalent to a completely different cut that never escapes the editing room. Such is the case with Into The Darkness: 4 Themes, a download-only EP by Cliff Eidelman, the composer who steered the Star Trek film franchise into dark, operatic territory with 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The four themes in question here are a four-track demo submitted by Eidelman to the producers of the then-yet-to-premiere Star Trek: Discovery, at their request.
What’s interesting about that request is that it didn’t come from Discovery creative consultant (and Star Trek VI director) Nick Meyer, but instead came from Discovery’s initial (and later dismissed) showrunner, Bryan Fuller. Reports have since emerged that Fuller had some very different ideas for launching a new Star Trek series for CBS, but had to rein some of his wilder ideas in. Eidelman’s track titles so specifically reference events in Discovery’s first two episodes that it’s clear that music was auditioned late in the process (as it usually is). “Battle Of Two Worlds” is a minor word swap away from Battle At The Binary Stars, the second hour of the series, and “Mutiny In Darkness” also references incidents in that second episode. So we can say with certainty that Eidelman’s music would have – if the composer had landed the assignment – accompanied a story very much like what actually played out on screen (with Jeff Russo’s accompaniment).
That being said, there’s something a bit less than pulse-pounding about the music presented here. It isn’t just that it’s a synth demo standing in for what was undoubtedly expected to be a full orchestra – I can cut it a break on that front knowing that it’s a demo – but it just doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve probably heard the actual Discovery theme as used on the show itself 20-25 times, and I can hum it. I’ve listened to Into The Darkness about as many times – and why not, when there’s no official Discovery soundtrack release as yet? – and I can scarcely remember Eidelman’s main recurring theme a couple of hours later. I do like his take on music involving the Klingons, as it gives a nod to the guttural, percussive brutality present in themes introduced for the Klingons down through the years by the likes of Goldsmith and Horner and Ron Jones, but that’s almost all I can remember of this EP later.
Scoring film and TV is a collaborative process. It’s entirely possible that even Jeff Russo didn’t hit it right out of the park on his first attempt at a theme, and that he received notes from the producers asking for either refinement or a from-the-ground-up rethink. It is, perhaps, unfair to judge Eidelman’s demos too harshly on the basis that they don’t represent a finished, polished product of that same collaborative evolution. I find the very idea of recruiting an experienced Trek composer fascinating in the extreme. But as a listening experience goes, Into The Darknes: 4 Themes shows perhaps too much restraint and not enough of the in-your-face brassiness that made so many of us fans of Star Trek’s music way back in the day.
- Into The Unknown (1:27)
- Battle Of Two Worlds (2:16)
- Mutiny In Darkness (2:13)
- Resolve (1:10)
Released by: Cliff Eidelman
Release date: October 20, 2017
Total running time: 7:06
You can probably be forgiven if the name of this movie – shown primarily in museums and other educational venues – doesn’t ring a bell. Animated in Taiwan to accompany an all-star voice cast that included the likes of William Shatner, Chris Pine, Mark Hamill, Samuel L. Jackson, Brent Spiner Robert Picardo, Hayden Christensen, Jason Alexander, James Earl Jones, future Star Trek: Discovery star Doug Jones, and rookie first-time actor Neil Armstrong, Quantum Quest incorporated real-time data from a number of NASA missions that were then ongoing: Cassini, the sun-watching SOHO, Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER, Mars Odyssey, and ESA’s Venus Express and Mars Express orbiters. I’m kind of sorry I missed this one, because the real-time, interactive nature of it precludes any kind of home video release (or at best would result in a home video release robbed of its most compelling features).
But there’s the soundtrack. Shawn K. Clement (composer on several early episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) pulls out all the stops, with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra delivering a score worthy of a sci-fi epic (complete with theremin performed by Clement himself). With a barrage of percussion and occasional ethnic flourishes, Quantum Quest‘s score shows a bit of Battlestar Galactica influence (but then, so does a lot of other post-2005 sci-fi scoring). But it’s a very different animal, leaning more heavily on traditional 19th century orchestral influences and using the other elements as flavoring rather than foregrounding them.
Given the subject matter and the talent involved, it’s a bummer to have missed Quantum Quest while it was still a current concern. (Even the spacecraft upon whose data the movie relied are not all there now: Cassini, Venus Express and MESSENGER have all ended their missions by crashing into their respective planets.) The soundtrack makes quite a souvenir of both the movie and that very busy era of interplanetary exploration.
- Cassini (0:47)
- Anti-Matter (1:34)
- Sun City The Game (3:11)
- Opportunity To Serve (0:45)
- Departure Station (1:45)
- The Core (1:11)
- The Battle (1:14)
- Ignorant Moronic Fools (1:05)
- The Void (1:39)
- Ghost Fight (0:44)
- Incoming (0:55)
- Fate Of Trillions (2:06)
- Dave In Space (1:05)
- Fear / The War Machine (3:25)
- Ring City (0:35)
- Are You Milton? (1:18)
- Destroy The Dave, Destroy The Light (1:54)
- Cassini Commander (0:44)
- Flipping Switches (1:25)
- Destroy Me (1:02)
- Operation Photon Extermination (3:17)
- The Message / Dave Delivers (4:18)
- Universe Of Possibilities (2:18)
- The Quest (remix) (5:23)
- The Message / Dave Delivers (demo) (4:11)
- The Message (remix) (6:32)
Released by: BSX Records
Release date: September 1, 2011
Total running time: 54:23
The soundtrack for a documentary about the evolution of sound in video games, Beep is very much an exercise in electronica, with a healthy dose of chiptune. That seems like an almost obvious way to go, right? Except there’s a bit more to it than that.
Many of the tracks on the Beep soundtrack album are ethereal and just a little bit hypnotic – repeating musical figures that sort of draw you into their sonic spiral. That’s no accident: these sequences were built on a foundation of procedurally-generated tunes. The repeating sequences were created at random by a program (given certain parameters), and then everything on top of that was the work of the film’s human composer. It’s an interesting way to have man and machine working together, and for the subject matter of Beep, it works. Even as a listening experience with none of the context of the movie, it’s very relaxing.
There are a few places where it gets a bit more active, though. There are two versions of “Half Steppin’/Freaky DNA”, a tune that sets up a funky groove, and there’s an ode to game music’s less melodious early years in the form of “Dave’s Atari”, which gives you a really good idea of an Atari 2600’s actual range of notes and octaves. (And it’s still musical in its own way.) “Wood Bug” has a feel similar to “Dave’s Atari”, but with a more modern sound palette.
Beep may not be everyone’s cup of pleasantly arranged sine waves, but it’s mesmerizing and yet unmistakably pays tribute to the 8-bit sound of the early video gaming era. Those are two really strong selling points for a listener in the right frame of mind for something different.
- Beep Movie – Main Theme (1:17 )
- Banana Seat (5:28)
- Karin Originals (5:21)
- Orange Shag (3:31)
- Buckwheat Pancakes (4:03)
- Riverbank (4:10)
- Ankylosaurus Almonds (2:12)
- Rotary Dial (3:07)
- Dave’s Atari (1:58)
- Skipping Rocks (7:45)
- Half Steppin’ (Genesis Remix) – Freaky DNA (1:21)
- Help Steppin’ – Freaky DNA (3:07)
- Beep Logo (0:06)
- Magic Hour (4:20)
- Pluto (4:43)
- Galaxies (2:30)
- Googol (3:31)
- Crusin’ The Cosmos (4:50)
- Quadra Sunrise (3:54)
- Wood Bug (2:06)
- Backyard Flight (4:10)
- Beep Movie – Closing Theme (2:40)
Released by: Bandcamp
Release date: September 16, 2016
Total running time: 1:16:10