Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 1 soundtrackRocketed through the usual licensing hurdles in what may be record time for a TV soundtrack album (usually the process takes at least a year after the show’s premiere, but in this case it was a mere few months), the first soundtrack from the weekly hour-long episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica is as near-exhaustingly visceral to listen to as the show is to watch. Nimbly leaping from ethnic polyrhythms to warlike martial drums as the situation demands, and sometimes layering one on top of the other, the action cues from this selection are some of the best I’ve heard, period – “Starbuck Takes On All Eight” is unrelenting enough to make one break a sweat while listening at a dead standstill. “The Olympic Carrier” delivers a cleverly literal treatment of the motif of the episode 33, dropping back to a ticking time-bomb of a strict one-beat-per-second meter as the action approaches its climax. And if Cylon sex scenes are your thing, grab “Two Boomers” and make yourself a sandwich (well, hey, it is an action scene of sorts…). It’s not a stretch to say that virtually all of the key action cues from the first season are represented here – if that’s what you’re looking for here, you’re not going to walk away disappointed.

It’s not all in the action cues, though. Tracks such as “Forgiven” and “Two Funerals” lend the show’s moments of human drama a lot of their weight, while “Helo In The Warehouse” is positiviely eerie. The miniseries isn’t forgotten either, with clockwork-like tuned percussion serving as a signature for the Cylons (and specifically Number Six) in tracks such as “Baltar Speaks With Adama”. Many of the pieces, while they still touch on the miniseries’ Mediterranean sound, also demonstrate a shift toward a somewhat wistful Gaelic sound. And after having grown accustomed to the show’s avoidance of the leitmotif-heavy Wagner-by-way-of-Korngold-by-way-of-Williams scoring that’s commonly associated with filmed science fiction, hearing a full-on orchestra is almost a shock to the system in “Passacaglia” and “The Shape Of Things To Come”, the latter dedicated to composer Bear McCreary’s late mentor, Hollywood great Elmer Bernstein. There’s another unexpected instrumental surprise with “Flesh And Bone”‘s guitar work. A fun handful of source cues appears as well, some with lyrics, and you’ll probably be interested to read the translation of those lyrics in the liner notes.

And while the new Battlestar Galactica has escaped the “Star Wars Lite” style that both distinguished and occasionally hampered the original 1970s incarnation of Galactica, it’s interesting to hear that themes do emerge. Characters and even concepts have their own musical and, occasionally, rhythmic signatures. But it’s more subtle than what you may be accustomed to. After years and years of this genre, and really, a lot of other genres, being represented by droning orchestral and synth chords, it’s a treat to hear barrages of military percussion, talking drums, wailing vocals, and what honestly sounds, in a few rating: 4 out of 4cases, like large pieces of metal slamming together (as cathartic as it is to listen to some of these pieces, it’s got to be at least that much fun to be performing them!). The new Galactica demands a visceral, pulse-pounding sound, and Bear McCreary and his small army of musicians deliver it in spades. If the first episode of season two is anything to judge by, I’ll go ahead and leave an open space for the season two soundtrack. No rush, though – I’ll be listening to season one for quite a while yet.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue (0:28)
  2. Main Title – U.S. Version (1:02)
  3. Helo Chase (1:29)
  4. The Olympic Carrier (5:39)
  5. Helo Rescued (0:59)
  6. A Good Lighter (1:52)
  7. The Thousandth Landing (3:04)
  8. Two Funerals (3:22)
  9. Starbuck Takes On All Eight (3:44)
  10. Forgiven (1:28)
  11. The Card Game (3:01)
  12. Starbuck On The Red Moon (1:58)
  13. Helo In The Warehouse (1:59)
  14. Baltar Speaks With Adama (1:52)
  15. Two Boomers (1:46)
  16. Battlestar Operatica (2:33)
  17. The Dinner Party (3:12)
  18. Battlestar Muzaktica (1:41)
  19. Baltar Panics (1:44)
  20. Boomer Flees (1:14)
  21. Flesh And Bone (4:04)
  22. Battle On The Asteroid (6:50)
  23. Wander My Friends (2:55)
  24. Passacaglia (5:13)
  25. Kobol’s Last Gleaming (2:47)
  26. Destiny (4:42)
  27. The Shape Of Things To Come (2:53)
  28. Bloodshed (1:46)
  29. Re Cap (0:34)
  30. Main Title – U.K. Version* (1:06)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 78:33

* The U.K. version also appears to be the main theme for season two on the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S., though without the rapid-fire clip montage set to a furious battery of drums; a similar (but far more drastic) editing fate also seems to have befallen Sci-Fi’s other major original series, with Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis having had their opening title sequences trimmed down to 10-15 seconds each.

Battlestar Galactica – music by Richard Gibbs

Battlestar Galactica soundtrackIf ever there was a case of musically “playing against type,” the score for 2003’s Battlestar Galactica miniseries is it. The music of the original series had such a foothold in the collective memory of the viewers that it’d be hard to avoid comparisons. And yet, as fitting as Stu Phillips’ exercise in sounding like John Williams was for the original 1978 miniseries and series, Richard Gibbs’ and Bear McCreary’s score for the new version is equally fitting. It’s a visceral, almost mournful, score for a new take on the series that seems to be, more than any SF project of the past few years, informed by the 9/11 experience and its attendant emotions.

There’s not a lot of orchestral writing, but contrary to some reports, there is some. Rather than going for a full-on western orchestral approach, Gibbs and McCreary mix orchestra with ethnic percussion and vocalizations. In the CD liner notes, Gibbs talks about how several scenes of the movie had been temp-tracked by director Michael Rymer with music from Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for The Last Temptation Of Christ, and that’s a fairly good analogy for what the new Galactica wound up with. Gibbs and McCreary reined things in just a little bit, with a more traditional western feel than the aforementioned film score, but the Gabriel influence is clearly there: battle scenes tend to be tracked with Japanese taiko drums and a thunderous mix of other percussion. The scenes associated with the plight of the Colonials tend to be treated with wistful Middle Eastern vocals, a little bit of orchestra, and occasionally a bit of tuned percussion – Gabriel would be proud.

And it would seem that the composers took as many hints from Christopher Franke as they did from Peter Gabriel; the cue “Seal The Bulkheads” is given an epic-but-elegiac sound, as Commander Adama makes the decision to seal off a critically damaged portion of the ship, sacrificing the lives of several crewmembers still trapped inside. There’s no thundering action here (though the fast-cutting editing of that sequence and the show as a whole would have lent itself to that), but more of a funeral dirge for those lost.

When Gibbs arrived to work on Galactica, a scene had already been temp-tracked with a Sanskrit mantra loaned to the director by Edward James Olmos; Gibbs found that it was so hard to top that he phonetically transcribed the mantra and included it as a vocal for the track “To Kiss Or Not To Kiss”, which is easily the soundtrack’s most sensual cue; “The Lottery Ticket” and “The Storm And The Dead” tie for a close second in that department. I also liked some of the cues that are heard early in the miniseries, which build a sense of anticipation without really being specific about the end result of that anticipation being good or bad. (That “anticipation” motif shows up again in the final scenes, and the effect is altogether different – in that context, it’s almost like a musical demand for a series order.) My one regret is that the expansive main title for the miniseries seems to have been replaced with a more mournful piece to cover the main titles of the weekly series – but again, it fits with the tone of the series, whereas’ the miniseries’ main titles occurred before the real jeopardy of the story kicked in.

I’m a little torn on recommending the Battlestar Galactica miniseries soundtrack as an all-in-one-sitting listening experience – if you have it playing in the background and you’re not listening for the intricacies of the music, it all blurs together a bit. But a close listen makes it clear why this approach was chosen for the new Galactica – and it’s no surprise that the early episodes of the hourly series sound as though they may have 4 out of 4been tracked with this same material (fittingly enough, as the original Galactica was tracked from a limited library of music composed for a small handful of specific episodes).

Good stuff – let’s hope that the series is around long enough to get some more music, and maybe another CD or two, out of the composers.

Order this CD

  1. Are You Alive? / Battlestar Galactica Main Title (5:28)
  2. Goodbye, Baby (2:24)
  3. Starbuck Buck Buck (1:49)
  4. To Kiss Or Not To Kiss (2:42)
  5. Six Sex (1:48)
  6. Deep Sixed (1:59)
  7. The Day Comes (1:08)
  8. Counterattack (2:40)
  9. Cylons Fire (1:34)
  10. A Call To Arms (1:03)
  11. Apollo To The Rescue (1:56)
  12. Launch Vipers (4:26)
  13. Seal The Bulkheads (2:10)
  14. The Lottery Ticket (3:06)
  15. Eighty-Five Dead (1:23)
  16. Inbound (1:23)
  17. Apollo Is Gone / Starbuck Returns (2:19)
  18. The Storm And The Dead (2:40)
  19. Thousands Left Behind (2:09)
  20. Silica Pathways (3:32)
  21. Reunited (1:56)
  22. The Sense Of Six (3:01)
  23. Starbuck’s Recon (1:11)
  24. Battle (7:40)
  25. Good Night (2:38)
  26. By Your Command (1:56)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 67:04

Battlestar Galactica – music by Stu Phillips

Battlestar Galactica soundtrackYou remember Galactica, don’t you? Of course you do! And it was your favorite show and you’re probably dying to find the music from it! Yeah, right. Actually, it’s not all bad – for blatant John Williams pastiche, that is. Sadly included is the disco song from the pilot movie’s casino scenes. All of this music is from the pilot movie, including the rather good extended opening title sequence – even I admit to liking this piece! If you keep in mind that this late-70s show, in its entirety, was a rather obvious attempt to 3 out of 4cash in on the then-current Star Wars craze, and can take into account that this philosophy would naturally extend to dictating the style of the music, you can probably enjoy this album quite easily.

  1. Main Title – theme from Battlestar Galactica (1:28)
  2. Destruction of Peace (4:01)
  3. Order this CD Fighter Launch (2:49)
  4. Adama’s Theme (2:54)
  5. Exploration / theme from Battlestar Galactica (3:24)
  6. The Cylon Base Ship / Imperious Leader (1:14)
  7. Cassiopeia and Starbuck (1:42)
  8. End of the Atlantia (1:42)
  9. The Cylon Trap (3:51)
  10. Boxey’s Problem / Serena’s Illness (2:57)
  11. The Red Nova (2:23)
  12. Suffering (1:52)
  13. The Casino on Carillon – "It’s Love, Love, Love" (4:10)
  14. Escape from the Ovion Mines (2:41)
  15. Dash to the Elevator (1:13)
  16. Let’s Go Home – End Title (1:06)

Released by: Edel
Release date: 1978 (released on CD in 1993)
Total running time: 40:50