Stargate SG-1: Music From Selected Episodes

Stargate SG-1: Music From Selected EpisodesIf there’s a property I didn’t expect to resurface in the soundtrack world in the summer of 2017, it’s the Stargate TV franchise. In hindsight, though, I wasn’t paying attention to the clues – Intrada has long championed the musical output of Richard Band, brother of Full Moon Pictures producer Charles Band, and composer-in-residence on Full Moon’s extensive slate of low-to-mid-budget horror movies. And, patterned somewhat after the arrangement that governed music during the entirety of spinoff-era Star Trek, Band alternated on episodes of Stargate SG-1 with Joel Goldsmith for the show’s first two years on the Showtime pay cable channel, with other composers occasionally filling in (including, ironically, Star Trek’s Dennis McCarthy). This 2-CD set from Intrada gather’s Band’s carefully selected highlights from his time with the Stargate franchise.

The episodes for which Band felt he’d done his best work were Cold Lazarus, In The Line Of Duty, In The Serpent’s Lair, and Singularity – oddly enough, all early favorites of mine. Listening to the scores Band composed for these episodes, which feature small orchestral ensembles attempting to fill out and deepen the sound of synthesizers and samples, it’s easy to tell the real musicians from the electronic sounds. With the show opening every week with an adapted version of David Arnold’s theme from the original Stargate movie (for which Arnold had to be paid for every usage), the rest of the music budget – especially before Stargate SG-1 found its legs and popularity with its audience – was tightly constrained. But even when roughly half of what you hear is synthesized, it’s still a fun listen. Military drums, low, urgent brass ostinatos, and actual recurring themes (including quotes of Arnold’s theme) – the music of SG-1 was everything that the music of the show’s Star Trek contemporaries usually wasn’t: propulsive and threatening and dangerous. Stuff was happening in the music rather than it being relegated to background wallpaper. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the nearly-nine-minute solid cue covering the entire final act of In The Serpent’s Lair: literally wall-to-wall music for the show’s climax.

Cold Lazarus, which uncovers a painful incident from Jack O’Neill’s past, is the outlier here, with gentle piano accompanying the unfolding revelation that Jack had lost a child. In The Line Of Duty and Singularity are far more representative of the musical sound of Stargate SG-1 as a whole, with both quiet passages, mysterious music for the team’s discoveries of ancient (or is that Ancient?) mysteries, and gung-ho action music where needed.

3 out of 4I remember, when first seeing that Intrada was releasing a new round of Stargate TV scores, being a bit let down that Joel Goldsmith’s work wasn’t represented. Now I realize this wasn’t a downside: Richard Band was as much a part of SG-1’s sound in those heady formative years of the show – where anything was possible and the Stargate franchise had yet to fall into the trap that befalls many a long-running series, namely slipping its neck into the noose of ever-thickening continuity – as Joel Goldsmith’s sound was. Much like the Star Trek: The Next Generation box sets that finally gave Dennis McCarthy’s work exposure in the wake of a massive all-Ron-Jones soundtrack box set, this SG-1 soundtrack set redresses an imbalance and is worth a listen.

Order this CD

    Disc One
    Cold Lazarus

  1. Teaser (3:42)
  2. Is It Really Jack? (3:53)
  3. Jack At Ex-Wife’s House (3:25)
  4. Jack Visits Charlie’s Room (3:24)
  5. The Crystals (2:14)
  6. The Crystal Monitor (2:18)
  7. Jack And Wife On Park Bench (3:08)
  8. They Re-Activate The Crystal Monitor (2:03)
  9. Pushing Back Through Gate To Hospital (3:53)
  10. Jack Meets Alien Self And Finale (9:10)

    In The Line Of Duty

  11. Teaser (2:50)
  12. Medical Time (3:12)
  13. O’Neill Comforts Cassie (3:05)
  14. O’Neill To Burn Victim (0:38)
  15. Teal’c Gives O’Neill Advice (2:28)
  16. Daniel Talks To Girl Survivor (2:07)
  17. Bad Guy Bandages Doc (2:20)
  18. Daniel Talks To Alien Carter (2:26)
  19. Finale – Daniel And Then Others Visit (10:11)
    Disc Two
    In The Serpent’s Lair

  1. Finale (8:50)

    Singularity

  2. Teaser (3:34)
  3. From Stargate To New World (2:36)
  4. Sam With Girl And Back Through Gate (2:49)
  5. Sam And Little Girl Get Closer (2:58)
  6. Heart Attack And Operation (3:36)
  7. Jack And Teal’c Escaping Battle (4:22)
  8. To The Underground Site (2:35)
  9. Time Is Up And Finale (8:26)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: June 27, 2017
Disc one total running time: 67:01
Disc two total running time: 40:01

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Volume 1 – music by Alan Silvestri

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Volume 1When the original Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan, premiered in 1980 on PBS, it was tracked with a hand-picked combination drawing from the classical orchestral repertoire and the synth-heavy works of Vangelis. It defined the show beautifully. Doing something even remotely resembling Cosmos in the 21st century, however, has a whole different list of demands. Photorealistic CGI allows actual images from space to be incorporated into beautifully choreographed and detailed simulations of space. It’s movie quality. The music should probably step up and meet that definition of epic as well.

With that in mind, it was no surprise to see veteran Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri selected to bring the new Cosmos to musical life. Silvestri’s score for the film version of Sagan’s Contact was one of the highlights of that movie, and if you understand the musical vocabulary of awe and wonder that his music brought to Contact, you’ll dig this, for that’s the same sensibility he brings to the 2014 series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Four generous albums of music from the series have been available digitally for some time, but this is their first official CD release, and the discs bring previously unreleased material with them (the music from a sequence covering the planet Venus and an alternate version of the deceptively gentle main theme).

The 21st century Cosmos has a sense of awe and wonder worthy of the original, but its more filmic sensibilities get a wide-screen musical treatment that would do any sci-fi movie proud. It’s unapologetically bold and adventurous, and very much the real thing – a real orchestra and choir are embellished, but very seldom overtaken, by electronics. Each episode featured at least one lavishly animated tale of a pioneering scientific mind, and Silvestri deftly navigated the narrow strait between “music from the part of the world that person was from” and “ethnic musical stereotypes”, usually by erring primarily on the side of scoring it like straight-up live-action drama. This volume’s suite of music from the sequence depicting the life of Giordano Bruno is really its emotional center, an island of human drama in an album of what might otherwise be considered “space music”.

4 out of 4But there’s nothing bland here – every moment of music has mystery and drama propelling it, much of it originating from that first episode in which Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that we’re all starstuff. This soundtrack would be equally at home on the flight deck of Tyson’s “ship of the imagination”, or on the bridge of any movie or TV starship you care to name. Best of all, it accompanies a story much more grounded in reality. Just a beautiful listen, and if the existing downloads are any indication, the later volumes are even better.

Order this CD

  1. Cosmos Main Title (1:38)
  2. “Come With Me” (2:00)
  3. “The Cosmos Is Yours” (6:23)
  4. Virgo Supercluster (4:05)
  5. Multiverse (2:10)
  6. Giordano Bruno (2:39)
  7. Revelation of Immensity (3:57)
  8. The Inquisition (3:35)
  9. The Staggering Immensity of Time (2:11)
  10. Star Stuff (4:12)
  11. Chance Nature of Existence (3:27)
  12. New Years’ Eve (3:49)
  13. “Our Journey Is Just Beginning” (3:04)
  14. Venus (2:50)
  15. Cosmos Main Title – Alternate (1:54)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: June 13, 2017
Total running time: 48:31

Mars – music by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

MarsThe spare, atmospheric sound of National Geographic’s short-run series Mars fits the show’s tone like a glove – the awe and wonder of exploring another world is jettisoned in favor of claustrophobia and worse.

Nick Cave (yes, he of the Bad Seeds) and Warren Ellis can at least claim a coup with the throbbing, foreboding theme song for the show. I’m of the opinion that it’s almost a waste to have Cave score something without singing a few words, and this certainly satisfies that requirement. It may actually be the best thing on the whole album.

The rest of the selections from the Mars score aren’t musically lacking; everything’s nicely produced. But with the show’s dense sound design, almost constant narration or dialogue or documentary sound, and its pace, this is the kind of whole-note synth-pad scoring that has started to seem less in vogue in the 21st century. It can be a bit of a somnolent listen.

And yet you can’t fault the composers for that – they’re responding perfectly to the show’s perhaps-too-bleak tone, which was really my only complaint with the show as a whole. It was all beautifully photographed, the set design and the spacesuits and other hardware were very convincing, and the actors delivered the goods, interspering the fictional story with relevant present-day documentary segments. If you want the music to 3 out of 4reflect something other than the oppressive bleakness portrayed on screen, maybe…put something a little more noble and hopeful and wondrous on screen?

A good listen, but perhaps not all in one sitting. The Mars score is probably just a little too tied into the visuals of the series to be purely a listening experience.

Order this CD

  1. Mars Theme (1:42)
  2. Mars (4:00)
  3. Daedalus (3:00)
  4. Earth (2:11)
  5. Science (2:15)
  6. Voyage (4:52)
  7. Space X (2:42)
  8. Space Station (4:16)
  9. Symphony of the Dead (9:38)
  10. Planetarium (2:43)
  11. Aftermath (4:42)
  12. Towards Daedalus (3:00)
  13. Life on Mars (3:52)

Released by: Milan Records
Release date: December 30, 2016
Total running time: 49:08