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

8 Bit Weapon – Class Apples

8 Bit Weapon - Class ApplesI remember the Apple II. By way of the Franklin ACE 1000 clone that was later sued off the market, I grew up with the Apple II as my first computer. I programmed it – or tried to – endlessly. Trying to get music and sound right with the native Apple II speaker was an especially bruising experience: endless data tables, pokes, and very seldom getting what I wanted out of the machine. A whole sub-industry was born to bolt better audio capability onto the Apple II via add-ons like the Mockingboard sound card. It was never as easy as just plugging a MIDI-capable keyboard into it and just playing what was in your head.

Except that now, it is. And that’s how we got Class Apples – a new MIDI controller interface, and a modern-day software hack allowing for samples to expand the sound of the Apple II, and 8 Bit Weapon doing what 8 Bit Weapon does. The entirety of Class Apples is performed on Apple II computers, with minor post-production tweaks providing the finishing touches that the Apple itself can’t (reverb, stereo tricks, a bit of flanging here and there). It’s still the same lo-fi machine that it always was, but the Apple II can do more musically thanks to persistent fans of the machine grafting new abilities onto it, inspired by technological developments that have taken place since the Apple II’s heyday.

The music here is all from the classical repertoire, and heavy on pieces with complex counterpoint. Everything has a beat to it, and there’s a strong Hooked On Classics vibe to the whole thing. It’s hard to nominate any one track as a standout – each of them have their own charms – though I’m always a sucker for “Ave Maria” and, well, just about any flavor of Bach.

4 out of 4Computer music may be nothing new, and classics filtered through computer music may be nothing new, but there is something new here – significant musical capabilities have been grafted onto a machine that was known for little more than the plaintive PR#6 “BEEP” that accompanied a startup or reset. Just as 8 Bit Weapon helped alert the public to the possibilities of the NES and Game Boy as musical instruments, the same can now be said of the not-especially-musically-inclined Apple II. It’s a musical tech demo that is, if you know anything about the Apple II’s native sound capabilities, surprisingly listenable. You had me at INIT HELLO,S6,D1.

Order this CD

  1. Sheep May Safely Graze (Bach – 2:55)
  2. Two Part Invention (Bach – 1:03)
  3. Prelude and Fugue 1 in C Major (Bach – 1:29)
  4. Für Elise (For Elise) (Beethoven – 2:14)
  5. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) (Mozart – 5:24)
  6. Invention 8 (Bach – 0:51)
  7. Prelude in C Minor (Bach – 1:35)
  8. Rondo Alla Turca (Mozart – 2:07)
  9. Invention 14 (Bach – 1:13)
  10. Air Tromb (Bach – 1:29)
  11. Ave Maria (Bach & Gounod – 2:52)
  12. Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven – 4:43)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: July 22, 2017
Total running time: 27:55

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