Ron Jones' "Assassination"...

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by swaaye, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 16, 2000
    South Pennsyltucky
    Starfleet Command and Starfleet Command II both had bonus discs with the games' scores. (Actually, SFC2 also had the SFC score.) Interestingly, the bonus disc for SFC had an interesting track in its score -- "Duel of the Fates" by John Williams. I know one of the producers on the game, and I asked him about that. It was a joke that slipped through the cracks. The bonus discs, apparently, didn't have to go through the standard Paramount approval process; for instance, they had the unapproved artwork (and it's stamped "Unapproved" across the image), so no one outside the game studio ever caught on.
  2. Doik

    Doik Ensign Newbie

    Jan 2, 2009
    Does anyone please have the text of the Cinefantastique article they did on the demise of Trek music? It is in the October 1993 issue, I can't find it anywhere online, but it sums it all up pretty nicely from what I remember. Would love to read it again!

  3. Doik

    Doik Ensign Newbie

    Jan 2, 2009
    Cinefantastique, October 1993.

    The Final Frontier’s Musical Dischord

    Composers aren’t allowed to exploit the show’s full symphonic potential.

    By Lukas Kendell

    Picard is trapped in Ten-Forward as the deadly Baryon sweep emerges from the wall.
    As the field of radiation moves steadily closer, he calls into his communicator for it to
    be deactivated. It is not; he calls again. The sweep still comes, pinning him against a
    window until the very last second!...

    Whereas a quarter century ago a similar scene would have been punctuated by
    relentless brass and flailing percussion, a STAR TREK composer today could do the
    same only at the risk of losing his job. A 27-year musical legacy, begun by Gene
    Roddenberry, asking composers for CAPTAIN BLOOD has effectively ended with
    producers Rick Berman, Peter Lauritson and Wendy Neuss setting intricate and
    extensive guidelines for current composers Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway,
    who declined to be interviewed.

    One fact that people who criticize the music of STAR TREK fail to realize, however, is
    that the show’s subdued music is by no means the fault of the composers. Both
    McCarthy and Chattaway realize their job description is to underscore the show’s
    drama within the guidelines set forth by their employers. They often put aside what
    they are capable of doing in order to deliver what the producers want, leaving them to
    take harsh criticism from fans.

    To set the record straight: the responsibility for STAR TREK’s music lies with its
    producers, who tell the composers what not to write, oversee every note recorded,
    and dub the music heavily under sound effects. By all accounts, McCarthy and
    Chattaway have given the producers exactly what they want, some of it exceptional
    work, which won McCarthy an Emmy last year for his score for “Unification I.”

    Why the producers would want to clamp down on music is a mystery to many,
    including story editor Brannon Braga: “I’ll openly say I’m mystified why a show like
    ‘Best of Both Worlds’ has stupendous music that kicks it into the classic zone − it
    enriched the episode tremendously − and then I look at a show like ‘Real of Fear,’
    which is by no means anywhere close to ‘Best of Both Worlds’ but would have been
    helped with a more dynamic score. I felt the whole show had little swells of music that
    never took off and that frequently happens.”

    Ford A. Thaxton produced the first NEXT GENERATION soundtrack for
    GNP/Crescendo Records, and has similar sentiments: “Here’s a show where the
    producers were so paranoid, they’ve ruined many of their own shows. Case in point:
    ‘Qpid,’ the Robin Hood show. According to the people who were there, the first thing
    Dennis McCarthy said was ‘OK, it’s Erich Wolfgang Korngold time.’ And that was
    exactly what the producers didn’t want − it terrified them. They didn’t want to look
    silly, so they made Dennis treat it like any other episode. And as a consequence, it
    ruined the show. It should have been one of the all-time classic shows, and it ended
    up just laying there.”

    McCarthy and Chattaway alternate episodes on THE NEXT GENERATION and
    DEEP SPACE NINE, recording scores with 40-piece orchestras as few television
    shows today can afford to do. The ensemble consists mostly of strings and a battery
    of French horns to give the scores their characteristic smooth and sustained sound;
    electronics are used as well, to pad out the sound. It is a style which produces
    intricate, sound-oriented scores which are often ripe for annihilation by the extensive
    STAR TREK sound effects.

    For many television composers, such a chance to work with an orchestra would be a
    dream come true. Fred Molin is a television composer who has provided synthesizer
    scores for science fiction/horror shows such as FRIDAY THE 13th: THE SERIES,
    BEYOND REALITY, and FOREVER KNIGHT. Notes Mollin, “I’ve seen a lot of
    excerpts from STAR TREK, although I by no means watch it start to finish, and I am
    amazed how sublimated the score is, because I know how talented the composers
    are and I know how luxurious it is to have an orchestra to do these kinds of scores for
    this kind of show. It seems a shame to waste what are probably extraordinary
    symphonic scores by sublimating them to an air conditioning sound or the hum of the
    spaceship. However, it’s hard to argue with the kind of success the shows are

    One of STAR TREK’s most acclaimed directors, David Carson, concurred. “When
    you watch a STAR TREK, whether it be THE NEXT GENERATION or DEEP SPACE
    NINE, you’re aware of the amount of money that is spent on music, or at least I am
    as a director,” said Carson. “They don’t use a synthesizer and a pennywhistle, they
    use an orchestra, and you get this enormous sound coming out of the television
    which you normally get only on movies. You don’t have a piano tinkling in the
    background on STAR TREK, you have a very heavy, thick, full sound. So therefore,
    because you have that luxury, it is a pity to bury it. It’s good to let it thunder a bit.
    Now, one of the difficulties is that many TV speakers can’t take a great deal of good
    sound, and sometimes what you hear in the dubbing theatre when you mix it is totally
    different from what comes out over the TV. You can never get that brass quality. That
    disappears entirely, and you’re left with the top end. When I used to look over all
    aspects of my own shows while in England, I was horrified by how the scores
    sounded over the TV.”

    Noted executive producer Rick Berman of the dubbing process, “There’s only so
    much you can do with music on the television screen, and we mix the music up as far
    as we can, with the exception of keeping it obviously to a point where it doesn’t fight
    with the dialogue.”

    STAR TREK’s recording sessions are meticulously supervised by producer Neuss
    and often by Lauritson as well, to make sure every cue fits the established STAR
    TREK aesthetic. The music is scrutinised yet again at the dubbing stage, when sound
    effects, dialogue, and music is mixed− “cues,” the individual pieces of music, are
    mixed down or dropped if needed. To Thaxton, this demonstrates a desire for control
    on the part of the producers: “To the best of my knowledge, once a TV show is up
    and running, producers don’t come to the spotting [where it is decided where music
    will go in an episode]. Maybe an associate producer will show up, spot the show with
    the composer, and then say ‘See you at the dub.’ They don’t have three people
    sitting there going over each cue like it was a feature film. That’s ridiculous. The
    producers don’t trust the composers, they want to keep them on a leash in case
    something slips through. Did these guys have a bad experience at a Vivaldi concert
    when they were little or what?”

    A number of STAR TREK soundtracks have been released through GNP/Crescendo
    Records, the producers’ guidelines hardly making their job easier. “As people who
    produce the STAR TREK records, we like music with feeling − bombastic emotional
    music that’s interesting to listen to,” said Crescendo’s Mark Banning. “Rick Berman
    and Peter Lauritson seem to go out of their way to make sure the music is not at all
    like that. They think for some reason that the music detracts from the visuals, as
    opposed to adding something important to them, and the way they make Jay and
    Dennis compose their music is more than evidence of that. We put out the ‘Best of
    Both Worlds’ score by Ron Jones and it won best soundtrack of the year for us.
    That’s the kind of music we get requests for, that’s the kind of music people watching
    STAR TREK want to hear, and the kind of music we would very much like to see

    STAR TREK expert Mark Altman joined in criticizing the producer’s use of music. “I
    have very few qualms with the show, as people know, but there is little question that
    burying music in the mix has impacted adversely on the show,” said Altman. “One
    particular recent episode that comes to mind is ‘Starship Mine,’ which is a balls out,
    action/adventure, run-and-jump show, which was hurt initially by budget
    considerations, but which could have been saved by a strong musical score, along
    the lines of what we’ve had in ‘Brothers,’ which Ron Jones supplied with a tour de
    force score that makes the first fifteen minutes of the episode unforgettable. That’s
    what ‘Starship Mine’ needed, a Goldsmithian bombastic score. By going with
    subtlety, it just castrates and emasculates the episode and makes it suffer, and it’s a
    shame. You can say that the old show was hokey and corny but as far as I’m
    concerned there’s something to be said for it. People are still humming ‘Doomsday
    Machine’ today, a very effective score, albeit slightly melodramatic, whereas people
    aren’t humming anything from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.”

    When the new STAR TREK began, producer Rick Berman’s taste for subtle music
    was countered by Bob Justman, a veteran of the original series who liked music big
    and bold, which composers McCarthy and Jones delivered. When Justman left at the
    end of season one, however, Berman was free to institute his subtle approach.
    Senior composer McCarthy complied with the decisions that came down: Don’t use
    your Picard theme anymore; don’t use electronic percussion on the bridge; don’t be
    excessively melodic. Junior composer Jones, who was chronically overbudget and a
    behind-the-scenes trouble-maker, got around these orders by effectively ignoring
    them. As the series progressed, McCarthy’s work got more and more toned down,
    while Jones cranked out dynamic scores for some of the show’s most memorable
    episodes, like ‘The Best of Both Worlds.” McCarthy, only able to produce the
    occasional bombastic score like “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” ended up taking an
    ungodly amount of criticism from fans who did not understand that he was not
    incapable of writing as Jones did, he had just been told not to. The producers’
    patience with Jones finally ran out with fourth season’s “The Drumhead.” He hasn’t
    scored a show since.

    Enter Jay Chattaway, a veteran of feature films like MANIAC COP, MISSING IN
    ACTION and RED SCORPION. Chattaway’s first TREK outing was for third season’s
    “Tin Man,” which he provided with a melodic, bombastic score, full of developed
    themes and exotic instrumentation. The score was deemed too melodic by the
    producers, and Chattaway turned in a slightly less bombastic fill-in score for fourth
    season’s “Remember Me.” When Ron Jones was let go, Chattaway came aboard,
    and developed a non-thematic, ambient style the producers liked. He was recently
    able to do a spaghetti western style score for “A Fistful of Datas.”

    Outside composers working on THE NEXT GENERATION have included Don Davis,
    a veteran of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TV series, who provided an earful of
    active melodies of yesteryear for THE NEXT GENERATION episode “Face of the
    Enemy.” The producers objected to many of the bombastic and melodic qualities
    present on his score, and if Davis happens to score any more episodes, it is likely
    such qualities will not be present.

    Being new to the series, Davis got to experience the meticulous set-up the producers
    have to oversee music. “What was unusual about the spotting was that they were
    organized,” said Davis. “There were three producers present, and they looked at the
    picture independently of each other and made their own personal notes as to where
    the music should go. I’ve never encountered that before. It was also interesting
    because their notes were fairly consistent with each other and they were also pretty
    consistent with where I thought the music should go. So I felt we were pretty much in
    synch during the spotting.

    “The recording session was very meticulous and Wendy [Neuss] recommended
    some changes which I implemented, and Peter [Lauritson] was in for one cue and he
    suggested some changes here and there and I made those changes. It was very
    much a collaborative effort and I feel it went very well. There was a general toning
    down, but I felt it was making the score more streamlined…During the dub there was
    some indication they prefer certain things and tend not to like certain other things, but
    it was all in the spirit of ‘next time around.’

    “I haven’t gotten real clear communication on the score, whether they liked it or not,”
    said Davis. “I think what it came down to is they didn’t want to use me right away as
    they recognize I’m going to need some breaking in, and they weren’t willing to do that
    right now. They didn’t have the time or energy, and it would be in anticipation of next
    season anyway. I’m hoping I have an opportunity to work on the show again because
    it’s really an inspiring thing to do.”

    For the time being there would seem to be little possibility for change in STAR
    TREK’s musical direction. The producers have two phenomenally successful shows,
    so they’ve obviously done something right. Ford Thaxton summed up the argument
    against them: “This is a show celebrating the human spirit, and to do that effectively,
    when you’re on a big planet with cardboard rocks, you need a big musical score to
    sell it. To have a big ship travelling through the galaxy, and not allow the music to
    have any humanity, that’s insane! The producers want cold-sounding music − if the
    composers try to slip in any humanity, any warmth, they get crucified. The producer’s
    attitude is: no it’s too big. I hate to point this out, but it happens to be a 1000-foot
    starship boldly going where no one has gone before. What do you want, a kazoo?”
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2009
  4. jongredic

    jongredic Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jul 10, 2008
    I think I understand what GodBen was trying to get at about music sometimes not complimenting what you're seeing properly. An example I can think of in Enterprise is the music to Trip's escape scene in Terra Prime. It was a little too... I don't know what the right word is, but "odd", and I ended up focusing more on that, than what I was seeing.

    I also understood the point of if the characters are walking in a corridor, and the sound is crisp, then having music along the lines of an organ in a cathedral with lots of reverb might not sit too well with what you're seeing, depending on the mood that is being conveyed by the scene. I can't think of any examples offhand, but I know what he was getting at.

    As for Murray Gold - I'm also not quite sure what my opinion of his work is. I mean, he did neglect the middle eight of the Doctor Who theme tune for the first season. I think he commented in an interview that it sounds a bit hokey. Tut tut :p

    Some of the scores in the last couple of seasons seemed to me to feature motifs I associated with other shows - such as the brass fall-off I associate more with Lost than Doctor Who, or a theme that crops up now and then that sounds a little bit like the BBC Hitchhiker's Guide series from the 80s. I'm not saying it's a necessarily a bad thing, but I much prefer his work when I'm not wondering if it's like something else I've heard.

    As for Trek composers, I think they're generally pretty good, although season 6 of DS9 and season 4 and the first half of season 5 of Voyager seemed become a little more watered down in their musical scores. There's a common two-note theme that is used in a lot of those episodes (it kinda goes WOHHHH-wohhhhhhh... you know what I mean). It wasn't until later on that I thought the musical scores started to pick up again (Dark Frontier having a superb, and slightly creepy, score) and become a bit more unique. I couldn't pick a favourite, but Ron Jones is definitely a contender and it's a shame he didn't get to do more work on Trek.
  5. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 30, 2008
    I think you are referring to the scores of David Bell, a composer that I personally thought was great on DS9. I agree that his music didn't fit well with Voyager's "popcorn" style, but I thought his WOHHHH-wohhhhhhh music fit in well with the dark style of the Dominion War. Plus, I always liked the fact that he had a style and he repeated it, it gave DS9 its own sound rather than generic music of the week that the other composers were forced to do.
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    You could always tell a David Bell Trek score, because he was the only composer who routinely worked in waltz time. The other composers generally used 4/4 time, but his stuff was almost always 3/4 (a tempo Goldsmith also used a lot).

    Bell is an excellent composer, but I felt his work became the most repetitive of any Trek composer's work. His later VGR scores became virtually interchangeable, with the same few melodies being used over again. But when he was given the chance to cut loose and do something unusual, as in "Bride of Chaotica," for instance, he was able to shine. (And say what you will about "Spirit Folk," at least it gave Jay Chattaway the chance to do some really excellent Celtic music.)

    Doik, thanks for posting that CFQ article. Very informative.
  7. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

    Nov 18, 2001
    the Unreconstructed South
    I much prefer the leitmotif rich style of music TOS established and that Jones tried to maintain to the "sonic wallpaper" crap.

    Musically speaking, the first two seasons of TNG were SOOOO much better than anything that followed. I particularly liked the score for the Binars episode (can't ever remember the binary numbers...).
  8. Praetorian

    Praetorian Captain Captain

    Jan 2, 2002
    I would also include the Third Season in that list. Ron Jones was still doing his thing and McCarthy still put out some bombastic and melodic scores. As well as the first Chattaway score which was certanly epic.
    But in the fourth season McCarthy was pratically neutered, Ron Jones toned down a bit (but still great) and Chattaway started to become lame as well.

    But things did improve. Not much in TNG, but latter DS9 and VOY seasons had some nice soundtracks even if very repetitive. Then of course ENT had some of the best music probably since the Third Season of TNG.

    Btw, I must say I loved Ron Jones even before I knew who he was and what Star Trek was even. His score for Duck Tails is something I really enjoyed. The same for Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Command.

    When I started seeing TNG I was like "Damn, who's the guy doing these amazing soundtracks?"...then all was connected. Too bad it didn't last long. Silly executives.
  9. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jul 17, 2003

    Are you at all familiar with the relationship between Gene Roddenberry and Harold Michelson with regards to the screenplay of TMP? I think Michaelson was fired and/or quit about 10 times because he and Roddenberry kept throwing tantrums over the other's revisions.

    Roddenberry himself was creative and temperamental, but he couldn't stand having others working for him who were. He wanted those working for him to do it his way, period, end of story.

    Much like Rick Berman.
  10. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

    Nov 18, 2001
    the Unreconstructed South
    Or the way he treated David Gerrald and DC Fontanna during the start up phase of TNG...
  11. Doik

    Doik Ensign Newbie

    Jan 2, 2009
    Sometimes while watching a TNG or especially DS9, I would suddenly hear quite a good score and think "Wow, are the composers being let off the leash?" But then at the end credits it would be a strange name that was never heard from again. I can see why Jones called Berman "Stalin" - like in Soviet Russia, composers that showed the least bit of flair were dispatched off to Siberia never to be heard from again. There are actually quite a few composers that only composed once for the shows. It really is odd, the Treks encouraged good writing, good acting, good lighting (except the last few years of TNG) - I just don't understand Berman's chronic misunderstanding of the role of music.
  12. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 16, 2000
    South Pennsyltucky
    Harold Livingston, you mean. :)
  13. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jul 17, 2003
    ^ Crap, yes, you're right. Though I'd guess Roddenberry dictated alot of arbitrary things to Michaelson too, based on comments of other designers who worked on the picture... :)
  14. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Oct 30, 2008
    Ron Jones is an awesome composer! In my opinion, the best to ever work on TNG...
  15. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

    Oct 14, 2004
    No, I think Michaelson dictated a helluva lot, and is the man most responsbile for ruining the look of TMP with the lights coming up from the floor and such, which he pushed on the cinematographer, apparently with Wise's blessing.

    The Phase 2 sets weren't perfect, but what he did to them didn't often improve things (outside of the forced perspective stuff.)
  16. Broccoli

    Broccoli Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 3, 2001
    Interesting to see the Braga quote up there in the article posted by Doik. I wonder if Braga was partly the reason why Ent's scores started to become more diverse.
  17. Dane_Whitman

    Dane_Whitman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Oct 22, 2007
    Dinner to bug.
    I would assume so. He would have been about the only one who could convince (or force?) Berman to loosen up when it comes to the musical scores.

    I wonder if Braga was also the one who approved ENT's more loose style of direction of its episodes. Especially the last two seasons are a lot more dynamically directed. Another thing Berman was always opposed of.
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    ^^People on the Internet are actually saying nice things about Brannon Braga? Wow, Obama really is ushering in a new era! :D
  19. Broccoli

    Broccoli Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 3, 2001
    ^ I've always said nice things about Brannon Braga. The guy gets far, far too much crap, much of which he had nothing to do with.
  20. Doik

    Doik Ensign Newbie

    Jan 2, 2009
    The sixth season DS9 episode "One Little Ship" has a leitmotif - an actual recurring theme!!!

    Shock, horror!

    It isn't a western or a flashback to another time-period. Perhaps for the first time since Ron Jones was pushed out, I heard a melody - something I could hum in a Star Trek episode that was based in the Star Trek universe (pretty much - the crew was shrunk down). Even more bizzare was that this episode was scored by the usually compliant Jay Chattaway. Maybe he just snapped after years of pumping out bland garbage. I wonder if he was locked in a cellar for this by Berman.