×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Composer Jeff Russo Boldly Takes ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Into New Musical Territory

Composer Jeff Russo felt the weight of more than half a century of music for the various incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi epic when he sat down to write the theme for the new “Star Trek: Discovery,” debuting Sept. 24 on CBS (and continuing on its CBS All Access streaming service).

The concept came from his initial discussions with producers. “We talked about the idea of ‘Star Trek,’ which is exploration and harmony and discord between people and species,” he says. “Yes, people fight, but the overall theme is that we’re all one. What could I do to embody that in music?”

He remembered the idea of “common tone” in music theory: “If every chord I played shared one single note, how could I fashion that and then write a melody on top of it? The idea of a commonality in people and species — I wanted to apply it to the music.”

Then, to tip his hat to Alexander Courage’s original “Star Trek” theme, he bookended his new music with elements from that famous fanfare. The 100-second theme — long for network — combines an air of mystery, a propulsive rhythm and a hopeful feeling while reminding viewers that it’s all still “Star Trek.”

Russo, a three-time Emmy nominee and recent winner for his music for FX’s “Fargo,” watched the original series in reruns as a kid in 1970s and became a self-described fanboy of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in the 1980s. A former rock drummer and guitarist, his other recent series include “Legion” and “The Night Of.”

Like all previous “Trek” series, “Discovery” is scored orchestrally. “We said, ‘We’re not doing this on a synthesizer,’” says exec producer Alex Kurtzman. “Jeff has a modern sound that’s also rooted in the classical film composers. We wanted to make ‘Discovery’ a movie on television.”

Russo used a 64-piece orchestra for the pilot and 51 players for each of the six episodes scored to date.

“Discovery” is the first of the six “Trek” TV series to have a single composer writing every score. With each episode averaging from 31 to 38 minutes of music, it takes Russo six days to finish a score. He can work quickly because he spent weeks developing a series of secondary themes — for Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), Starfleet, Klingons and others — that are useful as the 15-episode story arc unfolds.

Unlike earlier musical treatments of the warlike Klingons, “it’s not all gloom and doom and marching drums,” Russo says. Instead, he’s manipulated guttural vocal noises and added ethnic wind instruments for a unique sonic signature for the race.

Russo had a loftier goal: “Connect the audience to these people who have their own emotions, their own thoughts and feelings. They’re fighting for their own place in the universe. There is an emotional aspect to some of the music I’ve written for the Klingons. We don’t need to play bad-guy music.”

More Artisans

  • Chaz Ebert DePaul CHA Documentary Filmmaking

    Chicago Program Gives High School Girls Lessons in Documentary Filmmaking

    At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, three of the projects screening in the Short Film Corner — “Birthday,” “Phenomenally Me” and “Without Dying” — will be products of the DePaul/CHA Documentary Filmmaking Program, a six-week course co-sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority in which high school girls learn filmmaking from graduate students and faculty of [...]

  • Steven Spielberg55th Annual CAS Awards, Inside,

    Cinema Audio Society Sets 2020 Awards Show Three Weeks Earlier

    The Cinema Audio Society has moved its 2020 awards show ahead by three weeks to Jan. 25 due to the compression of the season. It will be held at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. The CAS Awards recognize sound mixing in film and television, outstanding products for production and post-production, as well as the recipient [...]

  • Rocketman Elton John Biopic

    'Rocketman' Production Team Took the Fantasy Route With the Elton John Biopic

    Paramount has high hopes for “Rocketman,” the Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton as the legendary performer. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, the film comes on the heels of Fox’s massively successful Freddie Mercury movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and could capitalize on audiences’ newly discovered interest in rock star stories that transport [...]

  • Burbank-based Barnstorm VFX Studio Expands to

    Barnstorm VFX, Creator of Visuals for Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and Other Shows, Expands to Vancouver

    Barnstorm VFX, the company behind the visual effects on Amazon Studios’ “The Man in the High Castle” (pictured above), “HBO’s Silicon Valley” and CBS’ “Strange Angel,” has opened a new facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. The move positions the boutique digital effects, design and production shop to take advantage of expanding work north of the [...]

  • Maryland Production Incentives Include 25%-27% Refundable

    Maryland Lures Producers With a Tax Credit of Up to 27%

    With its close proximity to the nation’s capital and a wide diversity of filming locations, Maryland offers producers many enticements. The physical attractions range from the historic and picturesque Chesapeake Bay, scenic Appalachian Mountain landscapes, the U.S. Naval Academy with its marching cadets, the gritty yet gentrifying cityscapes of Baltimore, and the leafy suburbs around [...]

  • Women Rule in Front of, Behind

    Women Reign in Front of and Behind the Camera on 'The Spanish Princess'

    “The Spanish Princess,” which premiered May 5, rounds out the Starz miniseries triptych that began in 2013 with “The White Queen” and continued four years later with “The White Princess.” The latest seven episodes revolve around Spain’s Catherine of Aragon, played by Charlotte Hope, in line to receive the highly contested throne of England in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content