My admission of guilt first: I have only watched Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) so I’m not claiming to be an expert, music or otherwise*.
Watching Star Trek (or any movie for that matter) with a focus on the music is not always easy as I tend to get drawn into the visuals thus forgetting to focus on the music. However, remove the music and immediately many of the visual impacts are lost. Imagine a suspense scene without that music guiding you to the “jump from your seat” moment. How those cycling highlights on TV are much more glamorous once music is added. And what about a silent shower scene in Psycho? Here are some of my thoughts on the music:
- When Captain Robau’s “pod” flies over to the Narada, that wonderful timpani sound is accompanied by what almost sounds like an orchestra warming up (to digress…I just love the sound of an orchestra pit prior to a performance commencing). Here it seems to give us a sense of warming up before the story gets going.
- When Jim’s mother is giving birth, the music perfectly contradicts the action on screen thus heightening the effect for me. Beautifully calm while visual chaos ensues and then increasing the tempo to climax with the Star Trek title.
- When Spock is told he has done well despite his human disadvantage the ‘music’ is almost purely bells tolling in the background providing an ominous atmosphere as he makes his critical decision. Once he declines the bells stop. The impact of this moment would not be the same in silence.
- Have you noticed how wonderfully two different worlds of Kirk and Spock are created musically when we are first introduced to them, after the Star Trek title? Kirk’s scenes are accompanied by rock/pop-type music adding to our rebellious perception of him. Spock’s Vulcan, on the other hand, has scenes with orchestral** music at a much slower tempo.
- The blips and bleeps and any other sound effects form as much part of the soundtrack as the “formal” music. Listen how they complement the orchestration.
- Strings are often used in movies to heighten suspense and throughout Star Trek they too add to this atmosphere.
Could you imagine watching a silent Star Trek (aside from dialogue)? Without that wonderful epic sound (composed by Michael Giacchino) to heighten the impact of battle scenes? How dull and boring.
*Please don’t judge – these thoughts are purely how the music came across to me. I may be far off the mark and I may also be over analysing. But then, this isn’t meant to be a serious study.
**According to Wikipedia, the Erhu (Chinese Violin) was used for Vulcan scenes.