These Are The Musical Voyages…

Spend the briefest length of time with me, and you’ll know that I love film music. I’ve been in love with film music for the better part of my life. It’s effectively permeated my DNA.

Spend a slightly longer length of time with me, and you’ll know that it all started with Jerry Goldsmith and his iconic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Since I first heard “THE score” all those years ago, music has been a huge part of my Star Trek experience.

And last night, that experience took me to a whole new dimension.

Before I go on, let’s get the hard part out of the way. Star Trek Into Darkness, to put it diplomatically, is a problematic film. What’s good in it is very very good (think of Peter Weller’s villain, and most of all Simon Pegg’s Scotty). But what’s good in it is often overshadowed by a script too reliant on past stories and past glories to see how good it could really be if it went its own way. There’s a wonderful meta-subtext (though I suspect it was unintentional) about the dichotomy between action and wonder that has come to define the franchise over the years, but it’s forgotten well before the third act.

The music, though… the music is FANTASTIC. Michael Giacchino is easily one of the best action/adventure composers working today – perhaps THE best – and his score for Star Trek Into Darkness takes the sound he crafted for the 2009 reboot, and just RUNS with it. It’s thrilling, thoughtful, and space-operatic, the kind of score I’m talking about when I say a composer “scored the film that should have been made.”

So when I heard that the San Antonio Symphony would be performing the complete score live, logic dictated that I should be there to hear it.

To elaborate: The two Star Trek reboot films have been on a kind of national symphony tour. While the film plays onscreen, the orchestra plays the music live. And this weekend, fans here in San Antonio had the chance to see Star Trek Into Darkness, with its score performed by our great symphony. It’s truly a unique way to experience film, and music.

(Photo by Crystal Shedrock.)

And so we joined a near-SRO crowd (including a poor bat who I suspect got in after being distracted and confused by the lens flares), at the Majestic Theatre on Friday night. It was a much larger crowd than I’d expected, a much larger mass of expectation.

Now, Michael Giacchino is not an easy composer. And Star Trek Into Darkness is not an easy score. It’s nearly two hours long, and its orchestrations are pretty fast and intricate. Even with the breaks for just-dialogue-and-sound scenes, it’s a workout for any orchestra.

But this was the San Antonio Symphony. An orchestra that took on the music of John Williams, and played it so brilliantly that you could close your eyes and imagine the maestro himself wielding his baton. And they excelled themselves once again.

The evening opened with a recorded greeting from Giacchino himself (who couldn’t be there in person, as he has four major projects on the way), full of his usual grace and good humor. Soon after that, our conductor, Constantine Kitsopoulos, took the stage, and the stars of the Paramount logo began sweeping across the screen.

There’s really nothing like what followed. Hearing the score, and knowing I was in the same room, the same moment, with the musicians performing it, was breathtaking. And more so for how brilliantly they captured the notes and spirit of the Giacchino sound. I kept picking up nuances I’d missed on seeing the film, and listening to the soundtrack. Part of that, I’m sure, was that certain elements, especially the strings and percussion, were more prominent live than in the recorded score (I’m convinced the live arrangement was adapted to play to the live orchestra’s strengths). But so much of it was just the fact that I was hearing it live.

The fact that I was experiencing it live.

If Michael Giacchino were there, he’d have been the first to stand in applause. As it was, the Symphony well earned our standing ovation. It was an amazing night.

If the Star Trek Live tour ever makes its way back to San Antonio, you really should see it. If it doesn’t, you really should seek out another live-to-film performance. If you can’t find one, you really should see the San Antonio Symphony anyway. It’s such a treasure to this city, and I don’t know if we always appreciate that.

But it’s never too late to start.

Thanks once again for following on. Until next time…

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