Like millions around the world, I've been a life-long fan of all things Star Trek ever since the original series launched on TV in the 1960s. So this sad weekend development deserves to be noted and remembered in my book. Here's the headline item from CNN.com:
"LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Alexander "Sandy" Courage, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated arranEdit Post | Post | *michael parekh on IT* | Your Weblogs | TypePadger, orchestrator and composer who created the otherworldly theme for the classic "Star Trek" TV show, has died. He was 88."
Don't remember the original Star Trek music theme? Let me help you with this one minute clip from YouTube:
Now Mr. Courage obviously accomplished a great deal more in his life than just this iconic theme that went onto the be the basis of every Star Trek music piece over the last four decades. But this piece of course is what he'll be most remembered for in the mainstream consciousness.
Of course, how the piece got developed is an interesting story in itself. Here's an account from the Washington Post:
"His fanfare-style introduction to "Star Trek," eight notes played by the brass section, followed by the wordless melody with a prominent soprano voice won him enduring recognition among generations of "Trekkies" and even casual viewers of the science fiction show.
"Star Trek" originally aired on NBC from 1966 to 1969 and has been in perennial syndication.
He told an interviewer that he never was a science-fiction fan. "I think it's just marvelous malarkey," he said. "So you write some marvelous malarkey music that goes with it."
"To write the "Star Trek" theme, Mr. Courage thought back to a pop song from his childhood that conjured images of going into the far distance. He came up with "Beyond the Blue Horizon," popularized by Jeanette MacDonald, and featuring a fast, train-like rhythm pulsating beneath the soaring melody.
Mr. Courage adapted the idea to the "Star Trek" job, which he completed in a week. His vision of the music included a soprano singer (Loulie Jean Norman), a flute, an organ and maybe a vibraphone. But he said the show's producer, Gene Roddenberry, wanted to accentuate the female voice. When Roddenberry was done, he said, the music "sounded like a soprano solo."
And like most great show biz stories, there's an interesting twist about money, as the Washington Post piece goes on to explain:
"Burlingame, author of "TV's Biggest Hits," said Roddenberry went further to annoy Mr. Courage by adding words to the instrumental theme. The lyrics begin: "Beyond the rim of the star-light/My love is wand'ring in star flight."
"It was horrible," Burlingame said. "Courage was never consulted, but Roddenbury from that point on was entitled to take 50 percent of royalties. . . . This upset Courage, understandably, not that he wrote a lyric, but that he wrote a lousy lyric that would never be sung anywhere."
Exploiting that loop-hole, Gene Roddenberry managed to get a 50% discount on the theme for a long, long time. Given that this is the music business, it's not anywhere that others have not gone before.