Today is Mahler’s 150th birthday, and in honor of this I would like to present you with my absolute favorite use of Mahler ever, including the time we used a bunch of his symphonies for our ballet performance in 10th grade. This is from the Voyager episode “Counterpoint,” one of my all time favorites, at least 70% because of Mahler. Here’s the beginning, but feel free to keep watching to the end; Mahler makes it all the way there!
I found this on another blog (http://super-conductor.blogspot.com/) and found it apropos to your topic. Please don’t think you’re not the #1 blog in my heart – clearly you are! 😉
Essay: Mahler in Space! Classical Music on Star Trek
In the 40 years that Star Trek has been on the air, classical music, pop music and opera have been an integral part of the show’s journey through the public’s imagination. The original show featured (admittedly silly) songs sung by Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and several episodes showcased the skill of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on the Vulcan lyre. Albums were released featuring the (questionable) vocal talents of Nimoy (who released five records!) and series star William Shatner, whose 1968 album The Transformed Man regularly makes all-time “worst” lists.
Things got better in the ’80s with the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise-D positively resounded with music. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) played the violin in a string quartet. Later, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learned how to play an alien (Ressikan, for us Trekkies) flagolet. His skills on this small flute can be seen in two memorable episodes, playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and a Mozart trio for flute, oboe and cello. Picard’s second-in-command, William T. Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes) plays the trombone, but prefers Dixieland jazz.
Opera plays a part on Star Trek as well. In the movie Star Trek: First Contact. Captain Picard listens to Berlioz before battlling the Borg–specifically “Vallon sonore,” Hylas’ song from Act V of Les Troyens. Worf is an aficionado of Klingon opera, a series of lengthy, violent heroic dramas listened to by devotees at ear-splitting volume–clearly inspired by Richard Wagner. Finally, on Star Trek: Voyager, the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo) developed as a (non-Klingon) opera aficionado, singing “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Boheme and “Dio, che nell’alma infondere” from Verdi’s Don Carlo in various episodes.
However, the composer who might be most important to Star Trek is Gustav Mahler. When Alexander Courage set out to write the theme for the show, he quoted themes from two different Mahler symphonies to create the famous “Star Trek fanfare” that opens almost every Trek TV episode or movie. First, the mysterious opening figure, a shimmering carpet of violins and violas playing soft, descending minor chords. This theme, with its distinctive chiming triangle, is a direct quotation from the opening of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
The second theme follows quickly: an 8-note figure played on the trumpet and horn. Three rising notes, three descending and two coming back up at the end. Courage borrowed this theme from the development section of the first movement of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. In the original Trek theme, the eight-note fanfare repeats three times, before the music launches into its main melody. When Jerry Goldsmith composed a new theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which became the theme for the Next Generation TV series), the fanfare is played only once as a prelude, before the whole orchestra kicks in. In either case, these two themes are combined to create a stirring moment, one that pleases Mahler aficionadoes and Trek fans alike.
Hope you enjoyed that!
Peace out –
That… is awesome.
Enjoyable read. I wish I had the motivation to write such good posts onto my own blog. It is hard.