The wait is finally over! The long-awaited, long-delayed Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 soundtrack CD has been released from La La Land Records. Narrowing down this incredibly complex and layered season of 20 episodes down to 80 minutes of music was quite a chore, but I’m thrilled with the end result. Nearly every major theme from all three seasons is represented somewhere on the album, as well as many new ones.
I’ve gotten about, oh, I don’t know… a BILLION emails from you guys since this was released last week. Naturally, I’ve had no time to get back to anybody. It’s nothing personal, if you’re one of them. I’ve just been insanely busy with last weekend’s Boingo Halloween concerts (big thanks to everyone who showed up!) and with my composition deadlines. Also, almost everyone who wrote me asked variations on the same questions. So, between updating my BG FAQ and writing this blog entry, I’ll hopefully set the record straight. Anyway, on to the album…
Personally, I think this album kicks ass over the two I’ve done. With each season, the music seems to get bigger and more nuanced, as it continues to develop along with the story. Season 1’s relatively modest selection of percussion instruments has practically exploded into an immense arsenal of taikos, frame drums, tablas, dumbeks and more. The orchestral strings that first made sporadic appearances in season 1 are now woven into the sonic tapestry, featured on almost every track. Character themes have been developed over the years, and have taken on new meaning in the process.
But, above all, we’ve just been getting better at this! As of this writing, I’ve written over 24 hours of music for Battlestar Galactica, spread out over almost a thousand distinct cues. That’s plenty of time to start figuring some things out. And it’s not just me, but my entire music team. We’ve all been pushing the limits of our own abilities over the past three seasons, and this album represents just a few of the musical highlights.
1. A Distant Sadness
- Crossroads Theme (intro section), Laura Roslin Theme (vocals)
- Raya Yarbrough [vocals]
- The album begins with a haunting refrain of the theme from “Crossroads” (which, of course, eventually leads into All Along the Watchtower). In that episode, Tigh and several other characters hear faint refrains of a tune that they can’t quite discern. This was my way of giving the soundtrack listener the same experience! Raya Yarbrough, who performed last season’s Lords of Kobol, delivers her most beautiful vocal yet, sung in Armenian. The text is an original work I composed for the piece, though it has multiple levels of meaning.
- Precipice Theme, Starbuck Destiny Theme (in the middle)
- John Avila [bass]
- This track was used to stitch together the closing moments of “Precipice.” Steve Bartek plays multiple layers of various guitars, but it’s John Avila’s solo electric bass that really drives this track. In the middle, when the momentum dies down, you’ll hear a statement of Kara’s Destiny theme, performed on a solo erhu. All the erhu solos are performed by Martin St. Pierre, and this session happened to be our first of many collaborations. Though all I asked for was erhu, he also brought his yialli tanbur. I loved the sound of this instrument so much that I had him double the duduk and erhu lines with it. This “trio” would eventually play integral roles in many episode scores, including “The Eye of Jupiter,” “Taking a Break from All Your Worries” and the upcoming “Razor.”
- Exodus, Parts I and II
- Adama Family Theme (a.k.a. Wander My Friends)
- Eric Rigler [Irish whistle and Uilleann pipes], Steve Bartek [guitars]
- The Adama family theme, represented for the third album in a row by Eric Rigler. This arrangement is the most romantic and lyrical yet.
- Exodus, Part II
- Worthy of Survival (after the slow strings in the middle)
- M.B. Gordy [taikos], Eric Rigler [Uilleann pipes]
- This was the biggest action sequence of the entire season, so I pulled out all the stops. Previous action cues relied on a diverse arsenal of percussion, but I scaled the ensemble back to multiple layers of taiko drums. This season, I wanted to give the action cues a more unified, Asian sound. To add to the cacophony, there’s also Middle Eastern soloists and string orchestra. And, the incredibly loud Great Highland Bagpipes represent Lee and his father charging to the rescue. As Pegasus charges to Galactica’s rescue, the drums quote a rhythmic pattern from Worthy of Survival (the second time this piece is quoted in this episode, see track 16). As the Pegasus makes its final charge, a lone melody on the Uilleann pipes rises above the chaos. Previously, the only other action cue to include bagpipes was Season 1’s Battle on the Asteroid.
5. Refugees Return
- Exodus, Part II
- Laura Roslin Theme (at the end)
- Chris Bleth [bansuri]
- I’m going to go ahead and say it: this is the single greatest piece of music I’ve ever written for Battlestar Galactica, rivaled only by Deathbed and Maelstrom. It’s actually a very simple musical composition, but it operates on multiple emotional levels, as does the scene it accompanies. This sequence in the hangar bay is both joyous and heartbreaking, exhilarating and filled with longing. All of that tension and ambiguity is woven into these simple string chords. This was one of those few times that I got so emotionally involved in the scene as I was writing it that it basically ruined me for the entire day. It’s a miracle I ever got the cue finished! 🙂
6. Wayward Soldier
- Danny Novacek Theme
- Peter Kent [violin], Robert Anderson [violin], David Stenske [viola], Jacob Szekely [violoncello]
- Executive producer David Eick wanted a Bernard-Hermann-inpsired thriller score, so I brought in an agitated, aggressive string quartet theme. Danny Novacek’s theme is built out of two parts, the mysterious and suspenseful A-Section and the more uplifting, noble B-Section. You’ll hear a quick hint of the B-Section at the beginning, but it doesn’t return again until the end of the track. There’s also a duduk and sitar melody that plays over the strings.
7. Violence and Variations
- Unfinished Business
- Lee and Kara Love Theme, The Shape of Things to Come
- Each album ends up with a lush and lyrical piece for string orchestra. Passacaglia and The Shape of Things to Come in Season 1, Allegro in Season 2… Violence and Variations is our version this around. The piece is built mainly from Lee and Kara’s love theme, composed for this episode. However, The Shape of Things to Come is quoted exactly at the very end.
8. The Dance
- Unfinished Business
- Eric Rigler [Uilleann pipes}, Paul Cartwright [fiddle]
- The first piece I ever wrote for Season 3, long before I even began scoring Occupation. I wrote this track the weekend before they shot the exterior party sequences, so that the actors would have something to dance to. Obviously inspired by just about every Irish or Scottish jig ever conceived, this tune is a fun one. By the way, listen carefully for the only time I’ve ever played accordion on Battlestar Galactica.
9. Adama Falls
- Unfinished Business
- Roslin and Adama Theme
- Paul Cartwright [fiddle]
- A variation of Laura and Adama’s love theme from Season 2. It plays an ironic counterpoint against Bill getting the living hell beaten out of him in the boxing ring.
10. Under the Wing
- Lee and Kara Love Theme
- Chris Bleth [bansuri]
- A brief reprise of Lee and Kara’s love theme, this time from Maelstrom. I almost cut this track from the album, simply because it’s so short. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’ so pretty! 🙂
- Torn, A Measure of Salvation, Eye of Jupiter, Rapture
- Baltar’s Theme (middle section, before the recap)
- Bear McCreary [piano]
- This piece was featured whenever we were on the Cylons’ basestar. A very unusual musical choice from Ron Moore, I must confess I was never entirely sold on whether or not it worked on screen. Nevertheless, I took the best bits from several episodes and stitched them into a relatively straight-forward Sonata movement. While the episode versions quoted many themes, including The Shape of Things to Come and Boomer’s Theme, the only one to stay in the album version was Baltar’s Theme.
12. Fight Night
- Unfinished Business
- M.B. Gordy [taikos], Chris Bleth [membrane flutes]
- The boxing sequences in this episode were a real challenge. They were first introduced with the lyrical Violence and Variations. Of course, later fights had to be meaner and more nasty. So, I wrote the most aggressive and testosterone-filled track I could. I hadn’t found an opportunity since “Exodus, Part II” to go for an authentically Japanese sound, so I brought back the layered taiko ensemble from Storming New Caprica and added dual Chinese membrane flutes on the melody. While Season 1 and 2 featured very militaristic, “straight” rhythms, I really pushed the drums to “shuffle” here, to give them a more natural feel.
13. Kat’s Sacrifice
- The Passage
- Kat’s Theme
- Laura Griffiths [French horn]
- I wrote this theme to represent Kat’s descent and ultimate redemption in “The Passage.” The roots go deeeep on this one. 🙂
14. Someone to Trust
- Taking a Break From All Your Worries
- Baltar Theme
- Martin St. Pierre [erhu], Paul Cartwright [fiddle]
- This was an interesting experiment. I took Baltar’s theme, which is generally very dark and ambiguous, and re-harmonized it with warmer chords. Since the chord changes in Baltar’s theme are so important to its character, it becomes virtually unrecognizable in this piece. Incidentally, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the instruments on this track and nobody’s gotten it right. 🙂 The first refrain is a solo erhu, with a fiddle underneath. For the second refrain, they swap and the fiddle takes the melody.
15. The Temple of Five
- The Eye of Jupiter
- Temple of Five Theme, Laura Roslin’s Theme (at the end)
- M.B. Gordy [bells], Raya Yarbrough [vocals]
- This track features chimes, bells, bowls, tines, cymbals… just about anything that we could get our hands on. These initial sounds are what Tyrol hears (or thinks he hears) in his head as he’s drawn into the mountains to discover the Temple of Five. The distant strains of a Chinese Gu Zheng also weave throughout the bell texture. Laura Roslin’s theme returns at the end, again sung by Raya Yarbrough and accompanied with duduk and yialli tanbur.
16. Dirty Hands
- Dirty Hands
- “Working Man” theme
- Steve Bartek [dobro], John Avila [bass]
- Ron Moore requested a theme for the working man, a piece that represents the hardship and strain that these workers face every day. Admittedly, I never set out to write a bad-ass blues riff, but that’s what it became. Steve Bartek plays the theme on dobro, while John Avila backs him up on bass. I have to say that John’s bass solo towards the end of this track might be my favorite moment on the entire album. Oddly enough, this track became a real inspiration for my Eureka score last summer. When that album comes out, you’ll hear the similarities.
17. Gentle Execution
- Exodus, Part II
- Worthy of Survival
- Chris Bleth [duduk]
- A variation of Season 2’s Worthy of Survival represents Ellen Tigh’s execution and Saul Tigh’s descent into darkness. Worthy of Survival continually built energy, eventually reaching a percussive finale. However, this piece slowly fades away, as the life drains from Ellen’s body.
18. Mandala in the Clouds
- M.B. Gordy [taikos], Martin St. Pierre [yialli tanbur], Chris Bleth [zurna]
- As Season 3 drew to a close, I knew this was my last big action sequence. Very much a companion-piece to Storming New Caprica, this piece is also built from layered taikos, Middle Eastern soloists and the string orchestra. This dizzying percussion riff accompanied Kara’s descent towards the whirlpool in the clouds. Of course, the finished sound design for the storm sequences were so blaringly loud, the only instruments you can really hear in the scene are the Chang Changs (Chinese cymbals) and ear-burning Zurna solo in the middle.
- Starbuck Destiny Theme
- Martin St. Pierre [erhu], Raya Yarbrough [vocals]
- This piece is Kara’s send-off, and is among the most musically sophisticated of anything on the record. Gentle strains of Kara’s theme, and Kara’s Destiny theme, weave in and out of a warm string orchestral texture. In the middle, Raya Yarbrough sings a brief line of text in Latin. he erhu reaches a fevered climax as Kara’s ship explodes, and wails out over the dark, swirling orchestral colors. I love this piece, but I’m glad that there aren’t scenes like this in every episode. I couldn’t do this every week!
20. Heeding the Call
- Crossroads, Pt. II
- Crossroads Theme
- Paul Cartwright [electric violin]
- This track just kicks ass. Tigh, Tory, Anders and Tyrol are all drawn together because they hear a phantom musical piece in their minds. While that piece eventually reveals itself to be All Along the Watchtower, it is actually this cue that brings them together. My arrangement of Watchtower was built out of the musical building blocks heard here. And I must say that Paul Cartwright’s electric fiddle solo here is the most incredible work he’s done for me yet.
- Crossroads, Pt. II
- Crossroads Theme, All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan
- Brendan “Bt4” McCreary [vocals], Paul Cartwright [electric violin], Steve Bartek [sitar and electric guitars]
And of course, this brings us to All Along the Watchtower, probably the most unexpected and controversial musical choice that we will ever make on this series. Brendan “Bt4” McCreary returns to the score, after his work on the Season 1 Main Title and Season 2’s The Cylon Prisoner, to bring his unique vocal approach to this classic song. A trio of duduk, yialli tanbur and zhong hu accompany his vocal passages. Steve Bartek’s electric sitar takes the first solo, Paul Cartwright’s electric fiddle takes the haunting second solo and Bartek returns on the electric guitar for the shredding final solo.
The track on the album represents the song as was my original vision. Naturally, as with many pieces I write, it was edited and re-shaped to fit the drama onscreen. And I believe it fit perfectly, driving the entire season to an epic and mind-blowing finale. However, when taken out of context and listened to as a piece of stand-alone music, this extended version is, in all honesty, quite choppy, meandering and dull (and even lacks the third of Dylan’s verses… the one with the title in it!). But, for the consummate Battlestar Galactica purists out there, who want to hear this extended version of Watchtower… I will be releasing it in the near future, though not in any conventional venue. Look for details (or clues?) in the coming months.
Well, there it is! A year in the making. Hopefully some of these little factoids will make your listening experience more enjoyable.
Keep an eye out here in the coming weeks for updates on the next Battlestar Galactica live concert in Los Angeles, and check out my recently updated BG FAQ. There are also some other exciting things coming up, including my soundtrack album for Eureka, the premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox, and of course, Battlestar Galactica: Razor later this month.
As for Galactica’s final season, I’m just as curious as the rest of you to see where it takes us. It’s been a hell of ride. See you guys in Season 4!
So Say We All,