BG3: “Occupation” / “Precipice”

     This might be a little ambitious, but I’m going to try to update this thing for every new Battlestar Galactica episode in Season 3. (We’ll see how long I can actually keep this up!) I’ll try my best to keep these spoiler-free, but just to be safe, I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the episode before you actually read this.

     My challenge was two-fold on this one. I had to re-introduce the themes from the past two seasons, helping the audience wade back into the ever-deepening kiddie pool that is Battlestar Galactica. However, I also had to incorporate new themes and ideas, to reinforce the notion that Season 3 begins in a whole new setting and will be dramatically different than anything we’ve seen so far.

     After the Main Title, the first new piece of music is an original vocal piece. Ironically, this music is based on a song that I wrote for the Season 2 premiere that ultimately got thrown out. I later borrowed the lyrics from that first song and used them to create “Lords of Kobol” for the episode “Pegasus.” However, the original song remained unused, collecting dust on a shelf for 20 episodes, and now returns with a fresh orchestration, new lyrics and a haunting performance by Raya Yarbrough. The editors created this opening montage using the original version of this song, so this piece of music helped influence this scene from the very beginning. *

     Another theme returns from the early days of Season 2. “Martial Law,” from the episode “Fragged,” was composed for Col. Tigh’s proclamation of power and seemed like an obvious “Col. Tigh” theme at the time. When I wrote it, I was sure it would come back often, but was a bit surprised to find that the remainder of Season 2 had no real cause to bring it back more than once or twice. However, with Tigh’s transformation to “Ultimate Bad Ass” now complete, I couldn’t resist. While the powerful brass fanfare of “Martial Law” is no where to be heard, keep an ear out for a solo duduk or french horn carrying this melody throughout some of his key scenes. (I’ll give you a hint: The first one is when Tigh is released in the first act!)

     As for new themes, there are several working their way into the score. The most obvious is the Kara / Leoben / Casey theme represented by an erhu. This two-stringed Chinese instrument sounds vaguely like a violin, but its construction is very different. The player runs the bow between the strings, instead of above them, and the sound emanates from a chambers at the base of the strings covered in snake skin (traditionally). This is a newbie to the arsenal of ethnic soloists I’ve used on the show, but I felt that Kara’s strained relationship with Leoben merited something new and unusual. Their theme is a simple 7-note melody, but the improvised passages become more and more insane as we come to suspect that Leoben is either a devious mastermind or totally out of his mind.

     Lastly, “Precipice” ends with an exciting 5-minute cue, featuring my entire ensemble, but especially showcasing the talents of Steve Bartek on guitar and John Avila on bass. No strangers to the Galactica score, these Oingo Boingo alums continually bring new and exciting sounds to my music. This entire sequence was initially conceived to have many short cues throughout. However, producer David Eick felt that it could be better served with a single piece of music connecting all the smaller scenes together into one. I think you’ll agree he was right.

So Say We All,

-Bear

* UPDATE: August 3, 2021

Almost fifteen years later, I came across this blog entry and realized I left out a lot of crucial information. The opening vocal cue of “Occupation” was titled “A Distant Sadness” and would eventually be featured prominently in many of our live concert performances.

On occasion, I wrote lyrics for “Battlestar Galactica” cues, and the text for this song is more personal for me than most. The intense story of the season premiere inspired me to write lyrics drawing from my own heritage as a member of the Armenian diaspora, which is why stanzas are framed between mournful calls from the Armenian duduk. The lyrics are reprinted here:

A distant and familiar sadness calls to us
As if carried in the wind, like burning sand
Brothers and Sisters, away, you endure
Stranded on our own land

A memory etched into soul and skin
Leaves a scar that never heals
Our family is strong, but scattered
Across the stars and fields

We will not abandon you
We will not forget you
We will return for you

The lyrics were translated into Armenian by Rev. Dr. Stepanos Dingilian, who also vocal coached Raya on her pronunciation. I am very grateful to him and his family for their support in creating this piece.

Reading this entry, I know there is so much more to talk about that I never mentioned. Sadly, I never even blogged at all about the show’s first two seasons. Perhaps one day I will go back and write about my experiences in the early seasons with the same level of detail that I used in my Season 4 blogs. Until then, I  will strive to catch glaring omissions like this one and fix them.

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