BG4: “Daybreak, Parts I & II”

Sorry for the delay.  This blog entry took more energy to write than I anticipated, but it’s finally finished!  I hoped to have it ready for the premiere airing last Friday, but I only finished the score a couple weeks ago and my trip to Germany combined with other work obligations made it impossible to set aside enough time to do it right.  But, I’ve loved reading all the comments already posted and seeing the passionate response to this super-sized episode.  Thanks for being patient with me and checking back. 

I’ve already seen heated discussion all over the internet about this episode, including wildly mixed feedback even here on my own blog. Personally, I am not interested in or qualified to make the inevitable argument over whether Daybreak is the best episode of the series (it’s certainly close), or even my best score to date (it probably is).  However, I can safely say it is the most ambitious and epic episode that required the grandest, most thematically developed score I have yet written.  In this blog, I will show you the path I followed in order to write it.

Perhaps the nearly 100-minute score to Daybreak should be re-titled: The Battlestar Galactica Symphony.  With all my thematic material firmly established in previous episodes, I took this opportunity to develop them further than ever before.  Themes were combined, fractured, distorted, elongated, inverted and augmented in rewarding ways.  This process became so overwhelming, I actually made myself a checklist of every major theme I wanted to appear in the finale and marked them off as I wrote.  With very few exceptions, each was woven into the score somewhere along the way.

Even my compositional process was different this time around.  Typically, when I approach an episode, I score the most difficult scenes first. However, I knew that approach would never work for Daybreak.  I felt such intense creative pressure going into this episode that I was nearly stifled.  Once I wrote the big cues at the episode’s conclusion, I’d never have the energy to go back and do the smaller pieces.  So, I rolled up my sleeves, began the very first cue in the episode and proceeded straight through in chronological order until I finished the final cue, a blistering and virtually sleepless sixteen days later.

*** Daybreak, Pt. I ***

DAYBREAKING SPOILERS LAY BEYONDThe finale begins with an extended introduction to the flashbacks on Caprica.  The bulk of my score throughout these scenes is simply transitional material.  I created a bridge from one character’s story to the next.  However, I realized that the character themes alone would not be enough.  I needed a new musical identity that could represent them all, and signify the flashbacks as well.  I composed a theme that, for now, let’s call the Flashback Theme:

Harmonically, this theme is very lyrical and beautiful, perhaps the most elegant melody I’ve written for this series.  It has more in common with “Diaspora Oratorio” from Revelations than anything else.  But it is perfectly appropriate here. The music in this introduction needed to communicate that the flashbacks on Caprica take place during a calmer, brighter time in everyone’s lives.

The Flashback Theme (which will reveal itself later to be something else entirely) is the only new melodic idea I wrote for Daybreak.  The rest of the score is comprised of variations and developments of familiar themes with already established meaning. 

The first of these developmental theme fragments is heard in the opening seconds.  In the beginning montage, we see a fluttering pigeon and the strings state the first four notes of the Kara / Lee Love Theme.  On a first viewing, this might go unnoticed.  But it is, of course, a clue about the symbolic meaning of the bird.

The first flashback centers on Adama, speaking with someone.  We can tell he’s uncomfortable with the subject of the conversation and get the impression that he’s interviewing for a civilian job.

(The Miltary Theme is frequently played by Chris Bleth on bansuri)

Behind him, the bansuri gently states the Military Theme:

This theme was introduced in the first episode, 33, and has since represented the noble and honorable relationship between Adama, Tigh and their military responsibilities.  The melody has made numerous cameos throughout the series, but it is featured most prominently in several key sequences in Daybreak. 

The strings and duduk return, re-stating the Flashback Theme as we pan across the city, away from Adama, and center on Baltar’s limousine, where he has just met Six.

The music sneaks in as they first kiss (right after he admits to not knowing her name.  I love it!).  However, Baltar gets a phone call that clearly upsets him.  The duduk states ominous refrains of the Baltar Theme, first introduced in Season One’s Six Degrees of Separation:


I wanted to create a sense of urgency, to mislead the audience into thinking that the phone call was about a failure in the defense mainframe.  I wanted to help create a surprise when we reveal later that it is, in fact, an extremely private and personal matter.

The music transitions us to Laura with her two younger sisters after a baby shower.  As they sit on the couch together, the bansuri plays a simple and light version of the Flashback Theme that opened the show.  I realized, when scoring this scene, that I had never written an uplifting or warm theme associated with Laura except for “Roslin and Adama,” which obviously wouldn’t be appropriate here.  So, the Flashback Theme was very useful.  I used it represent their happier, halcyon days.

The score then transitions us to Kara, in her kitchen.  Chris Bleth’s duduk states the Starbuck Theme, in major mode:


This theme has a long and complex history.  It was written as a heroic theme for You Can’t Go Home Again.  I have frequently used it to represent the morally complex and dark character she can become. In Someone to Watch Over Me, I re-established it as the theme connected to her youth, vibrant energy and passion. You will hear all five Kara-centric themes later in this episode, but the Starbuck Theme was the perfect and obvious choice here.  Katee’s performance and physical transformation for these flashbacks really brought out how naïve Kara is of the arduous journey she has ahead of her.  That innocence was captured perfectly by the Starbuck Theme in this context.

She meets Lee for the first time, but she’s in love with Zak.  Tragically, one can already see the immediate chemistry between her and Lee.  At the end of the scene, she kisses Zak, but the score instead states the Lee and Kara Love Theme, because the scene is actually about the relationship forming between her and Lee.

We return to Gaius Baltar and meet his father, Julius.  His dad is a pitiful and cantankerous old man, who appears to take great joy from making those around him miserable.  Gaius snaps and yells at his father in front of Six.  This scene reveals more about Gaius than most of the rest of the series put together.  We see him at his most defenseless and vulnerable.

The score to this sequence is a new arrangement of Season Three’s “Someone to Trust,” originally written for Taking a Break From All Your Worries.  This theme is technically just another statement of the Baltar theme, but one that is uniquely warm and heartbreaking.  I’ve only used it since a handful of times, on those rare occasions where we get a glimpse into Baltar’s past life.

The simple piano, harp and gamelan ostinato sneaks in first, accompanying the solo erhu and acoustic fiddle playing a variation of Baltar’s theme:

I must confess that I found this scene brutally upsetting.  I was nearly moved to tears scoring it.  I think most people have someone in their lives ageing like poor old Julius and it can be tempting to break down and yell at them as Gaius does.  Of course, it does nothing but make us feel worse. I hope my score helped highlight Baltar’s pitiful helplessness in this vulnerable moment.

The final flashback scene in the first act centers on Laura learning that her father and sisters were killed by a drunk driver.  The entire sequence is scored with variations of the Roslin Religious Theme:

Elongated and muted contrapuntal lines in the strings build intensity as she packs up the presents from the party, not knowing what to do with herself.  As she goes outside, the music swells and modulates to a new key.  Moving lines become more active and subtle percussion enters.

A quiet statement of the theme hesitates as she stands at the edge of the water.  When she steps in, the score builds with iv-I progressions, reminiscent of religious hymns to highlight the baptismal imagery.  Finally, when she steps beneath the falling water, the full orchestra erupts into a huge statement of her theme.  Beneath the soaring melody, the second violins and violas play cascading phrases, descending in rapid arpeggios representing the waterfall.

As we transition to Laura’s bedside aboard Galactica, the bansuri and duduk state the Religious Ceremony Theme:


This melody is closely associated with funerals and death and serves as a reminder that her end is near.

Later, Adama packs up his office, while Eric Rigler plays “Wander My Friends” on the Irish Whistle:

This theme was originally written to represent the Adama family, but beginning with Islanded in a Stream of Stars, I decided that the Galactica’s crew and the ship itself had become his family.  So, using the theme here was fair game.  And you’ll hear it later in Adama’s last scene aboard Galactica.

Here, the melody is still in major mode, but the harmonies and gamelan line around it don’t quite fit.  It sounds somehow dissonant and off-balance.  I wanted this cue to feel more bittersweet and uncomfortable, rather than overtly sad or melancholy.

We return to Baltar’s flashback, where Six has broken into his house.  Baltar learns that she has set up his father in a care facility.  The variation of “Someone to Trust” returns, and here the title of that cue couldn’t be more ironic.  We don’t know if Six performed this apparent act of compassion just to warm herself to Baltar, or because she genuinely wanted to help out the pitiful old Julius.  Either way, she knew he’d only have a short time to enjoy his new surrounding because she was about to invite the apocalypse.  The whole idea was so viciously frakked up that I enjoyed making it more complex by ignoring all of Six’s undertones and potential motivations and simply scoring Gaius’ complex combination of guilt, appreciation and shame.

Returning to the present, Kara tries to figure out a hidden numerical code within The Final Four Theme (see my entries for Someone to Watch Over Me for details about what all this means).  I taunted her further by placing Slick’s piano, playing the Final Four Theme, in the score.  As I did in Islanded, this is actually the sampled piano from Joe’s Bar in the score.

The story takes us to the colony.  As with last week’s episode, Eric Rigler’s wailing combination of conch, shofar and sipsi represent the mysterious, alien surroundings.  As Hera draws her dots, the bansuri and gamelan state the Boomer / Athena / Hera Theme:

This theme was originally written for the Sharon model who would become Athena, but the melody has since evolved to represent all three characters.  Later in the episode, it will be featured in key scenes involving all three of them.

The next major scene involves Adama in the memorial hallway.  This moment is a big shift in his character, the episode and ultimately the series.  This is where he decides to sacrifice whatever necessary to save Hera. 

The music begins with the Military Theme as he wanders the hallway, thinking about all the people he’s had to leave behind.  Complex, contrapuntal lines in the strings weave upwards as he turns to leave and then hesitate on a high, suspenseful note as he stops.

(Conducting “Adama in the Memorial Hallway”)

He turns around, and a rich, orchestral phrase takes him back to the photograph.  The Boomer / Athena / Hera theme is now stated in the strings as he picks up the picture and makes his decision. 

The first thing he does is go to Anders to learn the location of the colony.  We catch a glimpse of Anders’ past, witnessing him in an interview while he was still a successful pro-athlete on Caprica.  We return to the present and the score crashes in with sitars, tabla and the Final Four Theme:

The intense orchestration contrasts the difference between the young, promising athlete of the past and bizarre hybrid of the present.

In the following scene, Baltar tries to convince Lee that his people should be represented in the government.  This is the beginning of an episode-long arc where Baltar must decide whether he is a hero or a coward.  I scored this arc with the Baltar Religious Theme, originally composed for He That Believeth:


This theme, like this scene itself, represents his best intentions, even though his actions generally fall short of them.

We then get another glimpse of the bird, this time revealing that it’s trapped in Lee’s apartment, as he tries to coax it outside while in a drunken stupor.  The Lee / Kara Love Theme accompanies the bird a second time, this time played by tanbur, duduk and erhu.

*** Plans for War ***

Adama rallies the troops and informs them of his plan to rescue Hera.  I like this montage because the essential information is conveyed through a series of rumors spreading through the ship, rather than in a long and expositional speech from Adama.

The score starts simply, and continues to build energy throughout the whole montage.  I introduced this aggressive string riff:

My inspiration was the opening passage of “Prelude to War” from Season 2, although they’re musically unrelated. This string riff is essentially the only theme in the cue, except for a statement of the Final Four Theme as Tory and Ellen walk through the hallway.

When Tigh commands everyone in CIC to declare themselves in person to the old man, the percussion kicks in and I added to the mix the shamisen, biwa and tsuzumi.  This trio of Japanese instruments was used throughout The Oath and Blood on the Scales and is featured throughout Daybreak to represent the marines and military forces on the ground in the upcoming battle scenes.

The act ends as Helo tries to cheer up Athena with the good news that they’re going after Hera.  The orchestra plays a dark, brooding statement of the Boomer / Athena / Hera Theme.  The string riff sneaks back in as we cut to black on an ominous note.

We take a quick detour with flashbacks to Roslin recovering from the family tragedy and agreeing to go on a blind date.  The music transitioning in and out of this scene is a variation of the Roslin Flashback Theme, originally written for Season Two’s Epiphanies:


This motive was appropriate because I composed it to underscore her memories of President Adar, and these scenes depict the events that ultimately inspire her to join Mayor Adar’s national campaign.  I can’t say that I planned all this ahead in Season Two, but it’s surprising that even a goofy little oscillating open fifth in the gamelan and harps could carry this kind of connective meaning across multiple seasons.

Back in the present, Adama has rallied the troops and makes his “Patton Speech.”  The scene begins with a steady backbone of taiko drums.  As he builds intensity, the orchestra and ethnic soloists are gradually introduced.  The harmonic progression slowly reveals itself as the B-Section from Season Two’s “Prelude to War:” 

This unique progression of Gm-Eb-Abm-Eb was composed for the sequence when Lee was floating out in space, while his air leaked out in Resurrection Ship, Pt II.  Using it here, I wanted the progression to subconsciously remind audiences that these volunteers are lining up for a suicide mission.  I also must confess, I had completely forgotten how cool this B-Section was until an astute reader on this blog asked if I was ever going to expand it (thanks, luvabmw530!).  So, I found a place for it!  The Military Theme also makes an appearance in Adama’s big speech. 

The biggest moment occurs when Roslin appears and Adama escorts her to the front of the line.  Naturally, “Roslin and Adama” returns.  The signature piano and fiddle waltz accompaniment starts first followed by Paul Cartwright’s solo acoustic fiddle.

The episode ends on an ominous and dark note.  Thanks to the recon information gathered by Skulls and Racetrack, Adama is informed of the difficulty of the task facing them.  As they discuss the defense system of the colony, Eric Rigler’s wailing ethnic winds echo in the distance.

*** Daybreak, Pt. II ***

The second hour begins the same as the first, with a statement of the Flashback Theme:

Rather than with the full orchestra, it is played simply by the bansuri and erhu. 

We are taken into the heart of a noisy strip club, where Adama and Tigh discuss career possibilities.  The strip club scenes in this episode are filled with songs that have layers of meaning to the series.

In this first scene, the strippers dance to a kick-ass rock song blaring over the sound system.  This song is “When Will the Work Be Done?,” written and performed by Brendan McCreary. 

Those of you at my Music of Battlestar Galactica concerts last April have actually heard this before, because Brendan’s Band played it in the opening act.  This was a song that Brendan wrote and recorded for Escape Velocity, for a scene in Joe’s Bar.  But, as he told the crowd last April, the producers thought it was too energetic and opted to use instead “Lord Knows I Would,” from Raya Yarbrough’s self-titled album.

“When Will the Work Be Done?” has finally made it into “Battlestar” where it belongs.  There was only one problem.  Because Brendan had written it for Season 4, the lyrics are all about the attack on the colonies!  An excerpt:

I pray to gods that Earth exists
Cause I’m ready to be free
But lately I don’t feel a thing
So, When Will the Work Be Done?
When Will the Work Be Done?
Since I fled from Caprica
And been stuck in this fleet
My whole world’s feeling so damn small
I can hardly breathe… 

Listen carefully in the episode, you can definitely catch a few lines that shouldn’t be there.  How do I rationalize this glaring oversight, you ask?  The more pretentious answer is that Brendan’s voice is cosmically significant to the world of “Battlestar.”  As the singer of “All Along the Watchtower” from Season 3, we’ve established his presence as an all-knowing personality: a voice from somewhere in the universe that interacts in strange ways with our characters.  So, of course it would be his voice at the strip club, singing an encoded warning of the events to come. 

However, the honest truth probably is… I really like this song and didn’t give a frak if the lyrics gelled with the chronology.  🙂

The first substantial score cue of Daybreak, Pt. II underscores Adama stumbling out the back entrance and gazing up at the stars.  At its heart, this scene is an important shift where Adama realizes that his place is among the stars.  He knows he doesn’t want the civilian job, because the fleet is his home. 

The bansuri, duduk and tanbur each take turns playing the Flashback Theme, underlining the joy and elation he feels looking up into the night sky.

As elegant as all that sounds, one must admire the context in which Ron Moore and Michael Rymer put this scene.  Adama stumbles into a grimy alley, falls into a filthy puddle and pukes on himself!  I don’t recall Capt. Picard or Han Solo ever doing that!  We have our own style on “Galactica,” don’t we?

The next montage gives us further detail about the attack plan, and the score connects it with the previous montage by underscoring it with a continuation of the percussion and string groove from Adama’s big speech.

With the plan about to go into action, Adama gives his Admiral’s wings to Hoshi.  This scene was always a little upsetting to me, because as a fan of the show, I know that the character promoted to Admiral should have always been Gaeta.  He was with us from the beginning, and, though I like Hoshi, we really know nothing about him.  Still, he was the best of limited options since Gaeta was killed and all the other major characters were needed for the battle.

I underscored this promotion with the Military Theme, played by the bansuri and set against light snare drums.  This arrangement was very common in Season One, and I used it to underscore how important a shift in power this is. 

(I’m playing harmonium for the CIC reveal.  Notice the bad-ass T-shirt!)

Adama turns and walks into the CIC, now overhauled with crazy cylon pipes and wires.  The Final Four Theme is stated in aggressive statements, first by the duduk and harmonium (the first time I’ve played a melody on this thing) and then again in the bansuri and erhu.

In the background, the tabla and sitars add an energetic accompaniment.  My goal was to highlight how upsetting this is for Adama.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Back in the hangar deck, the Military Theme sends off the new President and Admiral, then Baltar takes the first step toward redeeming himself and volunteers to stay behind. 

The Baltar Religious Theme accompanies plays in the gamelan as he frees himself from Paula and his followers.  This theme has come to represent the better side of his personality:


In the final countdown to battle, Adama makes one last bad-ass speech.  Here, the signature drum groove from previous montages return, but augmented with more aggressive string writing.  The tension is rising. 

As he yells “Action Stations!” the battle drums kick into full gear and we transition to the second act of this huge episode.

*** The Colony Battle  ***

The first 60 minutes of Daybreak are essentially a set up for the second and third chapters.  After completing the score for the first hour, I was ready to tackle the next 35-minute chunk: The Battle at the Colony.

I can’t begin to express the pressure I was under (from myself) to make this the biggest and most important action music I’ve ever written for the series.  Cues such as Season Three’s “Storming New Caprica” and “The Signal” from Revelations pushed me as a composer, but this was the ultimate test.   And I knew I’d need an orchestra to pull it off.

I’ve always talked about how I write for orchestra on “Galactica,” but never fully addressed why I have this opportunity on a cable TV series. To thank are the producers and executives working behind the scenes to provide the budget to cover the incredible costs of assembling a live orchestra.

For many weeks the orchestral fate of Daybreak was unknown.  Thanks to the quick thinking of Todd Sharp at the studio, a small amount of music budget had been set aside early on to cover orchestral costs for the finale.  However, when I saw how big this episode was, it became clear it simply wasn’t near enough. 

In late January, the producers and I began to track down more money to pay for the orchestra.  And it was proving difficult.  The episode and the series as a whole were incredibly over-budget and I was unfortunately asking too late.  Every other department had already made their requests, and music was going to suffer because it was the last in the chain.

The studio was honest about the situation and was able to provide what they could.  However, it only covered the orchestral cues in the last forty minutes, and left no room for important sequences such as the colony battle, Laura’s fountain baptism and many others.

In an unprecedented move, the producers and I each pitched in personally to make this happen.  We all pooled our resources together because we knew how important the full orchestra would be to Daybreak.  The orchestra you’re hearing in this episode would not be there without the combined contributions and efforts of Ron Moore, David Eick, Jane Espenson, Michael Taylor, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Todd Sharp, Paul M. Leonard, myself and several others. 

I had no idea if we’d even have an orchestra during the first week of composition.  Thankfully, by the time I got to the big battle sequences, the budget issues were resolved and I was ready to tackle the action cues.

The battle begins as we zoom in on the colony.  The taiko drums and orchestra crescendo and accelerate wildly: an homage to the beginning of “Storming New Caprica.”  When the Galactica jumps in and the fight begins, the percussion erupts into a vicious 9/8 groove, accompanied with the full orchestra, ethnic soloists and an arsenal of bagpipes.

As Sam’s mind infiltrates the cylon hybrid, a huge orchestral statement of the Final Four Theme highlights the nearly-orgasmic moment when he takes control of the colony.

Galactica launches her vipers and the battle is underway. 

Essentially, the entire action sequence can be divided into two storylines: the dogfights in space and the marines infiltrating the colony.

The dogfights are scored with the full ensemble roaring, especially Eric Rigler’s Great Highland Bagpipes.  His bagpipes have accompanied many huge battles on the series, notably “Battle on the Asteroid” from Hand of God and “Storming New Caprica” from Exodus, Pt. II.  Even though Daniel Colman’s outstanding sound effects are bombastic and effective, I can always count on Eric’s bagpipes to cut through the texture and be heard, even in scenes where a full arsenal of percussion and orchestra may get obliterated in the mix.

(Eric Rigler plays the Great Highland Pipes)

Over the years, I’ve written music for Eric’s pipes that continues to stretch the limits of the instrument.  The bagpipes can only play nine pitches, either in the key of A or Bb (depending on which instrument he plays).  Traditionally, this means that bagpipe music is generally in the keys of A / D / Bm or Bb / Eb / C#m.

The trick, then, is not in writing interesting music for the bagpipes, per se, but in carefully writing orchestral music around the bagpipes that takes full advantage of the pitches they can play.  By methodically selecting the notes I allowed into my bagpipe parts, I was able to use them in very unorthodox keys, including C# Maj, F# Minor, F# Maj and E major.  Eric was playing melodies that, out of context, would sound like perfectly normal bagpipe music.  But combined with my string parts, they became bizarre Middle-Eastern tunes, with dissonant clashing pitches and interesting ornamental figures. 

Eric confessed to me in the session that he’d never played anything like these battle cues before.  Even though my music is challenging, he admitted whenever he records for anyone else it is usually boring in comparison to my sessions.  That is the greatest compliment a bagpipe player can ever give you!

I put this idea of “bagpipe dissonance” to great use throughout the battle sequences.  In one of the early moments in the battle, when the Galactica is pounded by enemy artillery, I layered the score with the nastiest bagpipe chord ever recorded! I asked Eric to layer nine different tracks, each holding one of the nine pitches the instrument can play.  The resultant chord is literally the most dissonant cluster possible on bagpipes.  We recorded so many pipe overdubs forDaybreak that I’m certain we broke some World Record (one probably held in John Stewart’s Guinness Book of Who Gives a S%@t!).

Apollo commands the Marines to repel down into the colony, and a solo duduk states the Lee Theme, the only place I found for it in the episode:


The inner colony sequences are scored with a smaller, more intimate percussion ensemble.  

Here, the Japanese trio of shamisen, biwa and tsuzumi stand out against dissonant clusters of strings and soloists as the marines sneak through the hallways, entering skirmishes with cylon centurions.

During the battle, Head Six and Head Baltar (I’m now in the habit of calling them Angel Six and Angel Baltar) reveal themselves to Caprica and Gaius.  Though this scene is short, it is underscored with a pairing of two important themes: Richard Gibbs’ iconic Number Six theme from the miniseries:


… and the reversed bells and gamelans of the Head Baltar Theme, featured most recently in Six of One when Baltar talks to himself.

At the heart of the colony, Boomer watches Simon test Hera and decides to rescue her.  The Boomer / Athena / Hera Theme underscores this major decision:


She takes Hera to the Colonial forces and finally stands face to face to with Athena and Helo. 

The Boomer / Athena / Hera Theme underscores their stand-off perfectly because this is the first time ever that all three of them have been together.  For this moment, I crafted an unusually emotional and tense version of the theme.

After Boomer is killed, we get another flashback.  In this one, a newly recruited Boomer is being reprimanded by Tigh and Adama for her poorly executed landings.  The Boomer Theme alone was not enough to take us back in time, so I also added a unique frame drum riff that I first composed for 33: 

Percussionist M.B. Gordy plays this pattern not only by hitting the frame drum, but also by “swishing” his hand across the drum head for a unique high-end sound.  I used this groove thematically to represent Boomer many times in Season One (listen for it on the first season soundtrack in “Helo Rescued”), and all but dropped it by Season Two.   I hope that bringing it back for this flashback effectively and subconsciously reminded audiences of the early days of the series.

Once the colonial marines have Hera, they take her back to Galactica and the battle takes on metaphysical meaning, adding new challenges to an already difficult score.

As Hera is brought on board, Laura’s visions of the Opera House return to her.  I brought back the crazy, dissonant, wailing choir that was first introduced along with these visions in Crossroads, Pt. I.  She rises to her feet, and the strings state a diffuse version of the Roslin Religious Theme, stretched across three octaves:

In another hallway, Doral shoots Helo in the back and all hell breaks loose.  The strings and percussion wail away in angular rhythms and atonal clusters as the firefight ensues.  The Japanese soloists (shamisen, biwa and tsuzumi) are also clearly audible in this sequence.

Helo falls and Athena tries to help him.  However, Hera runs away.  As Karl tells her to leave him behind, the strings state an ominous and dark statement of the Helo Theme:

This chord progression was introduced in the first episode, 33.  I have since used it whenever Helo is in big trouble, so it fit this moment perfectly.

Athena leaves him and searches for Hera.  Now she shares in the Opera House visions as well and the wailing, atonal choral clusters accompany her.

Hera runs innocently through the battle-stricken hallways, accompanied by an ethereal voice singing the Roslin Religious Theme.  That voice is, of course, Raya Yarbrough, making her first return as a soloist to the series since she sang Baltar’s chant in He That Believeth.  The lyrics are sung in Latin, and ones that we have used before in Season One:

Omnia illa et ante fiebant
          (All of this has happened before)
Omnia illa et rursus fient
          (And all of this will happen again)
Ita dicimus omnes 
          (So Say We All)

This is the same melody that Raya memorably sang in “A Distant Sadness,” the opening montage to Season Three’s Occupation.

(Raya Yarbrough during the “Daybreak” sessions)

Raya sings as Roslin searches for Hera and the entire sequence builds to the reveal that Cavil is marching through the hallways with his centurions.  Here, we created a “Raya Choir” by overdubbing her voice fifteen times.  What I love about Raya’s sound is that it is so unique and the result was incredibly powerful.  It’s hard to believe that one singer could create such an impact.

The unique sound of her overdubs marks Cavil and his forces as the horsemen of the apocalypse.  I wanted this moment to be epic and important on a biblical scale, but not to be overtly scary.  We’ve done “scary” on the series before, and this needed to be something grander.

Roslin finds Hera and then loses her.  She’s picked up moments later by Gaius and Six.  Here, Raya’s vocal returns to a solo voice as she sings another phrase of the Roslin Religious Theme and completes the last of the Latin lyrics.  Long string phrases swell beneath her voice, endowing this moment with a sense of calm and mystery.

Six picks Hera up in her arms and the strings lock into a steady 6/8 rhythm.  Astute listeners may already figure out what theme I’m about to introduce here, because a familiar groove is buried in the string texture:

As Gaius and Six walk through the halls, the orchestra builds intensity.  At last, I introduce the theme as Baltar sees the Opera House. 

It is “The Shape of Things to Come.”  This shot, from Season One, is accompanied by the exact same orchestral phrase that I used when it first appeared in Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Pt. II.  The use of this theme here takes Baltar’s arc full circle.  We are witnessing the physical manifestation of the Opera House dreams seen by so many of our characters.  “The Shape of Things to Come” simultaneously connects these disparate story threads and adds the necessary epic drama.

The walking “Passacaglia” bass line returns, stating the main melody of the theme:

The strings reach their peak as Baltar picks up the little girl and carries her into the CIC.  At this moment, the uplifting and steady 6/8 riff modulates from a sunny augmented E major to its relative minor: C#m.  At the reveal of the Final Five standing above the CIC, I used a metric modulation to get us from 6/8 to 2/4 and wrote an epic statement of the Final Four Theme, complete with strings, sitar, harmonium, electric bass and electric guitars.  And conveniently, I was already in the home “Watchtower” key of C#m.

How did I plan that out, you ask?  Did I know when I wrote “The Shape of Things to Come” in E major that I was writing in the relative major of “All Along the Watchtower’s” C# minor and that four years later I would use their close tonal proximity to expertly weave together these two seemingly disparate pieces of music? The answer is… no, I didn’t know.  It was a happy coincidence.

The awe-inspiring moment does not last, however, as Cavil grabs Hera and holds a gun to her head.  Baltar’s arc completes itself as he single-handedly talks these two warring civilizations away from the brink of utter self-destruction.  I began his speech with ambient statements of the Baltar Theme:

However, I quickly transitioned to the most lyrical and beautiful setting of the Baltar Religious Theme in the entire series, reminiscent of the score to his speech at the end of Escape Velocity:


Cavil agrees to pull his forces back and the enemy raiders fly away.  The nagado daiko and frame drums enter with a steady, hypnotic groove to underscore this fragile cease-fire:

(M.B. Gordy plays the frame drum)

Though it is a simple and fairly generic 3/4 ostinato, it should be familiar by now.  I’ve used it in many cues, including “Launch Vipers” from the miniseries and Season One’s “The Olympic Carrier” and “Battle on the Asteroid.”  I hadn’t really used it much since the early part of Season 3, but wanted to bring it back somewhere in the finale.

In the aftermath of the battle, Adama is briefed on their losses and we witness Athena finally reunited with Hera.  Here, the bansuri and duduk state a quiet version of the Military Theme.  I’ve always found this theme useful because it can underscore military-based scenes or emotional moments effectively.  This is obviously a combination of both.

The Final Five agree to share the secret to resurrection technology.  The Final Four Theme sneaks into the score as they reach their hands into the tub and Tory warns them that they might not like what they learn.

Images and memories flood in, but the reveal of Cally causes an unexpected reaction in Tyrol.  To underscore these flashbacks, I brought back the Cally Theme:


Always played by Paul Cartwright’s electric violin and Chris Bleth’s bansuri, this theme was written for The Ties That Bind.  Though it was featured prominently in that episode, I was always disappointed that I essentially had to throw it away after Cally was killed.  There were never any chances to bring it back, until now. 

The theme is mysterious and ambiguous, but the arrangement around it grows more and more tense leading up to Tyrol snapping and grabbing Tory by the throat.  A huge firefight erupts and pandemonium ensues. 

At this moment, the score goes appropriately insane.  Paul Cartwright’s electric fiddle wails a solo over the full arsenal of percussion, strings, bagpipes, shamisen, biwa, tsuzumi, vocals and ethnic soloists.  And once the “Watchtower / Final Four Theme / Kara Piano” section begins, I added drummer Nate Wood, bassist John Avila and guitarists Steve Bartek, Ira Ingber and Brandon Roberts to the mix making this cue the single largest piece of music ever recorded for “Battlestar Galactica.” 

*** Generating Kara’s Coordinates ***

The music for the montage where Kara punches in the jump coordinates is important not just because the score sounds totally rockin’, but because it literally makes an important story point and culminates the arc set in motion by Crossroads, Pt. II and Kara’s piano epiphanies in Someone to Watch Over Me. 

As I described in the my blog entry about that episode, I was intimately involved with David Weddle and Bradley Thompson’s script because it required some musical knowledge and understanding.  However, when they were finished, my work was not yet complete. 

While I was on set last May helping production shoot that episode, I got a phone call from Bradley where he informed me that the music I arranged would be the guide that ultimately leads to the fleet to Earth.  I just about dropped the phone in shock.  My score had become such an integral part of the series that the producers were looking to me, the series composer, to generate the coordinates for Earth.  It would be difficult to overstate my surprise.

I realized that what they wanted would not be easy to deliver.  The idea that Kara gets the coordinates from the music itself is easy to convey in images and we also knew that the dramatic tension would be more about whether Galactica would escape from the black hole before it enveloped them.  We couldn’t slow down the narrative intensity for a music theory lesson.

(M.B.’s tabla became an integral part of the “Final Four Theme”)

My first step was to ask series science advisor Kevin Grazier what kind of coordinates we would need to generate from the music.  He replied:

“When we specify coordinates in astronomy, it’s usually done with two angles – one that ranges 0 to 360 degrees, the other +90 to -90 degrees.  Necessary also is the distance, but for astronomy the distance implied when we’re looking for stars is “infinity.”  We’re collectively used to this.  In geography, it’s latitude/longitude (distance implied – Earth’s radius).  In astronomy it’s Right Ascension / Declination.  In BSG, it’s XXXcaromYYY, distance ZZZ.

‘Now we’ve already established that one unit of measure used by Galactica is the SU, or Stellar Unit (“The Captain’s Hand”), similar to the Astronomical Unit used in our Solar System. It’s reasonable to assume that the Colonials use something similar to a light year as well – we’ll call this a CLY (Colonial Light Year)

‘There are 63495 Astronomical Units in one Light Year.  Irrespective of the absolute sizes of the SU and CLY, the RATIO between those two is likely to be of the same order of magnitude as that of the AU/LY.

‘So as I see it, we will need from the music: XXX carom YYY dist ZZZZZZ”

I was tasked with generating 12 single-digit numbers out of “All Along the Watchtower.”  Since The Final Four Theme had been firmly established as the piece of music Hera draws and the melody that Kara plays, it took a close look at the melody and tried to figure out how go about this unusual assignment:

I emailed everyone involved some possible solutions.  This would be the first time in my television scoring career that the phrase “12-Tone Row” would be necessary in conversations with producers or writers.  🙂

(My original sketch for Hera’s dots)


You could take this series of dots and plot it on a star chart and have it mean something.  But, we’d have to get enough information out of the notes to derive the relative scale, direction and size of the note heads.  It would be the simplest visually (Kara takes Hera’s drawing, slaps it on a star map and sees the way to Earth) but there are a million variables that could go wrong and it would be, frankly, pretty stupid.


Borrowing a bit from the post-WWII serialists, we can generate some numbers based on scale degrees.  If you assign each chromatic scale degree in the C#m scale with a number, the melody would be written as such:  1 2 4 9 8 4 9 [8-9-8] 4 2 1.  The parentheses represent the little triplet turnaround, which are the fastest of the notes.  This series, though not a 12-tone row in the traditional sense, could still be inverted, retrograded and then have the inversion retrograded to give us four sets of related numbers:

PRIME: 1 2  4  9 8   4  9  [8-9-8]  4  2   1
RETROGRADE: 1  2  4  [8-9-8]  9  4 8  9   4  2   1
INVERSION: 12 11 9  4 5  9  4 [5-4-5]  9 11 12
RETROGRADE-INVERSION: 12 11 9 [5-4-5]  4  9 5  3   9 11 12


You can also generate numbers by looking at the spaces between the notes instead of the notes themselves.  For example the space between C# and D is a single step, or “1.”  That series of numbers could also be retrograded, although not inverted since the inversion would be the exact same numbers (‘1’ step up = ‘1’ step down):

PRIME: 1 2 5 1 4 5 1 1 1 4 2 1
RETROGRADE:1 2 4 1 1 1 5 4 1 5 2 1

Because the melody is mostly scalar, we see a lot of 1’s and 2’s.  The bigger leaps become visually more apparent.  The 4’s and 5’s seem to really stick out.”

This process became so complicated, I began to empathize with Kara as she maddeningly tried to crack the code in the music.

Series writer and producer Bradley Thompson felt that most of these techniques would be too complex to communicate effectively onscreen.

“These are good thoughts, all great for Kara to wonder about,” Thompson told me. But, when Ron gets to her feeding the coordinates at the last second under the dire circumstances of Episode 21, we’ll probably want an “oh-yeah!” moment that comes as a flash of simplicity.  The jump computer needs input1, input2, and input3 (angular vector1, vector 2 and distance / power). The computer accepts a certain number of digits for these, which Kara determines from the intervals from the tonic (1) in Watchtower’s melody.  I’m sure Ron will have us in white-knuckle drama as the black hole sucks the decrepit Galactica into its hideous tidal stresses – so this won’t be a wonderful time to spend thinking it out.” 

As Bradley made his case, I began to understand just little screen time we would have to communicate the abstract idea of Kara deriving coordinates from music.

“Remember, the gods have a hand in all this,” Bradley explained.  “They took that into account with Kara and which way Galactica’s pointing for the starting point.  Otherwise, we just have to add more digits from the tune as input0 (initial position and heading).  We have only one ship jumping, so we don’t actually need to transmit these coordinates to anybody else.  That, and the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.”

Bradley’s words sunk in and I re-thought my approach, in search of the simplest solution possible.  Using the 12-Tone method was too complex, and I decided to assign each note in the C# scale a number, excluding the chromatic notes between them. This is a diatonic approach instead of a chromatic one, (basically, I’m talking about the “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do” scale). 

(Steve Bartek and Ira Ingber lay down baritone guitars on “Kara’s Coordinates”)

This approach had several advantages.  It produces only single digit numbers.  It is also the most intuitive solution that someone with Kara’s musical background would arrive at (in fact, my extensive musical training had me pursuing much more complicated ideas, missing the forest for the trees).  “In basic ear training exercises they make you sing melodies with words or numbers corresponding to the notes,” I wrote back to Bradley.  “So, someone like Kara who was taught by a professional musician as a youth could be familiar with thinking of the tonic as ‘1’, the second scale degree as ‘2’ and so forth.  It’s believable that Kara might be humming the tune to herself as the numbers come to her mind.”

With this philosophy in mind, I took a second look at the Final Five Theme.  The melody is either 11 or 13 notes (depending on if you count the little triplet ornament figure that does not consistently appear with the theme).  The easiest way to arrive at 12 notes was to discount the triplet figure and then repeat the first note, which is technically the way the phrase is looped in my arrangement of “Watchtower” anyway.  Assigning numbers based on the diatonic scale system I described earlier yielded the following:

This generated the coordinates: 112 carom 365 dist 365321.

I sent this number to production and they prepared it for the on-camera computer playback.  When I saw the finished cut, I was thrilled to see that my coordinates led them to Earth!

However, all of this work was simply laying the groundwork for this complex sequence.  The next task fell to the editors.  Andy Seklir crafted a beautiful montage, inter-cutting the pulse-pounding events in the CIC with images from Someone to Watch Over Me and Kara’s other memories.  He created the feeling that her father’s spirit was returning one last time to guide her along her path.

(John Avila plays fretless bass for the ethereal introduction to “Watchtower.” Yes, his strings are neon green.  Sweet!)

In order to sell the idea that she was deriving the numbers from the notes her father had taught her to play, Andy inter-cut images of her fingers on the keypad with her fingers on the piano.  He temped the sequence with layers of “Heeding the Call” and my arrangement of “Watchtower” from Season 3. 

It was a brilliant narrative idea.  But, it wasn’t quite working properly.  Fingers were landing on beats in the temp score, but a coherent musical message was not coming across.  When I wrote the score for this scene, I lay down the foundation of my Indian-Heavy-Metal feel from “Watchtower,” but put the Final Four Theme in Slick’s Piano and the orchestral strings.  The piano and strings hit huge, confident notes, allowing the melody to soar over the ever-crescendoing rhythm section.

Unfortunately, the timing was not lining up exactly.  I called editor Andy Seklir and co-producer Paul Leonard and asked them if we could change the cut to match my music.  If you’re unfamiliar with the way TV and film scoring works, let me simply say this basically never happens.  Composers are frequently subject to the picture changing while they’re working, but never in step with what they are doing.  In fact, composers dream of a situation where they could write freely and make the editors change the cut so that the music could be exactly what they envisioned!

Paul and Andy agreed that my idea was the best approach.  Shortly before the final mix deadline, I took my cue into the Editorial Department and sat in Andy’s cutting room, helping him re-cut the sequence.  I showed him exactly where I envisioned each note to hit and where I thought the fingers should line up. Andy expertly tweaked the picture right before my eyes.  The sequence was finally finished.

(Paul Cartwright is about to lay down a wicked electric violin solo!)

I’ve given all this technical detail and I have yet to touch upon the aesthetic beauty of this scene.  This montage begins with surreal strings and harmonium, gently oscillating between C#m and Amajor.  Then, Martin St. Pierre’s erhu sings the signature Starbuck Destiny Theme:

This theme represented her spiritual journey throughout Seasons Three and Four, but once I got to Someone to Watch Over Me, it was supplanted by the Final Four Theme.  This moment in Daybreak is the first time that the two themes representing Kara’s ethereal path have been combined.

But, the erhu solo soon gives way to a building rock and roll backdrop.  John Avila’s slippery electric bass sneaks in, and if that isn’t enough to tell audiences we’re going to “Watchtower,” then the entrance of the electric guitars must be.

(Nate Wood on the drums)

As the sequence reaches its climax, Nate Wood rips into a blistering drum fill and the whole rhythm section hits its stride, augmented with orchestral strings, ethnic soloists, taiko drums, tabla, dumbek and harmonium.  My arrangement of “Watchtower” has been hinted at throughout Season Four, most overtly inSomeone to Watch Over Me, but this is the first time it’s ever sounded this big.

Kara jumps the ship as we hear the outro lick of my “Watchtower” arrangement.  The last time we heard this was at the conclusion of Season Three, when we saw Earth for the first time.  And this time, we are taken there once again.

In the aftermath of the jump, Roslin asks “Where have you taken us, Kara?”  As she looks at her coordinates, the score quotes one last statement of the Final Four Theme, played on Slick’s Piano.  This is the last time in the series you will hear either this theme or this instrument: the sound of her father’s spirit leaving them.

The score builds to a monumental crescendo as Earth is revealed.

*** The Last Chapter: Earth ***

As you know from viewing the episode, Daybreak makes a dramatic, narrative turn in its final chapter.  Mirroring your experience as a viewer, my compositional process also shifted at this point.  I had completed not only all the action music this series would ever require, but also all suspenseful and tense underscore as well.  What remained was essentially a 35-minute symphonic movement: a pastoral and mysterious suite that had to summarize all the disparate character themes into a single, elegant and cohesive piece.

This final chapter in the “Battlestar” mythology begins with a fabulous VFX shot following a raptor to a glorious reveal of the blue planet and the African continent.  I knew that the music had to make a bold statement here: the fleet has arrived at their destination and their journey is over.  It had to be lyrical, sweeping and uplifting without being hokey or sappy. 

But what theme would be appropriate?  I believed that it was too late in the series to introduce a completely new musical identity to represent Earth.  In a moment of inspiration, I realized that I’d already written the piece of music that represents our characters being home, safe and amongst the ones they love.  I brought back the Flashback Theme from the episode’s beginning montages that I now officially re-title THE EARTH THEME:

Unlike the mysterious and nebulous arrangements in the Caprica flashbacks, this arrangement is epic, filling the wide expanse of the visuals and transitioning us to the African wilderness.

The Earth Theme that originally served as a bridge to tie the Caprica Flashbacks together, now functions as a thread connecting the various scenes on Earth together.  Implicitly, the music binds the Caprica Flashbacks in the first act to the sequences on Earth in the third act, becoming book-ends for the entire episode.

After the big orchestral flourish, Chris Bleth’s duduk and bansuri play simple statements of the Earth Theme to transition us from (newly restored Admiral) Adama on the hilltop to Lee and Lampkin discussing whether or not to build a city.

Ultimately, Lee decides that no city should be built and that technology should be abandoned, so that they can pass on to this new world only the better part of humanity.  As he walks with his father and explains his idea, the Earth Theme returns, played in the lowest instruments I had at my disposal: the basses, celli and low woodwinds.

Contrapuntal layers enter one by one as the Earth Theme slithers its way up from the lower instruments to the flutes, clarinets and violins.  We cut to Adama with the Colonial and Cylon leaders discussing the plan, and a simple, small percussion ostinato begins in the shakers and hand percussion.

The montage is scored with multiple orchestral threads of the Earth Theme that continue to develop and modulate as each new component of the plan is revealed.  I wanted to create a feeling of energy and mystery here to help underline how important these decisions are, despite the fact information comes at the audience pretty fast.

As the fates of the cylons and the centurions are discussed, the harmonic pattern shifts to one that should be subtly familiar.  A solo duduk plays the theme from Season Two’s “Worthy of Survival:”


I’m not certain why this theme fit so perfectly here.  Perhaps its because it became associated with Ellen’s execution in Season Three (“Gentle Execution” from the album).  But, this theme and this scene worked very well together.

Adama agrees with Ellen that the centurions have earned their freedom and the Earth Theme returns in the orchestra, concluding this scene and transitioning us to the next.

Before he pilots the fleet into the sun, Anders is visited by Kara in a touching and virtually dialog-less scene.  I scored this scene with an orchestral re-arrangement of Season Two’s string quartet piece “A Promise to Return,” from The Farm.  This piece is the source of the Kara / Anders Love Theme:

Used here, this theme summarizes their arc beautifully.  It originally underscored their farewell on Caprica before Kara blasted off to return to Galactica.  Since then, fragments of it have underscored key moments in their complex, dynamic and extremely passionate relationship.  But, this is the most complete and authentic version of it since The Farm. 

My hope is that even viewers who pay no attention to the score will subconsciously recall the farewell scene from The Farm when they hear this.  That memory helps elevate this moment as these two lovers say goodbye one final time.

(Ludvig Girdland during the recording session for “The Farm”)

This scene was particularly emotional for me for personal reasons as well.  If you have the Season Two album and read the liner notes then you know that “A Promise to Return” was dedicated to my friend Ludvig Girdland, who played first violin on it.  Our recording session for The Farm was among the last that this remarkably gifted violinist ever played.  Weeks later, he was involved in a tragic automobile accident, instigated by a drunk driver (circumstances similar to Roslin’s sisters).  Ludvig physically survived, but fell into a coma from which he has yet to emerge, years later. 

Ironically, Anders himself went into a coma this season.  And though he became a hybrid and was able to speak again, he still never recovered completely.  Re-arranging “A Promise to Return,” writing again the ornamented melody line Ludvig first played for me years ago, while having to witness Anders in this coma-like state was a very difficult experience for me. 

In the next act, Adama prepares to pilot the last viper off Galactica.  As he walks through the hangar deck, Eric Rigler plays a longing statement of “Wander My Friends:” 


I initially wrote this theme for Hand of God, featuring it in a hearty vocal arrangement for the celebration in the hangar deck after the military victory at the cylon tylium refinery.  I couldn’t help but think of that moment during this scene, since this hangar would never again echo with life and energy like that.  Only Adama and Eric’s lingering whistle solo remain.  As he enters the launch tube, the orchestra picks up the melody in a warmer arrangement. 

As the phrase reaches its emotional peak, the narrative leaps back to the Caprica flashbacks to wrap up Adama’s storyline.  He’s taking a lie detector test for his civilian job.  Unexpected, dissonant and unresolved string chords highlight his discomfort with the whole situation. 

Finally, he can take no more humiliating and pointless questions and quits the test.  The bansuri states a final, warm and powerful version of the Military Theme. This theme has always been associated with the noble and honorable military life, and with his long association with Saul Tigh.  I used the Military Theme here because this is the moment when he decides he doesn’t want to give up that life, a choice that sets him on the path to becoming the William Adama we all know and love.

In the present, Adama’s viper blasts out of the launch tube and he gazes at the fleet one last time.  Here, the violins and Chris Bleth’s duduk play an elongated and subtle statement of Stu Phillips “Theme from Battlestar Galactica,” from the classic 70s series: 


I never told any of the producers I was going to bring this theme back. But, I knew from the first rough cut I saw that I wanted Stu’s iconic and uplifting theme to underscore Galactica’s ride into the literal and proverbial sunset.

Stu’s music has always been woven throughout the series.  It was in a fanfare during the decommissioning ceremony in the miniseries.  I brought it back to underscore D’Anna Biers documentary in Season 2, where it served as the “Colonial Anthem.”  French horns blared it out over the big space battle in Razor.  And most recently, snippets of his piece “Exploration” snuck their way into Someone to Watch Over Me as “Nomion’s Third Sonata, Second Movement.”

But, I wanted the arrangement in Daybreak to outshine them all, and I must say I think I succeeded.  After hearing the duduk and strings state Stu’s A Theme, the duduk, electric violin and erhu state the B-Theme over past and present images of Anders:

Oscillating string figures crescendo beneath them, building up in a dramatic crescendo as we hear a reprise of Anders’ speech from the Caprica flashbacks.

The music builds to the final shot of the fleet, where I state Stu’s Main Theme with the full orchestra, percussion and ethnic soloists:

I learned later that this shot is, in fact, an exact recreation of the fleet stock shot from the original series, making my tribute to the classic series in the score even more appropriate. 

This is the last time we ever see Galactica or the fleet, and I could think of no theme more perfectly appropriate for it than Stu Phillips’ original theme.  As I did with “Colonial Anthem,” I updated Stu’s music to fit the sensibilities of this new series by adding the taikos and ethnic soloists and re-harmonizing it. However, this arrangement is even grander and more ambitious than “Colonial Anthem.”

(M.B. Gordy’s taikos add percussive energy to Stu Phillips’ classic theme)

The result, I hope, is a perfect combination of new and old.  My goal was to ensure fans unfamiliar with the older show would not find the score here distracting. But I also hope that people who loved the old series got an extra chill or two down the spine.  Judging from your comments already posted here, it would seem I was successful.

After we say goodbye to the fleet, we now begin our farewells to everyone else.  First up, Galen Tyrol tells the Tighs that he’s fed up with people, both cylon and human, and has requested that the last raptor out drop him off at a small island in the northern continent, “in the highlands.” 

Here, Eric Rigler plays the Tyrol Theme on the Irish whistle:

This theme is typically played on the alto flute, but I made an exception here.  I also wrote a gentle bed of Uilleann bagpipes to drone in the background.  The fact that I set his theme to Celtic instruments when he says he’s going to live and die alone in Scotland is not a coincidence.  Aside from the little wink to the audience, these instruments also added a layer of heartbreak and beauty to the scene.  (And Aaron Douglas personally asked me to use bagpipes in his last scene.  I made him a promise he would cry when he saw it.)

From a close up on Ellen and Saul, we blast back to the strip club on Caprica.  This takes place later than the previous flashbacks (presumably Bill is still outside puking on himself) so a new song is playing.  Just as Brendan McCreary’s “When Will the Work Be Done?” in the earlier scenes, the music here has hidden meaning.

The energetic techno re-mix is by Jonathan Snipes and performed by his “band” Captain Ahab.  He’s collaborated with me on many projects, including kick-ass songs for Wrong Turn 2, Eureka and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. 

If this piece sounds familiar to you… you’ve got great ears!  The techno song is a Captain Ahab remix of “The Signal,” from my score to Revelations This was the cue that underscored Kara’s frantic race through the hallways to prevent Lee from flushing Tigh out an airlock.  And here it is, in a techno remix in the background while Tigh speaks to his wife.  Jonathan and Brendan both hustled to get these strip club songs finished for me in the homestretch of this episode and I couldn’t be more pleased with what they accomplished.

Back on Earth, Laura and Bill sit in the green grass and watch the antelope in the distance.  Laura, now visibly nearing her death, asks to see them up close.  As Adama picks her up and carries her toward the raptor, violins sneak in an atmospheric and simple arrangement of “Roslin and Adama:”

This theme has been a major force in the score to Season 4, but the way I used it in the end of Daybreak outshines all previous permutations of it.

As Lee and Kara step forward, watching them head toward the raptor, the identifiable waltz accompaniment begins in the piano, strings and acoustic fiddle:

However, as they approach the raptor, the melody shifts and the strings go into “Wander My Friends:” 


I mentioned in my blog entry about the BG ballet “Prelude to War,” that in writing that ballet I discovered how incredibly compatible “Wander My Friends” and “Roslin and Adama” are.  This cue was the perfect opportunity to push that idea further and weave them together to the point where they basically blend into one thematic idea.  They both represent the loves of Adama’s life, so it was fitting that the themes work so well together. 

Forgoing “Galactica’s” typically muted and restrained tone, I went for full-on emotion here.  “Wander My Friends” starts with a strong statement in the strings as Adama hugs Lee, and then crescendos.  However, the orchestra suddenly drops to a very quiet dynamic as he looks to Starbuck, creating a sudden and powerful moment of near-silence.

As Kara hugs Adama, the strings build back up and play the B-Theme of “Wander My Friends,” which has rarely been featured on the series: 

Eric Rigler’s iconic Uilleann bagpipes play this melody, and his Irish whistle picks up the tune halfway through.

(Eric Rigler plays Uilleann Pipes.  Oh, and did I mention he played on “Braveheart?!” He’s the bomb.)

As their raptor takes off, the “Roslin and Adama” waltz accompaniment returns, bringing this cue full circle.

Lee and Kara are now alone in the grass and the enigmatic emotional rollercoaster of Starbuck’s storyline concludes.  The following sequence is relatively short, but nearly every musical thread ever associated with Kara Thrace is woven into the score.

The sequence begins with a Caprica flashback that reveals that the chemistry between Lee and Kara was so intense they almost made love the first night they met.  However, the realization that they would each be betraying Zak prevents them going further.  Their awkward goodbye is underscored with ambient statements of the Lee / Kara Love Theme:

This theme was first composed for their dynamic and bizarre relationship in Unfinished Business. Using it here hints at the entire arc in store for them.

Back in the present, as Lee describes his desire to explore this new world, the strings crescendo the Lee / Kara Love Theme, but the music is suspiciously suspenseful just a second before it is revealed that Kara is now gone.

I hit this moment with a gamelan ensemble stating the Temple of Five Theme:

This theme (originally from The Eye of Jupiter) became associated with Kara in Maelstrom, appearing several times in her flashbacks with her mother.  I used it again in Sometimes a Great Notion, when she discovered her body.  Ultimately, the theme is a bit of a misdirect, since Kara is not directly connected to the Temple of Five at all.  But, my interpretation has always been that the cosmic forces at work behind the cylons, Kara, the Final Five, the Eye of Jupiter, the Mandala, the war and everything else, were all interconnected anyway. 

As he looks around in stunned silence, Martin St. Pierre’s solo erhu plays one last statement of the Kara Destiny Theme, fitting since that destiny has now been completed:

“Goodbye, Kara,” he says.  The warmth in the strings underlines that Lee has now released her, having recognized that her re-appearance was a gift that could never last.  Here, the strings play two simultaneously weaving, contrapuntal statements of the Starbuck Theme:


This theme is stated in the lower strings in a relatively fast phrase, while the first violins play an elongated version of it above them.

We return to Lee and the bird and, as with the last two times, the strings state the Lee / Kara Love Theme.  But this time the music has a warmth, finality and resolution to it.  After attempting in vain to get the bird out of his room, it flutters away once he stops trying.  I never asked Ron what he felt the bird meant, but to me, it always represented Kara’s spirit and his love for her: the more he tries, the further away she flies until finally he must let her go.  I love these scenes because they are open to interpretation.  And just because I scored them from that perspective, doesn’t mean it’s the only (or best) way to read them.

The following scene in the raptor with Adama and Roslin is, in my opinion, the ultimate statement on the “Roslin and Adama” theme.  I scored this heartbreaking moment with a complete reprise of the A and B Theme, complete with piano, fiddle, strings, guitars, bass and percussion. 

(Paul Cartwright playing “Roslin and Adama”)

It begins with the A Theme, performed by Paul Cartwright as it nearly always has been.  The A Theme initially addresses the joy in the scene as Roslin witnesses the life before her: 

The harmonies take a dark shift as her hands go limp.  Then a suspenseful pause takes over the cue as Adama realizes that something is wrong.

When he kisses her hand, the beautiful B Theme returns:

I have traditionally reserved this theme for only the most powerful, dramatic scenes in their relationship.  Essentially, I’ve been saving it for this moment and it was worth the wait.  The arrangement starts as I play the B Theme on piano.  Then, the acoustic guitars and strings sneak in.  Finally, the percussion, bass and full orchestra swell to a lyrical concluding chord. 

(Steve Bartek plays acoustic Portugese guitar for Roslin’s final scene)

I had tears streaming down my face as I wrote this piece.  Honestly, I feel silly even trying to explain it in words.  It basically speaks for itself.  You’ve all seen this scene, so you can imagine what I was going through scoring it. 

As the final act begins, we witness groups of survivors spreading out across the prehistoric African savannah.  While the scene could have called for a big, epic orchestral flourish, I felt that it needed the opposite approach to calm us down after the emotional revelations of the past five or six scenes.

(Chris Bleth plays the “Diaspora Oratorio” melody on duduk)

I scored this tracking shot with a stripped down version of “Diaspora Oratorio,” the epic choral work that concluded Revelations.  However, this version is very different.  I minimized the sweeping choral and orchestral scope and made the arrangement intimate and restrained, featuring solo ethnic instruments instead of choir and brass. 

I also deliberately set the piece in the key of Ab, the absolute furthest key from the original D major.  Even though they’ve come to Earth again, this Earth is completely different from the one in Revelations.  Using “Diaspora Oratorio” reminds us of that previous discovery, but changing the key and orchestration so dramatically underlines that our characters have now truly arrived at the promised land.

The scene begins with a solo duduk playing the A Theme:


As we pan across President Lampkin, an erhu picks up the B Theme:


The camera begins to settle on Helo, Athena and Hera and the score weaves in one final statement of the Earth Theme, first as a question in the violas and duduk and followed by an answer from the violins and bansuri an octave higher: 

This theme is now firmly established as the thread uniting all of Daybreak.  It weaves together the beginning and end of the third act as well as the episode as a whole.

The masterful tracking shot that director Michael Rymer and cinematographer Stephen McNutt set up eventually settles on Hera and her family.  This family has had it worse than anyone else in the series and, against all odds, they made it to the end, alive and healthy.  The strings and gamelan celebrate them with a warm and joyful arrangement of the Boomer / Athena / Hera Theme:

This theme was first written to score Helo getting rescued from a Sharon model in the rainy forests of Caprica in 33.  I could never have guessed at the time I first wrote it, that the last time I would ever write it would be for such beautiful and uplifting imagery.

The camera pulls back further, as the strings provide one last statement of the “Diaspora Oratorio” B Theme.  It finally settles on Gaius and Caprica Six, who are visited for a final time by Angel Gaius and Angel Six. 

Their conversation is underscored at first with a very ethereal and mythical rendition of Baltar’s Theme:

However, the music takes on a much warmer and more resolved tone when Angel Gaius tells them that their lives from now on will be “less eventful.”

*** The Final Cues ***

The piece of music I consider to be the last of the principal story begins at the end of the Gaius and Six’s final Caprica flashback and carries over into the present, as they walk towards a place to live the rest of their lives.  It is, again, “The Shape of Things to Come” and begins with the signature 6/8 string riff:

The arrangement you heard earlier, as Baltar and Six took Hera into the CIC, was slower and moodier than the original Season One version which accompanied Baltar’s initial entrance into the opera house in Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Pt. II.  Here, the arrangement mirrors that Season One piece exactly, at least initially.

Gaius breaks down and weeps as he remembers his father and Six leans in to kiss him.  This moment is incredibly moving because I realized that Six is the only person in the universe who knows about Gaius’ family origins, the last person living who had ever even met Julius Baltar.  Gaius’ sins may not be entirely washed away, but he has at least earned the right to a simple life with a person who actually loves him.  I think of his last words to Felix Gaeta: “I know who you are.”  Six doesn’t even need to say it.  Her kiss alone conveys it, (with a little help from the score, of course!).

As she kisses him, the ethnic soloists sneak into the string arrangement.  The orchestration begins to grow beyond anything we ever heard in the Season One version. 

Finally, we cut to Adama, sitting alone on a hilltop beside Roslin’s grave.  The shime daiko, nagado daiko, frame drums and chang changs sneak in beneath the strings as the Passacaglia bass line repeats for the last time in the violas, bass and celli:

The violin line from the Season One version is augmented by a counter-melody that climbs higher and higher through the orchestra, following the movement of the crane as it circles the camera behind Adama, revealing the valley before him.

At the big finish, the entire percussion ensemble bursts into full force.  Duduk, bansuri, erhu and zhong hu swim beneath a cascading waterfall of violins and violas.  Fifteen simultaneous tracks of bagpipes pierce through the ensemble and take the music to a glorious, bombastic, curtain-dropping finale as we cut to black.  And thus the Adama and Roslin storyline ends.

However, there is one more chapter in this story, one that functions as an epilogue more than an essential component in the narrative.  From a close up on Hera, the story jumps forward in time 150,000 years to modern day New York city.  

(recording “150,000 Years Later”)

The last time this series executed a time jump was during the final episode of Season Two.  I scored that transition with a memorable groove in the piano, harps and gamelan (“One Year Later” from the Season Two soundtrack CD):

I wanted the cue for this montage to hark back to Season Two.  My first thought was to take the “One Year Later” track and play it 150,000 times faster!  But, that would basically sound like a blaring sine wave blip.  🙂

The more realistic solution was to reprise “One Year Later” with a new and improved arrangement, which is exactly what I did.  The theme was the appropriate tone for this sequence as well.  It is mysterious, ambiguous and yet also has inherent forward momentum and energy.  The strings build intensity and resolve on the reveal of Manhattan.

Angel Six and Angel Gaius walk through Times Square and pass by a homeless person with a beat up old radio.  The first sound audible from the radio is the closing chorus of “Ain’t We Famous,” by Brendan’s Band.  This is a song that he already recorded for the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles soundtrack. The producers wanted a song with a classic-rock feel that would believably be heard on a rock station before Jimi Hendrix.  I loved the idea of hearing Brendan’s voice one last time in the series, especially since he is the voice of our version of “Watchtower.”   I could think of no more perfect way to introduce Jimi Hendrix’s famous recording of “All Along the Watchtower” than with Brendan McCreary’s voice.

Using Jimi in the end was a marvelous way for Ron to underline the concept that “Watchtower” itself is really an ethereal presence that becomes known to various selected few across the universe and over the eons.  It is obviously bigger than the cylons, than Kara, than Bob Dylan or any other person or group.  Using Jimi’s version (instead of Bob Dylan’s original) works well because it is the more famous recording. And if you think about, in the “Galactica” universe, Bob Dylan’s isn’t the original version anyway… mine came first! 🙂

However, in my admittedly biased opinion, the use of Jimi’s “Watchtower” at the end lacks the emotional punch one would expect from the end of the series.  Indeed, the entire sequence in Manhattan is more satisfying on an intellectual level than an emotional one.  But, I am not suggesting it was inappropriate.  The idea of Hera becoming the “Mitochondrial Eve” for modern humanity was central to the entire series.  There was simply no other way to communicate this story point without jumping to the modern day.

That is why I thought of Adama’s scene beside Roslin’s grave as the emotional end of the series, and the epilogue in New York as the conceptual end of the series.  And I scored them as such.  The recapitulation of “The Shape of Things to Come” bursts with emotion, sadness and joy.  The following cue, the variation of “One Year Later,” conveys mystery, intrigue and curiosity on an epic scale, but is not overtly sentimental.

*** Conclusion ***

The Daybreak screening for cast and crew on Friday was incredibly emotional for me, and for all of us there.  It’s only now dawning on me how incredibly over “Battlestar Galactica” truly is.  But, somehow I suspect that “Battlestar” will never be gone from my life.  Sure, I’ve got “The Plan” and “Caprica” to look forward to, but also years of conventions, concerts, soundtrack albums, documentaries and blog entries.  I also think this is a series that people will talk about for many years.  Certainly “Battlestar” will always be an active part of my life in some fashion.  However, the body of work that represents what I achieved on it is now complete.

My next “Battlestar” task is to assemble the eagerly-awaited Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 Soundtrack Album.  Many of you chimed in on my blog entry asking for requests (which I will be checking even more frequently in the coming weeks, so comment there if you have any suggestions). 

As of this writing, my plan is to produce a 2-CD ALBUM.  The first disc would cover He That Believeth through Islanded in a Stream of Stars.  The second disc would basically just be Daybreak.  I’m thinking that cues from Razor and The Plan would be included in an upcoming box-set of unreleased material.  I’m not opposed to putting a few choice Razor cuts on the Season 4 album, but honestly, there’s so much incredible music from the other episodes, my gut instinct is to hold on to Razor for a separate release.

(Raya Yarbrough, myself and Alessandro Juliani in the recording studio last month.  I wonder what we were working on??)

I’m hoping for a mid-Summer or early Fall release date.  I know that feels like a long time away, but I’ve an incredible amount of work facing me, trimming and editing this body of work down to even two discs.  To help tide you all over, I am pleased to announce that La La Land Records will release my soundtrack to Caprica in a few weeks, basically concurrent with the DVD release.  I’ll have official details up here on the blog as soon as they become available.

Lastly, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have read this blog and commented here.  Interacting with the fans of this series has been an absolute joy, an experience that, in return, had a profound influence on the music I wrote.  When I realized that “Galactica” had such a sophisticated and musical audience out there, it inspired me to put even more detail into my work. 

The series may be over, but I want to keep blogging and interacting with all of you!  I highly encourage every one of you to stick around and check back frequently.  In addition to “Galactica”-related posts, I’ll write about non-“Battlestar” projects I know you guys will enjoy, and update as often as I can. This blog has been an incredible way for me to communicate directly with the fans and I don’t want it to stop.

I also must take this opportunity to give an extra special thanks and hearty “So Say We All!” to my stunningly talented and dedicated music team, without whom this score would not be possible…

(Co-producer and Engineer Steve Kaplan)

(Scoring Coordinator / Session Producer Aaron A. Roethe and Orchestrator Brandon Roberts)

 (Orchestration Consultant Jim Hopkins)

(Scoring Assistants L-R: Michael Beach, Jonathan Ortega, John W. Snyder)

(Assistant Engineers L-R: Laurence Schwarz and Tom Brisette)

… and all of the remarkable musicians who’ve accompanied us on this journey.

I am very grateful to have been involved with “Battlestar Galactica” in such a creative way.  But, my artistic achievements would be nothing without the friendships I’ve formed here, ones I hope and trust will last a lifetime.  Everyone on this series is a part of my new extended family.  I’ve never felt so close to musicians, producers, actors, sound designers, editors, crew members from all departments (and even fans) as I do for those involved with “Battlestar.” As I move forward to other exciting projects in my career, I gain perspective on how rare that kind of bond is in the television business.  “So Say We All,” indeed! 

Warm Regards,

Bear McCreary
Los Angeles, CA
March 20, 2008

PS: Special Thanks to Andrew Craig, Jason Cochard and Matthew Gilna for the photographs!



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