QUIET SPOILERS AHEAD: After the shock and awe of the last episode, A Disquiet Follows My Soul marks the beginning of the final story arcs of this series. This episode is all about picking up the pieces and getting back to the journey at hand after debilitating setbacks. The tone is fitting, because it was the first episode written and produced after the WGA strike crippled the show during production of last week’s episode, threatening to end the series early.
After many months of anxious waiting, production resumed in March 2007 and all of us working on Galactica breathed a collective sigh of relief. I will always remember these emotions when I see this episode’s opening scene.
“Sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in the town. Sometimes I get a great notion, to jump in the river and drown.”
From Ken Kesey’s novel “Sometimes a Great Notion”
EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS AHEAD: Last April, the mid-season cliffhanger Revelations ended with my rousing “Diaspora Oratorio,” a musical orgasm for choir, orchestra, percussion and ethnic soloists that accompanied the fleet’s arrival at the end of their long journey. Picking up immediately where that episode left off, Sometimes a Great Notion is the tonal opposite: the darkest, most grim and foreboding episode of Battlestar Galactica ever produced. Our heroes have found their promised land, Earth, a desolate nuclear wasteland. But, that’s just the beginning.
SPOILERS ABOUND: My journey scoring Battlestar Galactica has been long and arduous, but intensely rewarding. I’m only now realizing how deeply it has affected me, on both musical and personal levels. Many experiences stand out as having an incredible impact on me: scoring the destruction of the Olympic Carrier as my first cue on my first professional credit, composing endless drafts of “Passacaglia,” scoring Kara’s literal and figurative self-destruction in Maelstrom.
When I first watched the rough cut of Revelations months ago, I suspected that scoring it would be another such experience. But I had no idea what I was in store for.
Throughout my life, I’ve written only four pieces that redefined what I’m capable of, compositions that stand above everything else I’ve ever done: works that changes the way I approach my craft. While these transformations are often painful, they are the growth that all artists strive for.
MORE SPOILERS: The Hub is an exciting episode because it resolves several story lines, and begins new ones as well. The episode focuses on the battle to destroy the Cylon Resurrection Hub, but also on Laura Roslin, who is among the most complex and interesting characters on the show. As a result, I was able to write an usually expressive and dynamic score.
The music introduced several new ideas to propel the story forward. Most importantly, I wrote a new theme to represent the Resurrection Hub:
The Hub Theme plays throughout the entire battle sequence, an usual choice since it is inherently not energetic action music. Replacing the expected raging percussion and searing ethnic soloists that typically accompany space battles, this piece is instead introspective and spiritual, because I wanted the music to underscore the incredible importance of the event. The destruction of the Resurrection Hub completely redefines Cylon existence, and levels the playing field in their war. The score is underlining these essential truths, while allowing the bullets and spaceships to speak for themselves.
SPOILERS BEYOND: Sine Qua Non features the return of two of my favorite characters from Season 3… Romo Lampkin and Jake, the canine hero of the New Caprica resistance! The episode covers a lot of ground, but essentially is about two plotlines: Lee and Romo’s search for a new president, and Adama’s gradual realization that he can not leave Laura Roslin behind. As a result, the vast majority of the score is built from two musical themes, one for each storyline.
Although Romo was first introduced in the final episodes of Season Three, his character was not given a musical theme… much to the dismay of actor Mark Sheppard. I later bumped into Mark on several social occasions, and he consistently asked when I was going to write a “Romo Lampkin” theme, and I consistently promised him he’d get one before the series ended. When I saw the rough cut of Sine Qua Non, I knew it was my chance to make good on my promise. So, Mark… this theme’s for you, man! 🙂
BEWARE THE SINGING SPOILERS: Throughout Guess What’s Coming To Dinner, Gaeta sings to distract himself from the pain after his leg is amputated. The song, Gaeta’s Lament, serves as a narrative thread connecting the entire episode, not only communicating his character’s misery, but weaving together the multiple story arcs.
This episode is a special one for me, because it represents the first time I’d been brought onboard at the script level. The scoring process is generally the last step in the journey of completing an episode. I’m accustomed to writing music for a finished story. Here, I had the unique opportunity to help shape the musical identity before production even began. Writer Michael Angeli, director Wayne Rose and actor Alessandro Juliani and I all worked closely together to bring this song to the screen.
Alessandro Juliani (AJ) said that the idea “began around a dinner table when we were shooting Kevin Fahey’s script ‘Faith.’ We were out one night after work, and somehow it came up in conversation that I had studied opera (in what seemed like another lifetime at Mcgill University in Montreal).”
Writer Michael Angeli described the evolution of the song: “After we hammered out the bare bones story arc, Ron came to me with this idea of having Gaeta sing ‘an opera’ whenever his leg’s bothering him. And he wanted an original song. Since it was my episode, later I asked him if this opera was something I should write and he was, like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I’m pretty sure we had that conversation after we were drinking all night (we would work for 12 hours a day, then kick it, big time in the evenings).”
BEWARE THE USUAL SPOILERS: Many of the themes developed in The Road Less Traveled return in Faith. But this episode is an even bigger melting pot of musical ideas from throughout the series. And it introduces the first brand-new theme since Cally’s theme in The Ties That Bind.
The episode picks up right where we left off last week: a tense scene underscored with a signature percussion groove I called the Mutiny Riff. While this swinging 3/4 pattern rolls beneath the entire scene, the most interesting musical moment in the teaser happens while Kara and the crew are frantically treating Gaeta. Here, the ethnic soloists state a new idea which I will call Gaeta’s Theme for now.
This theme will be featured (very prominently) in next week’s episode, so I will save the juicy details and analysis until then. But, it makes several appearances in this episode, foreshadowing the unusual role it plays next week.
SPOILERS AHEAD: The Road Less Traveled is an important episode because it simultaneously brings together several significant story points from the past and sets in motion events that will prove pivotal in the future. The episode focuses on Kara and her crew aboard the Demetrius, so the Starbuck Theme…
… and the Starbuck Destiny Theme…
… are both featured frequently in the score.
SPOILER ALERT, AS USUAL: While each episode is exciting on its own, the first quarter of Season 4 is essentially laying the groundwork for bigger events down the line. As a result, Escape Velocity is a bit of an odd episode. So much of it is setting up future storylines that the episode itself is paced slower and more deliberately than most. It’s a relatively calm and introspective story, and I loved the opportunity to write a more spiritual, dark score without the added pressure of frantic action cues (although I still got a few good ones in there).
The episode begins with Cally’s funeral. It would have made sense to bring back the Cally Theme from last week’s episode but… I hadn’t written it yet! The editing schedule forced us to complete Escape Velocity before Ties That Bind, so I actually had to score her funeral before her death scene in the previous episode.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Episodes where a major character is killed off generally require a complex and almost Operatic approach to scoring. Not only are these death scenes important in the larger story arcs, but I also feel compelled to provide an appropriate send-off for the actor or actress who is leaving the series. I want to make sure that their (presumably) last moments on the series are good ones. The Ties That Bind was the first such episode in Season Four, though I have since discovered that it is certainly not the last.
Cally’s storyline filled 20 minutes of the episode, and literally every second of it was plastered with layered, evolving music. I knew immediately that I’d need a new theme for her. Though she and Tyrol have had a love theme since Season 1 (musical details here), it didn’t have the emotional range to capture her frustration, anger, disorientation, confusion and ultimate madness. Their original theme does make several appearances in the episode, but the majority of Cally’s scenes are underscored with this new melodic idea: