'Star Trek: Discovery' Composer on Modernizing Star Trek's Sound

Composer Jeff Russo is being pushed for Emmy Awards consideration for his score for Star Trek: Discovery. The composer recently spoke about what it was like creating the modern sound of Star Trek.

Speaking to Gold Derby, Russo first described how he came up with Discovery’s opening theme, which incorporates part of Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme.

“The original idea came from a musical theory called common tone, which is when a group of chords share one note and as you change chords, there’s one note in the chord structure that doesn’t change,” Russo explained. “And I was trying to sort of in my mind — I don’t even know if it happened musically — [do something] that represents the unity in the universe. And then wanting to nod to Mr. Courage’s iconic fanfare. That was sort of getting at the idea of what I thought the show could be.”

Part of the goal of Star Trek: Discovery was to create a cinematic, character-driven experience on television, and that went into crafting the show’s music as well.

“One of the things I don’t like to do is that I don’t like to necessarily score the action,” Russo said. “I like to score what a character is feeling more than what a character is doing. In order to do that with this show, it was really trying to focus on the character work and the interpersonal relationships between these characters. That was kind of new for Star Trek in focusing on that. And we talked a lot about that at the beginning of the show and how doing that might set it apart slightly from what had been done before.”

But Russo also went back to classic Star Trek for one more major moment, the end credits after the USS Discovery meets the USS Enterprise in the show’s first season finale.

“The moment that the band started to play, I didn’t tear up, but I was so in that moment,” Russo said. “I don’t know if I’ve been that much in a moment before on the stand, on the conductor’s podium. It felt like nothing I’d ever felt before. … [Star Trek] has such lineage and history that I got swept up in that moment. It was pretty incredible.”

Emmy Awards voting is now officially underway. The nominees will be announced on July 12th.

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The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream in its entirety on CBS All Access in the United States, through CraveTV in Canada, and through Netflix in other international markets. Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is now filming in Toronto.