Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alexander Courage (1919-2008)

"I have to confess to the world that I am not a science fiction fan. Never have been. I think it's just marvelous malarkey, so you write some marvelous malarkey music that goes with it."--Alexander Courage

Another legendary Silver Age composer best known for his TV work has passed away. Alexander Courage, the composer of the original Star Trek's famous fanfare, died May 15 at the age of 88. Courage's fanfare hasn't lost any of its power, despite the countless permutations since the pivotal Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was the first Trek project to utilize the fanfare since the NBC show's 1969 cancellation.

The fanfare is expected to reappear in Michael Giacchino's score for the 2009 big-screen relaunch of Trek. "To me, that fanfare, boom, that says it all right there," said Giacchino in a SciFi Wire interview. "And this film is about everything that came before that. So, yes, I want to keep that."

Courage also wrote the '60s series' bongo-driven main title theme, which the fanfare has eclipsed in popularity--the composers who worked on the first 10 Trek feature films and The Next Generation quoted the fanfare more often than the title theme. The wordless siren song was considered bold and hip when it first hit the airwaves, while some found it to be hokey, like composer Gerald Fried, who wrote what has to be the '60s Trek's third most popular theme, the "fight theme" that originated in the "Amok Time" episode. Fried once told me in a 1999 interview that he wasn't much of a fan of Courage's operatic title theme, which resembles a South Seas melody.

Outside of the Trek TV series, Courage wrote scores for episodes of Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Waltons, filled in for John Williams on most of the score to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and served as an orchestrator for Williams, Andre Previn, Adolph Deutsch and Jerry Goldsmith.

Geek Monthly editor-in-chief Jeff Bond, who's also the author of The Music of Star Trek, has posted a detailed obit on

A clip from an entertaining documentary about Courage:

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