A key word in composer Bear McCreary's approach to his original score music on Battlestar Galactica, a gritty and adult take on the '70s human-vs.-robot space opera of the same name, was minimalism. Frequent Galactica episode director Michael Rymer said that he and the show's crew wanted to reinvent "the language of the space opera," so musically, in Galactica's first couple of seasons, McCreary spoke this language through a smaller-than-usual orchestra, sparse strings, taiko drums, gamelans and Middle Eastern chants.
"It was based in reaction to Star Wars and Star Trek, the trumpet bombast that we associate with space operas," said McCreary to TV critic Alan Sepinwall in 2008. "[The producers of the series] told me they wanted no themes, and this is probably because in their minds a theme is a French horn playing Luke Skywalker's theme as he stares at the twin sunset."
Executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick ended up ditching their "no themes" rule and McCreary proceeded to write themes for each character (or character relationship, like the theme that represents the bond between Commander Bill Adama and President Roslin or the Celtic motif for Bill and his son Lee--the Adamas are apparently Irish Latinos, like Martin Sheen). But the composer continued to keep it minimalist during moments where most other composers would opt for bombast, like the memorable "Prelude to War" theme from the second season's nail-biting mid-season cliffhanger (the Galactica and the Pegasus point their nukes at each other).
If you listen closely to "Prelude to War," most of it consists of only strings, a duduk and percussion. Yet McCreary somehow managed to raise our adrenaline with just those elements.
And McCreary did it again with "Prelude to War" in the video below, this time performing the march with just a piano.
"Prelude to War" is also the title of a ballet where McCreary rearranged Galactica themes like "Prelude to War" and "Diaspora Oratorio" for choreographer Ricardo Fernando and the dancers of the Theaterhagen in Hagen, Germany. McCreary detailed the ballet's world premiere on his blog in 2009. (The most interesting part of McCreary's chronicle of the ballet briefly mentions that NBCUniversal placed restrictions on what McCreary was allowed to use from Galactica in his work, which brings to mind how 16 years before, the same corporation claimed certain parts of David Letterman's departing talk show as their "intellectual property." Notice how the dancers aren't dressed like Viper pilots or Cylons.) The "Prelude to War" theme gets the ballet treatment from 0:48 to 2:33 in the footage below.
UPDATE: McCreary himself brought to my attention the ultimate version of "Prelude to War."
All the other "March Madness March of the Day" posts from this week:
"Space March" from You Only Live Twice by John Barry
"Main Title" from The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein
"The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" from The Empire Strikes Back by John Williams
"The Plot" from Mission: Impossible by Lalo Schifrin