To Have Her Please Just One Day Wake
May 26, 2008 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Bear McCreary's essay, with sheet music, on composing Gaeta's Lament for Battlestar Galactica. Spoilers if you haven't seen the most recent episode, Guess What's Coming To Dinner. Via.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Far out. I've been plugging my ears and lalala-ing thru this season because I wanted to wait for the DVD; perhaps I'll go a-torrenting after all.
posted by mwhybark at 11:02 AM on May 26, 2008

I have to say that with the exception of the Philip Glass piano stuff, the Galactica soundtrack music unrelentingly sucks donkey testicles.

The generically-ethnic twangings and marching band drumbeats are bad enough.

But the critical plot significance of cornball classic "All Along the Watchtower" was a truly appalling choice. I know it has nostalgic resonance for a certain generation, but for the rest of us it might as well have been Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:11 AM on May 26, 2008 [5 favorites]

I couldn't disagree with TheophileEscargot more. The BSG soundtrack has been consistently amazing, and having Bear McCreary's blog to go along with it, explaining the different themes, has been a real eye-opener not only in composition, but understanding how TV music is scored.
posted by Addlepated at 11:34 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow. Michelle Forbes has had a hell of a career since Guiding Light. Who would have thought Sonny would go on to be a star?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2008

She'll always be Ensign Ro to me.
posted by chunking express at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

And I'm not a big fan of the marching band stuff in the BSG sound tracks, but on the whole I have to say they are pretty awesome. "All Along the Watchtower" did indeed suck, but most of the instrumental music from the series is great. "Something Dark is Coming" that opens the last episode of Season 2 works great on the show, and it nice to listen to by itself.
posted by chunking express at 11:46 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

What's with the terrible lyrics? "But wish no more/My life you can take/To have her please just one day wake"?

I think I read that in my students' poetry publication in middle school.

I like BSG, and often enjoy the music, but that was pretty awful.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:49 AM on May 26, 2008

Wow. Michelle Forbes has had a hell of a career since Guiding Light. Who would have thought Sonny would go on to be a star?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:37 AM on May 26 [+] [!]

Well, she IS pretty much the worst actor that the show's had. She chews more scenery than the Cloverfield monster doing Vaudeville.
posted by basicchannel at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, the bit in Bear's blog where he talks about how the crew cried during Juliani's performance seemed... perfunctory. I think all crews are required to cry at maudlin performances by the lead in whatever production they are working on.
posted by basicchannel at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I found Bear's podcast interview at GeeksOn particularly interesting (he used to room with one of the show's hosts): at the very least, Bear's stories give one an idea of the incredible time constraints that some of the creatives in BSG work under (a possible factor in Gaeta's lyrics in the last episode, which I agree were execrable, if wonderfully sung).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:14 PM on May 26, 2008

Normally, I tend to think that BSG's music is a tad maudlin, overproduced, slick psuedo-"ethnic" crap. But I think this was a nice go at folk song. The lyrics really fit well into that. They're not brilliant, nor are they trying to be. And, c'mon, it worked really well in the episode. That ending was dramatic as hell.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2008

I really enjoy BSG's soundtrack; setting aside personal tastes, it definitely stands above the rest in quality. Bear McCreary's blog is also a great resource for fans of the show, and an unusual look into the production of TV music.

For this particular post, I did enjoy the end product as presented in the episode, but the making-of was, as others mentioned, painful to watch. It was the bad-ness of the performance by Juliani which made it believable, as if the character was dragging along a happy past which had gathered quite a bit of dust as a result of the hell he's lived through.
posted by mek at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2008

I think this is an interesting illustration of the problem of art-within-art, and the question that always follows: why must it always suck? Whenever a show - especially of the sci-fi variety - needs to portray a piece of artistic work (or even, say, religious writing) that exists in its imaginary world, it's always rendered as mush: generic, dumbed-down, self-evident fare. It never has the kind of daring, off-kilter, not entirely quality that defines iconic pieces of literature in the real world. See also: the purple prose in that book that Adama is reading to Roslin.

It's as if writers are afraid that their art-within-art will draw focus away from the real point of the scene. Pragmatically, snippets of non-self-evident art-within-art might just confuse audiences. But the upshot is that we get get the sense that, amongst the Colonials, even high art was lousy pap.
posted by bicyclefish at 1:10 PM on May 26, 2008

But I think this was a nice go at folk song. The lyrics really fit well into that. They're not brilliant, nor are they trying to be.

My criticism isn't that the music isn't "brilliant" enough, but that it sounds like a half-assed attempt at something that sounds special, poetic, fancily musical and significant when folk music is often just a catchy bit of simple, whimsically melancholy nostalgia set to a tune that isn't particularly complex.

Perhaps that's just my American sensibilities; I'm thinking along the lines of the camp songs I used to learn and the songs my grandparents used to sing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:41 PM on May 26, 2008

bicyclefish, you obviously never saw Londo and Vir singing snippets of Centauri opera to each other.

About the only thing that kept me interested in BSG's third season after the exodus from New Caprica was the music. So cheers to McCreary for that, at least.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:43 PM on May 26, 2008

I don't mind the soundtrack as I think it fits the atmosphere of the show, particularly the OMG MILITARY SPACE PORN BRING ME TISSUES MA! parts, but yes, "All Along The Watchtower" made me feel like I was being kicked in the shins.

The new BSG is still better than any other sci-fi show that has ever been on television, however. Unless they get to Earth at the end and Admiral Adama turns to Madame Airlock and says something along the lines of "The real treasure...was knowledge. Knowledge was the treasure!" In which case I will kill Ronald D. Moore and everyone he ever loved.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:40 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

WolfDaddy - No, at around that time, I was stranded on Deep Space Nine, wincing my way through Bajoran prophecy. (Ron Moore strikes again.)

Was it terrible, or terribly good?
posted by bicyclefish at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2008

Oooo, you simply must watch Babylon 5. The effects haven't withstood the test of time, and really the characters exist only to service the plot, and you're going to spend most of the first season (and probably the first third of the fifth season) wondering what the hell you're doing but butbutbut the characters of and the actors behind Londo and G'Kar eclipse all that and anchors a truly epic, if at times flawed, story.

Plus you get to see what Mira Furlan had been up to before she became crazy jungle woman on Lost. And the episode in which Londo and Vir sing alien opera to each other is called "Knives," in the second season.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:50 PM on May 26, 2008

Gah, the "Gaeta Sings to his Leg" episode had entirely too much of Gaeta singing to his leg. He sings great, yes, but okay, we get it.

On a related note, enjoy the Battlestar Galactica theme in four parts, a capella.
posted by brownpau at 6:05 PM on May 26, 2008

Gods dammit, brownpau, give a frakking body a little warning next time. That ... that ... that was ...

I have no similes.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:58 PM on May 26, 2008

Juliani is a fantastic singer, but I'm not a big fan of McCreary's BSG scores. Way, way, way too much percussion (and I love percussion, usually). It's become a cliche. The score should augment what's happening on screen and not stand there yelling "LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!".

I think Richard Gibbs did a far superior job on the BSG miniseries soundtrack. Some of the classic themes used in the series come from his work ("Sense of Six"), and not McCreary's. My own favorite is "To Kiss Or Not To Kiss" - the lyrics are from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and are even more moving when set against this music:

Asato ma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya

From delusion lead me to truth
From darkness lead me to light
From death lead me to immortality

posted by longdaysjourney at 7:02 PM on May 26, 2008

I agree, actually. I admire McCreary's work, but when I went back and watched the miniseries, I was struck by how effective the orchestral score was at communicating the sense of being lost, as it were, in space.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:26 PM on May 26, 2008

Oooo, you simply must watch Babylon 5.

After hearing this for years, I finally broke down a few months ago and downloaded the first season. I hate to be all your favorite X sucks, but:

I was not impressed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:36 PM on May 26, 2008

I was not impressed.

Maybe you're more of a Stargate person?
posted by felix betachat at 1:23 AM on May 27, 2008

Oh dear god, no. I loves me some BSG, but to find any other standard space opera science fiction on TV that I enjoy (or rather, that the cringing I do while watching it is a pleasurable cringing), I've got to go back to Star Trek TOS.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:47 AM on May 27, 2008

After hearing this for years, I finally broke down a few months ago and downloaded the first season. I hate to be all your favorite X sucks, but:

I was not impressed.

Season one is the dominoes being laid in a line. Sure, it's more fun when they start falling over, but you have to put the pieces in place. This was brought home to me even moreso when I rewatched season 1 a year ago and was all "Wow - that thing I thought was just a throwaway plot device mentioned for background turned out to be why all this other stuff happened later! Kewl!" So I'd at least give season 2 a shot - it has a different commander and everything! Plus, Delenn becomes more chicky easier on the eye for the bald-fetish lacking male demographic.

On the other hand - large amounts of season five are the tidying up after all the interesting domino bits have happened. But 2-3-4 are the absolute bomb.
posted by Sparx at 2:57 AM on May 27, 2008

Oh, yeah. BSG music. I like it. It's interesting, can get the pulse punding, and doesn't sound like any other show, which I think is a good thing. Plus the percussiveness of it gives it an entirely appropriate military feel.

OTOH, Gaeta's lament was held onto for quite a long period of screen time, some of which could have been better filled with more of the other jaw-dropping goodness that episode had.
posted by Sparx at 3:04 AM on May 27, 2008

GOSH! He's NEVER used a V/I cadence to end a piece of music on BSG!!! ZOMG!!!


I wonder where I should send my ancient copy of Hindemith's Traditional Harmony ...
posted by aldus_manutius at 5:52 AM on May 27, 2008

Just to let you BSGers know, a new episode aired early in the UK today, so it can be watched via certain sources.
posted by mek at 5:10 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

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