Picard Of The Pops - Fred Steiner

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Chris Morley plugs in...


Our next Star Trek composer could perhaps be said to have navigated the original series of Star Trek through the tricky period of establishing itself - Fred Steiner contributing more scores to the Original Series than any other of his peers.



Born in February 1923, the son of a Hungarian composer father, George, who worked for Paramount, he would receive a degree in music composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music at the age of twenty, later going on to secure himself a doctorate in musicology from the University of Southern California by 1981. Steiner's writings would break new ground - a 1974 piece on Bernard Herrmann's work on Psycho is believed to be one of the earliest examples of film score analysis from a musicological perspective. His doctoral thesis was written on the subject of the early career of Alfred Newman, the man behind an early version of the famous Fox fanfare. Newman is also the man behind the almost self-explanatory Newman system, which Dictionary On Music helpfully explains as...
"...a means of synchronizing the performance and recording of a movie score with the film itself. The system uses a special print of the film that is played for the conductor's reference. This print is specially marked with punches and streamers. Punches are tiny marks in the film (for two of every ten frames) that provide a standard beat to help the conductor keep in synch with the tempo. To synchronize music and action, the conductor then uses streamers. These are horizontal lines which move across the screen at a regular pace. This system was created by Newman while he was the Musical Director at Fox, and is still used today."
A similarly academic approach would be taken to detailing the ins & outs of writing music for Star Trek, Fred going on to write an essay for the Library of Congress on Music For Star Trek - Scoring A Television Show In The Sixties. But before all that he had to actually experience what that was like, & would do so in prolific fashion with 53 credits across three seasons!



Beginning with Season One's The Corbomite Manoeuvre, he would move on to Mudd's Women, Charlie X, Balance Of Terror & What Are Little Girls Made Of, followed by uncredited stock appearances for his music in everything from Dagger Of The Mind to Operation Annihilate.



Season Two would find him working on Who Mourns For Adonais followed once more by stock appearances in everything from Wolf In The Fold to The Omega Glory. This would be rounded off with Elaan of Troyius & Spock's Brain in Season Three, his music once again reused from The Tholian Web to Turnabout Intruder.

With the coming of The Next Generation, Steiner would be asked to score Code of Honor.



Outside of Star Trek Steiner's the man behind the theme to Perry Mason, telling the Los Angeles Times that he...
"...wanted to create music for Mason, writer Erle Stanley Gardner's legal-eagle lawyer, that projected two key facets of his personality: suave sophistication and the underlying toughness that allowed him to go head-to-head with the criminals with whom he often came into contact."
The piece he came up with, titled "Park Avenue Beat," pulsed with the power of the big city and the swagger of a beefy hero played to perfection by actor Raymond Burr.



Jazz was his big inspiration at the time, as he disclosed to National Public Radio.
"In those days, jazz - or rhythm and blues was the big thing - represented the seamier side of life. Don't ask me why, that's a sociological question."
In turn he would innovate in his own right, as trekmovie.com rightly noted of Steiner's work on Season One.
"He established a distinctively heavy, dark and mysterious vibe for the show, and because he wrote music for so many episodes his music cues would be “tracked” into later episodes that didn’t have original music written for them.

Consequently Steiner’s alarming theme for the Fesarius from “Corbomite Maneuver” became the de facto theme for space danger on the show, his Romulan theme from “Balance of Terror” underscored countless alien threats and heavies, his rumbling, menacing timpani theme for the android Ruk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” became a signature for the show’s desolate planetary landscapes, and his lush, erotic love themes from “Mudd’s Women” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” underscored most of Captain Kirk’s romantic conquests."
And while Code Of Honor is hardly regarded as a classic, its score is rightly celebrated. In all he did it seems Fred vindicated his old friend Herrmann's belief that...
"...music on the screen can seek out and intensify the inner thoughts of the characters… It can propel narrative forward or slow it down. It often lifts mere dialogue into the realm of poetry"
Steiner would also claim that,
"Nobody really knows why music is needed. I would say that after a lifetime in it I could not tell you why. But it is not complete without it… I feel that it is a responsibility of any gifted composer of our time to do a certain of creative work in the media."
On which count Steiner could be classed as overworked by Gene Roddenberry, you might reasonably conclude! But his endeavours as both a scholar & a gentleman are not to be forgotten.

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