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GNPD 8077

Artwork copyright (c) 2002 Tribune Entertainment Company; review copyright (c) 2002 James Southall

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Typical tv sci-fi music doesn't ignite the embers

You've got to give that Gene Roddenberry some credit: most people slow down in their later years and the general trend is to stop working altogether on death, but Roddenberry has the unique distinction of having been more prolific since his death in 1991 than he ever was in life. The latest series to come from his pen is Andromeda, which began in 2000.

This album marks the first release of music from the series. Roddenberry established in Star Trek the important rôle that music could play in television science fiction, with a string of outstanding scores that are unique in television music in that the actual episodic underscores have entered popular culture in a way that evades music for even the most famous series that have come since. But television music 25 years later has changed beyond recognition from that which Roddenberry commissioned for the original series of Star Trek. Even its modern-day incarnations place virtually no value at all on its importance, relegating talented composers to providing atmospheric underscore at the best of times.

The sad fact is, though, that even in its watered-down form, the orchestral music in the modern Star Trek series pretty much sets the standard for television science fiction music of today (the exception of Mark Snow's music for The X-Files not withstanding). This is demonstrated once again by this 65-minute album of music by Matthew McCauley. With a minimal music budget, the composer is forced to rely solely on synthesisers to create his scores, and the restrictions of modern-day television producers dictates that his music does not play much of a dramatic rôle (though you wouldn't think it from reading the notes by the show's producer in the CD booklet, which would lead the uninitiated to suspect that McCauley's music should be regarded by history in the same breath as The Rite of Spring or Beethoven's seventh symphony).

This is reasonably pleasant, easy-listening music of the kind that is found in virtually every television show made today. It is devoid of much melody or emotion, functioning solely to provide a degree of atmosphere to accompany the visuals. I'm sure that has nothing to do with a lack of talent or enthusiasm on Mr McCauley's part, but has everything to do with restrictions placed upon him by his superiors.

Soundtracks for science fiction tv series always seem to attract a higher than may be expected audience because the viewers tend to be slightly more fanatical than those of other shows and, to that end, I'm sure many fans of Andromeda the series will buy and enjoy this CD. More casual fans will, I imagine, not draw so much pleasure from it. The dire "theme" for the first season aside (actually composed not by McCauley but by Alex Lifeson), there's nothing much wrong with the music, but then there's nothing much that may compel one to listen to it either.

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