This week our series of articles on Star Trek’s music turns to an early release for label GNP Crescendo: Sound Effects from the Original TV Soundtrack.
Sound effects, by their very definition, are strange things when removed from their core setting. They can also be quite amusing. They certainly aren’t for everyone’s audio library but perhaps these days, with more and more fan productions popping up online of our favorite TV shows and movies, they are becoming required listening.
However, not every person who owns an album of sound effects has the intention to use them as such (I don’t).
Let me take you back a few years, probably about 25, nearer 30. One balmy afternoon in south London, I was browsing in my nearest bookstore – in the sci-fi/fantasy section you wouldn’t be surprised to learn – when another customer, a guy probably around the same age as me with headphones on his head and a Sony Walkman attached to his belt (yes, a Walkman… This was the early 90s), entered the same section and started looking through the extensive comic selection (again, this was the 90s and comics were readily available in bookstores). He was playing his choice of tape cassette (yep, definitely still the 90s) rather loudly and so I could easily hear it as I loitered.
What was he playing (you’re probably wondering…or perhaps you’re not)? Was it the latest chart entry? Oasis? Nirvana? Pearl Jam? Backstreet Boys? Kid’n’Play? Spice Girls? Madonna? Nope. It was BBC Sound Effects Volume 19: Doctor Who. Utterly unmistakable. Completely recognizable. This guy was completely in his element: and why not? I myself still own the same album. In fact, I have both a vinyl and a CD copy. It’s from the golden age of Doctor Who‘s production and has all the great squeaks and parps of alien vistas and all the rumblings of Time Lord intestinal tracts you cannot live without. But I never played directly into my ears while out shopping. Yet.
My point being: they’re enjoyable and fun and have every right to be listened to wherever and whenever and by whoever (in fact, the TARDIS sound effect is formally recognized as a piece of music!). Anyway, apart from the bonus tracks on the CD to Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek, like Doctor Who, only has, to date, one solitary, dedicated album to the under-appreciated background noises accompanying Starfleet’s finest. (Hey, those Star Wars people don’t even have one. Ha.)
GNP Crescendo added it to their burgeoning CD catalog of Star Trek soundtracks in 1988 (at that time, they’d only released music from TOS‘s pilots and The Next Generation‘s ‘Encounter At Farpoint’ and it’s 69 tracks of sheer fan delight.
From the uncredited sleeve notes (but probably written by executive album producer and editor Neil Norman):
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“Star Trek burst upon TV screens in the summer of 1966. The guiding genius behind this massive effort was Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry recruited a hand-picked technical crew to create the incredible series which became a legend in its own time.
“The challenge of finding and creating the multitude of sound effects was of particular interest since no television series of this magnitude had ever been attempted before. Virtually all the sound effects were created exclusively for the television series, i.e. the pneumatic doors of the Enterprise were actually the sound of an airgun played in reverse. Spock’s viewing machine was in reality the thump of a torpedo firing pin played backwards. A few effects included here were also used in the Star Trek animated series.
“The final result is a unique library of brilliantly futuristic sound effects that were created principally by Jack Finlay, Douglas Grindstaff and Joseph Sorokin. Grindstaff is one of Hollywood’s finest sound editors and the recipient of many awards and is currently the department head of Lorimar Post-Production. Sorokin also works at Lorimar and is the sound editor of Knots Landing. Jack is now retired. Just imagine what they could have created for Star Trek if they had access to today’s high-tec electronic equipment!”
Prior to retiring, Finlay also worked on a number of pictures as Supervising Sound Editor, including Rio Lobo and Le Mans. Grindstaff earned a 1967 Emmy nomination for Individual Achievements in Film and Sound Editing while Sorokin had credits for Mission: Impossible, The Lucy Show and Mannix.
Their input to The Original Series cannot be ignored. In virtually every second of screen time for the 79 live-action episodes and the 22 animated, we can hear their creations, from the Enterprise bridge with all it’s tweets and whistles (not forgetting the wonderful viewscreen pulse) to subterranean elevators to the depths of alien worlds. A lot of the time, we probably don’t even notice their presence: they are subliminal and act as world-builders, as atmospheric backgrounds, but take them out of the equation and the worlds, ships and places of the Federation, its enemies and its allies would be a damn sight less interesting.
The trio left behind an impressive legacy, one that designers of 24th century Trek tapped into and expanded upon and one that those responsible for series like Discovery and Enterprise directly referenced.
So we have a compilation here of over an hour’s worth of phasers, of warp speeds, of disruptor fire, of Tribbles, of red alerts and of so much more. Yes, only fans will truly appreciate every nuance, but sound designers and anyone who acknowledges the importance of said sound designers appointed to any dramatic production will find much to enjoy and appreciate here.
Next time: Dennis McCarthy’s Encounter At Farpoint & Arsenal of Freedom