In the aftermath of the influx of holiday season trailers and into the awards show season, we thought it an opportune time to refocus on what’s happening on the small screen. Among the most musically interesting of recent TV trailers is certainly the latest foray promoting the next season for Star Trek: Discovery. This trailer features a constantly shifting and building arrangement that arrives at a satisfying conclusion in its final moments.
The music pulsates ominously, only pausing at the 0:20 mark to hammer home the atmosphere: “We’re really on the other side of the looking glass now, aren’t we?” This gives away to a positively threatening-sounding double-bass growl and an acrobatic flurry of notes in the cello line, careening between chord tones and passing notes. Another brief pause at 0:40 following Spock’s remark shows a sensibility towards presenting the trailer in discrete narrative moments.
From 0:43 onwards the motif that began in the lower strings has moved to the violins. The rhythm of the harmony changes beneath introduce a compound meter. At about the halfway mark, we hear the introduction of epic, martial percussion.
Interestingly, at 1:06 there is an abrupt key change, and at 1:06 that tonal centre shifts yet again, which works well in tandem with the reveal of an alien intruder on screen at 1:11. It’s a subtle but unnerving sense that we are no longer in the company of the familiar that this underscore, well, underscores. By the the time we hear Spock arguing at 1:14 an epic choir has joined the musical fray, as the dialogue is intermittently cut with shots of large-scale space battles that befit the scale of the music at this juncture. At 1:21 we hear yet another tonal abrasion; it’s a high-romantic intensity, or an encounter with the sublime, that works well for the high fantasy of Star Trek.
At 1:32 we get yet another new section, with the foregrounding of faux-Latin syllabic singing by the choir, complemented by pummelling, punishing flares from the percussion. A twinge of synth at the very end rounds it out.
While not particularly notable or innovative in terms of musical technique, this trailer successfully implements a classic approach in its arrangement that patiently builds up the elements of epic music trailer, saving its bombast for the final moments. It’s a smoothly wrought blend of choral, percussive, and other instrumental forces that takes you on a ride, with a nice tonal twist in the middle for good measure, mirroring the on-screen narrative to good effect.
– Curtis Perry