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BEWARE THE SINGING SPOILERS: Throughout Guess What’s Coming To Dinner, Gaeta sings to distract himself from the pain after his leg is amputated.  The song, Gaeta’s Lament, serves as a narrative thread connecting the entire episode, not only communicating his character’s misery, but weaving together the multiple story arcs. 

This episode is a special one for me, because it represents the first time I’d been brought onboard at the script level.  The scoring process is generally the last step in the journey of completing an episode.  I’m accustomed to writing music for a finished story.  Here, I had the unique opportunity to help shape the musical identity before production even began.  Writer Michael Angeli, director Wayne Rose and actor Alessandro Juliani and I all worked closely together to bring this song to the screen.

Alessandro Juliani (AJ) said that the idea “began around a dinner table when we were shooting Kevin Fahey’s script ‘Faith.’ We were out one night after work, and somehow it came up in conversation that I had studied opera (in what seemed like another lifetime at Mcgill University in Montreal). 

Writer Michael Angeli described the evolution of the song: “After we hammered out the bare bones story arc, Ron came to me with this idea of having Gaeta sing ‘an opera’ whenever his leg’s bothering him.  And he wanted an original song.  Since it was my episode, later I asked him if this opera was something I should write and he was, like, ‘Yeah, why not?’  I’m pretty sure we had that conversation after we were drinking all night  (we would work for 12 hours a day, then kick it, big time in the evenings).

He wanted it to be sad, about a lost lover.  In a sense, we were creating a back-story through the song. And ‘opera’ was probably the wrong word. He wanted more of a ballad, with a minor key feel to it. So I wrote the lyrics with the lost lover in mind.  But knowing how the show would end – with The Hybrid awakening – I wanted the lyrics to relate to that moment as well.  I also felt that the “story” in the song should be an allegory for the cold reality of Gaeta losing his leg and there’s nothing that can be done about it.  My wife, Karen plays classical piano.  Some time ago, she wrote this gorgeous piece of music for me as a present.  The melody had the right feel and I used it as I wrote the lyrics.

Thus, from the unique mind of Michael Angeli, came ‘Gaeta’s Lament,’” AJ added. “Or as I prefer to call it, ‘The Stump Serenade.’

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I first got the phone call about the song late last summer, after I had completed Razor.  I hadn’t yet begun any scoring for Season 4, so I consider Gaeta’s Lament to be my first piece of music written for the final season.

Michael sent me his lyrics and I set out shaping them into a song.  The lyrics were poignant and melancholy, but with an odd sense of hope, setting an ambiguous emotional tone that suits our show’s music very well.  To create the melody for the Lament, I started with a melody conceived for Gaeta in Season 1, an idea that ultimately never developed fully.  However, in this context, it fit perfectly.

I shaped Angeli’s lyrics into a simple Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus structure.  The line “To have her, please, just one day wake” really struck me.  So, I set it as the Chorus, making it the most powerful and emotional moment in the song.

I recorded a demo version (with myself singing!) and sent it to AJ.  He, in turn, recorded his own demo version and, in his words, “took it all and made it my own.  His first demo was absolutely beautiful.  His voice alone carried the emotion of the entire song.  All the strings and drums I would eventually add would clearly be icing on the cake.  Many of my melodies on Galactica are extremely reliant on their underlying harmonies to have meaning (Baltar’s theme is a extreme example: without the interesting chordal progression, the melody itself is quite inane).  To have the Lament melody work so well completely on its own felt like a personal victory for me.

This is the song in its full form:

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CLICK HERE FOR A LARGER VERSION

And each phrase of the song appears in the show at least once.

Technically, Gaeta’s Lament was introduced in Faith (see last week’s entry), but it’s first appearance in Guess What’s Coming to Dinner is in instrumental form in the first act, as preparations are being made to jump the rebel baseship and Demetrius back to Galactica.  Unlike the ambient quotations in Faith, this arrangement of the theme is undeniably song-like, and draws more attention to itself.  My goal was to have the tune subconsciously in the audience’s ears before Gaeta even begins to sing it.

A solo bansuri states the Lament again as Gaeta goes under the bonesaw.  The beauty of the melody plays in ironic contrast to the brutal severity of the scene.

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However, the song truly takes form in Act 2.  As Gaeta lays in his hospital bed, recovering from surgery and reeling in pain, he sings us the first Verse of his Lament:

  • Alone she sleeps in the shirt of man
  • With my three wishes clutched in her hand

When we return to him in the following act, he sings the next two Verses:

  • The first that she be spared the pain
  • That comes from a dark and laughing rain
  • When she finds love may it always stay true
  • This I beg for the second wish I made too

Later, after the scene where Natalie meets the quorum, Gaeta resumes at the Pre-Chorus…

  • But wish no more
  • My life you can take

…and finally sings the Chorus, with a stronger and more powerful performance:

  •  To have her please just one day wake

He winces in pain while repeating the line, and a solo bansuri picks up the melody, finishing the phrase for him.  Then, Gaeta starts back at the beginning, suggesting that he’s been repeating this song endlessly.

Shooting the scene was exciting and I think a surprise for the crew,” AJ told me.  I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. But in the end, there’s nothing quite like the power of the human voice. Who knew ol’ Felix had it in him?

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We thought we may have to use playback at some point if [AJ] needed it,” director Wayne Rose told me.  He didn’t need it at all.  I think he went and listened to it a few times in between takes but that was it.  He did it for real.  It was magic.  It really was.

Michael Angeli described the shooting of Gaeta’s vocal performances: “First of all, AJ sang beautifully. His phrasing, his feeling, — just really moving.  I was on set when we did the first few takes and some of the crew were trying to hide their tears. And [McCreary’s] interpretation and arrangement distilled the song into a piece of music that not only captured those emotions, but brought forth the show’s – by this I mean the series’ — musical identity, which has been crucial in establishing ‘Battlestar Galactica’s’ uniqueness.

The two climactic story lines of this episode are intercut as a montage in the final act.  I used the score as a thread to tie all the events together.  My inspiration was the ending of Precipice, where this trick worked out very well.  And I accomplished this with an instrumental arrangement of Gaeta’s Lament.  Even though he’s not onscreen during the montage (until the chilling conclusion), his song perfectly summarized the pain, panic and confusion of the sequence.

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The cue begins as Natalie is flown on to Galactica. First, the gamelan ensemble states a rhythmic groove that has always accompanied the melody (it can even be heard in Faith):

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As the montage builds intensity, the arrangement follows.  Duduk, erhu, bansuri, zhong hu and electric violin all take turns with the Verse melody. 

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Frame drums, taikos and percussion complement a growing arsenal of strumming ethnic guitars, played, as always, by the brilliant Steve Bartek. 

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John Avila returns to the score for the first time since All Along the Watchtower and lays down a powerful electric bass line, which gives this track the feel of a song as opposed to simply score.

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On the cut to Hera rounding the corner into the hallway, the entire arrangement thins out, leaving a solo bansuri playing a sweet and simple version of the Chorus melody against a sparse guitar backdrop.  Typically in song form, the Chorus is the biggest and most exciting part.  However, the orchestration of the Verse melody in this cue was getting intense, so the sudden breakdown of the Chorus at this moment feels more dramatic and jarring.

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Athena finds them in the hallway and draws her gun.  To amp up the tension, the guitars kick in more aggressively, as the music shifts keys from Dminor down to Bminor.  We hear the Verse melody again as Laura is brought into the hybrid chamber.  And when we cut back to the standoff in the hallway, another simple statement of the Chorus returns, but this time not quite as innocent and elegant, raising the tension.

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The cue builds to a ferocious dual climax as Athena shoots Natalie and the hybrid comes online and jumps the ship.  After that moment, the score is reduced to a single B in the low strings.  We return to Gaeta one final time, as he sings the last line of the Chorus:

  •  To have her, please, just one day wake

At this moment, there’s an interesting chord change I never originally envisioned.  The harmonic progression of Gaeta’s Lament is as follows: B, Cmaj7, Em to G.  I always heard the song as being in Bmajor, with the C and G in the scale lending the melody the Middle Eastern quality that so suits our show. 

However, the progression is laid out in such a way that it could easily be interpreted as B (acting as the V) resolving to Em, which then feels like the tonic. And, when AJ first rehearsed the tune, he asked if he could “resolve” the harmony for the last time he sings it.  On “… just one day wake,” he jumped down to D# and finished the phrase on E. 

I realized that he didn’t hear the tune in B at all, but heard it in Em!  This was a jarring shift of perspective for me.  Imagine painting a picture of a fish, and then someone turns it upside down and tells you it’s a boat.  That’s a bit of what I felt like.  But, I liked AJ’s idea, and was especially excited that a member of the cast brought such a fresh perspective to my music.

As a result, the episode concludes not on the tonic B as I always envisioned, but on a huge V to I cadence: B resolving to Em.  This moment is jarring, especially because the rest of the vocal performances in the episode were underscored with harmonies based around a B tonic.  After 45 minutes of B, we resolve suddenly to Em.

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And this moment is even more special, because I’ve literally never ended a piece with a V to I cadence in the history of Battlestar Galactica.  That progression is the most commonly used in all traditional classical or popular music, so I avoid it like the plague on this show.  But, AJ’s instinct was the right musical choice.  The intense close-up of his pain-stricken face combined with the unexpected harmonic resolution at the end of the episode never fails to give me chills.

AJ summed up the experience, saying “It was a challenge to make this bold idea truly believable. To go to that place of mourning and solitude that the song evoked and to convey that the song was a manifestation of a real sea change in Gaeta? – well, let’s just say that as an actor it was a welcome change from dradis contacts and star charts. Being the first character to ’sing’ on the show is exciting but a bit nervy. But, BSG has never played it safe. Why should they start now?

Guess What’s Coming to Dinner was a wonderful experience for me, but it would not be the last time the writers asked me for music at the script stage.  In fact, I’ve been working with writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle for two months on their final script for the series (the fourth to last episode of them all).  This episode will integrate music directly into the story in incredibly daring ways. 

And the timing of tonight’s episode is ironic.  Guess What’s Coming to Dinner, the first episode to feature music recorded on the set, happens to premiere at the same time as I’m actually on the set myself, supervising new on-set Galactica music.  I’m literally sitting on the hangar deck set in Vancouver right now, as I write this blog from my laptop! 

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I’m here for two weeks helping out with Weddle and Thompson’s new, unusually musical episode.  I am observing on-set instrumental performances and even composing original music each night, churning out sheet music pages for the next day’s shoot.  And they are allowing the show’s score to evolve in an unprecedented manner.  Frak, this upcoming episode may perhaps redefine the role that music can play in narrative.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  You guys won’t see that one for a long time.  I’ll tell you all about it when the time is right.

So Say We All!

-Bear

71 Responses to “BG4: “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner””

[…] was beautiful, the lyrics even better. You can read more about this song and the lyrics over on Bear McCreary’s blog, the composer for Battlestar […]

This was simply incredible. You keep topping yourself, and that’s no easy feat.

Loved the episode…loved the music as always. AJ was fantastic.

It really reminded me of Billy Boyd singing in Return of the King. No one on the set had any idea he could do that, and once he opened his mouth, it was beautiful. It’s really one of my most favorite parts of the entire LotR trilogy.

This was right up there with that. It ended so perfectly.

You really are teasing us the last two weeks with this stuff about upcoming episodes :)

I was suprised AJ could sing like that, ugh I cant wait for these two weeks to be over.

Again with the teasing…

I must say, this is one of the episodes where the music really managed to grab me the first time. You all did an excellent job at bringing Gaeta’s Lament to life, and Allesandro pulled it off beautifully (and seemed to portray a man who’d just lost his leg just as well). Is this the song you were teasing us about a couple weeks ago, or is there another you have in mind? Too bad we have to wait two weeks for another new episode…

Oh, and now that we know Allesandro can sing, is he going to join the band next time you take BSG on the road?

Just wanted to say that Gaeta’s Lament is great piece of work, you seem to be getting better and better. Thanks for the music and keep it up!

[…] the lyrics meant something or would hold some revelation for the future of humanity.  After reading the lyrics on Bear McCreary’s blog, I’m not so sure:      Alone she sleeps in the shirt of […]

Simply wonderful as always. If this is the just the music for the set-up half of the season, I tremble to think how mind-blowing it will be during the second half.

Yes, I think a 2 CD set will be essential for Season Four. Oh, and if I may make another request, could the broadcast versions of “Watchtower,” “Wander My Friends” and “Lords Of Kobol” be included on the post-series bonus CD? Pretty please?

The music in this episode really blew me away. The theme for “Gaeta’s Lament” was truly haunting (and well sung by Alessandro; kudos to him as well), and its interpolation into the tension-building final minutes of the episode made for some great, great television. I’ve already watched the episode twice (in one night, no less), and I went right from the TV to the piano to play with that theme, which is one of my favorites from the new season. What a nice surprise to come here now and have its chart posted already! This one is an absolute must-have on the season four soundtrack, I’d say. Very well done.

The song is absolutly amazing and brought tears to my eyes!!! AJ’s voice is just breath-taking… I’m really looking for words here… just too good to be true!

Just two things:
- Please put the song on the season 4-album!
- Please, if the BSG-concert ever comes to London (or somewhere in Germany ;-)) AJ has to come with you and perform the song. And if he can’t come, someone else has to perform it…. NO wait, it has to be him!

Ya, exactly… what’s about the cruel teasing? I’m wetting my pants already… can’t wait!!

Without a doubt, one of the most moving pieces you (and Angeli, and of course AJ, have come up with for the series. Was this the piece you were referring to several a couple of posts ago?

That former cheesehead has lyrical talent, I’ll tell ya!

I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I can’t wait to hear this on the Season 4 CD, and I DO hope some arrangements can be made so that we also get to hear AJ’s voice on there as well….that’s what made it so beautiful.

Sometimes it takes alot to pull of the emotion of a character’s situation, and it sounds like it was a TOTAL team effort in the case of “Gaeta’s Lament”. You all did it here….I found myself having a gut wrenching pit in my stomach. Gaeta is one of my favorite characters on BSG and the way it was handled was portrayed spot on! Well done!

I have always been a sucker for music in movies, series and everything. There is nothing more efficient than music to express feeling. That being said, I got goosebumps of this episode, especially the closing scene… Amazing job really! I hope that the song makes it onto the soundtrack for season 4!

[…] where to start.   Instead I will just tell you that once again Bear McCreary outdid himself.  His summary post is now up on his blog and once again, I highly suggest you go read […]

Damn Bear, you’ve done it again. After ‘All Along the Watchtower’ I thought it’d be hard for anyone to match the emotion brought out in a tv-show by a song, but you guys may have just topped that by weaving the song into the script as you’ve done in this episode. And from what you’re telling about the series’ end, we have more of this goodness to look forward to. Can’t wait! :D
I don’t think we will need to do much convincing for you to put this on the S4 OST, right? ;)

By the way, my ‘Shape of things to come’ question from last week’s episode’s blog still stands, I’m really hoping that musical line that has been such an integral part of the show so far will make a return this season :)

Oh My Goodness Bear! I simply cannot believe what I’m hearing this season, and last night’s episode (and now knowing what Gaeta’s song title is) is only adding to the hauntingly beautiful profoundness which is the Music of Battlestar Galactica.
I hope Ron and Co. manage to sneak you into a cameo appearance! That would rule!
[kowtowing toward Vancouver]

I agree with everyone else, that song needs to be on the soundtrack!

Wow, please extend all of our compliments and appreciation to Alessandro Juliani! Bravo!!

This was amazing. The episode was amazing (I’m still kind of recovering) just for story alone, but the fact that the music played a role even more inherent and vital than it usually does (and with BSG the music is its own character, as we all know *G*)… hehe, there are no words.

Will there be any kind of arrangement/presentation of this song for the CD? I would really love to hear it all together. Almost like it was a famous opera/musical on the colonies and AJ’s performance was a track from the bestselling CD over there. ;-)

Great work, and as always thanks so much for sharing!!!

Saché

You are very, very good at what you do.

I’ve been humming that song all day, so I had to come here and write something about it, first of all Alessandro Juliani has a great voice, so congrats to him, he just sounds great, and the instrumental version at the end was the perfect way to end the show, classic BSG(that mention of “Precipice” on the post is dead-on, and I just wish someone uploads somewhere the live version of “Precipice” cause it’s nowhere on the net, and its one of my favourites).

On a sidenote I wanted to ask about the weird “2001…”-esque sounding choir in the Opera House scenes (I remember hearing something like that in a youtube clip of “Crossroads Pt. 2″ before the episode aired, and after the episode aired I noticed it was just like a temp score) is this gonna continue? because if there’s any music at all that scares the frak out of me is that choir music from “2001…” (but its a good scare).

OK, I think that’s all, everything was great, now if you’ll excuse me I have to continue humming through lunch, as always good luck Bear.

simply. amazing. i am speachless.

While I’ve always enjoyed the music on BSG, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so moved and surprised as I was last night during the episode when Juliani started singing. My goodness, what a voice! I have to agree with whoever wrote Laura’s line – it’s kind of a shame that we’re just now discovering it.

I love how the song just felt so much like a centuries-old folk song instead of something written a couple months ago. So often when shows try to invent some piece of a culture like a song, it… doesn’t work. (Stargate: Atlantis tried it. There were many levels in which that attempt did not work. The song sounded like something from an off-Broadway musical and it was painfully obvious that what we were hearing was not recorded in the room we were seeing.) This one, though? I was pleasantly surprised. It added so much to the episode without feeling like this was the episode where AJ got to sing a song. People sing for lots of reasons, and this was written into the episode so well. Or perhaps the episode was written around the song so well. It felt very organic.

And a big thumbs-up to Juliani for being able to record the singing without playback. Really gave it an authentic sound that probably couldn’t have been replicated in a studio.

Your story about how Juliani approached the song from a different tonal center is rather funny. Every performer is going to come to a composition from a different angle than the composer did, but that’s a little more extreme than usual. ;)

All I can say is WOW. You play such a big role in making this show as phenomenal as it is. The music in this episode was INCREDIBLE.

How can it be expressed? All one could have hoped for and more. Guess What’s Coming to Dinner blew the doors off! BSG is going exactly where I’d hoped and in strange and amazing ways … and Gaeta’s Lament - unexpected, bold, strangely beautiful (in that Bronze Age sort of way) … and portentious. I was reminded of the song sung by Britt Ekland’s character in the original 1973 version of the brilliant film The Wicker Man - it served to frame the tale yet to follow. Gaeta gave a look at the end - can he be the final Cylon?

Please read whole review at Galactica Variants: http://www.galacticavariants.blogspot.com

Bear, wonderful breakdown of what you do and how you do it - true insight into the creative process on the music side.

AJ’s rendering of the lament: soul-stirring.

AJ sang great and I was quite impressed to learn of your direct involvement in the script!

Nice One!

JUMP!

[…] Genius manchild Bear McCreary (seriously, isn’t he, like, 12? No, really, he’s literally 29. Cylon!) wove what might […]

Alessandro Juliani has an extraordinarily beautiful voice, and the piece you wrote for him was so soulful (which all of your music is, so no surprise). Brought me to tears. Not since Passacaglia has a piece of music from BSG so engaged me.

Please tell us you will be able to work out Alessandro singing this on your S4 cd? Maybe work it into your next live performance? We’d love you even more if you could!

Beautiful Piece man. I must be selfish and ask though any chance that a Recording will be available?

Can we really wait for the soundtrack? Can’t you lose a CD in a park somewhere… conveniently near one of our houses?

I hope there’s a special feature on the DVDs that shows him singing the song in one unbroken scene… it would be devastating.

I’ve really enjoyed this latest post of yours. you can just feel the excitement and this sense of acomplishment through your words. trully a joy to read!

I too hope ‘Gaeta’s Lament’ makes it onto the Season 4 Soundtrack. AJ’s voice combined with your musical prowess makes this song a wonder to behold - and listen to for years to come!

wow, amazing song. As soon as i finished watching the show, I was looking forward to reading this post about the song.

Echoing previous comments, a 2 disc cd is essential for this season.

And any plans to have a concert in the New York area?

Brilliant.

[…] Jump to Comments Composer Bear McCreary has posted the lyrics and history behind “Gaeta’s Lament,” a song that appeared last week on Battlestar Galactica […]

Gotta say the song was absolutely great. I didn’t catch the resolution trick the first time around, at least not with the depth that you mentioned, but it was pretty much a slap in the face to all the guys I was with and no one could put their finger on why.

So much awesome music this season! ARGH! I’m on the two-CD bandwagon for this season. I love how all the musical arcs are pulling together, things popping up that have sat for over a season unused. My friends are starting to get annoyed, though, because after receiving an education on this site I’m now prone to pointing out themes and commenting on their significance, while they just want to watch the frakin’ show. :shrug: It’s all good - I still enjoy reading. :D

An excellent score.
I’d like to join the rest in requesting a version with AJ singing on the season 4 OST. But that ominous instrumental treatment of the same theme towards the end of the episode (from Natalie on the raptor til Hybrid screaming “Jump”) really deserves a track of its own.

Great song.
Unfortunately, the forums now buzz with talk of how there is some deep significance to the lyrics concerning the whole series and the final five. It’s just sad that everything is so ridiculously over analyzed these days, especially regarding the final five. I really couldn’t care less about that whole storyline, but for many people everything revolves around that. Just wants me to bash my head against a wall sometimes.
IMO it would just cheapen the piece and the meaning it holds for Gaeta.

[…] who loved the music on this week’s episode of Battlestar Galactica should definitely read Bear McCreary’s post about scoring the music and Gaeta’s song. Spoilers, obviously! This man never fails to blow my […]

That was probably the most brilliant use of music I’ve ever seen on Television. I was in tears, really. Kudos to all who were involved, especially AJ and Bear. Absolutely amazing, I hope it gets an Emmy.

I hope you are basking in the reaction you are getting this week, Bear, because it is VERY well deserved. Having re-watched the episode I am even MORE moved by the music AND AJ’s moving performance of it….next time you see him let him know we ALL are impressed!

Incidentally I’ve added this little piece of sheet music next to Joe Harnell’s “The Lonely Man” theme as that which I MUST learn to play on the piano! :)

It was haunting and powerful, and now I need to re-watch it after reading your blog. His voice, combined with the story and your music literally made me cry.

Thank you for the tease; it sounds like we’re in for better things to come!

Lovely work as always; gripping stuff.

Did I imagine it or did Alessandro Juliani sing the third line of the verse as “… this I *beg* for for the second wish…”?

Alright Alessandro, so you wanna jump in the game, eh? Yeah, said “eh” so you’d be more comfortable up there in in yer Canada. Ok, I’ll give you a “good show” I”ll give you a “nice work” I’ll give you a “pretty voice” but you know, there’s already a ballad singer on this show and that’s me(Raya). And there’s already a dude singer on this show, and that’s Brendan (Watchtower guy). So now you wanna sashay in here with yer a capella, emotional, pitch perfect, emotionally effecting yadda yadda well guess what - Brendan’s home town is only 30 minutes south of Canada, and all I’m sayin is he’s got friends and a tool shed.
All I’m sayin is one day, I don’t know, you might walk around a corner on yer Galactica set minding your buissness… and find me and Brendan with some heavy blunt objects.
Not sayin you will, but you know what they say, three’s a crowd (actually I say two’s a crowd, three’s an adult movie, but that’s a different conversation)anyway, it could happen…we’ve been on this gig since season 1, workin it out with McCreary and Kaplan, so whatever you’re trying to pull… watch your back singer boy. We’ll be watching for sure…

(Disclaimer: I understand that humor and sarcasm don’t always translate in e-message land, so if anyone was perturbed….yes this entry is firlmy “tougue in cheek” I think Mr. Juliani totally rocked it. And if that wonderful song does not appear on the S4 album, I will give Mr.McCreary a stern talking to. And if that doesn’t work , Brendan, AJ and I will all come to him with afore mentioned blunt heavy objects.)

…and nice song Bear.

this was a wonderful episode, not least because of Alessandro’s singing and Bear’s music.

may I suggest, since we are going to have to wait until 2009 for the end of Battlestar Galactica, that Bear brings out two CD’s for season 4. I am sure there will be plenty of material at this rate (and we ARE going to get the Stump Serenade, aren’t we?)
part one for the end of the first half of season four, and part two for the final segment.

Haunting, powerful, visionary, empathically riveting. I’m working it out on my harp right now.

Thank you so much for sharing the creative process, as always.

Say hi to all the gang up there!

This episode is so powerfully beautiful, because the idea of the story and the music were developed at the same time. I’m glad that the music resolves at the end - I often find your music is very beautiful, but it often leaves me unfulfilled. I’m looking forward to the next episodes, and hope that you can do further great work in with other shows. BSG is in my opinion a very good show, because it draws on the mystical, is religious [think of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt]. The music pulls everything together.

Hi Bear,

I’m a french guy, so please excuse my poor english :)

I was really touched by the feeling you blow to this episode, not only for the Gaeta’s parts, but, following BSG with ear plugs, I had a sense that what you ‘ve done with this episode not only add something to the quality of the BSG universe, but is more like a fundamental part of what put BSG to the next level.

All you’ve done with this episode was trully coherent, and I felt that an other step has been reached to the sound of what you try to bring to Battlestar Galactica. It was really impressive.

On a personal level, you are now a real influence for me, some tracks as ‘Kobol’s last gleaming’ are a real source of inspiring, for music, as for any art, and I’m glad you can still bring new perspectives and so lot of quality to all BSG soundtracks.

Thank you.

[…] devoted quite a lot of screen time to Gaeta and his singing — and to Anders making a point of Gaeta’s Lament. However, it could just be a huge red herring. Some viewers are saying that Gaeta isn’t a big […]

[…] that wrote the sheet music and the lyrics for the song - Gaeta’s Lament - Bear Bear McCreary has blogged extensively about how the song, how he put it together and what it all […]

So, little argument my friend and I have been having…
The posted chart for the piece show a B7 - Emin ending.
My friend swears by his LIFE on this minor ending, and insists he doesn’t even hear a third in the final fadeout chord at all.
I on the other hand find a MAJOR THIRD, G#, to stand out more than anything, in that last E chord.
Perhaps there is no 3rd in the performance, but I don’t see how minor could be implied. The major ending stands out to me.
Also, curious about the D# melody note over Bmin at the end of the verses.

Wow! I never anticipated this kind of response for this episode. I’m thrilled that you guys enjoyed it so much.

Many of you are asking about the soundtrack CD… and, right off the bat, let me assure you that “Gaeta’s Lament” will absolutely be on the next soundtrack album.

And another recurring question is about AJ performing this in our concert. In all honesty, we were hoping to pull this off last month, but he had a scheduling commitment that prevented him from making the shows. The funny thing is, nobody would have seen the episode yet, so it’s probably for the best that we didn’t perform it then. One day, I’d love to perform this in concert with AJ. Hopefully the next round of concerts…

raftrap…

You asked about the “2001-esque” choir piece. That is a choral atonal cluster that has been used to represent the Opera house dream ever since the end of Season 3. It’s hardly a theme, and obviously not a particularly original idea, but it gets the job done. :)

Steve…

“Unfortunately, the forums now buzz with talk of how there is some deep significance to the lyrics concerning the whole series and the final five.”

… yes, this caught me off guard as well. I’m always happy that fans like to read into things on this show, but sometimes it feels like a big Sci Fi version of “Where’s Waldo,” in that fans expect every single little thing to have hidden meaning. I’m not confirming or denying that “Gaeta’s Lament” has meaning outside of this particular episode… but I find it interesting that it’s been viewed this way…

Fanningp…

“Incidentally I’ve added this little piece of sheet music next to Joe Harnell’s “The Lonely Man” theme as that which I MUST learn to play on the piano! :)”

… I was in Joe Harnell’s class at the USC Music School, only a few years before he passed away. What a wonderful man, and the Incredible Hulk music he wrote is undeniably some of the greatest television music ever written.

NickO…

This is a fun question! Thanks for writing in. I am always eager to settle arguments between friends. You claim the episode ends on an E major, and your friend claims it ends on E minor. A case can be made for both, but unfortunately, your friend is probably more right. :)

As I explained, the episode ends on an “E minor” resolution. However, technically there is no 3rd in the chord. It’s voiced in the low strings on an E tonic with a B in the celli. So, it is up to the listener to apply a minor or major quality. This is where there’s a little gray area; where you and your friend each can make a case.

I hear it as E minor. There are a lot of E minor and G major chords in the song, and absolutely no instances of E major or G# major chords anywhere. After hearing this harmony throughout the piece, it means that from a purely aesthetic and musical standpoint, the piece ends in E minor. In essence… it feels like it should be E minor to a listener.

However, you claim you’re hearing a G# in there. The G# you are hearing is a product of the overtone series, a collection of harmonic tones produced by sound waves.

The major third is much lower on the harmonic series than the minor third, which means that it is much easier to hear. For example, go to a piano and play four Es together loudly. If you listen carefully to the notes decay, you’ll hear a B (the 5th) in there, and much softer you’ll hear an G# as well (the major 3rd). Technically, you’re also hearing the minor third as well (the G natural), but it’s very soft and difficult to hear.

So, that means that technically, the last chord is a fundamental E with a B above it… combined with a very soft G#, hidden in the harmonic spectrum. That, of course, spells out an E major chord. But, before you rub this in your friend’s face, keep in mind that in context with the entire piece of music, it emotionally and musically resolves to E minor. :)

As for the B minor and the D# in the resolution… that’s actually an oversight on my part. The tonic key is in fact B major. I’ve updated the blog, so thanks for pointing that out. That’s what I get for writing these entries on the set. Hard to concentrate!

So Say We All!
-Bear

[…] clicking the following link, please be warned that there are spoilers for the above-named episode. [BearMcCreary.com via USA […]

[…] are a buzz cause the lyrics were meant as a “narrative thread connecting the entire episode” (taken from Bear McCreary’s, the show’s composer, blog). Nice touch, BSG. Nice […]

Without a doubt the most prized items in my collection of music are the CD of music from the “Incredible Hulk” television show by Harnell, and that sheet music that I was able to get autographed by him before he died.

That was an interesting new tidbit of biographical info you shared about being in Harnell’s class and it just makes me respect and admire your work even that much more.

It’s really fascinating how differently you and Alessandro heard it. To me, when I first heard him singing it, it didn’t sound Middle Eastern, or really tonal at all: it sounded more modal. At first I thought it was an imitation of some medieval or Renaissance ballad or folksong. It sounded old, somehow, and really made me curious about which colony he came from, because it evoked a greater sense of *culture* than we usually get about anywhere other than Caprica. Anyway, beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing it.

[…] it seems that Galactica composer Bear McCreary has spilled some beans on his galactica blog and confirmed that Gaeta’s song does indeed have direct relevance to the storyline. There are […]

[…] episode, “Guess What’s Coming for Dinner?,” of Battlestar Galactica, check out Bear McCreary’s blog about the creation of the song and its integration into the […]

Your blog sure got a lot more popular with this episode (and you deserve it) ! I haven’t read a single review without seeing a link to this page !
Hopefully all those new visitors will stay :-)

I was just about to post the following post when I saw Bear’s response regarding the theories that are floating around about the lyrics.

It probably means absolutely nothing, but… um… interesting musical parallels. (I know, I’ve been coming up with all these off the wall theories. Brought to you by the same mind that thought that All Along the Watchtower was an allegory for the Writer’s Strike lol)

Okay. 12 notes in the Western musical scale = 12 Cylons

7 natural notes (white keys on keyboard) = 7 Existing models

5 sharp/flat notes (black keys on keyboard) = 5 final cylons.

I dunno. Might be a stretch. Also considered the fact that the third is what makes a chord major and minor - heavily influences a chord. the 5th has no effect on that. The third in this case is apparently D’Anna model. Also if you ever notice or listened, there are two minor variations of the Starbuck theme that appear - one that’s in major and one that’s in minor.

Who knows. I’m probably grasping at straws here.

Of course it’s a stretch. Not everything has a deeper meaning. The lyrics aren’t even directly related to the final five, and then certainly not the notes >:(

[…] Gaeta singing. Apollo stalking Roslin. And knowing how it works. Yeah, […]

[…] of that episode featuring Mr. Geata…the guy who composes the music for BSG has a really detailed blog about the show (and that episode in particular) that is really […]

Jessica…

“To me, when I first heard him singing it, it didn’t sound Middle Eastern, or really tonal at all: it sounded more modal”

… oh, it’s definitely modal. And when I say it sounded “Middle Eastern” that’s basically short-hand for modal writing. I tend to write in mixed modes, combining various scales to create more interesting and unusual ones.

And, I appreciate the comment about Renaissance ballads and folksongs. That’s absolutely the quality that Michael Angeli and I were trying to evoke.

musicpaladin2007…

Some VERY interesting musical theories. In all honesty, nothing like this crossed my mind for this particular episode, but I’ve been thinking thoughts along these lines lately and incorporating them into my work. The breakdown of the Western scale into 12 notes really fits nicely with the series’ love-affair with the number 12… and I hadn’t even thought about the 7 and 5 relationship as well. Interesting stuff.

and Steve…

…You’re right most of the time. Not everything has a deeper meaning… but, there are some musical moments coming up where I’ve planted clues that ARE that deep. Just ’cause I know you guys are listening. :)

“Not everything has a deeper meaning… but, there are some musical moments coming up where I’ve planted clues that ARE that deep. Just ’cause I know you guys are listening. :)”

Hooray for more cryptic teasing!

Oh wait, I’m not that good at music theory; I can’t identify anything. I just listen and hope to hear something I like. I’ll likely miss out on the clues until I make my way back here.

Withdrawal! Withdrawal I tell you!

Here it is Saturday morning and no episode to discuss and no Bear notes!

Frak!

I’ve just seen “Sine Qua Non” on SkyOne in the UK. But I guess we’ll have to wait until Friday for the US broadcast to read Bear’s notes on this episode :(

[…] he’s right. I of course do recaps each week here, but Bear’s recaps encompass all things musical about the episode. You can check out his most recent one for Guess […]

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