Sources:Interview with Richard Gibbs, November 25, 2003

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This interview was conducted by Ted Gorospe on November 25, 2003. The interviewee was Richard Gibbs.
This interview was originally posted on It is posted here with permission.


Richard Gibbs: "Scoring Galactica"

Battlestar Galactica 2003: Thanks Richard for giving Battlestar Galactica 2003 this opportunity to learn about your involvement as composer for the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries.

Many fans are very excited to see the new Battlestar Galactica and to hear the score that Bear McCreary, Michael Rymer, and you worked on. Can you tell us what Michael Rymer’s involvement in scoring the miniseries is?

Richard Gibbs: Michael's involvement was total, from concept thru the final mix. By the way, as he is a feature film director, that is his norm - and not the norm for a TV director.

BG2003: Bear mentioned that trailers that the Sci Fi Channel is featuring have none of the score of the miniseries that you all worked on. Do you know the origin of the music for the trailers?

RG: I do not - and that is not unusual, as trailers have to be created most times before the score is finished, therefore not involving the composer. I still haven't seen the trailer!

BG2003: Bear mentioned that film was "temped" with Taiko Drumming when you all started to work on it. Who "temped" the film with Taiko Drumming?

RG: Michael and his longtime editor, Dany Cooper.

BG2003: When you were first brought onboard to score Battlestar Galactica, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do musically?

RG: Before I saw it, I was thinking of relatively big orchestra, driving rhythm - but the visuals and dense sound effects (and Michael) dictated otherwise.

BG2003: Do you feel you had a lot of artistic freedom in scoring Battlestar Galactica?

RG: Film scoring is not inherently a free art - it is intensely collaborative and very much constrained by dialog, effects, etc. But I assume what you mean is did Michael and the producers give me free rein to interpret the film as I saw fit - I would have to say no, but that is not a bad thing. They all had very strong ideas about a minimalist approach to the score, which I fear fans of the original will find controversial. That said, I think it works great.

BG2003: What was the most challenging aspect in scoring Battlestar Galactica?

RG: Definitely the time and financial restrictions.

BG2003: How would you describe the style of the musical score you worked on for Battlestar Galactica?

RG: As I said, primarily minimalist (especially for the genre). I did get in some orchestral scoring, but not in the big action scenes, where one would typically expect it. Those scenes were carried by the take drums, mostly. I also threw in a few other ethnic elements - Persian and Bulgarian vocals, various ethnic flutes, Tuvan throat singing. No blazing trumpets, crashing guitars, drum kits.

BG2003: What kind impression were you trying to make to the audience while scoring the film?

RG: You know, I don't ever think about scoring a film in those terms - I try to serve the film first. I know that sounds precious, but it is the truth. If I can please myself and the filmmakers, then I feel good about my effort and hope that the audience likes it too. If one is constantly trying to second-guess what an audience wants, one will generally produce musical pablum. I always prefer a magnificent failure to a moderately successful mediocrity - but of course, I always strive for a magnificent success.

BG2003: Bear mentioned that the score features improvised Kodo Drumming. Can you describe the process you went about improvising the Kodo Drumming?

RG: It actually wasn't all that improvisational. The drums were recorded one track at a time, so we had time to adjust as we overdubbed - but the parts were somewhat charted out to start with. It was a painstaking process, which was then monkeyed with further after the recording via computer editing.

BG2003: Bear mentioned that you all were able to find a place to reprise the original Battlestar Galactica [theme]. Can you tell us where you all placed the theme in the miniseries?

RG: In the first night there is a ceremony to retire the Galactica. As the Vipers do a fly-by, I pitched to Michael that it would be a good place, symbolically speaking, to bring back Stu Phillip's theme, as if a military band is performing it on the deck one last time. Other than that (and one other small spot), it just didn't fit the feel of this iteration of the story.

BG2003: When you worked on the primary themes, what was the processed involved in creating these themes?

RG: Same as always - just thinking, tinkering, and tickling the plastics.

BG2003: How were you able to introduce themes and still adhere to the concept of non-traditional scoring?

RG: Well I wasn't strictly nontraditional always. Some of the themes are not melodic in nature, but rhythmic and textural instead. For instance, the Number Six theme is characterized by an insistent 9/8 gamelan figure on one pitch. But there are some more straight-ahead melodic themes, as introduced in the long opening tracking shot of the interior of the ship. They just aren't as exuberant as is typical in a space opera - which was by design.

BG2003: What was the most memorable piece that you scored for Battlestar Galactica?

RG: I'm quite fond of the montage scenes in the second night - fairly lush and melodic. I do think that people will remember that infernal Number Six motif.

BG2003: Are you pleased with the final score?

RG: I think so, but it is way too early to tell - I usually need about a year away from a project to be objective about it.

BG2003: Is there anything you wish you could have added to the score if you had more time to work on it?

RG: I would have liked to have scored it more aggressively and then dialed it back as directed, but the schedule and budget dictated cutting right to the chase.

BG2003: If you were asked to return to score a series for Battlestar Galactica, would you return?

RG: I would certainly like to have that choice.

BG2003: Is there a message you would like to pass on to the fans of Battlestar Galactica?

RG: Yes - open your minds, forget the past, and enjoy this new interpretation of an epic story. I know I enjoyed it.

BG2003: Thank you for your time, and we here at Battlestar Galactica 2003 wish you continued success in your career.

RG: Thank you.