Nami Melumad boldly goes where no composer has gone before

Nami Melumad at the Catalina Film Festival.IMDB

September 08, 2022

Reintroducing time-honored and revered music can be challenging, especially when it belongs to a quintessential sci-fi series such as Star Trek. However, composer Nami Melumad, the creator of the soundtrack for Star Trek: Prodigy and a Star Trek short, is no stranger to the franchise. After the success of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and fresh from working on Thor: Love and Thunder, Melumad talks about the fun and excitement, as well as the obstacles she experienced while creating the music for Star Trek: Brave New Worlds.  

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — Composing Music for the New Series

Are you a Trekkie?

“I'm a huge Trekkie. I sometimes dress up to sessions with my score as a science officer or captain. More specifically, I would be Captain Pike and Spock. I also have these socks that look like Spock with ears. I have watched every Star Trek show. My favorite show used to be Voyager, but I think it's shifting to Strange New Worlds. I'm not biased, but it's probably the best out there. It combines the best elements from each older series into this new experience.” 

How did you pay homage to the original series with your compositions, specifically in the episode ‘Spock Amok?’ 

“In our entire show, we pay homage to the original series. All the other elements in the episode, such as costumes, production design and acting, do that. It only made sense that the music would do this callback as well. We always have to address the current setting, which is this mind box. It's a dream that intensifies over time. It starts kind of okay, but then it goes into this terrible battle between Spock and himself. The motif from Spock and Kirk’s fight scene in the episode ‘Amok Time’ from the original series was used in the music to help escalate the drama of what’s on scene. I modernized it. I kept the melody and some of the harmonies, but there's a lot of other stuff that I did to give the audience a new sense of scoring.”

Music from ‘Spock Amok’

Music from ‘Amok Time‘

How do you drive the action on screen? 

“Your approach will never comment on everything that happens. When you look at the original series, the Star Trek movies, or previous TV and film music in general, the scores were very active. They would comment on everything that happens. To a certain point, it almost felt like live-action. The music tries to say a lot instead of telling you the story. This was the standard at that time. The more modern storytelling lets the actors tell the story, and you, as a composer, provide the emotional context. I can provide the pace, change the mood or accentuate particular moments. But you always want to be careful regarding pushing too much. I never want to be distracting. In my opinion, we have achieved that in this series so far. It’s about being mindful of the drama but keeping the tones and style of the original series.” 

In the episode ‘Children of the Comet,’ how did you use music to voice the alien and reinforce the musical background of Cadet Nyota Uhura?

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

“Here's a fun fact. The music for the alien in that episode was the first thing I did for the series overall. That was the first music needed because they wanted to play it on set while filming. The director and showrunner reached out to me months before we started post-production. They wanted the actors to be inspired by it, which was excellent. I experimented with the music because the assignment was to do something that would sound like a song from Kenya but also be wholly unrecognizable and weird. It's an enjoyable task for a composer to boldly go make a sound that no one has tried before. 

“In that episode, we got more origin stories about Uhura than in the entire original series. We know where she comes from and her motivation or lack of it at this point like. She's not sure of herself yet. So watching her journey to become the woman we know she's going to become is interesting. I wanted to capture that musically. I started with her motif playing whenever we had her point of view or perspective. This episode has her first away mission, and I wanted to capture that feeling. There's this excitement where she goes on the transporter and then a low bass sound with really high textures as soon as she steps onto the comet. It almost feels like you're there with her.” 

What is your favorite musical moment from the whole season? 

“It has to be the Spock and nurse Chapel kiss on the bridge. It was super fun to write, but it was a challenging scene because it was not a real kiss — or maybe it was. You want to play both angles. You have the angle from the Captain, Spock’s betrothed, T’Pring, and everyone on the bridge. They experience the element of a surprise coming out of the previous tension. It’s going into the kiss and then diving back right into the astonishment of the rest of the people viewing it. As a composer, you also want to play with the second angle, the emotion of nurse Chapel and Spock. Though he presumably has no feelings, the scene is filled with emotion. I'm very proud of that scene. I love it.”

Music from the kiss scene in ‘The Serene Squall’