Fried, for example, has been on our radar for a while. He composed music for almost 200 films and television shows, along the way winning an Emmy and earning an Oscar nomination. He collaborated with Stanley Kubrick and Roger Corman, and composed scores for such television shows and miniseries as Gilligan’s Island, Mission: Impossible, Roots, Flamingo Road and Dynasty. And then there’s Star Trek. Fried composed the music for the episodes “Shore Leave,” “Catspaw,” “Friday’s Child,” “Amok Time” and “The Paradise Syndrome,” while bits of the music from those episodes was utilized by the production in 18 other episodes. His most famous Trek music? Easy, "The Ritual/Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah," heard throughout the koon-ut-kal-if-fee battle between Spock and Kirk “Amok Time.”
Now 85 years young, Fried prefers to think of himself as slowing down a little rather than retired. Last December, during an appearance in Hollywood to help promote La-La Land Records’ release of Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection, Fried wowed the crowd at a packed theater with his still-sharp memories and oboe playing skills. And, just a few days ago, StarTrek.com caught up with Fried for an informative and free-wheeling interview. Here’s what he had to say…
How shocked are you that, with so many credits to your name, there’s still so much interest in your work for Star Trek?
FRIED: I’m very shocked, but not altogether surprised. There were two shows that I did in television that had reverberations far beyond what you’d expect from the venue and the possibilities. One was Star Trek and the other was Roots. There was an atmosphere, doing both shows, that these were a little special and certainly more important than most shows. So I’m not totally surprised, but the enormity of Star Trek is a little bit startling and wonderful. I love it.
Let’s go back in time to before Star Trek. What compelled you to pursue a career in composing?
Your stated philosophy about music is that its function in any movie or show is to make it a better movie or show. So, the question is, How do you go about crafting music that does that?
FRIED: You have to break it down to the component parts. Where should the music be? What should the music say? Should it go with the scene as it’s shown or should it get into some subtleties that are not visual? You have a car chase. OK, but what if the driver just found out this his mother died, and that’s what’s going through his mind during the chase? So, you make a series of those decisions and that gets you to what music should do. I still get annoyed at movies and shows that turn into music-plugging devices, that have music supervisors who try to stick in as many pop-type tunes as possible. I love movies and television and music too much for it all to be reduced into a song-plugging device. If we had to do it for an end title, at least I tried to use a song that was appropriate and in character.
How did you connect with Star Trek?
FRIED: Do you want the truth or the story?
FRIED: The story is better. I dreamed one night that Gene Roddenberry was thinking about me and that I was the person to do Star Trek. And, sure enough, the next morning Gene called and said… No, OK, that’s the bulls—t. The truth is that my agent called and said, “Gerry, 10:30 at Desilu. There’s a series called Star Trek.” I said, “OK,” and I showed up. See, the truth is not as good as the bulls—t.
You scored five episodes of Star Trek. What memories/anecdotes can you share with us about them?
“Friday’s Child” had a Native American kind of a feeling to it. By that time, I was thoroughly enjoying my work on Star Trek and I loved getting calls to come in and do another episode. Nothing specific comes to mind about that one, though. “The Paradise Syndrome,” that I kept as folk and as all-purpose native as possible. And the one that most people seem to talk about is “Amok Time.” Once again, I was impressed with them telling a mortal, earthly story. It was about rivalry and fighting for a girl, and that was just plain old fun, putting music to that.
Can we assume that scoring these episodes, you had the episode in front of you and recorded the score with an orchestra?
How much interaction did you have with Roddenberry and Coon and Justman, etc.?
FRIED: For my first episode, they all showed up. I met Roddenberry for the one and only time. Bob Justman was there, and he was at all the other spotting sessions. I like to say, with a wink of course, that my music was so magnificent by then that Gene Roddenberry didn’t have to worry about me anymore, so he just let Bob Justman handle the mechanics of it. David Gerrold, who was at that Trekkie event with me in December, said, “Gerry, the truth of the matter is that Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon knew nothing about music, and I think they were just glad to get it off their desks.” So, David took my 15 minutes of fame and knocked it down to 14.
FRIED: That is true. It shows up in my ASCAP statement. It was in The Cable Guy. It was in The Simpsons. It was in Caddyshack. It shows up in things I’ve never heard of sometimes. It shows up in unusual countries, like Bulgaria. That’s great.
What are you up to these days?
FRIED: I’m still a functioning oboe player. I just did a score for a short film, a 20-minute short. I did that here in Santa Fe. Also, something I wrote back in the 1960s, a baroque jazz oratorio that was done at the L.A. Music Festival, has been sitting on my shelf since 1966. Last February, I threw it in the mail because the New York Music Festival had a competition. Much to my surprise, this was one of the winners. So I’ll be doing that in New York City on July 26 and 27 at the Signature Theater on 42nd Street. I just played an English horn concerto with the symphony here about a month or two ago. So I am far from retired. I’m afraid to even think about retirement. I’d shrivel up and blow away.