We all know that what we hear on screen is equally as important as what we see. The right music heightens the drama of a scene, sets viewer expectations, and can even become a cultural icon in its own right. At the same time, crisp, precise sound effects ground what we're seeing in reality, allowing us to suspend disbelief and feel like we're truly inhabiting a different world.
Of course women have been making and composing music for millennia, but for some strange and totally unpindownable reason their contributions haven't been as valued as men's... weird, right? ;-) Obviously, this carries over into show business as well -- and as we've seen throughout this series, even our beloved Star Trek isn't immune. Believe it or not, there has NEVER, in more than 50 years of Star Trek, been a female lead composer for a full-length Trek movie or show!
Despite their lack of inclusion and recognition, several women have helped shape the sounds of Star Trek -- and you're about to meet some of them!
P.S. What? You haven't seen the first three posts about women writers, producers, and directors for Star Trek? Rectify!
P.P.S. Most of the info below was drawn from imdb.com, memory-alpha.fandom.com, and linked interviews. While I've done my best to be thorough, I admit my fallibility and welcome corrections. The vast majority of women credited with working on Trek have little to no information available about them, and photos are even more scarce. Also, shorts, video games, books, comics, and fan-made media are not included.
According to this helpful -- and seemingly trustworthy based on its references -- outline of the sound department, sound (not including music) for movies and TV is split into two groups: on-set (during filming) and post-production (after filming is finished). The big whig for on-set sound is the production sound mixer (a.k.a. sound recordist), and the first woman to hold that position for Trek was Marsha Sorce. (I could only find one picture of her in all of the interwebs!) Sound mixing for Insurrection is her only Trek credit, but she's also worked on several films, including a plethora of Disney sequels.
Photo from wikipedia
You know that guy -- and it's always a guy -- who stands around on set holding the microphone over the actors' heads? He's called a boom operator, and Camille Kennedy is the only woman to ever have that job in all of Star Trek. With arms of steel she worked on ten episodes of Discovery, but holding stuff for long stretches of time is just one of her many talents! She's been a sound mixer, painter, set dresser, and assistant property master on numerous shows and movies, including Nikita, Suits, and Pacific Rim.
Photo from LinkedIn
Moving on to post-production, the sound designer is the head honcho here, and only one woman, Ann Scibelli, has ever held that title in all of Star Trek. As one of the sound designers for the 2009 Star Trek movie, she was among the top decision-makers when it came to the film's soundscape. She also worked as the sound effects editor for Beyond. Fun fact: the noise the Enterprise doors make (in the 2009 Star Trek movie) is actually the sound of a toilet on a Russian train flushing.
Photo from soundworkscollection.com
Foley artists might have the best job in show business: banging, squishing, and rattling all sorts of weird stuff to make the sounds we hear on screen sharper and richer than they could be in regular video recording. Ellen Heuer was the first female foley artist for Star Trek, filling the role for both The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. According to this video, she originally wanted to be a dancer, but was recruited into foley while working on a play in the early 80s (apparently dancers make good foley artists because they're used to choreography). Nearly 40 years later she's still at it, working on a wide variety of films such as Iron Man, 12 Years A Slave, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Photo from YouTube
When you think of sound for Star Trek, think of Cecelia Hall. Breaking through barriers left and right, this trailblazer made history several times over not just for Trek but for the entire sound industry -- and she was a studio executive to boot! Senior Vice President of Post Production Sound at Paramount Pictures from 1978-1992, Hall set several firsts:
Photo from IMDB
And speaking of sound editors, the first woman to work in the sound department for a Trek television series also just happens to be the woman who has edited the most Trek episodes: Ruth Adelman. Starting with TNG's season six "Suspicions," she worked for six years as sound editor for TNG, DS9, and Voyager for a grand total of 149 episodes -- way more than any other female sound editor (and most of the male ones too). Adelman won an Emmy for her work on CSI, as well as eight Golden Reel Awards. Over her 30+ years in the industry, she's also worked on the shows Game of Thrones, Grimm, and Patriot. (FYI: there is an Adelman Neurological Institute mentioned in the TNG episode "Ethics," but that was before Ruth began working on the show.)
Photo from universalstudioslot.com
When it comes to music for Star Trek, the first thing that inevitably comes to mind is the iconic opening credits for TOS. And while the music itself was composed by Alexander Courage, it's Loulie Jean Norman we're all thinking of. This coloratura soprano (meaning she could go super high and super fast) decided to pursue a career in Hollywood instead of opera, working on several films and television shows as a background singer or chorus member. It was with Star Trek, however, that she -- well, her voice, at least -- achieved icon status, singing the soaring wordless vocals that are now ingrained in pop culture and imitated by just about everybody (with varying success) at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints for the third season, the producers re-recorded the theme without her voice so they wouldn't have to pay her royalties.
Photo from twitter
In 2019, Tracie Turnbull became the ONLY woman to compose original music for any full-length Star Trek property when she wrote additional music for the second-season premiere of Discovery. In total, she's written music for 21 episodes of Discovery and Picard, as well as worked as a midi programmer on two first-season episodes of Discovery. Additional industry credits include composing music for Altered Carbon and The Umbrella Academy.
Photo from IMDB
The composer may get all the glory, but it's the orchestrator who does all the dirty work; that's because what we hear during a show usually isn't what the composer technically wrote. Sure, the composer dreamed up that ear-catching tune that will stick in our heads and hearts for the rest of time, but very often -- particularly if they're famous and in-demand -- they won't write out all of the instrumentation for a piece of music. The orchestrator(s) takes the composer's sometimes bare melody and notates exactly which instruments will play what, where, and when. Now, the composer will most likely tell the orchestrator which instruments should play which parts, so it's not like they go into this blind, but depending on the composer, an orchestrator could be a very creative position. After all, a line of music played by a tuba will sound pretty different than if it's played by a flute. Composer Dana Niu was the first woman to orchestrate for Trek, as well as the first woman of color to work in the music department, performing this task for two Enterprise episodes. Some of her other nearly 200 film credits include A Quiet Place (both the original and the sequel), Crazy Rich Asians, and Gone Girl.
Photo from dananiumusic.com
Yes, that's Steven Spielberg and John Williams. But more importantly, that's Sandy DeCrescent, orchestra contractor extraordinaire! Being an orchestra contractor -- the person responsible for hiring musicians and managing music budgets for film and television scores -- doesn't sound like a particularly glamorous job, but it is a critical one. They need to have an intimate knowledge of a performer's strengths and weaknesses, an extensive roster of musicians who play rare or unique instruments, and a finger on the pulse of current musical trends. As the first female orchestra contractor for Universal Studios back in the 60s, DeCrescent has faced sexism from all angles, but she is now a legend in the Hollywood music industry with a career that spans more than five decades and over 1000 credits to her name, including Trek movies First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis, as well as four Star Wars movies.
Photo from impactmania.com
The life of Else Blangsted would make quite a movie itself. Escaping Nazis, rubbing elbows with celebrities, and reuniting with a long lost daughter is just a sampling of the dramatic highs and lows this revered music editor experienced. Her career in Hollywood began as an actress, but after getting trampled in a mob scene in Samson and Delilah, she understandably switched to working behind the camera, eventually becoming one of the most respected music editors in the business. The first job of a music editor is to go through the film with the director and identify the many cues that the music needs to support or enhance, and then create a "temp track" by patching together pre-existing, unrelated music that matches what the director is looking for. The composer then uses this track as a starting point for creating an original score. Once the score is complete and recorded, the music editor assembles and synchs the music with the video. From 1955-1990, Blangsted worked on nearly 100 TV shows and movies, including The Voyage Home, which makes her the only woman ever to be a music editor (supervising music editor, to be specific) for any of the Trek properties.
Photo from patch.com
After the foley artists, musicians, and editors have finished perfecting all of the various sound effects, dialogue, and music for a show, it's up to the re-recording mixer to put it all together, fitting the pieces into one seamless whole and matching it perfectly with the film. The only woman to do this for Star Trek was Anna Behlmer, whose lone Trek credit is the 2009 Star Trek movie. Her more than 150 other credits over the past three decades are mighty impressive though, working as re-recording mixer for the live-action Mulan film, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and Bumblebee, just to name a few. She was also the first woman ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing (for Braveheart), and she's among the most Oscar-nominated women in history.
Photo from IMDB
Even though I'm not including shorts in these lists, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nami Melumad, who wrote the music for the 2019 Short Trek episode "Q&A" and became the first woman to score an entire Trek show herself. Yay!
Looking for more women behind the scenes? Tune in next time for post number five, The Unseen Women of Star Trek: Art & Design.