Col. Richmond (SS Director)
Posted - 02/13/2004 : 00:29:17
OFF-SCREEN MUSIC IN THE WILD WILD WEST
by Bob Wittrock
Acknowledgement: I'd like to thank several members of the WILDWEST group
for their assistance with this document: Stephanie Smith for some of the
observations regarding Artie's theme and Dr. Loveless' theme, and
Kris Sabo and Andrew for assistance with the episode/composer list.
Disclaimer: I have very little formal training in music and very little
direct knowledge of the TV business. What follows are the highly
opinionated observations of a devoted fan.
The Wild Wild West theme music was composed by Richard Markowitz. The
Kesler book (pp. 15-18) includes an excellent discussion of its origins,
including a substantial interview with Markowitz. The theme music is
built up from two distinct themes: a jazzy guitar based rhythmic theme
and an all-American heroic theme. The heroic theme includes a 4-note
imitation of a train whistle at just the right moment. The same
essential theme music was used throughout the series, but its arrangement
was changed somewhat each season, the biggest change being with the second
season, corresponding to the new color visuals.
As with many TV shows, incidental music was composed and performed for
only some of the episodes. The tapes of this music were then reused on the
other episodes. This "tracking" of music involves chopping out phrases
or sections of a piece or replaying them or playing unrelated pieces
back to back, all to make music that was composed for one episode useful
in another. Since a piece usually fits best in the episode for which it
was composed, I'll be devoting most of my attention to original music
What follows is a list of original music episodes and composers. The
amount of original music in an episode varies from 100% (as in Firebrand),
to mostly original (as in Bubbling Death), to a relatively small amount of
original music (as in Vipers).
LIST OF EPISODES WITH ORIGINAL MUSIC
[* = Recommended and Discussed Below]
Season Episode Title Composer
1 TNot Inferno Richard Markowitz
1 TNot Casual Killer Robert Drasnin
1 TNot Deadly Bed Robert Drasnin
1 * TNt Wizard Shook the Earth Robert Drasnin
1 TNo Sudden Death Richard Markowitz
1 TNoa Thousand Eyes Richard Markowitz
1 TNot Glowing Corpse Richard Markowitz
1 * TNt Terror Stalked the Town Richard Markowitz
1 TNt Dragon Screamed Harry Geller
1 * TNot Puppeteer Dave Grusin
1 TNot Bars of Hell Richard Markowitz
1 * TNot Burning Diamond Richard Shores
2 TNot Golden Cobra Richard Markowitz
2 TNot Big Blast Richard Markowitz
2 TNot Infernal Machines Richard Markowitz
2 TNot Raven Richard Markowitz
2 TNot Man-Eating House Robert Drasnin
2 * TNot Eccentrics Richard Shores
2 TNot Returning Dead Morton Stevens and Harry Geller
2 * TNot Bottomless Pit Harry Geller
2 TNot Watery Death Uncredited (See below)
2 TNot Green Terror Richard Markowitz
2 TNot Tartar Jack Pleis
3 * TNot Jack O'Diamonds Richard Markowitz
3 * TNot Firebrand Richard Shores
3 TNot Assassin Walter Sharf
3 * TNot Bubbling Death Jack Pleis
3 TNot Amnesiac Mundell Lowe
3 TNot Samurai Jack Pleis
3 * TNot Circus of Death Jack Pleis
3 TNot Running Death Jack Pleis
3 * TNot Vipers Morton Stevens
3 TNot Undead Fred Steiner
4 TNot Doomsday Formula Robert Prince
4 TNot Egyptian Queen Harry Geller
4 TNot Spanish Curse Johny Parker
4 * TNot Big Blackmail Richard Shores
4 * TNot Gruesome Games Jack Pleis
4 * TNot Krakan Richard Shores
4 * TNot Sedgewick Curse Richard Shores
4 TNot Winged Terror, Part 1 Robert Prince
Note: TNot Watery Death does not list a composer credit, but much of the
music in the early part of the episode seems (to me) to be original.
A number of noteworthy themes appear in the incidental music to W-cubed.
THE W-CUBED THEMES
Both of the themes that make up the W-cubed theme music were used
extensively in the incidental music throughout the series. The rhythmic
theme tended to be used for gadgets and the heroic theme tended to be
used for West himself, but this was not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes
it worked the other was around. Also, the heroic theme was very frequently
used at the conclusion of an act, at the freeze to cartoon, although this
practice decreased somewhat as the show progressed.
Some noteworthy uses of the W-cubed themes:
* Inferno, End of Act 1: West arms himself:
Both themes are used and the "gadget" connotation of the rhythmic theme is
* Wizard Shook the Earth:
In this ep, the rhythmic theme is given a particularly strong and
satisfying treatment on the electric bass guitar. The best use of the
rhythmic theme is in Act 4, West's escape. The chord progression gives
this piece a powerful momentum.
* Burning Diamond, end of Act 1:
The two themes are used together to form a jazzy and particularly
smart-aleck version of the W-cubed Theme Music, while West has no trouble
at all cracking that safe.
* Jack O'Diamonds:
* Act 1: West spies on the bandits.
* Act 2: Sordo chasing West.
* End of Act 2: Sordo spitting, freeze to cartoon.
A particlarly grim treatment of the heroic theme.
These three pieces are classics, tracked very effectively many times
throughout the third season. The "end of act 2" piece is probably the
most frequently tracked end-of-act piece in the third season, and
possibly the whole series.
* Big Blackmail, beginning of act 2:
A mellow "back at the train" piece incorporting both themes. Here the
rhythmic theme is jazzed up almost beyond recognition.
* Grusome Games:
The short "back at the train" piece near the end of this episode (based
on the rhythmic theme) is perhaps the definitive piece of this sort.
The "end of the episode" piece, based on the heroic theme, is very
A clear statement of Artie's theme can be found in Bottomless Pit, Act 2
when Mauvais concludes the job interview with the word, "Splendid!".
Artie's theme is played immediately after this. It consists of a 6-note
statement followed by a 9-note response.
Episodes with original music on Artie's theme:
Terror Stalked the Town
Bars of Hell
Some noteworthy uses of Artie's theme:
* Terror Stalked the Town, Act 4, Artie and electrified fence:
A delightful fugue on Artie's theme.
* Bottomless Pit, Act 2, after "Splendid!":
This is a very funny scene and the music, a goofy fantasia on Artie's
theme, is up to it.
* Cadre, near the end of Act 1. Artie gets up after being shot:
Artie hums his own theme here! It's a little difficult to pick out,
because the sound track is playing a recycling of the fantasia on Artie's
theme from Bottomless Pit.
* Firebrand, end of Act 1, freeze to cartoon.
A really strong and exciting treatment of Artie's theme, my favorite
version of it.
Artie's theme was occasionally used (i.e., tracked) without Artie. Example:
Arrow, end of Act 2, freeze to cartoon. As far as I know, Artie's theme was
not used at all in the fourth season. My take on Artie's theme is that it's
basically a goofy corny theme, suitable for first season concept of Artie.
As the series progressed, Artie's stature grew and the theme became less
and less appropriate. The theme was given a more vigorous treatment in
Firebrand, but it was not be, and Artie's theme disappeared by the fourth
DR. LOVELESS' THEME
Dr. Loveless' theme was first used in Wizard Shook the Earth (naturally)
and is pretty easy to identify. (Hint: It's 12 notes long.) I think it
suggests someone scurrying around on short legs.
Episodes with original music on Loveless' theme:
Wizard Shook the Earth
Terror Stalked the Town
While Loveless' theme was mostly used for the good doctor, pieces
containing it occasionally showed up on non-Loveless episodes. Examples:
Torture Chamber, Skulls.
COUNT MANZEPPI'S THEME
Count Manzeppi's theme makes its first appearance at the end of the first
piece in Eccentrics, when we first see the Count (naturally). It's
used extensively in the original music of Eccentrics, tracked
extensively in Feathered Fury, and tracked without Manzeppi in Wolf.
INTERESTING TRACKED MUSIC
Usually music was tracked in the same season as the episode for which it
was composed. Occassionally a piece was tracked from one season back. In
Pelican however, a piece is tracked from three seasons back. The piece
that concludes act 3 of Pelican is from the conclusion to act 3 of Dragon
Screamed. Both acts end with the image of a Chinese man holding a blade.
Murderous Spring contains some particularly interesting tracked music in
acts 1 and 2, when we're seeing West's hallucinations. What's interesting
about this music is that it superimposes music from two episodes, i.e.,
two unrelated pieces played at the same time. The main piece that's played
in these scenes is the echoy music from the last scene in act 3 of Burning
Diamond. (See below.) Superimposed on top of this, we sometines hear the
eery "puppeteering" music from Puppeteers. For example, when the unreal
Artie shows up, we get a clear statement of the puppeteering music, with
the Burning Diamond echos underneath. These two pieces are also
superimposed just after West pulls trigger in act 2.
The various composers showed a considerable diversity of styles and some
were much better than others. What follows are my highly opinionated
comments on the more noteworthy composers and episodes. The composers
are listed in order if increasing quality of output (in my opinion).
Robert Prince: Doomsday formula:
The worst (most inappropriate) music in the series. It sounds as though
it belongs in another series: "The Mod Squad" has been suggested. I would
characterize the effect of the music of this episode as "distancing":
When I'm watching a scene with this music playing, I don't feel like
I'm watching W-cubed; it seems like a different show that I don't
particularly care about. The real trouble is, this music was repeated
frequently thoughout the fourth season, evoking that distancing effect
every time it showed up. Most unfortunate.
[Middle-of-the-road composers skipped.]
Composer of the Theme Music and more incidental music than anyone else.
While I find most of his music routine, some of it is pretty good.
Best episode: Jack O'Diamonds. See THE W-CUBED THEMES above.
Best episode: Wizard Shook the Earth. See THE W-CUBED THEMES above.
Also, the best Loveless music. (Composer of Loveless' theme).
Morton Stevens: Vipers
While most of the music in this episode is tracked, the music for the
Vipers themselves is original and quite good. Heavy on those trombones
Composed for 6 episodes. Perhaps his best is Circus of Death. Act 1
concludes with some fun chase music with tingly harpsichord, and Act 4
has some good sneaky Artie music. Also good is Bubbling Death, which
has some really light-hearted care-free music, suggesting "Isn't it fun
to be sneaking around here under the bag guys' noses?". See also THE
W-CUBED THEMES above, regarding Grusome Games.
Dave Grusin: Puppeteer
Really good spooky music. Some of the music is played when we are being
shown Skull's fingers on the keyboard, almost giving the impression
that he's playing the music, which, it turn, enhances the visceral sense
that he's controlling those puppets.
Best episode: Bottomless Pit. Best Piece: The jazzy music for the fight
with Cochon in Act 4. Other good ones: The escape piece at the end of
Act 2. See also ARTIE'S THEME above.
For me, Shores is in a class by himself. What follows is a discussion of
his 6 episodes in order of (what I consider) increasing excellence:
Quite effectively gothic. Best piece: fight in Act 3.
This episode features a dark upward creeping theme for the bag guy, Midas,
contrasted with a mellow downward flowing theme for the good guys, Jim and
Artie, where the good guy theme is essentially the bad guy theme turned
upside-down. The most striking music, however, is the echoing effect that's
played any time something happens in accelerated time. This "echo" theme
gets its most thorough treatment in the long piece at the end of act 3.
See also THE W-CUBED THEMES above.
This music has an exciting thriller flavor to it; the opening piece is
particlarly good example. The piece in act 1 for the fight with Titan
is my second favorite fight piece and was tracked quite frequently.
This episode features especially evocative music, suggesting, at various
times, rising from the depths, gurgling water, a buoy, a foghorn,
a massive writhing serpent.
This episode has lots of wonderful music. Quite jazzy, with a rugged,
outdoor feel. The breathless opening msuic is my favorite action/chase
piece in series. Then there are those two pieces in act 2 when West is
sneaking into the camp and when he's setting up his heist, some of my
favorite sneaking around music. Cool quiet jazz with more of that
"outdoor" feel. The act 2 chase piece, in two-part counterpoint, is also
See also ARTIE'S THEME above.
My favorite episode for music. The jazz ensemble, augmented with the
Indian percussion instrument called the tabla, provides just the right
mood for this cloak and dagger spy episode. The opening piece states a
delightful "wise guy" kind of jazz theme that, as it turns out, provides
the basis for nearly all the music in the episode. The only other truly
distinct themes are the two W-cubed themes, which are used sparingly.
(See also THE W-CUBED THEMES above.)
There's a nice little musical memory jog: In act 2, when Artie knocks the
pot into the "well", the music has just executed a fairly noticeable
change of key. Then in act 4, when Jim and Artie are trying to figure
out how to get out, another version of the same piece is playing, which
does its corresponding key change just as Artie notices the broken pot.
My favorite piece in the series is the one that accompanies the entire
act 2 scene in the Architect's office. It begins with just the tabla
as West searches the office. A beautiful flute melody emerges,
interrupted by hot chords as West finds clues. Powerful build-up music
ensues as the bad guys come in, which then breaks into hot fight music.
This fight music begins with a rest on the down-beat coinciding with
West's first punch, so that, in effect, West's punch *is* the first note
of the fight music and you really feel that punch.