Every time we see a recital given aboard any ship or star base, it's almost always a 'classical music' recital or performance, never a rock concert. The only exceptions to this musical bias are Riker's penchant for Jazz and Zefram Cochrane playing 'Magic Carpet Ride' during the 'First Contact' launch.

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    Don't forget Ooby Dooby on the juke box in FC too.
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 2:40
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    Licensing costs and negotiations? You can pull that off for a feature film but it is much harder for episodic television that is heading for syndication. Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 2:54
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    Star Trek is set in a future centuries ahead of ours. If they are listening to genre music from our period it would be a genre that has stood the test of time. Rock and roll was going strong when the original Star Trek series aired, but was still a teenager as a genre. The series that followed stuck with jazz and classical music because those forms had proven staying power and had already ossified into a standard repertory. Given the expected institutional patronage both forms will endure for centuries to come. We're nowhere near that with rock and roll. Probably never will be.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 3:26
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    Are you counting Abrams Trek? They did have Kirk playing Beastie Boys in each of those movies ('Sabotage' in the first, 'Body Movin' in the second)
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 3:47
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    @Mazura You're probably thinking of the episode Suddenly Human when Jono is listening to Talarian "Alba Ra".
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:40

6 Answers 6


Roddenberry had a vision of an 'enlightened' humanity, and as a strict matter of keeping up appearances, it's a lot easier to sell people on a post-scarcity technologically affluent culture that listens to Chopin over Chuck Berry. It's a bit of an oversight in the long term, because a person's musical tastes aren't necessarily a pointer to their intelligence, but it's such a TV trope to assume intelligence begets classical taste in music that I suspect that has more to do with it than anything. It's a lot easier to sell the idea that music which has already withstood the test of time (Bizet and Berlioz were 19th century composers, both of which are name-dropped during First Contact) has "made it into space" with the rest of us than, like, Dion DiMucci. In fact, there's a brief quote attributed to the creators of Star Trek who state that it is "more believeable" that classical music continues forward whereas contemporary or popular music ebbs, flows, and eventually fades away.

More of an observation on my part -- I'm going out on a limb here, but I would hazard a guess that a utopian society is a lot less likely to identify with some of the darker tones of popular music from the last 70 years.

It's not as if people stop breaking up with each other or anything. But there are also certain socio-economic circumstances which are more easily expressed in the context of blues-inspired rock music than in a society where no one gets sick or loses their home because they got fired.

"Woke up this morning feeling exemplary --dun daaaa dun da dunt--

My car started right away because everything works perfectly --dun daaaa dun da dunt--

Still happily married because the hardship of financial difficulty never drove me or my spouse to seek the comfort of another person's embrace --dun daaa dun da dunt--...."

There are a handful of indicators towards such an attitude. The small talk between Jellico and Riker concerning the presence of a trombone in his quarters is a little telling of the remnants of 'snooty' early TNG's vision of humans -- we're all high-concept highfalutin brainiacs that immerse ourselves in the high points of art, philosophy, and use phrases like "Is it not the height of hubris..." (Really though, the reaction and body language Jellico employs when Riker says he's a jazz musician -- 'ohhhh ....jazz..... okaaay.')

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    I like, especially the "snooty high-concept highfalutin brainiacs" part. So rock is too lowbrow for the future, more refined taste buds?
    – Morgan
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 18:18
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    Good points all around. To extend your points then we could have expected to see a resurgence of the music we're used to today during DSN and VOY, but we didn't. (DSN with the war and thousands of people dying, planets being seiged, etc. And a crew stuck in the back end of the galaxy and nearly destroyed every week).
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 18:32

You're correct that classical music does seem to be over represented, especially on the Next Generation. However, there are other times when characters do show a taste in alternative genres.

As you already pointed out Riker likes jazz, and is seen on more than one occasion to be performing with others on the Enterprise.

Worf is a fan of Klingon opera and the Doctor on Voyager is also an opera aficionado, albeit that of a more Human origin.

Multiple members of the command staff on Deep Space Nine are seen to enjoy Vic Fontaine's singing, which Memory-Alpha describes as "vocal-jazz and cabaret".

However, there are only two examples of any sort of rock and roll that I am aware of in the 24th century, both in Voyager. The first is in the episode Vis à Vis during the opening, when Tom is working on a car in the holodeck there is "surf rock" music playing on a radio. The second is in the episode Homestead, again during the opening there is rock music playing on a jukebox in the mess hall during the First Contact Day celebration.

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    Given Tom's fanaticism for the later 20th century, 2 rocks songs in all of Voyager is a surprisingly little. Oh, but Harry Kim can play some jazz on his clarinet.
    – Dacio
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 5:55
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    In Homestead, wasn't the reason for playing that music that it was a favorite of then very-late Zefram Cochrane?
    – user
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 7:45
  • @MichaelKjörling Yes it was, but no one was crying out for it to be turned off.
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:29
  • @Xantec Good point. Of course, I don't think anyone complained that it was turned off for a discussion involving three people, either.
    – user
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:30
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    @MichaelKjörling True. So we can likely gather that rock and roll is a historical curiosity in the 24th century. Mirthfully tolerated by people of the day as a fun jaunt back in time, but not something they'd listen to on a regular basis.
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 12:43

There is one other out-of-universe reason for this that's worth noting:


The entire recorded history of Rock and Roll is under copyright. Any use of a song which the audience would recognize could cost a potentially significant amount of money. Better to just restrict any 'historic' music that characters are fond of to works in the public domain that can be used cheaply and without the headache and hassle of all those licenses and publishing rights. If you need evidence of just how much of a headache all of that can be... look no further than what happened to WKRP in Cincinnati.

  • +1 Indeed, old Scooby-Doo cartoons are great for this. Lots of the background music is very much like certain popular songs. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 17:49

No one likes to remember it, but it happened.

Star Trek Hippies (from a recent facebook post)

The third season had some issues.


C'mon, be reasonable - it's pop music from 300-400 years in the past! Diegetically speaking production issues aside), how many people do you know who listen to 16th century popular music? Anyone? Renaissance faires excluded.

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    Sure but Jazz is the same age and Classical even older. Star Fleet is full of the future equivalent of Ren Faire folk with their knowledge and references to ancient stuff.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 23:40
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    Classical music kinda ... is already popular music from 300-400 years ago. High-class popular music, to be sure, but we don't have a true equivalent genre of new, modern music that caters exclusively to the rich and powerful. (For example, the Medici family commissioned some of the most popular music of the 1500's.) Not that hard to imagine the biggest names in popular music from today surviving 300-400 years on their own right.
    – Dacio
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 16:19

Most classical is copyrighted too. I'd guess that Gene was portraying a technology that would make playing rock music impossible, I mean the power systems they used, operating an electric guitar and an electric bass would be impossible. I mean it took B'elenna 6 months to figure out how to get a TV set to work on a live fed plasma power system. They portrayed what would be feasible with their power systems.

  • Most classical music is old enough to be in the public domain. It's only the recordings of performances that are copyrighted.
    – J Doe
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 2:18

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