Superman Brings you the Gift of Music
Behold! the Ultimate Superman Music Collectible is here at last…Superman: The Music (1978-1988).
“WOW!!!!” is an understatement! It is going to blow your mind when you listen to every note from this amazing (and surprising) music collection sounding BRAND NEW…the entire Superman IV soundtrack, all of the 1988 animated music…everything Superman between 1978 and 1988…need I say more?!
This glorious box set is a must-own for all serious Superman and film enthusiasts, and definitely wouldn’t be complete without the 160-page illustrated hardcover book (click here to read some of its copy). It’s a fascinating and educational read written by Michael Matessino that you’ll have a difficult time putting down.
SUPER Congratulations to Michael Matessino, Lukas Kendall, Joe Sikoryak and everyone at Film Score Monthly. You’ve done it! You’ve have created one of the most exciting and important soundtrack collections in the history of motion pictures. For this we are eternally grateful! And thanks very much Mike for asking me to get involved with this project over a year ago, and for the opportunity to photograph the box for your promotional materials. I had a GREAT time! And thanks to Aaron Price for the fantastic Superman: The Music (1978-1988) silver logo!
All photography of the Superman: The Music (1978-1988) box set and promotional banners above are copyright Bowers Imagineering, L.L.C. and CapedWonder™.com 2008, and may not be altered or printed without express written permission from Jim Bowers. All rights reserved.
Blue Box Fever Has Broken…The Superman Collection is Here!
Film Score Monthly’s exhaustive 8-disc box set features all four Christopher Reeve Superman scores by John Williams, Ken Thorne, and Alexander Courage PLUS Ron Jones, Giorgio Moroder, and much more!
Linden, VA – February 21, 2008 – It’s safe to say that there has never been as much anticipation for a soundtrack release as that for the “Blue Box.” Never.
Among the too-many-to-count speculations, there were a few that were very close. But no one could have guessed the exhaustive extensiveness of the project.
Yes, the “Blue Box” is finally here and it is Superman: The Music (1978-1988), an 8-CD set of the complete scores to the four Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, with music for the original by John Williams and adapted by his colleagues Ken Thorne and Alexander Courage for the sequels. Bonus discs include music by Ron Jones for a 1988 Superman animated series and source music for the features, all packaged in a deluxe hardcover slipcase with a 160-page illustrated hardcover book.
Superman: The Movie (1978) is a score that needs little introduction – it is one of John Williams’ glorious “blockbuster” works from the late 1970s in which he nearly singlehandedly revived the symphonic film score. Rousing, tuneful and unforgettable, it is a lynchpin of any soundtrack collection. The film features a kind of tripartite structure, moving from Superman’s origin on planet Krypton (given austere, almost Shakespearean colors) to his teenage years in Smallville (scored with beautiful Coplandesque melodies) and his debut in bustling Metropolis, where the film’s action, romance and comedy come to the fore in some of Williams’ greatest scoring ever. Like the film itself, Williams’ music is a perfect combination of heart, humor, myth and drama.
The music to Superman: The Movie has been released on several occasions, most recently on a 2-CD set from Rhino (now out of print). That album, however, was reconstructed using secondary dubbing elements, as the six-track 35mm music masters were unearthed only afterwards. For this definitive presentation, the entire recording has been painstakingly remixed and remastered from that first-generation source, yielding the best sound quality ever. Discs 1 and 2 of this set present Williams’ complete recordings to Superman: The Movie (additional alternates and source music are on disc Cool – including alternate versions never before heard, such as a powerful early version of the Kryptonian villains’ banishment to the Phantom Zone.
Williams was not available to score the Superman sequels, but in each case his music was adapted and re-recorded by one of his colleagues. For Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983) it was British composer Ken Thorne, who had a long working relationship with director Richard Lester. For Superman II – in which Superman deepens his relationship with Lois Lane and fends off the Kryptonian super villains – Thorne stuck close to Williams’ compositions, stretching and reworking them to fit the drama. The result was a score filled with interesting variations on Williams’ cues that beautifully supported the new picture. Thorne’s score was released on LP by Warner Bros. Records that surfaced on CD only in a long out-of-print Japanese edition (coupled with the Superman III album). This premiere release of the complete score (doubling the playing time) has been entirely remixed from the 35mm music scoring masters and is found on disc 3.
Superman III found Superman traveling in a lighter direction to accompany director Lester’s sensibilities and that of costar Richard Pryor. Superman defeats a supercomputer financed by industrial tycoon Robert Vaughn and overcomes poisoning by fake kryptonite; his alter ego, Clark Kent, begins a romance with Smallville’s Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). Thorne was given a freer hand with the music and composed a great deal of new material (such as a main title ballet for slapstick on the streets of Metropolis), returning to Williams’ themes for key action and character moments more in the Superman mythology. A creative and intriguing work, only 20 minutes of his score were included on the film’s 1983 LP (and aforementioned Japanese CD). Disc 4 features his complete Superman III soundtrack, while alternates and source music (including the five tracks by composer/producer Giorgio Moroder) are on disc 8.
The Holy Grail for Superman music aficionados has been the completely unreleased score to the fourth film, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), for which Williams’ themes were adapted by his longtime friend and occasional collaborator, Alexander Courage. With Superman IV being an attempt to restore the quality of the franchise, it was decided that all major Williams themes would be used (where appropriate) in the new score. What’s more, Williams himself contributed three new melodies for Courage’s use: “Someone Like You,” a sultry, sexy melody (recalling the swinging sixties work of “Johnny” Williams) for Mariel Hemingway’s character of a young newspaper executive; “Nuclear Man Theme,” a driving action theme for the radioactive villain played by Mark Pillow, treated in versions alternately dramatic and comedic; and – sure to be a delightful surprise – “Jeremy’s Theme,” a lyrical theme for the young boy who appeals to Superman to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
In addition to being the composer of the original Star Trek theme, Courage was one of the greatest arrangers and orchestrators for Hollywood musicals. That training came to great use in Superman IV as he adapted Williams’ melodies into a powerful symphonic work, with imaginative and nuanced renditions of the familiar themes. The film was cut by over a half hour prior to release, with much of Courage’s work ending up on the cutting room floor. This presentation (on discs 5 and 6) showcases his score as it was meant to accompany the complete version of the picture – meaning many cues, some comprising entire sequences, have never been heard in any form. His complete score (recorded for scheduling purposes in both Germany and England) has been newly remixed from the original two-inch multitrack masters.
The second half of disc 6 features the music by the other composer whose work was abridged when Superman IV was cut for release: Paul Fishman, son of composer and music supervisor Jack Fishman and a recording artist with 1980s British techno-pop band Re-Flex. Fishman was hired to provide contemporary pop music primarily for a sequence at the Metro Club discotheque (where the “First Nuclear Man” – a deleted character – shows up to battle Superman). When the character and sequence was cut, it resulted in the deletion of most of Fishman’s contributions to the movie (and the cancellation of a planned soundtrack album). The artist has personally remixed an eight-selection presentation of his Superman IV work here.
If you were the right age to watch Saturday morning cartoons in 1988, you might remember an above-average Superman animated series that aired on CBS, produced by Ruby-Spears Enterprises. Only 13 episodes were made, but the series was noteworthy for its “Superman’s Family Album” vignettes of Superman’s childhood in Smallville as well as the high quality of its animation – and music. Ron Jones (today of Family Guy, then of Duck Tales and Star Trek: The Next Generation) was hired to bring a symphonic feature-film touch to the show’s soundtrack. He recorded a combination of original (to-picture) scoring and library music in the style of his powerful Star Trek music – and done in the best tradition of Williams’ blockbuster work like Star Wars and Superman, one of the inspirations for Jones’ career. Ruby-Spears licensed Williams’ Superman theme for use in the show’s main title; the series’ theme was otherwise a similar heroic march written by Jones. This is some of the best music ever created for 1980s children’s animation and truly belongs in a collection of theatrical Superman music. Jones’ score to the 1988 Superman comprises disc 7 of the box set, rounding out a full decade of music for the iconic character.
As indicated above, disc 8 of the set collects alternates and source music for Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman III which would not fit on discs 1-4, respectively. This includes previously unreleased radio source music by Williams heard only in the extended television broadcast as well as cues written by Thorne for similar purposes in the sequels. The eight discs are packaged in two “clamshell” or “butterfly” cases – four discs to each case – and the two cases placed along with a 160-page hardcover book (click here to read some of its copy) in an equally durable blue slipcase with silver “S” insignia! The 160-page book sets a new bar for a soundtrack presentation. The table of contents are:
4 Introduction: Music That Becomes an Icon
6 Overview: A History of Heroic Music
8 Superman: The Movie: This Is No Fantasy
11 John Williams: Composer of Legend
29 Disc 1: Superman: The Movie, Part 1
44 Disc 2: Superman: The Movie, Part 2
55 Interview: In Williams’s Own Words
58 Musical Analysis: The Making of the “March”
60 Superman II: A Return to Glory
64 Ken Thorne: Composer of Choice
68 Disc 3: Superman II
84 Superman III: Laughter in the Air
87 Disc 4: Superman III
104 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: Facing New Challenges
109 Alexander Courage: The Consummate Musician
114 Disc 5: Superman IV, Part 1
126 Disc 6: Superman IV, Part 2
133 Source Music and Songs by Paul Fishman
136 Superman (1988): Animated Rebirth
141 Disc 7: Superman (1988)
152 Alternates, Source Music and Songs: Extra!
153 Disc 8: Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman III
156 Yes, Giorgio! Songs by Giorgio Moroder
160 Album Production Credits
The scores are essayed in unprecedented cue-by-cue detail, articles augmented by new interview material with John Williams, Ken Thorne, Ron Jones, Paul Fishman, Eric Tomlinson, Angela Morley, Leslie Bricusse, Margot Kidder, Richard Donner, Tom Mankiewicz and Ilya Salkind – the largest collection of Superman music journalism and documentation ever attempted, written by Mike Matessino, Lukas Kendall and Jeff Eldridge. Superman: The Music (1978-1988) is produced by Mike Matessino and Lukas Kendall, with art direction by FSM’s regular designer, Joe Sikoryak. Our gracious thanks to: Warner Bros. Records and Warner Bros. Entertainment who have licensed these historic recordings, as well as the photographs and artwork contained in the packaging; the creators for their time and recollections; and the composers and recording artists for their gifts and inspiration, particularly John Williams.
The set also celebrates the Man of Steel’s official birthday of February 29 as well as a triple anniversary year… The character made his debut 70 years ago when Action Comics #1 hit newsstands, and 30 years ago, on December 15, 1978, Superman: The Movie was released, introducing audiences to Christopher Reeve’s indelible portrayal and John Williams’ classic themes. Additionally, Warner Bros., the studio behind the Superman series, celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2008. With SUPERMAN: THE MUSIC, Film Score Monthly delivers a release befitting this multi-tiered celebration.
SUPERMAN: THE MUSIC (1978-1988) is produced by Mike Matessino and Lukas Kendall and celebrates the Man of Steel’s official birthday of February 29 as well as a triple anniversary year…. The character made his debut 70 years ago when Action Comics #1 hit newsstands, and 30 years ago, on December 15, 1978, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE was released, introducing audiences to Christopher Reeve’s indelible portrayal and John Williams’s classic themes. Additionally, Warner Bros., the studio behind the Superman series, celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2008. With SUPERMAN: THE MUSIC (1978-1988), Film Score Monthly delivers a release befitting this multi-tiered celebration.
Mike Matessino: Music Producer of Steel
An Exclusive Interview for CapedWonder™.com by Bill Williams
If you recognize the name Mike Matessino, what immediately comes to mind but a true professional who has a great love and appreciation for the art of film and music restoration. Over the past decade Mike has worked on many projects, among them the Superman CD set for Rhino Records, the 20th anniversary edition of Alien and its corresponding score CD release, the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and most notably the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition CD sets.
With the recent eight-disc Superman: The Music (1978-1988) soundtrack set, produced and released by Film Score Monthly and Screen Archives Entertainment, Mike Matessino has contributed his most significant and successful restoration effort to date. In this exclusive interview with Bill Williams for CapedWonder™.com, Mike discusses his work on the set, including some interesting points about the set, his forays into the realm of film and music restoration, and the evolution of film and music restoration as a whole.
Bill Williams: When we last spoke at length, the Rhino Superman CD had just come out. How has the realm of film and musical score restoration changed in those years since?
Mike Matessino: The field has changed in many ways. I’d probably boil it down to two different components.
First, the music industry as a whole has evolved. CD sales industry-wide peaked in the late 1990s, and this included score soundtracks (at relative levels, of course, still modest compared to the pop market), hence the hugely successful Star Wars Trilogy albums from RCA Victor and more mainstream labels, such as Rhino, experimenting with these kinds of releases, which is how the first expanded Superman came about. Since then, we’ve moved into the era of iPods, mp3 downloads, etc., and consequently the disappearance of brick-and-mortar record stores. With even the pop industry struggling you can imagine what this has meant for soundtracks. But what this did was open the door for labels like Film Score Monthly, Intrada, Varése Sarabande, LaLa Land and others to pursue soundtracks as limited edition boutique items sold through the Internet. Fortunately, there were also successful negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians which resulted in a curved scale of reuse payments based on the age of the recording and the limited marketplace. This helped make score releases more financially viable for these labels, resulting in a greater number of titles getting released but in more limited quantities per title. Through online marketing the soundtrack market has been accurately defined and now the people who buy scores have a more direct connection with the labels that release them.
Secondly, there have been huge advances in audio technology across the board, starting with physical restoration of old elements and improved methods of transferring aging material. Once music is turned into digital data, there is also now far more ease in moving the data from place to place and, of course, the technology of actually restoring audio and improving old recordings has enhanced dramatically.
So in short, soundtrack restoration has become much easier to do but the end product reaches an extremely limited market.
Bill Williams: When did you first get involved in the field of music and film restoration?
Mike Matessino: At university I studied music editing, which was something I was always interested in. When I came to California I found myself getting involved in the first-ever special edition video releases, which included working with the people who restored picture and audio for the actual film transfers. I then went to work for Robert Wise and produced a documentary on the making of The Sound of Music, and in the middle of the production I was told that the original music elements for the film were being worked on and I was asked to take part in it to prepare an expanded CD that would be included in my big laserdisc project. That’s how I met Nick Redman and we just went on from there. For a few years I worked on projects in more or less an advisory capacity, including the Star Wars releases. Compared to how things are done now, the methodology was pretty crude in the mid-1990s. I would listen to and comment on mixes and edits as they were being done, and then I’d be given a cassette — yes, even CD-Rs were not yet commonplace — and then I’d review the material and come back with suggested changes.
During this time, Dave Fein, my colleague on the Alien and Aliens laserdiscs, found himself doing audio restoration for the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons and others in the Jay Ward catalog, and when we found ourselves working together again on Alien for the 20th anniversary I decided that I wanted to get more involved in doing the audio work myself. So for projects we worked on together that became one of my responsibilities, but in the meantime the changes in the soundtrack business, which I addressed earlier, began taking shape, and finally I decided that I wanted to focus on that as exclusively as possible.
Superman came about fairly early on, in late 1998, and after being told that it had to be done quickly and delivering the master, Rhino decided to delay the release for almost a year. By that time I was doing the director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture for Bob Wise, but soundtrack projects also started coming my way regularly. I had continued to hone the craft and learn the technology through all this and did some studying with mixers and other people in the field, and Jerry Goldsmith liked my work and really encouraged me. The ease with which the process works, which I also spoke about earlier, played into this, and it gradually became my focus, and happily so.
Bill Williams: The first time I heard of your work was back in 1997, with your work on the two-disc Star Wars CDs. Looking back a decade later, if you could have done anything differently for those sets, what would it be?
Mike Matessino: As I mentioned, I didn’t get to work on the actual music myself, so they would of course be different if I did them over. Once again, compared to how things are done now, 1997 was practically the dark ages. The releases were really a big deal at the time, with Lucasfilm and a major record label involved, and sales ultimately in the tens of thousands (unheard of now), and I was a relatively small voice in the process, having only recently started to focus on it. So while I made the most of the opportunity given me by Nick Redman, I would have wanted to have the kind of control I’m now generally trusted with, but in 1997 I didn’t yet have the expertise for that.
Bill Williams: Between the two-disc sets and the four-disc box set Nick Redman had produced in 1993, there remains some music for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, among them a number of source cues and alternate variations, that remain unissued on CD. What are your thoughts on this?
Mike Matessino: I think the few unreleased score alternates are fairly inconsequential, but it would be nice to have the Jabba-related source music from Return of the Jedi, but no masters were found and to my knowledge that fact has not changed.
Bill Williams: What projects are you currently working on at this time?
Mike Matessino: The soundtrack labels I do projects for don’t announce their releases in advance, so I’m not at liberty to disclose titles. But many are in the pipe ranging from the 1930s through the 1990s and in many different styles and genres. I am also continuing to do the audio work on isolated score tracks for Fox DVDs. They should really be commended for their support of this feature as it is enabling us to restore some great old music and to also get film scores out to a bigger market. In general Fox is very aggressive when it comes to mining their library and making their music catalog available, thanks to the continued efforts of Nick Redman. We continue to hope other studios will follow suit.
Bill Williams: Obviously, the Superman score set represents the most ambitious project you, Lukas Kendall, and the people at Film Score Monthly have worked on to date. Had there been any discussions about such a project that you are aware of, prior to your involvement in 2006?
Mike Matessino: The prior discussions were my own efforts to get Superman II and III released by Rhino as a follow-up to the first release. But by the time this happened, the label had moved away from catalog soundtracks to the point where some of the ones that were done, including Superman, actually went out of print. So not until FSM came along with their licensing relationship with Turner, and by extension Warner Bros., was there any possibility of revisiting Superman.
Bill Williams: Of the scores represented on this new box set, which one are you most proud of and why?
Mike Matessino: I am proud of all of them. It was a fantastic opportunity to revisit Williams’s original, to work with a superior element and give it a full restoration and to also include additional material that I knew existed. It was also great to make Ken Thorne’s two recordings sound so spectacular, which made him especially happy, particularly in light of the undeserved negative comments about them over the years. And Superman IV was an unparalleled archaeological experience because we went from having nothing to having everything, and when I heard how great it was I knew that the fans would go crazy over it. It really is the crowning achievement of Alexander Courage’s career and I’m so glad that people now have the opportunity to appreciate it.
Bill Williams: What has been the most difficult aspect of this project?
Mike Matessino: The book, the book, the book… reading the thing in PDF form over and over and over for months until we all signed off on version number 16 and it finally went to the printer.
Bill Williams: How long did it take to research the content for the book?
Mike Matessino: The research was an ongoing process over a period of several months and then there was a great deal of time spent editing the text and shaping the book, and then reading through it many times until it was finalized. There was documentation to digest and interviews to do, and it basically all happened in tandem with work on the music, on and off as time permitted.
Bill Williams: What has been the most enjoyable aspect of this project?
Mike Matessino: On the musical side, listening to Superman IV from beginning to end for the first time and realizing that a completely unreleased score from 1987 was actually a lost masterpiece. On the personal level, the opportunity to connect with the people who worked on the films has been a great joy. I was struck by how much they all care about the music.
Bill Williams: Was there any material, if any, that had been left off this set for space/licensing considerations that you would have liked to see included on the box set?
Mike Matessino: Nothing was left off for space reasons. Existing pop songs could have been licensed, I suppose, but they’re easily available. Non-vocal versions of Giorgio Moroder songs could have been pursued, but he would have had to approve them and as they were recorded in the U.S. they were subject to reuse payment. Anything else that wasn’t included was basically because we didn’t find it or it existed as only a tiny fragment and/or in poor sound quality. And this applies only to some source music from the first film, basically. In terms of score we didn’t have to leave anything off.
Bill Williams: What kind of restoration processes were used to master the scores, and how long did this process take?
Mike Matessino: Everything was done using the industry standard Pro-Tools audio system. Without getting overly technical, restoration is a matter of addressing different aspects of the original recording to yield as clean and consistent a sound as possible. This includes smoothing over analog edits, cleaning up ticks, pops, distortion and stage noise. Some of this is done manually, by physically drawing anomalies out of the sound waveform. Digital processing is also applied where it’s helpful. It’s a process of listening to it again and again, because every time you do, you hear something else that can be addressed. I also had Lukas Kendall and some other trusted ears giving me feedback, because you need the objectivity of someone coming at it cold who hasn’t been working on it morning to night. As I worked on one score at a time it’s hard to say how long the process took, but in terms of actual restoration as opposed to mixing and assembly, there was definitely more time needed for the original score than for the others.
Bill Williams: Let’s talk about each of the scores in further detail. Obviously, the improved quality of the John Williams Superman score is a major crown jewel of the new set. What are some of the new goodies we can expect this time around?
Mike Matessino: We now have three pieces of car radio source music that Williams wrote, but which were only used in the extended television version. Those are on disc 8, which is a bonus disc of source music and songs. We also have some previously unreleased alternate cues from the film, including “The Dome Opens,” which is something fans knew about because it was adapted by Ken Thorne for the sequels and the original recording was used in ‘The Richard Donner Cut’ of Superman II. We have it immediately following Williams’s original versions of the main title and introduction to Krypton, so you get a completely alternative version of the beginning of the score. Also, as you said, the sound quality is significantly improved, so the whole thing is a treat.
Bill Williams: From what I understand, these were taken from earlier master recordings of the score, as opposed to those used on the Rhino CD set. What kind of differences in sound quality can we expect, as in the Main Title theme, for example?
Mike Matessino: The source was a 6-track master of the assembled cues in their original form, as opposed to the sources for the Rhino album, which were dubbing stems used to mix the film, so they were probably at least two generations further away from what we now have. In the main title theme and in the entire score there will just be a noticeable improvement of clarity, less of a harsh sound, and as a result of the restoration process we’ve addressed the issues of noise and distortion inherent in the original mix.
Bill Williams: Why has the Superman score stood the test of time over the past 30 years?
Mike Matessino: Donner’s original film managed to completely encapsulate the Superman mythos and I think that inspired John Williams to score the movie the same way. He struck a perfect combination of contemporary American with 19th century European musical sounds… Copland and Sousa meets Wagner and Strauss, I tend to think of it, and so the result is immediately suggestive of the entire concept of Superman, not just the actual movie. He scored the myth, not just the film.
Bill Williams: With the scores for the second, third, and fourth Superman films, there is an obvious difference in sound quality among the original album presentations for II and III, the scores as heard in the films themselves, and their presentations on the new box set. The only words that seem to come to mind at this point are “more aggressive” (and I apologize if those words sound a bit harsh), because from what I’ve read they sound much larger in scope in the new set. Can you explain the differences in the sound presentations for those scores?
Mike Matessino: Superman II and III by Ken Thorne were both recorded with an orchestra numbering between 50 and 60. They were done at the CTS stage in Wembley, which really could only fit around 70 players. The engineer was John Richards, who is one of the best in the business, and for both projects he achieved a very bright, wide sound that is quite stunning. But not until now have we been able to hear it. I still do not have an explanation, but for some reason the quality of his original recordings was lost during the process of mixing the films at Pinewood. On Superman II there seem to have been some errors resulting in an overemphasis of winds and percussion, and in some instances the center and right channel information were reversed. The 6-track used for 70mm prints (used for the recent 5.1 DVD) was better than the standard Dolby version, but still misrepresentative of the original recording. The soundtrack album done at the time sounded a bit better, but it was still prepared in accordance with standards for LPs and of home stereos of the era, so it also sounded very small and thin.
By the time of Superman III there had been improvements in cinema sound (Return of the Jedi was released the same summer and set a new standard), but somehow the film came out with a very lackluster mix and the album was done ultra-conservatively, almost sounding monaural with stereo ambience. Again, I still have no idea why these things happened, but I knew that if we could get back to John Richards’ original material we’d find that it actually sounded terrific. In working with these recordings I tried to bring out the details and the dynamics, and our mastering engineer followed through with this. It’s amazing that they’re the same recordings, but they are! Both John Richards and Ken Thorne are thrilled to have these scores finally sounding the way they should and I’m sure it was a delightful revelation for the fans.
Bill Williams: Can you discuss in further detail the new themes John Williams composed for Superman IV, their placements in the context of the film, and their placement not only in the Superman canon but also in the John Williams canon of scoring?
Mike Matessino: Because of the troubled history of Superman IV there had never really been any definitive information about John Williams’ involvement in the project and it was great thrill to finally set the record straight on this. It turns out he did, in fact, compose the themes for Nuclear Man, Lacy and Jeremy. He wrote these melodies based on written descriptions of the characters and some segments of the film sent to him on videotape. He created lead sheets and delivered to Sandy Courage what he would normally turn over to an orchestrator, which, with Williams, is usually very detailed in terms of chord structure, flourishes and instrument selection. Sandy, of course, has had a long and distinguished career doing orchestration and adaptation, and his ongoing collaboration with Williams was such that he was the best person to score the film and to integrate the new themes with the existing ones.
If you listen to Superman IV you can hear Courage putting all the themes through their paces and weaving them together with a deftness that illustrates the man’s genius. It’s particularly great to hear the Nuclear Man theme interact with Superman’s and Lex Luthor’s themes, and also how Lacy’s theme both complements and contrasts with Lois Lane’s theme. As these themes were all composed in 1987 they fit into John Williams’ canon right where they should. Lacy’s theme recalls the Johnny Williams comedy scores from the 60s but also prefigures Catch Me If you Can and Sabrina. Jeremy’s theme sounds like it’s halfway between E.T. and Hook with a shade of Empire of the Sun, and Nuclear Man’s theme certainly foreshadows the kind of action music Williams would later write for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Hook and the Star Wars prequels, while melodically it’s partly a minor mode version of the 1941 march. So in a way I think the Superman IV themes are a kind of “missing link,” connecting the pre-1985 Williams scores with the ones from the 1990s and later.
Bill Williams: In your assessment, with its complete score now available, do you believe a restoration and completion of Superman IV is possible?
Mike Matessino: My words have come back to haunt me in the past, but as it now stands I’d have to say no. My research has shown that all of the elements on Superman IV were ordered destroyed in 1987, and I believe that the workprint of the deleted scenes presented on DVD is all that exists, and that even this was probably an oversight. I do think the international version should have been the one released to DVD instead of the American one, however, and that in itself would be nice for a future release.
Bill Williams: One of the more enjoyable surprises of this set is the inclusion of the complete Ron Jones score to the 1988 Superman Ruby-Spears animated series (which has yet to be released on DVD). How did this addition come about?
Mike Matessino: Once we knew Superman IV could be included in the set, we found that we needed seven discs, so Lukas Kendall asked if I had any ideas for an eighth disc, as FSM’s box set package design was able to accommodate it. A lot of ideas were tossed around but they were all either too expensive or problematic to do because of licensing and reuse issues, and finally I remembered the Ruby-Spears cartoon and we hit the jackpot. Lukas is friends with Ron Jones, who had all the masters, it utilized the Williams theme, and the music was recorded with a non-union ensemble. So it was relatively easy to do and it gave us a nice ten-year block of Superman music that seemed to be the right way to fill out the package. I really liked Ron’s Star Trek: The Next Generation scores, many of which haven’t been released, so this was a nice way of getting more of his music out there.
Bill Williams: John Ottman’s score for Superman Returns was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film. Why was the score not included in the box set?
Mike Matessino: The licensing agreement and contents of the box set were actually finalized before Superman Returns came out. That’s how long we were working on it. But even if that were not the case there would be no way to even consider including it. As it was the score for a recent film the feature marketing people at Warner Bros. had control over it, as did Mr. Ottman and Bryan Singer, who prepared the soundtrack album they wanted to release. They would not license it out to a small label as a limited edition, and even if they did the fee would have been exorbitant, as would the reuse payments, which the releasing record label is responsible for.
Bill Williams: As of today, how many pressings of the limited edition of 3,000 remain available? How soon would you say a second edition will go into pressing?
Mike Matessino: As of this writing (March 29, 2008), the set is expected to sell out before the weekend is out. We expect it will be another eight weeks before the second run is available for shipping.
Bill Williams: Do you have any ideas for future projects at this time? What are some scores/films that you would like to work on? Any chance of seeing the Star Wars prequels and the Indiana Jones scores issued in complete form down the road?
Mike Matessino: Naturally, I’d love to see complete releases of the Star Wars prequels and Indiana Jones scores, and I’d love to work on them. I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics involved with these, but perhaps it can be inferred from what I described about how the soundtrack business works why these would be very difficult to pull off. Quite honestly I don’t expect them to happen any time soon, but of course any potential opportunity to do so will be explored.
Bill Williams: In closing, what advice do you have for young people wanting to break into and specialize in the field of film and music restoration?
Mike Matessino: In terms of music or anything audio-related, you have to have a very finely-tuned ear, because restoration means dealing with analog material from the pre-digital era and you have to understand how that material was created and its limitations. It goes without saying that the technology used for restoration then has to be learned. We’re getting into a generation of sound engineers now who have only known a digital world, and they can be baffled by the idea of working with material that isn’t in good shape and gradually ears will become accustomed to hearing only pristine recordings. To go back and deal with elements from before that era is not for everyone. I’d say pursue it if it’s a passion and not if it’s just a passing interest. But learn the technology anyway, both past and present, and then see where it leads.
Bill Williams: Thanks, Mike, for all the hard work that you do, and again congratulations on a job well done!
This interview is © Copyright 2008 by Bill Williams and CapedWonder™.com, and is not to be reproduced or excerpted without written permission.
Here are track samples from this amazing new collection (Real Player format). Click here to hear even more tracks on Screen Archive’s website (site may be slow). Click here to read a complete track listing.
Other Superman-The Movie Selections
Here are some unique tracks from the 1978 score that are not available in the Superman: The Music (1978-1988) box set.
Shirley Bassey’s version of ‘Can You Read My Mind?’
Maureen McGovern’s version of ‘Can You Read My Mind?’. Thanks to Randall Owens.
Soundtrack as heard on the “Music-Only track” in the Special Features section of the 2001 Special Edition and 2006 DVDs.
Extra Music Cues. Includes original 1978 theatrical trailer soundtrack with dialog & sound effects.
04 July 2008
Composer Alexander “Sandy” Courage was eulogized as “a fantastic artist,” an “extraordinary craftsman” and a “treasured friend” at a memorial service Sunday afternoon, June 29, at the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church. Read more here.
28 May 2008
Alexander Courage has passed away. Please visit Film Music Society’s announcement about Mr. Courage.
Superman: The Music‘s producer Mike Matessino had this to see on Film Score Monthly’s message board:
I have just come from a meeting with Sandy Courage’s daughter to discuss some details of her father’s arrangements. As you can imagine it is a very difficult time. However, over the past couple of months I have kept her and her siblings apprised of the warm reception with which Sandy’s Superman IV score was embraced, and so she asked me today that I share with listeners that Sandy, who has sadly been in ill health for a while, was able to see and hear the release of his Superman music and was delighted and gratified.
It was my great pleasure to be able to present through FSM what I think is a crowning achievement of his illustrious and distinguished career, and I feel equally gratified by the response it has received from the fans.
Sandy’s legacy includes some of the greatest film musicals of all time, and his brilliant skills as arranger/orchestrator are featured in some of the most enduring scores by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and others. And of course his Star Trek theme will outlive all of us. I was honored to have a connection to this man and his amazing work.
Do continue to post tributes, recollections, and condolences here, and I will see that the family members read them. I’m sure they will be moved by the outpouring of sentiment that one of our greatest musical geniuses so richly deserves.
Farewell, Sandy, and we’ll see you again in the final frontier.
I’ll be playing the complete Superman IV all day today. Thank you so much Mr. Courage for this wonderful music. You will always be remembered.
28 April 2008
Here is a review of the box set by Empire Magazine.
04 April 2008
Read John Williams Fan Network’s interview with Superman: The Music (1978-1988)‘s producer, Michael Matessino:
30 March 2008
Mike Matessino, producer of Film Score Monthly’s Superman: The Music (1978-1988) was the guest on the radio show “Celluloid Dreams” on Monday, 3 March 2008. This edition was entirely devoted to the music of Superman and featured the premiere broadcast of music from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. “Celluloid Dreams,” hosted by Tim Sika and now in its 12th year, is dedicated to the art of film and the moviegoing experience, and is heard each Monday at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time on KSJS, 90.5 FM in San Jose, California. You can download Mike Matessino’s 2-part interview here and here.
Read Superman Homepage‘s review of Superman: The Music (1978-1988).
Rush on over to Aint It Cool News to read an extensive interview with the producers of Superman: The Music (1978-1988), Mike Matessino and Lukas Kendall. You can also read a review of the box set at the same website.