A Long-But-Fascinating Interview With The Folks Behind The New 8 CD Boxset Of SUPERMAN Scores!!
Published at: Feb. 27, 2008, 10:02 a.m. CST by merrick
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here with a continuation of the SUPERMAN: THE MUSIC celebration.
Film Score Monthly announced last week that they are releasing an 8-CD box set featuring practically every note of music written from SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, SUPERMAN II, SUPERMAN III, and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE and also SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES [DETAILS HERE].
Dharmesh over at SUPERMAN Cinema (Superman Cinema)conducted an interview between Mike Matessino and Lukas Kendall; the two producers involved in creating the SUPERMAN: THE MUSIC (1978-1988) 8CD box set.
He was kind enough to share it with us; it's a fascinating read from two titans of the film music label world.
DHARMESH: When did you start thinking about the Superman boxset?
MIKE MATESSINO: It's hard to recall exactly how and when it came about but I think it basically came out of learning that the Rhino release was going out of print right around the time we started hearing about Warner Bros.' "Year of Superman" line-up.
So I think it was in early 2006 that Lukas made the initial inquiries and found out that licensing all the scores would be possible if it were done as a box set. We initially had a pipe dream of coming out in 2006 but as I didn't start actual work on the music until July we soon realized that this wasn't practical.
As it turned out I think we might have gotten "lost in the crowd" so it's nice that our release will stand out as an event of its own.
DHARMESH: You extracted quotes from previous interviews, some unreleased. Who did you interview for this release? Who couldn’t you get?
MM: Because of all the activity going on with Warner's DVD release, especially "The Donner Cut" of Superman II, the cast and crew were very much available and in particular Tom Mankiewicz, Ilya Salkind and Ken Thorne all became involved and contributed many recollections over several conversations. John Williams gave us a brief quote about Sandy Courage for Superman IV.
I also interviewed Eric Tomlinson, John Richards, Margot Kidder, Leslie Bricusse, Richard Donner, Pierre Spengler, Stuart Baird and a few others, but for some we didn't end up using direct quotes in the book.
As it evolved, Lukas sought to increase the amount of composer quotes and he got the okay to use the uncut Williams interviews done for all of the DVD documentaries. There was really no one I went for that I didn't get, although naturally I would like to have gotten something from Richard Lester or Sidney Furie.
Sandy Courage, unfortunately, is not in the best of health but he is very happy about the release and with the help of his daughter we located some important documentation about his work on Superman IV.
DHARMESH: What exactly were your roles, from conception to final release?
MM: Lukas handled what I consider to be the hard work, which was to interface with Warner Bros., Rhino, and DC Comics over a period of almost two years to make the necessary arrangements so that this project could even happen.
He also completely handled the Ron Jones animated series disc, and I did the rest. Lukas would listen to the works-in-progress and make suggestions for changes and fixes, which worked out great.
He came at it with a fresh ear and would catch things that I had gotten numb to after hearing repeatedly. So we did this until we were both happy and then went to the mastering stage.
For the book I did most of the research and rough assembly, and then we collaborated fully on shaping it, getting it to the desired length and format. We also both worked on the track-by-track information and after we had the thing in basic shape we brought Jeff Eldridge in to help out and make some very valuable contributions.
The book was a long process that really started in late 2006. Then this year we spent all spring getting the text in shape and then all summer looking at many drafts of the layout.
We all spent far more time tweaking and proofreading than we ever expected to, emailing lists of errors and fixes to each other until we eventually arrived at a version that we were ready to submit for studio approval.
Several changes then had to be made in accordance with Warner and DC policy and once those were implemented and we did some final checks we were ready to finally go into production. So for the past several months we've really had a three-way collaboration of just trying to get the 160-page beast in shape, which really tested the patience and resolve of Joe Sikoryak, our art director.
With such a mammoth publication the more pairs of eyes we had on it, the better, but after a while it was very hard to get yourself psyched up to read the whole thing again. I've read it so many times as a PDF that I doubt I'll read it in book form any time soon.
LUKAS KENDALL: The question you are really asking is what does a producer do?
In thinking about it, what a producer really does is ask questions. "If you had the chance to do this kind of project, what would you like to do?"
"If we wanted to do a project like so-and-so, would you license it?" "If I made a product like this, how many could you sell?" The producer asks all these questions, parses the answer, and refines it with follow-up questions to the point where the questions become agreements and the production is under way in a way that satisfies all the parties.
And then it is a matter of riding herd and smoothing out problems and making sure the train stays on the tracks until we have reached the destination. So that is largely what I did on Superman; I was the person at the nexus of the business end of the productions, and I think it's fair to say Mike was at the nexus of the creative end of it, and I had some input too in the creative end as far as putting together the cartoon disc, writing some of the liner notes, and giving parameters to Mike of what was available as far as time and money for certain things.
In fact, regarding your first question, I don't remember exactly when we started the Superman box set. It had been something in the back of my mind always to do, and Mike was the natural person with whom to do it.
I am sure we talked about it as a possibility off and on but at a certain point Mike and I talked in a more serious way, and I started making some calls to Rhino and Warner Bros., and as described above the questions begat questions begat answers begat the box set.
DHARMESH: What was Doug Schwartz’s (Mullholland music) role?
MM: Doug is a mastering engineer which means that he takes the tracks that he's brought and creates what's actually going to be heard on a finished CD.
While I tend to deal more with restoration, editing and general sonic quality, it's at the mastering stage where it really comes alive.
Doug's work usually involves equalization, level adjustment, determining gaps between tracks, all the things you'd expect. As this is a multi-disc set he
also had to make sure that the results all had an internal consistency going from one disc to the next. On this project I also pushed Doug a little further towards giving me a personal assessment of what he was hearing.
I told him that if he thought something could be improved at my end, he should tell me and I'd go do it. Then after he completed work on a given disc we'd listen to a reference copy and then advise him of any fixes or changes that we needed. When the refs are approved Doug makes a production master that conforms to industry standard specifications for manufacturing.
DHARMESH: The booklet is very extensive, this time you’ve combined technical (Star Wars SEs) and the friendlier tone commentary (Rhino release). Bravo, you have achieved the perfect balance. Was that your mandate from the outset?
MM: The only thing we knew we wanted to do from the outset was to document the cores cue-by-cue and have the accompanying notes be as detailed as possible about the music production. Lukas came up with the idea for having sidebars for the composer bios and some other subjects and it really took shape gradually and as a result of collaborating back and forth. It was an organic process more than a calculated one.
The Rhino approach was dictated by the people at the company involved at the time and they were fine for what that project was, but I didn't really go back to that at all. Lukas really set the tone for the book in some of the sections he started writing early in the process and I just followed that lead.
Then came the interviews and it all just started coalescing on its own.
DHARMESH: Mike, when you produced the Rhino set you mentioned that there was precious little information about the score sessions of Superman. Was that still the case when you
produced this, and what about the other Superman features?
MM: The research was much more thorough this time around because we knew we would have more space. The main piece of documentation that emerged was a binder that had belonged to Bob Hathaway, who was music editor on all four films, and who passed away in 2003.
It was sent on to the Warner music library and we found that it contained all of the spotting notes for the first film, and the recording and mixing logs including precise dates.
For Superman II and III we had Ken Thorne involved directly, and he maintained a
journal of exact recording dates. For Superman IV we didn't have dates but we were dealing with the original first generation recording reels, which came with their own documentation, and then we had Sandy Courage's "London book," which I found at his home after his daughter and I spent several hours searching for it.
Other information on Superman IV came from the Alexander Courage Collection, which is housed at his alma mater, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. The curators there graciously scanned what they had and sent them to me via email. I really have no complaints about what we were able to uncover for this project.
The archaeological aspects of projects like this can be a lot of fun and very satisfying as you see all the pieces start coming together.
DHARMESH: The orchestration of Superman: The Movie’s End Title sounds like a “finality” to a film rather than a larger than life beginning. The history of the Superman March is convoluted, and the main title, as heard in the film, is actually a combination of three different recordings.
Although the history is explained in the accompanying book, can you explain the placement of the tracks on the CD?
It's very hard to explain this without sounding confusing, and as you say pages 58-59 of the book provide an explanation for the three versions of the march, the two editorially created ones, and where they were used.
But as for how we came to program them on CD as we now have them, it all stemmed from my desire to present the score as Williams intended it. That meant beginning with the revised Prelude and Main Title, even though the march portion was, in the film, used for the end title.
I initially felt that same sense of "finality" that you mentioned, but after a while I realized that the score makes more sense with the composer's intended opening. If you put that version against the picture you'll see that certain flourishes of the orchestra are meant to synchronize with some of the animated space imagery.
So I'd go as far as to say that the sense of it being an end title comes solely from years of hearing it as such. Listen to the score a few times and you'll see that it works as it should. I have not been able to find out why the change was made, but it's the composer's intended opening and that's what drove the decision.
However, realizing that this could be slightly disorienting to certain listeners, we then came up with the idea of preceding it with something absolutely familiar to open the disc itself: the editorially created "Theme from Superman." This was the first track of the original 1978 album and it served, I felt, as a kind of overture, which makes the unfamiliar - but accurate - intended version work much better. This approach meant that the score would conclude with the end title that Williams intended, which is what was presented on the original 1978 album.
It was the march portion of that version which, in the film, was used for the main title. After the “Love Theme”, which concludes the film's end credits, we have the original Prelude and Main Title kicking off all of our alternates. It leads into the alternate of "The Planet Krypton" as originally intended (these were on separate discs on the Rhino release), and then the sequence of alternates ends with the film version of the “End Title”, which I felt gave us a satisfying way to bring the 2-disc Superman: The Movie presentation to a conclusion.
The editorially created film version of the Main Title likewise gave us a perfect way to open disc 8.
DHARMESH: What are the differences (sonically) between Rhino’s Superman CD and this one?
MM: The Rhino release used a combination of source elements: 6-track dubbing stems three generations down from the original, 3-track stems at least one generation further away, a 2-track reel of "outs" and the original LP 1/4" master, all mixed and matched and combined for the purpose of restoring the full length of the cues.
Just as that release was coming out, the 6-track "goody" reels were recovered which contained all the original lengths of cues in consistent quality that was one generation closer to the original. There are also techniques applied in restoration and mastering that are more advanced this time around, so the resulting sound is noticeably improved over anything previously heard.
In a way the Rhino release was more of a feat to pull off, but the new source had its own challenges as well.
DHARMESH: The alternate "The Dome Opens" is one of my all-time favourite Williams tracks; when I heard it at Doug’s place I went nuts (we only hear repeated portions of this cue in "The Donner Cut.") What other goodies have you unearthed from the archives of all four films?
MM: I heard that cue when this new source was first recovered, literally on the day the Rhino album was released. In finally being able to access that source to redo the score we also found the original version of "The Mugger", a long version of "Turning Back the
World" and a shorter version of "Trajectory Malfunction" (which we actually had before
but didn't use for space reasons).
For the two Ken Thorne scores we found pretty much what we expected as his scores were left intact in the films with only a couple of minor exceptions. The whole of Superman IV is one huge goody, as far as I'm concerned. Finding out that the long version of the movie was scored was a revelation, along with album suites for the three new themes that Williams composed. "Jeremy's Theme" was a particularly delightful discovery.
We also had the good fortune of getting Paul Fishman involved. Although we found sources for all of his Superman IV songs, he was able to locate his original masters and personally prepare them for release. So going from a zero point on Superman IV to having everything we could possibly hope for is, needless to say, much more than a mere goody!
DHARMESH: After sampling some cues from Superman II, I was floored by the sound quality of the Ken Thorne material. It sounded vibrant and multi-layered. Some have insulted Ken Thorne’s adaptation as a “High School Marching Band”. Was Ken aware of this?
MM: I know recording engineer John Richards and his work, so I knew that if an original source was found that it would sound stunning. But it did still need a bit of work because I really wanted listeners to have the reaction you had to it. So I put some effort into punching it up and then Doug Schwartz followed through with that on his end.
Yes, Superman II was recorded with a smaller ensemble than for the first score, but it's no high school marching band unless England's have full string sections and choirs.
The way the music sounds in the film does create a false impression, though, and it's still a mystery why it was compromised to such an extreme.
Unfortunately, Ken did come across some of the comments about it a while back, and he was very surprised by some of the negativity. Superman II was something he worked very hard on and reading comments dismissing it so flippantly all these years later didn't make him feel too good.
So I hope this new release brings about some retraction of the 'high school band' comments. Some of London's best players were used for Superman II and the performance and recording quality are both excellent.
DHARMESH: He adapted and conducted for a smaller orchestra, now is that because of costs, or size of the studio? Size of an orchestra isn’t the defining factor, is it? Mic placements and hall acoustics can make a big difference, right?
MM: It was recorded at CTS-Wembley, which could only comfortably fit 70 players maximum, which was more than were used for many of the Barry and Mancini scores done there.
I do think that cost was also a factor, as the music budget for the sequel was not as high as for the original.
I think Ken went for a good performance by the players and tried to be faithful to the original Williams compositions and I think this comes through if you can accept that you're not listening to a 100 piece London Symphony.
It was more a case of the size of the orchestra and the room itself dictating the best way to play the music, as opposed to the first score where it was really the other way around.
DHARMESH: The final music mix in Superman II is rather odd, there seems to be an emphasis on the percussion, like the “Main Title” for instance. Has there been a rebalance of how the score plays on CD?
MM: I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but there was definitely too much percussion and winds in the music, as it is heard in the film, and in some instances the center and right channels were reversed.
The original Superman II LP master served as a more accurate guide for how the recording should sound in terms of instrument balance (John Richards confirmed this) and the scores were all played for and approved by Ken before we finalized them.
The rebalancing was more in terms of frequency attenuation and stereo fielding rather than in the prominence of particular instruments. Fortunately
Richards' mixdown had a separate percussion stem so I had some degree of control over the levels.
DHARMESH: On the original Superman III album, we have highlights from the first part of the picture, but some of the best material is in the 2nd half.
There are some very bombastic cues that are buried in the film mix. What can you tell us about this amazing material and what were Ken Thorne’s reactions?
MM: I don't have to tell anyone anything. The music speaks for itself and what it tells us is that Ken Thorne is a fine composer and conductor and truly gifted with adaptation.
In Superman III he knew just when it was appropriate to ground the music in Williams's original - such as the factory fire and junkyard fight - and when the audience should be hearing something new. For the climax of Superman III Ken delivers some fantastic music, and as you say none of it was on the original album.
He was very disappointed then, but he's overjoyed now! Up to now he's had only a damaged copy of Superman II and nothing on Superman III, and he was very pleased and impressed with what we now have as part of this box set.
DHARMESH: Superman III’s Clark and Lana theme is heard in the film during the picnic; is it heard anywhere else?
MM: That theme also occurs when Lana calls Clark at the Daily Planet and then at the end when he gives her the diamond ring.
The melody originally written by Giorgio Moroder is what's heard as Helen St. John's "Love Theme" (on disc 8) and Lester asked Ken to use that as the basis for his own theme. So what's heard in the film as the
Clark/Lana theme is technically a Thorne/Moroder combination.
DHARMESH: John Williams wrote two themes for Superman IV that we knew of, “Lacy’s Theme”, which harkens back to his jazz days, and the villainous “Nuclear Man Theme”. What’s surprising is that he wrote a third theme, one which was a precursor to the sound of Hook
- a revelation for you?
MM: Absolutely! I first heard "Jeremy's Theme" when we found the master for the aborted Superman IV album release, which was before I'd seen any documentation or heard the complete elements that I later worked with.
I love that no one really knew about it. It's a gem and I wanted it to be a surprise just like it was for me. If it's a precursor to Hook, that could partially be attributed to the fact that some of the themes for that film were written in the mid-1980s, when Williams and Leslie Bricusse (lyricist of "Can You Read My Mind") were developing a musical Peter Pan for Steven Spielberg that the director aborted sometime during the making of Empire of the Sun.
It's also been recently pointed out to me that "Jeremy's Theme" bears some resemblance to "Jim's New Life" from that project, which Williams worked on right after Superman IV.
DHARMESH: Alexander Courage has always insisted that he had very little to do with the actual composing of Superman IV’s score. How much is original material from Courage and how much is Williams’s influence?
MM: Sandy was either being forgetful or overly humble when he said that. The whole family moved to England for over two months in the spring of 1987 and Sandy did the spotting and all the actual "scoring."
He went off to Germany for the first sessions but those were then abandoned and work resumed in Britain.
Certainly part of what Sandy did was adaptation, as there are a number of moments, particularly early in the film, where original Williams cues are directly quoted, but for the most part Courage used Williams's thematic palette, those for the original as well as the three new themes (plus a couple more of his own) and created a score in the Williams style, which he was able to do because of their many years of collaboration and friendship.
Williams was in Boston at the time and he and Sandy did consult by telephone, and Williams was sent video tapes of certain sequences and would make suggestions, sometimes very specific ones.
At the age of 66, this should have been considered a crowning achievement of Sandy's long and accomplished career, but instead it was completely dismissed. I'm very gratified to have been involved in finally setting this to right. I think it's a winner of a score from beginning to end.
DHARMESH: Did you approach the music of Superman IV differently and was it recorded digitally?
MM: It wasn't recorded digitally; we had the first generation 2" 24-track analog reels of every single take. In other words, the first generation tape on which the music was actually recorded, and that quality is what we have on the CD.
The approach was different because I actually did the 24-track mix myself as opposed to the other three scores where I never worked with anything wider than 6-track.
DHARMESH: What are differences in sound ambiance between all four scores?
MM: For Superman: The Movie you have the "rounder" sound of the Anvil stage with John Williams and Eric Tomlinson pushing the levels a bit to get a crisp sound.
Then you have the very wide, bright sound of CTS-Wembley for Superman II and III, as recordedby John Richards.
And for Superman IV, I had the unique challenge of combining a score recorded partly in Germany and partly at CTS - each with a different engineer, mic placement, and track layout - and trying to make them flow from one to the other as seamlessly as possible.
But working from the original multi-track it was possible to finesse this and give it the best sound it could have.
DHARMESH: What are some of the immediate highlights from all four scores?
MM: For me the highlight of the first score remains the "Love Theme," used over the ending credits, and for a Superman-based action cue there is just no beating "Helicopter Sequence." But of course the entire score remains a top favorite.
For Superman II I was really impressed with the cue called "Superman Flies Off," where Ken takes the Personal motive and makes it dark and then taps the little motive only heard in the first film's comic book prologue; he then goes into an adaptation of "Trajectory Malfunction", and ends with his little descending figure for the villains.
It's a great example of his skill at adaptation and how sensitively he approached the project. In Superman III I love the Straussian computer "Montage" and the ending battle music.
For Superman IV, the scoring that blew me away is in "United Nations," when it builds to a moment where the themes for Superman, Lois, Lacy, and Jeremy all play at the same time.
I also like listening to the entire denouement as it was intended, with wonderful wrap-ups of all the themes and ending with the Jeremy theme going right into the end title.
It shows how well Sandy Courage did his job and I think it gives us a glimpse of what the movie could and should have been.
LK: The highlight of Superman for me is, for the first film, basically all of it! It is one of those rare scores that I think many of us tended to memorize from start to finish.
However, the first 50 minutes of the movie has a special place in our hearts (I think I speak for most people) because of the epic approach to Superman's origins, and the variation of the music from the austere Krypton passages to the setpieces of "The Trip to Earth" and "Growing Up" and the Smallville music and the Fortress sequence.
It's hard to pick a favorite; it's all so good and interesting and well done.
For the sequels, I remember always liking how Ken Thorne approached the Paris sequence in Superman II because it felt like the "real" music was always there – even though it was an adaptation assignment - and it kicked off the film so well.
For Superman III I like the "balloon" music. For Superman IV, obviously the discovery of the three Williams themes in album arrangements.
And for the cartoon, I am very pleased to present Ron Jones's work; I remember liking it when I saw the show, and I had some cassettes of it years ago that
were passed to me. What Ron did in some of his action cues (recalling his Star Trek music) and the music for the "Family Album" sequences was so above and beyond what you would expect for Saturday morning animation.
DHARMESH: Mike, did you quiz the composers if you were uncertain about how to tackle the presentation of some cues?
MM: I consulted with the engineers rather than with the composers to make sure I was taking the right approach with regard to their original mixdown procedures. The only composer involved was Ken, who knew I was consulting with John Richards, so he was thrilled. Ron Jones had complete faith in Lukas to assemble the animated series music.
DHARMESH: The inclusion of all the songs is surprising; why did you include them?
MM: Mainly because we could and because fans have wanted them, and as we were wanting to fill out an eighth disc it gave us a great opportunity to present source music and some other alternates which were too redundant for the other discs.
Williams and Thorne wrote some nifty pieces of source music for the first three films, and for the sake
of completion we also included the Moroder songs from Superman III. That filled out a
disc pretty well with music from the first three films.
With Superman IV we were very
grateful to have Paul Fishman on board to finally solve most of the mysteries behind the Metro Club sequence and the music written for it. That rounded out the presentation and filled up the two discs dedicated to Superman IV.
DHARMESH: Which mixes did you use for the soundtrack restoration? For the uninitiated, how are these scores stored, and how are they transferred?
MM: The new source for Superman: The Movie was Eric Tomlinson's original 6-track; 6 and 4 track mixdowns by John Richards were used for Superman II and III.
I mixed the 24-track for Superman IV and had every take available so that the best performance could be presented. Paul Fishman had, I believe, an 8-track source for his songs.
For the source music on disc 8 we had 3-track and then used the original album master for the Moroder songs and for "Honeymoon Hotel." The album master was also used for the first score's "Theme From Superman" and "The March of the Villains."
For the animated series music Ron Jones had 1/4" stereo reels of all the cues. For the feature film scores, all of the original elements are stored in secured vaults by Warner Bros. in optimum environmental conditions. When the elements are pulled they are sent to Warner Sound Transfer on the Warner Bros. lot, where the crew there plays the 35 mm mag or 2" reels on the appropriate machines and creates Pro-Tools digital audio sessions.
I would then go in with a hard drive and those sessions are copied over for me to work on. When I let them know that everything has been transfered correctly, no drop-outs or errors, etc., the original elements go back to storage.
DHARMESH: Mike, did you exclude any cues?
MM: If it was substantial enough to release, it's on there. Some source music snippets from the first score were not included, either because they were only a few seconds in length, or didn't sound good, or both.
The book explains what these are, basically fragments. But no actual score cue was left out of the feature scores. Except for some alternate takes, source music and electronic cues, we have substantially all of Ron Jones's music presented.
DHARMESH: So, with Superman done, Indiana Jones complete soundtrack boxset is just around the corner, right?
There’s an extraordinary amount of material missing from Temple of Doom and Last Crusade, and a few cues from Raiders.
Summer 2008 seems the opportune time to capitalise on Indy mania.
MM: That isn't true, actually. There's a new movie and there will be a new album along with it and that will be the focus. The sensible opportunity will be if and when the time comes for a DVD box set (in HD, I assume) containing all four of the Indiana Jones movies.
But there are still a lot of obstacles that would have to be overcome for a score project to happen, not the least of which is that it would be extraordinarily expensive to do.
DHARMESH: We always discuss his [Williams] golden period, but soon, if not already, fans will be clamoring for expanded albums from the 90s. Home Alone 2 has been expanded, and is available on Varése Sarabande records. Which scores do you think are important to release again with more music, post 80s?
MM: Hook, Jurassic Park, the Star Wars prequels, and Harry Potter, naturally.
But again there are hurdles with all of these that will not be easy to leap. But we shouldn't give up hope, we just need to be patient. Look at the ones we have seen over the past decade and a half. We've come a long way.
DHARMESH: Lukas, 2007 has been an extraordinary year for soundtrack releases, Film Score Monthly, Varese Sarabande, Intrada, La-La land Records and BuySoundtrax have all released some amazing soundtracks this year. Has the fan base enlarged, or have they been discovered?
LK: I think the fan base for soundtracks is more or less what it has always been, but we specialty labels have done a great job in being persistent and creative in banging down doors to get this great music out there, and in marketing our wares through the Internet.
I seldom get together with my counterparts at the other labels, although we talk from time to time, but I think we can be proud of this collective mechanism we have created to facilitate the release of this music we love.
DHARMESH: Guys, I still remember the excitement when I read in an edition of the FSM column (April 98) stating that a reissue of The Living Daylights score was to be released, with
I trekked to various music stores until I found it. I still miss the days of actually having to be an archaeologist, and having to search for the soundtracks. Would I swap that with the convenience today? Not at all. Do you miss that?
MM: I look fondly back on the excitement and anticipation of going to Manhattan to TOWER and Colony Records, but I think that the score collector has access to many more releases now than in the days of pawing through racks of LPs. The various labels who specialize in soundtracks have gotten very creative in making licensing and royalty deals that make it economically viable to get scores released.
The market for soundtracks has been defined and people who are passionate about scores are the ones who are trying to bring product to the fans. There's a personal connection there that you don't get with a huge corporation who will only look at the bottom line and nix any title that they feel won't sell.
LK: I too am nostalgic for the way things used to be...skulking through cut out bins, ordering CDs (or for that matter LPs) from mail order catalogs from these mysterious places like STAR...visiting Footlight Records in Manhattan. I remember it being a lifelong chore just to piece together a composer's credit list, when today that can be accomplished at imdb.com in five seconds. But I do agree that things are better now, and I would not want to go back...though it is fun to recollect.
DHARMESH: Lukas, I briefly remember the Ruby Spears cartoon from the 80s. What can you tell us about the music and did Ron Jones take a keen interest in how it was going to be presented?
LK: Ron Jones has made a great career out of doing feature-quality music for television productions, be it Star Trek: The Next Generation or Duck Tales or nowadays Family
Ron is really "old school" in the way he approaches composing and research and he has the rare gift of being able to write melodically no matter what he does - it is just how he thinks.
As with Star Trek, he found himself on Superman looking at a kind of updated/adapted version of something that was already famous and had very familiar music, and he very conscientiously tried to emulate (in all the positive ways) the sound world that was already there. What he did on Superma…with a non-union orchestra in very little time…was quite remarkable. Nowadays Ron is basically on a Family Guy or American Dad show every week but he was pleased that some of his music is making it to CD and found the time to unearth his paperwork from the production (to help with the assembly and cue titles) and to listen to the master and make sure everything had its fingers and toes intact (it did).
DHARMESH: Mike, were there discussions about Supergirl being included in the set?
MM: Even though that was a Salkind production that would have taken the red tape to a whole new level of complexity. We wanted this to be a "Superman" set of music based on the Williams score. Goldsmith's fantastic score for Supergirl would have gotten lost in all of that and has already had a great expanded release.
DHARMESH: The original Superman double-LP featured a generous amount of music, and it sold in big numbers, so what happened in the 80s, where film scores were less prominent on a soundtrack album?
Was this governed by the popularity of pop songs and the unpopularity of film scores?
I ask the question because there has been a renaissance in film score interests and I think that the renewed enthusiasm comes from the generation that grew up with the classics during the late 70s, 80s and, perhaps, the 90s.
What do you think?
MM: I think I touched on this above when I said before that the market has been defined.
It's not so much a renaissance as it is an indicator of the pervasiveness of the internet community, wherein it can seem like the whole world shares your interest when in reality it has simply become possible to connect with those who share your passion.
In turn they collectively create an atmosphere where being vocal about that passion is accepted and encouraged, and this creates the illusion of a renaissance.
In actuality it's simply that we now know who the score collectors are and what we're seeing are smaller companies getting more titles out there but in fewer quantities, which I think is the way to go. You have to have a Titanic or Lord of the Rings sized hit to even hope for the kind of numbers that we saw years ago.
The average person is too preoccupied by iTunes, MySpace, American Idol and Youtube to even think about buying a background score from a movie they've seen.
It's a specialized market and there's no way around that fact. It was in the 80s when this first became apparent, which is why, coupled with the demise of the LP, you started seeing shorter score presentations and albums loaded with songs, which was the case with Superman III.
LK: Not having been around professionally in the 1980s I don't know what people were thinking as far as doing reduced presentations of film scores on soundtrack CDs but the commercial aspect (in the wake of Footloose, Flashdance, etc.) is a likely cause.
Two-LP releases were rare no matter what the generation, however.
DHARMESH: What are reuse fees and how do they affect CD releases. Is it still the underlying issue that prevents scores like The Goonies from being released anytime soon?
LK: Re-use fees are additional payments contractually due to union musicians (most often from Los Angeles) if the music they recorded for one medium is re-used (hence the name) in another - for example, from a film to a record album.
Such fees used to prevent a huge swath of soundtrack albums from happening but in recent years the union has been terrific in facilitating archival and reduced rates for works from the past (different percentage reductions for different decades) - so they get it, and things have changed for the better.
I do think it is fair that the musicians be paid for their work, it is just a matter of making it a fair percentage of the CD's production budget considering the limited marketplace.
I can tell you specifically the problem with The Goonies is that the album came out on Epic Soundtrax, which means Sony/BMG likely has the soundtrack rights, but they are not a company typically inclined to do the kinds of deluxe score presentations that labels like FSM and Intrada do - and they also have minimum license fees for allowing another label to do the project that can be prohibitive. So that is one problem.
It also may still be an active title for them (because of the songs on the album), I don't know, in which case their A&R people are involved and it precludes the release of any other version. The next problem is that the previously unreleased score would presumably have to be licensed by Warner Bros. (which can be done - that is what we did with Superman).
However, I think Amblin may have a contractual say in the matter, so that's a third party at the table. And THEN you have the reuse fees. So to do The Goonies would be a big production involving major relationships with Sony, Warners and Amblin and it's not to say it can't be done, but sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day. Or dollars in the wallet.
DHARMESH: Lukas, you’ve released a number of CDs this year which are limited editions; why are they limited?
LK: Most of our titles are limited editions to facilitate the deals with the musicians union.
It makes sure we don't take advantage of the discounted rates that are extended to specialty labels for these types of archival projects.
But really, we have to make the titles limited to sweeten their appeal to the collectors. We are rubbing nickels together and we realize the fans are too...but what we can't afford to have happen is we put out a juicy title and people think, "Oh, it's not limited, I'll get it later"- and later never comes.
DHARMESH: Are some CDs available on iTunes? If not, is that something you are constantly evaluating? I prefer CDs because I want something tangible in my hand. I don’t feel like I own it if it’s downloaded from the internet.
LK: ITunes is probably the way of the future - it is already here - but collectors like the physical media, and so do we. I think the labels are far less inclined to grant digital download rights anyway.
DHARMESH: Mike, can you briefly talk about the Alien soundtrack which was recently released on the Intrada label?
MM: Alien came out of nowhere and happened at lightning speed. As a result of Amazing Stories, Intrada has developed a relationship with Universal Music Group (which is not the same entity as the music department of Universal Pictures, I should add) and for Alien Intrada had to license the original album from UMG (because they acquired the 20th Century Records catalog via Polygram) and the rest of the music from Fox (material not on that original album).
When that happened, a routine element check at Fox led to a miraculous discovery of a new source where none had existed before. That gave the project huge momentum, and Nick Redman and Doug Fake very graciously let me run with it after the deal was
So, I restored all of the music, did the research, wrote what I feel are comprehensive notes on the score, and in the space of two months work was done. With my previous association with that title and with Jerry Goldsmith on a number of albums and work with him on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it was a very satisfying project to me personally. But, first and foremost, I wanted this to be my tribute to Jerry.
Mike Matessino, producer of Film Score Monthly's /Superman: The Music (1978-1988)/ is the guest on the radio show "Celluloid Dreams" on Monday, March 3rd.
This edition will be entirely devoted to the music of Superman and will feature 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.
The station does not stream live but for those not in the listening area the entire program is posted after the broadcast at http://www.celluloiddreams.net and is both listenable and downloadable for one week.
Lukas Kendall and Mike Matessino would like to extend gracious thanks the many people who played in role in making Superman: The Music (1978-1988) a reality, our friends and colleagues, the people at Warner Bros. Records, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Rhino and DC Comics who worked with us to present these historic recordings as well as the photographs and artwork contained in the packaging; the filmmakers for their time and recollections; and the composers and recording artists for their gifts and inspiration, particularly John Williams.
And finally, our gratitude to the loyal and patient fans whose passion and support continues to energize us in our work.