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Superman fanfare & march - different purpose as leitmotifs?

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It seems to me that the Superman march (the A-melody of the march, that is) and The Fanfare are assumed to be merely two interchangeable representations of the title character, but I feel this is inaccurate, at least in the initial score. 

 

Every time you hear the A-march outside of the credits in the original film (heard just thrice!), it plays specifically when the focus is on Superman's heroics being admired by other non-main characters. The helicopter rescue is an obvious application of this, as are the ways it later underscores the amazement of the police officers ("The Burglar Sequence"), and the amazement of the Air Force One pilots ("Super Rescues"). Thus, the A-march is a theme for Superman-The-Celebrity, while The Fanfare is a more general tag for the character + his heroics when admiration for Superman isn't the main focus. It seems that when the potential admirants are in grave distress themselves, the fanfare is preferred for heroic scenes (see the bus rescue part in "Superfeats"). In contrast though, I'm not sure the B-section of the march has any specific purpose as a theme even in the first score.

 

In Superman II, Ken Thorne more or less follows this pattern, by accident or otherwise. The main showpiece for the A-march comes in the Niagara Falls rescue scene, where the context is again placed on the public admiration for the character's actions. Notice that the march fails to appear in "Superman Triumphs Over The Villains", where the fanfare and the B-march are used instead (the heroics are not accompanied by an admiring public in this scene).

 

It might get slightly hazy in Superman III, due to the March being used in "The Final Victory". I suppose this might be justified by Superman restoring his good public persona in that scene after triumphing over his evil self that caused such infamy, or something.

 

As much as I love the score for Superman IV, the A-march feels completely misused, assuming I'm right about all of the above. The original purpose of the march was either ignored or went unnoticed. It should not appear in "Nuke 1 Fight", "Net Man", "Lift To The Moon", or "The Moon Fight", among possibly other appearances. On the other hand, the march should probably appear in the United Nations scene when the crowd cheers at Superman's plan, as well as the scene where Superman has the PSA moment with the public after the subway rescue. 

 

Needless to say, the Superman poster moment in Supergirl also misuses the march, as the scene isn't about human non-main characters admiring him. The Fanfare would have been better.

 

I'll admit I've never seen Superman Returns aside from fragments, so I''ll leave that commentary in more capable hands. How closely is the original purpose of the march adhered to?

 

Any thoughts on this?

 

 

 

 

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Williams, especially vintage Williams, would write these long, sing-song pieces as leitmotives, so I'm always cautious when I'm looking at their individual sections.

 

Whenever this concept of putting apart a tune and examining its individual parts as separate leitmotives comes up, I'm looking for three things:

  1. Intentionality: the best would be to have John Williams state this outright, otherwise it must be deduced from the music.
  2. Repitition: in this case, of each element as an entirely standalone motif: it needs to appear at least two times completely by itself. Ideally, you'd have the different sections of the tune emerge at different points along the score and develop independently of each other - that's how you know they're separate.
  3. Function: it needs to serve a different thematic function with regards to what its associated with on-screen. If both parts of the tune evoke (and are associated with) the same narrative element, with little to no distinction, than you can't really assign it as a separate leitmotif.

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Courage relied heavily on the B-theme in IV. Given it is a permutation of the A-theme, the Clark (House of El?) motif and more distantly the Love Theme, I see it as a connector, a more internal version of the character that represents his nobility, integrity and all that good stuff. With no express function.

 

But there is a sense also that the fanfare represents the moral journey of the character, inasmuch as it evokes ("intertextually" as Matessino might write) Nietzsche's Übermensch / R. Strauss's Zarathustra / Herrmann's Klaatu / Clarke's Starchild and all that metaphysical stuff.

Makes sense the March would be the human side, dreams of flight, American exceptionalism, Olympic ideals, all that. Instead of the soul-searching of Late Romanticism, it draws from the earthy dotted rhythms of Beethoven's 7th.

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On 15 October 2018 at 8:00 PM, Chen G. said:

Williams, especially vintage Williams, would write these long, sing-song pieces as leitmotives, so I'm always cautious when I'm looking at their individual sections.

 

Whenever this concept of putting apart a tune and examining its individual parts as separate leitmotives comes up, I'm looking for three things:

  1. Intentionality: the best would be to have John Williams state this outright, otherwise it must be deduced from the music.
  2. Repitition: in this case, of each element as an entirely standalone motif: it needs to appear at least two times completely by itself. Ideally, you'd have the different sections of the tune emerge at different points along the score and develop independently of each other - that's how you know they're separate.
  3. Function: it needs to serve a different thematic function with regards to what its associated with on-screen. If both parts of the tune evoke (and are associated with) the same narrative element, with little to no distinction, than you can't really assign it as a separate leitmotif.

1. No official statement on it, so let's look at the other two...

2. Pretty sure all 3 appearances in the first score (not counting the credit sequence appearances here) are standalone statements.

3. Each of these 3 appearances involve non-main characters having "WOW!" moments at Superman's heroics.

 

Seems pretty clear to me.

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the B theme is exactly the same thing as Indy's B theme and the B theme in the Star Wars main title (also used in Throne Room)

 

so basically Luke, Superman and Indy all have 2 themes, one more "heroic" and one more "noble"

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