By Eric Felten
According to Variety, the superhero flicks lined up for this summer’s silly-film season are being scored with music that breaks the genre’s tired molds. I can’t say that I’m convinced. The sound of superhero soundtracks has for years been dominated by orchestral angst: Heroic, yes, but always drenched in a moody ambivalence meant to convey the fraught inner-life of those in the postmodern hero business. From the sound of the trailer Variety gives us for the latest take on Superman, we can expect more of the same — this time with the kind of epic-fantasy vocal chorus meant to lend the proceedings the grave intensity of a requiem mass in Latin. (Is it just me, or is the Dies Irae from Mozart’s “Requiem” one of the most-ripped-off pieces of music ever?).
Personally, whatever changes are being made to the superhero soundscape, their defining quality remains over-seriousness, and self-seriousness at that. These are comic books, for pity’s sake.
I would maintain that the greatest music ever devised for such an endeavor was the music that captured the comic in the comic book genre. And by that I mean, of course, the theme for the Batman TV show of the 1960s. It was composed by Neal Hefti, a big band arranger notable for his work with no less an icon than the great Count Basie (Hefti outdid himself composing and arranging for “The Atomic Mr. Basie” disc of 1958). The “SOCK!” and “POW!” brass punches came by way of another of the greatest big band arrangers ever, Nelson Riddle, who was responsible for the series’s incidental music…