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The Superman Orchestra

By Taliesin Nyala 07F

The animation is gorgeous. No two scenes are alike. Each has the same structure and is the perfect length. And they are all public domain.

In short, Max Fleischer's beloved 1940s Superman cartoons were a perfect choice to be dusted off and re-imagined as live performance pieces by Hampshire student Andrew Huckins 08F and his brother Galen in their November show Filmusik: The Superman Orchestra. Their goal was to bridge the genres of film and music to create a show that appealed to a wide audience: they succeeded in drawing hundreds of people from college students to kids to adults nostalgic for the Superman of their childhoods.

"When I started this project, I didn't know about working with an orchestra or writing classical music, so I had to learn," Andrew says. "I think it doesn't matter what you know or what you've done—it matters that you know how to know and know how to do."

The Huckins brothers started a series of projects in January 2008 under the heading Filmusik to promote live music. "The downside of film is that it's static; you have an experience with it but it doesn't have an experience with you," says Andrew. "Live music does interact with you," but classical music is typically off limits or off-putting to many people, he says.

Through various contacts, the brothers found composers to write scores for six of the seven-minute long cartoons (Galen wrote one of the scores). Galen resides in Portland, Oregon, so the brothers worked together across the country to bring this project to fruition.

Combining Max Fleischer's animated cartoon shorts with the new musical scores written specifically for this project, the brothers hosted four shows: two in Northampton at the Academy of Music and two in Portland at the Hollywood Theatre. A live orchestra, voice actors, and original sound effects recorded by Andrew and Galen accompanied each episode projected onto a large screen behind the orchestra.

Andrew, who was homeschooled with his brother in Massachusetts, taught music in Guatemala, and traveled around Europe, the Middle East, and Central and North America before returning to his home state to attend Hampshire, where he is studying music and sustainable theory. All of these experiences have influenced his adventurous, self-reliant approach to life. As he puts it, "If you feel confident going into the world and finding the resources you're looking for, I think everything else falls into place."

tv icon Superman Orchestra clip


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