James Horner Tribute
By now, most people have heard about the passing of legendary film score composer, James Horner. He was a Titan in the business, to be sure. He had composed over 100 film scores in his time and won the Oscar twice for Titanic both as a score and original song with Celine Dion. A song, that just about everyone now hates because it has been overplayed. Even Kate Winslet has been quoted as saying she turns the channel when she hears “My Heart Will Go On”. I found this quite amusing. Horner’s score for Titanic is terrific but I have picked out some choices of my own personal favorite scores by Mr. Horner as a tribute to his contribution to an under appreciated art form of film score composing.
Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan, arguably one of the best of the Shatner-as-Kirk films from 1982 is another of Horner’s scores that implemented the very best of Horner’s brass and percussion punctuating the cat and mouse game of Kirk and his nemesis, Khan (Ricardo Montalban). Horner’s score was phenomenal and nominated for an IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Award) award.
Aliens from 1986 was James Cameron’s follow up to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien from 1979. Whatever Alien lacked, Aliens made up for in spades. Part horror, part action, all sci-fi, it was a smash hit and Horner’s score was a blast with a full orchestra loaded with brass and percussion. To this day his pieces of music have been used on countless movie trailers. There is an expanded version from Varese Sarabande that is worth purchasing. Horner’s score enhances every scene whether is going for action, drama or horror. It was to be his first of seven Oscar nominations in his career.
The Name of The Rose was murder mystery set in an isolated abbey during the Inquisition and it starred Sean Connery as Sir William of Baskerville as a worldly monk who is dispatched to a monastery to catch a killer. This was a 1986 film as well and featured a more subdued Horner score most of electronics. The music was soft and soothing but with an element of the mysterious added. It is a beautiful score and worth every penny. Horner would employ the ‘Electronic Ensemble’ for numerous scores throughout his career as a composer and it always worked.
1992 was another great year for Horner as two of his scores to two great films. Thunderheart was a murder mystery with Val Kilmer as an FBI agent sent to an Indian reservation to search for the killer of a village elder of the tribe. It was one of the best films of 1992 and another of Horner’s Electronic Ensemble scores. It had all of the mysterious elements of a traditional score but had the added beauty of Native American chants and instrumentation. It combined both elements flawlessly wrapped up in a great mystery.
Unlawful Entry was a film that featured Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe as a couple stalked by psychotic cop, Pete Davis (Ray Liotta). His score is once more, a foray into the electronic world and is creepy and effective. The film was a decent variation of the “Fatal Attraction” genre of film making and it did well at the box office. Critic reception was mixed but I liked it for the performances especially by Liotta. Horner’s score is electronic but with an added piano and it adds an unnerving level of fright to his electronics.
Of all the scores Horner composed, there is not a bad one among them. James Horner was an accomplished pilot and he died doing, at least, one of the things he loved to do; flying. His other passion was scoring films and for that we thank you for the memories, James.