Last week we lost one of the most influential film composers. The tragic death of James Horner was quite a shock to the not just the film community, but to all the people that have experienced his work over the years. Chances are that if you’ve seen a film in your lifetime you’ve been touched by his work. When you did the scores for the two biggest blockbusters in history (Titanic and Avatar) there’s a better than average chance people have heard your work.
The first time I heard James Horner was as a child, watching the Roger Corman produced film Battle Beyond The Stars. This “Seven Samurai in Space” borrowed from the space adventures that were gaining popularity thanks to the success of Star Wars. The film even “borrowed” shots from Corman’s previous works. Though the film itself was not well received the score was fabulous and magic to my young ears. "Battle" featured effects work from an up and coming James Cameron who would go on to form a long working relationship with Horner. This would lead to his work on the incredible score for Aliens and the two mega blockbusters mentioned before.
Two years after I watched Battle Beyond The Stars I saw what is to this day my favorite James Horner scored film… Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan. One has only to mute their soundsystem during the film to see what a big influence Horner had on what is widely considered the best of the series. Instead of the normal “space music” that was being used at the time, Horner went with “nautical influences” that added to the feeling that the Enterprise and Reliant were battleships on the high seas. His pieces for Spock are also brilliant in their mixing of cold logical electronics and warm human orchestras to show the dual natures of this beloved character.
As I grew , many of the films that would shape my tastes and even my own work had one thing in common…James Horner. The list of his works reads like a film geeks Top 10, 20, 50 of their favorite scores. Krull, Brainstorm, Star Trek III, Aliens, Willow, An American Tail, Field of Dreams, Glory(God, I love this), Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, the list goes on and on!
Throughout my filmwatching life, whenever I’ve seen that James Horner has done the music, I’ve made sure that I watched the film. Was every film great? Of course not. Even the two biggest films in history have as many people that don’t like them as they have those that worship them. But, one thing is constant in every film he’s ever worked on…his music has enhanced them and made them a better experience for us. For this I say “Thank you Mr. Horner.”
So, here is a little gift. My favorite James Horner score from one of my favorite films of all time!!!