American composer James Horner (born August 14, 1953) was killed in a plane crash earlier this Monday at the age of 61. Horner - who became one of the leading film score composers of his generation - developed an interest in composition early in life, with his studies taking him to the Royal Academy of Music in London and the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles to study. Subsequent work with the American Film Institute (AFI) propelled him to highly prominent jobs in Hollywood at a young age. Horner would be nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning twice for Titanic’s original score and for Best Original Song for “My Heart Will Go On”.
Nine of the many films he worked on follow. Excerpts from each film score can be heard if you click on the link (left-right, descending):
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) - directed by Nicholas Meyer; starring William Shatner, Ricardo Montalbán, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and Kirstie Alley
An American Tail (1986) - directed and co-produced by Don Bluth; starring the voices of Cathianne Blore, Dom DeLuise, John Finnegan, Phillip Glasser, Amy Green, Madeline Kahn, and Christopher Plummer
Willow (1988) - directed by Ron Howard; starring Val Kilmer, Joanna Whalley, and Warwick Davis
The Land Before Time (1988) - directed and co-produced by Don Bluth; starring the voices of Gabriel Damon, Candace Huston, Judith Barsi, and Will Ryan
Glory (1989) - directed by Edward Zwick; starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Cliff De Young, Andre Braugher, and Jihmi Kennedy
The Rocketeer (1991) - directed by Joe Johnston; starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, and Timothy Dalton
Legends of the Fall (1994) - directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick; starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, and Henry Thomas
Apollo 13 (1995) - directed by Ron Howard; starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris
Titanic (1997) - directed, co-produced, and written by James Cameron; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Danny Nucci, David Warner, Bill Paxton, and Gloria Stuart
In February 1997, James Cameron sent composer James Horner 36 hours of Titanic raw footage and told him, “Steep yourself in the footage and write Jack, write Rose, write the Titanic–however you want to break down the melodies in your mind. And when you have those, you’ll have done 90% of the work.” Three weeks later Horner was ready to demo for the director. He invited Cameron out to his studio and with no preamble launched into the Titanic theme on his piano. Cameron’s eyes were tearing up by the time Horner finished. The composer had two more melodies. One, more bittersweet, with a deep, melancholy underpinning, would be linked with Rose’s sadder moments and Jack’s death. By the time Horner finished, Cameron was crying. The music was everything he had hoped and prayed it would be, gliding from intimacy to grandeur to heart-wringing sadness. Effortlessly, the music seemed to bridge the 85 years between then and now.
“I kept being told [the soundtrack] had gone gold, the song had gone platinum and the album had gone platinum then I started to know these terms but I’d never known them before and what the Billboard charts meant. The fact that a movie album could be a number one album of the year, not just in the movie genre but a number one album, it was the first time I sort of realized the dent that Titanic had made. A lot of people did say how inspired they were by the film, the music, by the whole emotional experience. People wanted to write music, they wanted to write songs, film scores, they wanted to get into music based on Titanic and I was very flattered.” – James Horner
R.I.P. James Roy Horner (August 14, 1953 – June 22, 2015)
Titanic (film) trivia: In the deleted scene where Rose retreats herself to her suite and proceeds to have a meltdown, she throws her hand mirror and cracks it. This scene would have recalled Old Rose admiring the hand mirror in the present day scene. As constructed, the audience automatically assumed the cracks to have come from some impact suffered during the sinking but it was in fact part of Rose’s personal story arc.
RIP James Horner (1953-2015) - The great composer of nothing less than 156 projects, died yesterday on a plane crash. Horner’s music was known for his distinctive use of chorus or soloist; or in the case of villains’ presence a four-motif note was easily recognisable, sometimes to the point where audiences already knew not only who’s providing the music but could also point out where else such similar theme was used. The peak of Horner’s career was with Titanic (1997), the biggest-selling orchestral soundtrack in history, earning him two Oscars (also as composer of the hit My Heart Will Go On), two Golden Globes and two Grammy’s, in addition to the other 3 he had, for Glory (1989) and An American Tail (1986). The list of directors he was closely associated has names like James Cameron, Phil Alden Robinson, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, Alan J. Pakula, Phillip Noyce and Edward Zwick, working with them more than once. Credits include: The Hand (1981), The Dresser (1983), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), Field of Dreams (1989), Dad (1989), Class Action (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Sneakers (1992), Swing Kids (1993), Legends of the Fall (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Jumanji (1995), Ransom (1996), Enemy at the Gates (2001), A Beautfiul Mind (2001), House of Sand and Fog (2003), Troy (2004), The New World (2005), Avatar (2009), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and most recently Southpaw (2015) and The 33 (2015).
“My belief as the writer is that if you’re really paying attention to the lessons of the film, it’s kind of an anti-materialist statement about finding the things that are really important in life. Rose is saying actual material wealth isn’t the important thing. If you don’t get that, you don’t understand the whole movie, really. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said “I really liked your movie but why did she throw the diamond away? Couldn’t she have just kept that?” but obviously what this scene does is deconstruct the whole idea. You can’t have them both. You can’t chase the money dragon and have happiness at the same time. So throwing away the diamond should make sense to people if they’ve been paying attention even though they don’t agree with it.” – James Cameron
“Fifteen-hundred people went into the sea, when Titanic sank from under us. There were twenty boats floating nearby… and only one came back. One. Six were saved from the water, myself included. Six… out of fifteen-hundred. Afterward, the seven-hundred people in the boats had nothing to do but wait… wait to die… wait to live… wait for an absolution… that would never come.”