Tuesday, June 23, 2015

James Horner 1953-2015

Academy Award winning composer James Horner has passed away at 61. 

Born in Los Angeles and educated in London where he was schooled at the Royal College of Music, James Roy Horner was already an accomplished concert hall composer before he moved into composing music for film, with his first works being heard in THE LADY IN RED (1979), and later dipped his baton into the science-fiction genre for the first time with BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980). His breakthrough came in 1982, when he scored the second STAR TREK feature film, THE WRATH OF KHAN; often considered to be the signature theme for the original STAR TREK run. 

His success with STAR TREK enabled him to score for many high-profile releases through the 1980’s, including 48 Hrs. (1982), KRULL (1983), the third STAR TREK film subtitled THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984), COMMANDO (1985), COCOON (1985), ALIENS (1986), BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED (1987), WILLOW (1988), and in 1989…GLORY and FIELD OF DREAMS. His work with James Cameron in the sci-fi thriller ALIENS earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Score, and his Somewhere Out There from AN AMERICAN TAIL was also nominated that year for Best Original Song. After spending time in sci-fi, Horner moved over to children and family films, composing for THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988), THE ROCKETEER (1991), and THE PAGEMASTER (1994). Other works in the early 1990’s included SNEAKERS (1992), PATRIOT GAMES (1992), and LEGENDS OF THE FALL (1994). 

It was in the year 1995 where Horner had one of the most successful years ever for a composer. In addition to his work in the light-hearted children’s adventures CASPER, JUMANJI, and BALTO, he would have a one-two punch with his acclaimed work in Ron Howard’s APOLLO 13, and Mel Gibson’s eventual Best Picture winner, BRAVEHEART; both of which would earn him Oscar nominations. Not to rest on his laurels, Horner would re-team with James Cameron for TITANIC in 1997, which would earn him Oscar wins for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for My Heart Will Go On. The soundtrack for TITANIC became one of the best-selling albums of all time, and the highest-selling orchestral soundtrack in history. 

He would continue working through the new millennium; scoring for notable films such as THE PERFECT STORM, ENEMY AT THE GATES, THE MASK OF ZORRO, and BICENTENNIAL MAN. He would receive Oscar nominations for A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001), and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (2003). He would re-team with James Cameron again in 2009 for the sci-fi epic AVATAR and would earn his 10th and final Oscar nomination, along with nominations in the Golden Globes, British Academy Film Awards, and Grammy Awards. He would compose the theme music for the CBS Evening News which was used from 2006-2011, which was introduced as part of Katie Couric’s debut as anchor. Other works in the 2000’s included TROY (2004), THE NEW WORLD (2005), and a reunion with Mel Gibson for APOCALYPTO (2006). His final work will be heard in this year’s SOUTHPAW in July. 


This Blogger has grown up with the music of James Horner; from the adventurous tunes of BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS to the magnificence of his work in STAR TREK, Horner was able to churn out fun and emotional power with the simplest arrangement of notes. But it didn’t end there. If the job of a great film composer is to elevate a hard-sell, high-concept sci-fi story into true cinema, then Horner’s name belongs in the upper echelon of history. His work in GLORY, BRAVEHEART, APOLLO 13, and TITANIC is iconic and everlasting, and this Blogger cannot listen to those soundtracks with dry eyes. From the far reaches of space to the battlefields of Scotland and the deep South, James Horner tapped into the soul of it all. We have lost one of the greatest ever, but his music will never fade. 

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