Monday, June 22, 2015

Music Composed and Conducted by...

James Horner is dead. To say I am heartbroken is to say water is wet. He was not necessarily a household name, nor was he someone I know or have even met, but his death hits me like a thunderbolt. Horner was the composer for too many film scores to name in full, but just a cursory glance at his resume speaks volumes about his talent: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Titanic. Aliens. Field of Dreams. Braveheart. Apollo 13. Avatar. The Rocketeer. An American Tail. All classics, all with scores overflowing with richness and vibrance, the music soaring with urgency and emotion. Horner had a style that was instantly recognizable (and some critics would say almost to a fault), but that is what drew me to his works. His score for the 1980 Roger Corman-produced Star Wars-knockoff Battle Beyond the Stars was a watershed moment for me. It was the first score I remember humming outside of a movie theater that wasn't part of George's much larger and more recognizable space opera. Sure, I was drawn to the Williams-esque cues that tried hard to evoke the same sense of space fantasy grandiosity on a much smaller budget. Horner would later mention in an interview that it was his least favorite score because of the tiny, inexperienced orchestra he had to work with. But to the 8 year-old me who heard it first on the big screen, it sounded plenty epic enough. From that moment on, whenever Mr. Horner's name appeared in the credits, my ears took notice. As I got older and began developing a deeper appreciation for films, I sought his scores out. I scoured the movie boxes at the video store I worked at to find his name. I tried to find magazine articles or book mentions of him, which was no easy task in the pre-internet days. In high school I used to keep index cards in my desk where I would write down the names of films I discovered he had written the scores to. So many weird and wonderful films, some great, some terrible, but all possessing his trademark sound. Brainstorm. Krull. Deep Impact. Willow. Glory. Off Beat. batteries not included. 48 Hours. Volunteers. Once Around. Cocoon. Class Action. Searching for Bobby Fischer. Whenever I visited a new town, I would venture to their mall's music stores and flip through the soundtrack section in the hopes of finding an unheard Horner score to add to my collection. I probably own close to 30 of his 100-plus scores, some to films I've never even seen. But I know their music like the back of my hand. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about his music that affects me so much, it's all subjective, but it just does. His music has inspired me, moved me, enriched my life, and touched me in a way that great art is supposed to. I've spent countless hours listening to his music, and it has always been a dream of mine to write a film worthy of his music and have him grant me the honor of writing the score for it. Sadly that will never come to pass, but his staggering body of work will continue to inspire countless film lovers and filmmakers for as long as there are movies. Thank you, Mr. Horner. It has been an honor listening to you. 

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