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Yesterday, on June 22, film composer James Horner was killed in a plane crash, with him as the pilot. This comes as quite the shock as he was just coming into a major resurgence in his film scoring career with several upcoming scores after many years of general productive quiet following 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man (a wonderfully old-fashioned superhero score many moviegoers dismissed as being too old-fashioned), compounded by him facing the rejection of a few scores in the meantime and being otherwise more choosy with his of projects.

James Horner was the first film composer I knew by name. The film was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, carrying the credit "Music Composed by James Horner." Before that I had not quite realised that scores were specifically written for films, and this was not only an obvious revelation, but also quickly cemented Horner as one of my favourite composers. His music in Trek had so much passion and energy to it that it has remained a steady favourite of mine through the years. It also made the name "James Horner" on an album something I felt would likely be a safe bet to at least provide enjoyment to me. His style underwent largely a two-storeyd transformation: his early work up until around 1987 often exhibiting a barely contained youthful energy (though he could also take it slowly when needed), and his later style which became more considered and streamlined in emotion and structure.

Amongst listeners, he was a fairly divisive person largely due to his personal habits. While his music was often beautifully tailored to the accompanying films (aside from a few instances), and his grasp on delivering an emotional gut punch with his music was unfaltering (if at times reaching for too much melodrama), he was also proficient in his recycling of music. When one hears even a handful of Horner's scores, you are likely to start noticing certain themes and motifs to pop up again and again, which also extends to several lifts of flat-out plagiaristic material from classical music, with little-to-no attempts to disguise the source. This quickly led to two mindsets: those who loved the pure emotion in his music that overrode any such issues, and those who considered him as a simple hack, caught in re-treading his worn out bag of tricks ad nauseam.

Seeing as I'm writing this following this tragedy, I am most decidedly in the former camp and rarely find myself to have been bothered about these re-appearances of familiar music from score to score, and even made it a fun game of identifying where something originally came from, be it his own scores or some piece of concert music from Prokofiev or Shostakovich. But that took nothing away from Horner's great abilities as an orchestrator and his great talent in building lengthy, organically constructed concert pieces out of his film score assignments, which by their very nature typically are built out of small, two to four minute sections dictated by the length of a scene. But Horner made this seem effortless and never managed to make his long cues seem fractured or badly schizophrenic.

In the emergence of a new scoring culture favouring lots of drumming and extremely simplified, modern sounds - spearheaded by Hans Zimmer and his company Remote Control - Horner's heart-on-sleeve type of scoring style was more and more at odds with today's tastes and saw him being more reserved in his assignments which, combined with his general dislike of the modern studio-insisted mimicry of the popular sound, made him seem too old-fashioned to be relevant anymore these days. Yet he never succumbed to these shifts in popular style and continued to write like he wanted without being bothered about pretending to be somebody he was not.

For anybody having grown up in the 1980s and 90s, Horner's music will likely be familiar to anybody who has ever watched movies. Star Treks II and III, Krull, Aliens, Cocoon, Willow, The Land Before Time, Field of Dreams, Glory, The Rocketeer, the song Sarah Jessica Parker sings in Hocus Pocus, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, Apollo 13, the Oscar-winning Titanic along with its Celine Dion-sung song, The Mask of Zorro… and more lately Avatar, the collaboration with James Cameron which he was set to continue with the already announced sequels. If any of the above few titles of his large filmography rings any bells, it is likely his music will have been a contributing factor in some way to it.

Horner had his faults, and he was often quite straightforward in his opinions (he called Gabriel Yared's original score for Troy to be like wading through molasses, and Terrence Malick he called an inept filmmaker), but his music, regardless of its problems, almost always hit it out of the park, or was at least appropriate for the context. So to end this, it is sad to see one of my very favourite composers go out in such a freak accident when he was still so full of vitality for his craft and his life.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Horner, your music will live on and on in both the films and on the records. One of the chief proponents that made me fall in love with film music, I will always treasure what he has given me and my ears, both in the movies as well as on CD. Do give some of his music a taster if you don't know him. Here's a few cherry-picked gems:

Sarah's Theme from Hocus Pocus: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VqjON…
Casper's Lullaby: www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8zYrt…
The Rocketeer End Credits: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaX9dv…
For the Love of a Princess from Braveheart: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk8323…
Krull Love Theme: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm-sLU…
The Ludlows from Legends of the Fall: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYpMqh…
Apollo 13 End Credits (with Annie Lennox): www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLxNna…
Epilogue and End Credits from Star Trek II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFheKB…
  • Mood: Sadness
  • Listening to: The New World by James Horner

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:iconlookafar:
Lookafar Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I noticed you wrote film reviews, so off I went to read a few.
My, my: you have been busy!!! So MANY!

Anyway, I thought I'd mention that they are very good.
Most refreshingly you write as a lover of cinema rather that a cynical, nit-picking critic. 
A refreshing change!
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:iconberlioz-ii:
Berlioz-II Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2015
And SO many yet to see and write! ^^;

But yeah, I try to be unpretentious and just enjoy what I'm doing. Also helps that all the films reviewed I own on DVD/Blu-ray, so if I own them they are also likely at least good (aside from a few that have hitched a ride inside collections, which can also be a lot of fun to review).
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:iconlookafar:
Lookafar Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
how're yo doing, sir? what are you up to, artistically?
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:iconberlioz-ii:
Berlioz-II Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2015
Doing fairly well. Shocked over the death of James Horner (as explained in my newest journal), but otherwise I'm fine.

Artistically, I'm doing more photography. I've been rewriting a lot of the texts of my architecture tour of Tampere, and once that's done I intend to post some items I missed the first time around. And I draw if the mood hits me. Right now I have one car drawing I should colour... some day. But that's about it.

Hope your little Sakaki/Kaorin project is advancing favourably.
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:iconlookafar:
Lookafar Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I shall go immediately to read your journal. (Sorry, I only vaguely recognise that name. Need to catch up.)

Artistically - I'm pleased to know that you're still active. I'll watch out for the new works. 

The Sakaki/Kaorin thing is at rest for the time being. I was getting daunted by the number of frames yet to do, and how to precisely create Kaorin's hand gestures. But once I have some other things out of the way, I'll be getting back to the 'lovers'.

Postscript: I've caught up on your James Horner news. Am listening to the Apollo 13 piece right now. (The only movie on your list that I do own.) Thanks for that.
Cheers.  
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:iconberlioz-ii:
Berlioz-II Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2015
Yeah, I know how how much work animation can be. I once did something very simple with maybe six or seven frames of simple movement, and even THAT took me forever to do. So, something more intricate is certainly understandably a lot of daunting work.

Thanks for the watch. Have one right back.
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:iconhatensemble:
HatEnsemble Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014
Happy birthday!
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:iconberlioz-ii:
Berlioz-II Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014
Thanks! :)
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:iconthe-horrible-mu:
The-Horrible-Mu Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy Birthday.
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:iconberlioz-ii:
Berlioz-II Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014
Thanks! :)
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