Tribute to James Horner (1953-2015)

Escrito por Braulio Fdez., el 5 julio 2015 | Publicado en Apuntes, Compositores

The 80s and 90s were his golden decades and no genre escaped him:  science fiction (Star Trek II and III, Cocoon), fantasy (Willow, Krull), thriller and action movies (48 Hrs, Commando), epic and adventure (Braveheart, The mask of Zorro), drama (The man without a face, The Spitfire Grill), animation (An American Tail, The land before the time)… And, above all, of course, Titanic, with which he won his only two Oscars, becoming the best-selling instrumental soundtrack album of all time. With the new century, he still gave us a handful of scores to remember: Avatar (again, with his friend James Cameron), Apocalypto, Karate Kid, The Amazing Spider-man… James Horner leaves us an invaluable legacy in film music and it seems painfully difficult that someone could take his place.

With his death, many fans feel orphaned. People, like me, who in the 80s and 90s became fans of film music thanks to, among others, James Horner; thanks to him we discovered that soundtracks were something great and awesome; when you listened to the CD of Willow, when you wore down the Braveheart one or when you whistled An American Tail… Now that the world of film music is gray and unremarkable in most cases, it is when we will really miss James Horner.

No piece of news in film music history might have originated such an amount of connections, commentaries and internet links such as James Horner’s tragic death two Mondays ago. Something similar happened in 2004, when Jerry Goldsmith passed away, but the web was not so prominent at the time. Today everything is shared in internet and internet has spoken: James Horner was the most popular film music composer, for good and for bad. In fact his death has caused an unprecedented disclosure. When it seemed that only a few fans gathered around a couple of forums and websites to daily chat about his music, the tragic news of his untimely death have disclosed a phenomenon of global scale, transforming those few crazy fans into thousands.

But this “Horner phenomenon” was already undergoing major changes in previous years. And, above all, it was affecting several generations, until now silent. A curious moment, just last year: In the lead, last cue of the action score by Nathan Furst for Need for Speed, and a couple of four note motifs. The composer, perfectly aware of this fact, acknowledged in different interviews Horner´s influence and, these last days, he admitted in Twitter having lost a “mentor”.

But we had already heard other composers take Horner’s lead before: not being afraid of interacting with the viewer, sharing through him. From Desplat’s expressive colors in Girl with a Pearl Earring, clearly influenced by A Beautiful Mind, to James Newton Howard’s melody lines, vocals and resources in Maleficent, in the last two decades we started to hear hornerisms beyond his compositions.

The flood of feelings that his death has caused could represent a new step in the world of film music, making it brave enough to be emotional and to directly address the spectator, the same way the 3D signal is sent into each viewer to alter his vision. And, now that we are there, it could also come back to melody; something that Horner and many other composers before him understood as essential to enrich the movies: writing, telling and singing, instead of babbling, underlining or just being noisy.

Writing, telling and singing; that is James Horner’s legacy. A composer who brought together popularity (Avatar, Titanic, Star Trek) with the art of music, creating scores which equally gathered film music fans and moviegoers (Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, Glory). A composer who found in big drama, the one which interests the audiences no longer, the perfect canvas to express his feelings and knowledge, till the end of his days (Black Gold, For Greater Glory, Wolf Totem).

A unique composer. We will never hear again anything similar. A tragedy that goes beyond the ones we lived in 2004 with Goldsmith or Bernstein; or in 2006 with Poledouris. They passed away, but the fans still felt that others could carry on with their legacy. Today, nothing is left of the Hollywood which told transcending stories, with composers who were essential to carry out such work. Unless this legacy is shared with future generations. And that is our mission from now on, with the help of fans and professionals, starting today, remembering the genius who awoke in us the excitement of a way of storytelling.


You can Read the Spanish Version of this Article: TRIBUTO A JAMES  HORNER (1953-2015)

Special Thanks to Óscar Salazar for the translations

Lee otros artículos escritos por Braulio Fdez.
Es un “goonie”, un “jedi”, un “daikini”. Desde los 80 es un fan de la música de cine y Horner su favorito.