Tribute to James Horner (1953-2015)

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.

Braulio

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

Special Thanks to Óscar Salazar for the translations

Lisbeth Scott (Vocalist, Songwriter and Composer)

A Remembrance of James Horner

The news of the death of James Horner stopped me in my tracks. What? That’s not possible…..I checked and checked again…like we all did.  And as happens when we receive huge shocks, slowly and painfully I started to understand and accept.

How lucky we all are to live now and to have heard and experienced the depth of his talents from the very beginning. I am eternally grateful for that. I was especially blessed to have worked with James on several occasions and I treasure each one.

On my first day working with James on Avatar, I drove quietly through the hills outside Los Angeles to a warm and welcoming property, sun drenched and filled with bird song and breezes. I took a moment in the car after I’d come through the gate  and parked, to breathe and ground myself. This was going to be special and I knew it! Everything about this project resonated with me….honoring the land, honoring people, honoring light and the power of love here and beyond….. and getting to work with the brilliant composer I was about to meet.

I was ushered through a gorgeous and open foyer to a welcoming living room, couch and chairs surrounded the centerpiece, a Steinway grand. Everyone was welcoming and kind, all united by the passion for the music and the project. My friend Simon Rhodes from Abbey Road was engineering which put me at ease right away.

My microphone had been placed close to the piano, along with headphones and amp for my controls so I made myself at home, making sure my water was close at hand.

I looked up and there was James , his eyes bright, his figure slight, but his presence filling the entire space.

I could see the music playing in his head as we spoke. He extended his hand, smiled a sweet smile, we exchanged pleasantries and then he sat at the piano.  I thought hm, will he be playing me melodies?  warming up?

But then he looked up and said shall we start?  He wanted to be right there in the room as I sang, to shape and sculpt  the entire time!  I was a bit shaky…and at ease at the same time…his presence was buoyant, and calming…..as though he was inviting me into a creative space inside another realm.

The music began and I started to sing. James smiled, sometimes he frowned!…and I kept going, getting familiar with the music, trying different styles and textures.

The scene was a hugely important moment in the film, the entire tribe dragging the Avatar of Grace up the mountain, a feeling of defeat and heart wrenching pain and loss…

He was excited after the first take, making suggestions, narrowing down the range and style, layering pieces. There were two big lifts in the piece that he sculpted very carefully, telling me not be afraid of being “unconventional”, sliding through notes etc.

He placed a defiant and quite prominent trumpet trill in the middle of this cue and I thought wow that’s unusual…..and when I heard the final mix I was stunned at how powerful all elements of the cue were and how they so perfectly aligned with each other to dig into the hearts of the characters on screen and the audience in the room.

As we approached the end we were laughing more and more as he pushed me way out of my comfort zone in both range and style. It was blissful and euphoric!

When we were done, James had Simon do a quick mix so we could hear how everything worked together. Simon had been so important  in deciding which takes worked best, which ones might layer well etc.

And we sat in that living room with our headphones on and listened. When it was done we looked at each other. Slight smile.  Head nods. Yes that works. And James quietly said, “I think we’re done.”

My work with him on The Amazing Spiderman was equally inspiring. James was steady, constantly focused while visiting the creative muse in his mind and heart at the same time. He was  constantly responding to director feedback with his quiet and  attentive energy and words, under pressure of deadlines and more. We would record, Simon would send the track to the director, I would nap on the instrument cases in the living room (jet lag!) and then James would gently call “Lisbeth?” and off we’d go again in search of final approval….which we got!!!!!

When I heard the news of his passing, I imagined that flying was a beautiful place of freedom for him….of infinite breath and unconditional beauty . He was literally above it all.

Thank you James for all that you gave me, the inspiration, the lessons about discovering my own limitless talent, the faith you put in me to bring what you heard in your head to life.  Thank you for allowing us all to share in your gifts. How lucky we are.

We all send you wings made out of love. May you soarwithout fear!

Pablo Ortiz de Urbina (Conductor & Project Manager of Michael Kamen Collection)

Almost as a premonitory sign, I was happily heading to work on Monday morning (to the Kamen residence) listening to the soundtrack to A Beautiful Mind, which I adore since I was a teenager.  A part of me was feeling a little bit like a traitor, because it is not a secret that I have a big devotion for Michael Kamen and a close relationship with his music. But let´s be honest, James Horner is (because that will never change) a reference in the world of film music. He has left a footprint in this genre and for that we will forever be grateful to him. I have no doubt that Michael would have been saddened by the tragic news on Monday, as I am sure that Horner was sad to hear the loss of our dear Kamen. When great people like them leave us, they deprive the world of their talent; we can no longer enjoy their new creative creations and their musical gift. This of course makes very sad all of us who have such a passion for music.

James Horner knew well how to get the best out of a motion picture, mix the drama of the image with the musical tension, and to fusion both so that the audience, as it was said of Maestro Karajan, could listen with their eyes and see with their ears. Not many people can achieve this, and hence why those who can, undoubtedly leave a deep footprint in the audience. Three of their soundtracks have especially marked me and have been a very important part of my developmental years as musician: Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind and Avatar. I could spend a long time discussing why these three, but I think that anyone who has heard them will soon understand what I am talking about.

Not only do I love his music, but I have always had the feeling of having a close connection to him, even though I never met him personally. Soon after beginning my undergraduate studies at the Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, I was able to learn much about Horner from one of the people who worked with him more closely. My teacher Jim Thatcher was his first horn player ever since Horner made Thatcher lead the section for the soundtrack Cocoon (I had not even been born in 1985), and to this day Thatcher was a person Horner trusted musically. I still remember my conversations with Thatcher about the recording sessions for Avatar… It must have been a very hard week for him indeed.

If this connection was not enough, upon arrival to London I realised that Horner had studied for few years at the Royal College of Music, where I was beginning my Master in French horn and conducting. This indirect connection hence continued, and became even stronger when Horner announced that he would premiere his Concerto for four horns with the London Philharmonic and two of my horn teachers: Jim Thatcher and John Ryan, who was also one of my teachers at the RCM.

Fate dictated that I could not go to that concert, but if I had known that it would be my last chance to see Horner in person, and most likely meet him, I would have never permitted not going. It is difficult to predict the future I guess! At least I have the satisfaction of having conducted two of his works last year with the Royal College of Music Students´Film Orchestra, Avatar and For the Love of a Princess. Thinking of the faces of all of the performers enjoying his music so much makes me smile. Because even if he is no longer with us, his music lives on. What a better legacy! For his contribution to this wonderful art, THANK YOU!

Edwin Wendler (Composer)

Notes On James Horner

The first several decades in the history of film music were dominated by composers who hailed from European countries.  They were classically trained at conservatories.  Many of them had studied with the leading classical composers of the late 19th century and early 20th century, thereby continuing a rich, musical heritage and bringing it to the forefront of this incredibly popular art form called film.Today it seems that less and less composers are willing or capable to continue that tradition and to bring a modernized version of it into contemporary film making.  In fact, avoiding that background is what gets composers hired more often than not.

James Horner was one of the few composers actively working in contemporary visual media who did have a background in classical music, and its imprint can be found on every score he wrote.  No, I am not referring to the often-maligned quoting of Prokofiev, Britten, or others; I am talking about the use of form, the way two themes intertwine contrapuntally, the common-tone modulations, etc.  Horner’s scores for Glory or The Land Before Time, for instance, would feel as home in a concert hall as they do in the movies they were written for.  They sound like oratorios or symphonies, full of rich themes and variations.

People with trained ears notice and appreciate those compositional techniques, but those techniques were never intended to be detectable exclusively by trained ears.  They are not merely intellectual exercises; their application results in emotional reactions, and this is what James Horner was an absolute master of.

I vividly remember the very first time it hit me.  I was sitting in a movie theater with my mom, watching *batteries not included. Near the end of the film, Jessica Tandy’s character has gone through a lot: She has been dealing with dementia and the loss of her home.  As she approaches the miraculously-renovated apartment building, her head hanging low, she slowly looks up, and this is when true movie-music magic happens: Her eyes light up, she smiles from ear to ear, and so does the music.  In a simple modulation, Horner perfectly captured the right emotion and so gracefully supported the performance on screen.  There are countless other such moments in Horner’s oeuvre.  Is the music corny?  Not to me, because it is so deeply heart-felt.  Horner’s music soars like no other.

The most satisfying music – not just film music but music in general – strikes the right balance between the familiar and the new, between the intellectual and the emotional.  James Horner aimed for that sweet spot, and he hit it every single time.

I had the great fortune to see James Horner in person twice, at screening events.  At one of those events, Horner stayed for a while to sign autographs.  Not knowing that he would attend, I had brought nothing with me to sign, and in hindsight, I am glad I didn’t because Horner kept looking down while signing, not really looking into people’s faces.  I stood in line because I felt the overwhelming desire to thank the man. I was apprehensive, though, because I had heard some cautionary tales about how abrasive Horner could be as a person.  When I finally stood in front of him, I said, “I have nothing to sign.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been following your career from the very beginning, growing up in Vienna, Austria, and your music has deeply moved me.  Thank you SO very much for all your music.”  James Horner looked up at me as I was talking.  He was genuinely moved.  He smiled, did a quick, little bow, and thanked me.  He was so gracious.  I got my chance to thank my musical idol.  I’ll always be so grateful for that.

The devastating news of James Horner’s sudden passing has still not quite sunk in.  I feel so sorry for his family, personal friends, and collaborators.  I feel sorry for my fiancé Peter Hackman and all the other fans who will never be able to tell him how much his music means to them.  I still cannot believe that the gradual development of Horner’s unique compositional style has been abruptly stopped.  After the release of Southpaw and The 33, there will never be a new James Horner score to look forward to.  We can never excitedly wonder what he will come up with next.  To so many of us, James Horner’s music has been a great source of comfort.  Now I take comfort in the fact that his timeless work will remain a friend to us and to generations to come.

Germán Barón (Composer)

It was around 1985 when I saw Cocoon in the theater and I was shocked by the music of a composer whose name was unknown to me… I read a couple of reviews which stated that he came from Roger Corman’s factory and that he had composed Battle Beyond the Stars (1981). From that moment on, his presence in the movie screens was more and more usual and I started to notice his compositions… In those times, the Spanish label Vinilo began to release lots of LPs with his music. My first of his vinyl records was Brainstorm and listening to it was a revelation: I discovered an author in capital letters, with his own style and personality; a composer who made room for himself in my (small) library, rivalling John Williams, John Barry, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith.

With Aliens I just went crazy and became a follower forever. The 80s were glorious; and the 90s. His star became bigger and bigger and film music reached Olympus (Apollo 13, Braveheart). He worked masterfully in all genres, with an excellence that is no longer there, once he has passed away.

James Horner made us dream with incredible melodies, wondrous fanfares and a wonderful capacity to understand storytelling. It is true that we criticized him, but just because we loved him. We got angry when he reused music, when he drew his inspiration from the classics (especially in his beginnings) or with his famous parabara, which ended up being a kind of recurring joke… But we loved him, we deeply love(d) him, because James Horner, when inspired, was simply so great that made others look smaller (even good composers of his own generation).

The success of Titanic established him, but I think it also relaxed him and Horner became functional, a bit less brilliant, spacing his master works. He still wrote great music, but the period previous to his Oscars was far better than the one afterwards. He still had a prodigious talent for matching music and images, but I felt personally letdown with opportunities on which he performed below my expectations (Avatar, for instance). But the sparkle was still there and some weeks back I shared my enthusiasm for one his last compositions: Wolf Totem. It was the return of the best Horner, and with renewed energy. A wonderful score, which now seems to be his best testament. His music originated lots of experiences, movies, arguments and feelings and I am deeply sorry about having to write this text as a remembrance of his controversial and at the same time legendary figure. Thank you maestro.

Iván Palomares (Composer)

A friend of mine, composer as myself, recently told me that James Horner was an inspiration for all contemporary film music composers, but we scarcely admit it.

Indeed, composers (as film music fans) may be cruel when, for whatever reason, you stop listening to or stop paying attention to the music of someone who meant so much for cinema.

It is because of that and after all the tributes about Horner’s music, through internet links to it, that I should start, perhaps, apologizing.

Apologizing because after Titanic I did not listen to Horner as often as before, without any special reason… Perhaps due to his “musical tricks” or to the classical references embedded in his music (as if no one else does it) or just because, at that moment, as a composer, I was interested in apparently more complex pieces; contemporary, less programmatic, forgetting the path that led me to them.

Till one day, already in Conservatory, when I am asked to compose something in a classical way, Mozart’s style. And, at that moment, I learnt an important lesson. Thinking that this thematic exercise was a piece of cake, due to its simplicity, Mozart made me blush, as my themes sounded more childlike than anything else. And then you understand that composing something first class and “easy” to understand is not exactly an “easy” task.

This is the same feeling I have these days of tributes. What Horner did was far from easy. It required not only craft, but also courage and sincerity. And then I remember that James Horner hit me as much as John Williams… And, if the latter was the soundtrack of my childhood, it is clear that Horner was the one in my teens…

I do not remember much about The Rocketeer, except the deep impact its music had on me when I was thirteen and the endless hours listening to the album. I do remember going to the theater for a second time only to analyze the score of Legends of the Fall. Not to mention how shocked I was with Braveheart and how I sat on the piano to play what I had just heard. And, like these, many other stories that, as my friend said, I have rarely admitted.

That, as a fan, but as a composer, one has to admit that, under thirty, a kid like Horner was able to give shape to a symphonism at the height of Goldsmith at full maturity, with the additional stress of having to deal, being not so experienced, with large scale projects. Only a composer with craft and eager to learn and understand music could have faced something like this.

Looking back, we can say that Horner wrote not only for himself, but also for the audience (teenagers, kids or grown-ups) who wanted to dream and enjoy cinema.

Times change and Hollywood is not the same, composers either; something that worried Horner himself. In this ongoing search for achieving the most epic sound, the most aggressive or the most saturated; or, on the contrary, as abstract as possible.  Perhaps in response to this, Horner still fought for perfectly designed and structured melodies, countermelodies and harmonies; allowing something we hear no longer… ten minute developed themes, with bravely exposed melodies.

As I said earlier, I have had to become a composer in order to appreciate and recognize in perspective that it is not only a question of craft, but also of courage and sincerity.

Above all, it is curious that Horner’s melodies always provided a feeling of flight, of enlightening… Perhaps, therefore, it was necessary that he left us in such a way, though earlier than what we would have liked. Rest in peace and my heartfelt thanks

Gus Reyes (Composer)

The One and Only James Horner

It is always difficult for a composer to write about another composer, but when is someone that has written music that means that much to you it is not only proper but important.

I find out about James Horner very early in my life. It was his music that lead me to know more about him and drive me to find all movies he had worked for.

In my early days I already wanted to become a composer for films and there were many figures that served me as an example of excellence and taught me about the power of communication that music can and should always have.

It was impressive the amount of movies of my childhood that had Horner´s music that I remember with an incredible amount of love and I still listen to and try to study and analyze every time. Krull, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Uncommon Valor, Cocoon, Aliens, Project X, Red Heat, Willow, Field of Dreams and Glory were my favourite ones.

It was not a surprise for me at times when I had to compose for a project to watch me stuck trying to reproduce some of Horner´s notes in the most emotional piano themes. My hands always used to move in that direction. That is the power of James Horner´s music.

Nowadays, I find myself using many of Horner´s musical resources and techniques with tremendous results. But this has a more complex story to understand, at least in my experience.

I was very attached to my father. We used to watch films together and share our thoughts about their music. Sadly, he died several years ago.

Despite our endless conversations and my personal love for Horner´s music, I believe that I fully understand it´s emotional power and meaning after my father´s death.

Field of Dreams became a very difficult film to watch for me. Not only because of the main premise of a man trying to ask for forgiveness to his father after his death, but because of the profound emotional quality of the music that serve this matter.

I found myself repeating this specific soundtrack over and over in my head during these hard times of my life.

After that, the soundtrack of Glory became an important element of the strength I needed to carry on with my life and continue pursing my dreams.

I would´ve love to meet Mr. James Horner in person just to tell him how important his music is to me.  I know his passion was up there among the clouds, and his inspiration was right there, among the gods.

Thank you so much Mr. Horner.

You wont be forgotten.

Your music will live forever in our hearts.

Kristian Sensini (Composer)

James Horner was one of my favourite composers, one of the few still having the culture and the love for traditional composition. A pure artist, who believed in music as a form of art, and not just a job. I’m quite sure he suffered because of the “Hollywood Studio System”, where artists are often just employees and not creative people, where you’re somewhat forced to repeat the very same  music… over and over again.

Rejected scores are a proof of this, in my opinion, and sadly Maestro Horner had some of them. That’s the reason why one of his latest works is a Ballet, pure music written by a pure, true, sincere musician and human being.

He was really one of the last true composers on earth, he will be missed.

Mikael Carlsson (Composer, Producer and Artistic Director)

A Personal Appreciation

When I was 15, my mother and father bought me my first film music LP, having noticed my newly awakened interest in soundtracks. At the time, I had already worn out my mother’s André Previn recording of the Nutcracker Suite, and taped endless radio broadcasts of classical concerts – this is where I discovered Ravel, Holst, even Mozart! The interest in classical music, specifically the symphonic repertoire, formed the basis of my forthcoming appreciation of film music.

I believe mom and dad wanted to encourage my interest in the peculiar genre of film music as they had noticed how frequently (day in and day out presumably) I played the tapes of Star Wars and Superman that my best friend had given me. In fact, much earlier my father used to play me John Williams’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind repeatedly retelling the fascinating story in his own words.

Anyway, that first LP, was the original Polydor release of James Horner’s score for Cocoon. I actually got another LP on the very same day, I remember. It was a Pete Townshend musical. I played the Horner LP every day for weeks, but never listened to the Townshend album after trying it once. From that day on, I was clearly a huge fan of film music and an even bigger fan of James Horner. That beautiful, simple theme (that I could even play on the piano myself!) and the magic of the shimmering harmonies… and the excitement of the chase music. It opened a new world.

Shortly thereafter I went to the record shop myself and found a copy of Willow, and I was absolutely blown away by the flourishes of grand symphonic writing, exotic solo instruments and boys choirs. It was the sound of a real fantasy world, so romantic, so exciting.

Me and my best friend at the time went with our class to London, only caring for one single stop: 58 Dean Street Records (I don’t have a clue what else we did during that trip). As we entered this murky soundtrack paradise with the most impressive assortment of film scores we had ever seen, my friend quickly headed to the Silvestri section while I found my way to the James Horner rack. I bought every single title of Horner’s music they had. I felt almost embarrassed by the cover of Humanoids from the Deep, but I had to buy it.

There was a real inventiveness and truly youthful energy in James’ music that I discovered then and it has continued to baffle me throughout the 28 years I followed his work. Of course, my big favourites were the large orchestral works like Krull, An American Tail and the Star Trek scores, but so often I was equally impressed by the simple beauty of his themes. Field of Dreams blew me away. Glory, that same year, was incredible. What a master of melody – no wonder he would pen one of the most succesful hit songs ever later one day!

Looking back at his amazing career today, it is mind-boggling to see how rich his output was and how unique his voice was. Who else would come up with steel drums, fusion jazz rock for a film like 48 Hours? Who else would use the shakuhachi the way he did? His use of boys choir, depicting innocence and magical beauty! The long, long, perfectly paced cues – sometimes over 10 minutes – conducted without click and so ingeniously married to the action on the screen? I can’t think of many composers in film who had this amazing sense of pacing, one of his many talents. Who else could write a hypereffective cue like Bishop’s Countdown – the most copied and influential action piece ever written – during such enormous pressure during one late night to accomodate the recutting of Aliens, and have it recorded the day after? I will never forget a 70mm screening of the picture in London in… maybe 1996? That experience, with the surround audio system filling the room with Horner’s percussive music perfectly capturing, underlining and contributing to the action and excitement, is one of the most amazing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.

I never had the chance to meet James Horner in person. Whenever I reached him it was through his producer – Simon Rhodes – or some of his orchestrators. I was always told that James was very shy and humble. In the film music community there has sometimes been ”flame wars” going on over Horner’s style or, most commonly, his application of classical music quotes in his film scores. I have never belonged to those who like to criticize him, although I sometimes wondered why Prokofiev, Khachaturian or Britten weren’t credited in the same way Mozart was in Brainstorm. That aside, the truth is that Horner is responsible for having introduced symphonic music – and its classical roots – to millions of young moviegoers. That in itself is a remarkable achievement of great importance.

I always thought that Horner’s music would work exquisitely well in concert settings and I was fortunate to produce a concert in Córdoba, Spain, a few years ago featuring an incredibly beautiful theme from For Greater Glory, a perfect selection for this concert given its hispanic/latin influences. Blake Neely conducted the piece with wonderful sensitivity and beautiful phrasing, and it was astonishing to notice how this composition stood out from the rest of the music in the concert. There was something about the richness of the orchestration (rich not as in big, but in deep), and something about the melodic style, and about form. So schooled, so well done. So confidently standing on its own feet without the images it was written for. It was a very moving experience, and rewatching the YouTube video of this performance today brings tears to my eyes.

Thousands of fans all over the globe mourn the loss of James Horner, and I am one of them. We are so many who are grateful. There is so much music penned by this man that has moved us to tears, or filled us with adrenaline-infused excitiment, and it will continue to do so. But the world of film music will never be the same again. There will never be a new James Horner score to look forward to in excitement – one of the few composers that has continued to always fill me with that kind of emotions.

Thank you, James Horner, for all the beauty, emotion and joy you brought to my life. Although I never met you, I will miss you immensely. That’s the magical bridge your music created.

The encore, if one is needed, is of course the love theme from Braveheart.

PS / And thank you mom and dad for buying that first Cocoon LP. / DS

Randall D. Larson (Journalist)

Remembering James Horner and the Emotional Language of Film Music

The sudden loss of James Horner on a quiet Monday morning a week ago is a huge and a very personal loss for film music, and music in general.  His unexpected death at the age of 61 in such a tragic accident clearly struck the film music community hard.  Horner’s emotive music, powerfully melodic and vividly expressive, graced more than a hundred films from Corman to Cameron.  His music has influenced many among the new generation of composers, and the emotional resonance that is saturated within much of his music has caused a great many to feel his loss quite personally.

Known for sweeping melodies – and many of these have circulated across the Facebook landscape as fans and associates remember him through YouTube postings of his meaningful scores and cues – he was also especially adept at creating intimate music that spoke directly to the heart and enriched the soul. One of the prime directives of motion picture music is to drive the emotions of the audience, creating the connective tissue between the moving images on screen and the feelings of the viewing audience, and Horner was particularly skilled at doing this, propelling excitement through grand, orchestral gestures, inducing apprehension through calculated use of sonic textures, and conveying the subtle sensations of character or situational feelings through the most delicately potent instrumental renderings.  Horner was especially gifted at crafting, with honesty, the emotions of his cinematic audience.  I think my favorite of these moments is the heartbreaking First Tears from Ron Howard’s science fiction drama Cocoon (1985).  There are many others, I am sure, but this one was the first that really got to me, with its fragile poignancy and meaning within the story of the film, as Horner deftly accompanied the final moments of a dying extraterrestrial, evoking both wonder and sorrow through a very simple interaction of horn, harp, and a tearfully quavering oboe.

More than one generation of film composers and aficionados have been touched by his music for nearly 40 years, as evidenced by the very palpable grief and dismay over his death that’s been shared on social media.  I think the amount of personal remembrances that have been communicated by fans, composers, filmmakers, and others is a testament to what James Horner and his music have meant to so many.  Each of those personal memories have painted a vivid and profound picture of Horner that not a lot of us knew about, and that even a few moments of connection have left a powerful mark on our personal histories.

My own connection was long ago and short-lived, but remains a treasured memory.  Horner seemingly came out of nowhere (in actuality, it was out of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, where he found his first opportunities in film scoring – just as Horner’s future collaborator James Cameron got his own start in the art department) with an articulate albeit somewhat derivative score for a fun little Magnificent-Seven-In-Space sci-fi potboiler called Battle Beyond the Stars. This eventually led to his scoring assignments for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and that was the score that really impressed me in those early days of 1982.  Despite obvious elements of Goldsmith and Williams embedded in the work – really, signs of their importance to the young Horner as he developed his own style – this was a large scale symphonic composition of note.  As I had recently acquired the film music magazine CinemaScore from its original publisher, who had produced eight newsletter-styled issues before calling it quits and I was looking to elevate it beyond the reviews and discussion format with actual behind-the-podium interviews, this new maverick maestro was one of the first I contacted for an interview.

Living far from Hollywood in northern California and without much of a travel budget in those days, telephone interviews were the order of the day, and I was able to spend some thirty to forty-five minutes on the phone with Horner as he sat in his agent’s office at the Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency (who continued to represent him until his death), talking about his first Star Trek score and much that had gone before.  It was a fairly formal, professional interview but I tried to ask him some challenging questions, which he answered forthrightly and expressively.  I don’t specifically remember his voice or demeanor any more, and sadly the cassette recording of that interview was lost among many others during successive moves since that time, but reading them now recalls how articulate and confident he was.  Watching more recent interviews preserved on video on youtube show Horner as soft spoken and thoroughly passionate about creating music reveals the heart of the composer and the satisfaction it gave him to do so.

Horner’s love for flying was the other thing he persevered in throughout his life, giving it the same passion that drove his musical muse.  His experience and proficiency as a pilot grew with his association with The Flying Horsemen, a trio of P-51 acrobatic stunt pilots (now known as The Bremont Horsemen Aerobatic Team , with whom he became an unofficial Fourth Horseman, learning to perform aerial acrobatics himself in a P51 with the team.  He also composed a piece of music, now known as Flight, for the team which is heard during their uniquely choreographed air shows. Horner owned several planes, and it was in one of these that he took his last flight on the morning of June 22nd in southern California.

In a short documentary film about the music he wrote and recorded for the Horsemen, Horner stated that he wanted to convey to the orchestra “the magic of what it was like to fly, what it was like to float, to have that sort of suspension. I wanted to somehow entrap them in this web that what they were playing I felt very special about.”  This exhilaration flying gave him was clearly one of Horner’s favorite things, and it gives us some comfort in knowing that in his final morning in the sky he was doing something he very dearly loved.

That exhilaration is still felt in his music.  That portion of his heart and soul has been left behind for us to remember, enjoy, and share in the many passions his music continues to provoke within us.

Daniel Schweiger (Journalist)

As can be seen from the collective outpouring of sadness at the sudden, shocking passing of James Horner, there can be no underestimating the impact that 36 years of scoring has had on movie fans the world over. Even when beginning with the entertaining, Roger Corman-produced likes of The Lady in Red, Humanoids from the Deep and Battle Beyond the Stars, this musically-inclined son of a Hollywood production designer showed a keen understanding of thematic melody, and a sheer joy of unbridled scoring well beyond his years – a sound no budget at the time could contain. The genre-fueled likes of Wolfen and Deadly Blessing gave James Horner his first real breakthrough at the age of 25 with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – a seminal sci-fi movie whose nautical feel introduced the themes of friendship, death, resurrection and the joy of flight that would not only distinguish an astonishingly diverse, Oscar-winning career filled with the likes of Titanic, Glory, Legends of the Fall, Apollo 13, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Jumanji, but also become motifs for the composer’s life itself – one that ended in the jetting into the sky he so much loved at the age of 61.

If Jerry Goldsmith proved to be the Mozart who sucked me whole-heartedly into the wonder and imagination of film scoring, then James Horner was certainly my Beethoven, picking up that thematic torch with old school passion. I was lucky enough to interview Horner on occasion throughout his career, beginning with his gloriously soaring score for The Rocketeer. This beloved cult-film-to-be not only enabled me to attend a scoring session, but to visit the composer’s home where I marveled at his antique toy collection – showing me just how many varied interests that Horner had beyond music. Generous and inviting to his supporters, I next talked to Horner for Titanic, a particular highlight being in tow behind his conducting podium as the scoring ship left Southampton. I’d also talk to Horner for Avatar, while covering him for liner notes to House of Cards, Jade and the compilation album Passions and Achievements that featured such noteworthy collaborations as Cocoon and Ransom with Ron Howard.

But undoubtedly the most popular interview I’d do with James Horner (let alone any composer) was for On the Score in 2006 to primarily discuss his massive, tragically dramatic score to All the King’s Men – a movie whose score was the definite highlight. At this point in his own rise to studio royalty, Horner was unsparingly candid, especially when it came to his opinion of working with Terrence Malick on The New World or being called in to do a replacement score for Troy. When most composers understandably have to mask their real opinions, Horner wasn’t about to be coy, resulting in an often funny, and perceptive phone conversation – which we now present as a tribute to his wit and energy.

I’ll truly miss the unassuming kindness that James Horner had during my coverage of him though the years. But like us all, I’ll miss his music most. Yet if our love of the form is in the imagination it inspires within us, listening to the numerous, and wondrous scores in James Horner’s repertoire will only let us soar as we hear the many scores that could have been, while continuing to influence the art form he loved so much.   

Gergely Hubai (Journalist and Writer)

WARNING: The following remembrance of James Horner contains examples of introspection, political philosophy and spoilers to the film Gorky Park. Please only read once you’ve read everything else about the composer and still want to know more about how his art changed the world (or in this case, something about me).

With the recent passing of James Horner, you must have read many heartfelt memories about the loss of the composer – if nowhere else, here on AsturScore where some of the best writers in the field share their own views. When I originally set out to write my own connection with this extraordinary talent, I was about to go in a completely different direction until I realized that in order to explain what made the composer unique, I can’t go for the obvious targets. We all know that Horner wrote scores like Star Trek II, Aliens, Titanic and Avatar and while they are all very good and professionally produced works which I’d gladly listen to on any given day of the week; they are not the most important to me personally. So this piece will be as much about me as James.

To be honest, I was never particularly interested in Star Trek and while I’m fairly familiar with all the feature film scores, I never really paid attention to the franchise outside their musical accompaniments. I loved (and still love) all things Titanic, which was one of the reasons I didn’t immediately fell in love with James Cameron’s film and the Celine Dion song was truly overexposed to the point of annoyance. I was too jaded by the time Avatar rolled around plus the fact that I can’t watch movies in 3-D really limited my enjoyment of the film. And when I look at my favorite “big Horner score” in the form of Aliens, my intimate knowledge of how, why and when the music was blown to smithereens really sucks out the fun of the experience (see also the sausage principle, or how you should never know how the things you love are made).

These examples are all masterpieces of film scoring, but Horner wrote a score that belongs to that rare group of scores that touched me on a more personal level and taught me something about myself – this is much harder than writing a fitting accompaniment to a film, but the process is also quite accidental. Even the most insignificant score can have this weird effect on me and to give you some strange examples, there’s absolutely nothing by John Williams or Danny Elfman on this personal list while something like Jerry Goldsmith’s The Vaninshing is easily there (other titles will not be revealed). The only common thing in these scores and films is that they would never make it to the top 1000 of anyone’s list but they flicked a switch in me that made me obsessed about the movie and the score until I truly got to the bottom of the case.

James Horner made it to this personal list with Gorky Park. Before you hit up imdb, this is a 1983 film directed by Michael Apted, starring William Hurt, Joanna Pacula, Lee Marvin and Brian Dennehy. The story is set in Communist Russia where an investigator is tasked with solving a murder case that left behind three horribly mutilated bodies found in the titular Gorky Park. During the investigation, Hurt’s character hooks up with beautiful make-up artist Pacula, finds an unlikely ally with Dennehy and Lee Marvin looks really mean. The film is not perfect by any means and was in fact a mild disappointment because (spoiler alert!) the truly horrifying crime that sets the whole thing in motion eventually boils down to Lee Marvin wanting to smuggle some sable fur.

The first time I heard Gorky Park I was looking to discover some new scores from a large batch of second hand CDs I picked up for next to nothing – and without hearing about either the films or the scores (it was THAT good of an offer). I ripped these CDs into mp3s and put some of them on my player for a long bus ride – I picked Gorky Park only because the title intrigued me. I couldn’t imagine what the film could be and the music confused me even further. As I played the first track, I was treated to a wild Celtic stomp that didn’t sound anything that would belong to a film set in Russia. Even more interestingly, the rest of score had a completely different tone, something much more fitting to the subject matter. I kept going between the tracks on my bus ride and kept obsessing about the weird Celtic influences over the weekend so I decided to investigate Horner’s insane choice as soon as I get home.

I found my answer fairly easily – while copying the mp3s to my device, I accidentally overwrote the opening titles of Gorky Park with the music of The Devil’s Own. But by this time, I really wanted to find out more about Gorky Park and my curiosity piqued when I heard the actual opening titles which I will describe below in greater details. The music made me seek out the film and as mentioned earlier, it was a bit underwhelming – but also excited at the same time. The story film left me cold (pun not intended) but the whole look and aura of the film perfectly captured the feeling of living of the Eastern Bloc during the 1980s. The look and feel of the film was simply perfect and the illusion is only ruined by certain aspects of the plot. Had it been an accurate portrayal of life in Soviet Russia, William Hurt would have been shot by his own superiors and Lee Marvin would be a rich oligarch with Joanna Pacula by his side.

James Horner played an intrinsic part in creating this realistic portrait of what it feels like to live in not only the Soviet Union, but any Communist regime. The opening seconds of Gorky Park sounds like the composer was instructed to summarize the idea of Socialism in music, but he doesn’t have more than five seconds to do so. After a few more repeats of this coldly dissonant hit, we’re treated to musical excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the magnum opus of Russian romanticism which is also raped by the same hits until everything dissolves in cacophony. This is the Main Title that I lost during my mp3 transfer and upon hearing it for the first time, I was struck by a realization that may seem evident at first: Russia and the Soviet Union are the same thing.

This may need some clarification… Hungary used to be under Soviet control in the 1980s. Russian was a compulsory language. I never learned it, but my mother was a teacher of Russian language. Yet at the same time, I never really connected Russia and the Soviet Union in my mind. To me, Russia was Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and so on. The Soviet Untion was Lenin, Stalin, Gorky, Shostakovich, etc. They all lived in the same cities, spoke the same language but at the same time I always felt I could make a strong distinction between what’s Soviet and what’s Russian. This strong divide was helped by the fact that the political changes in 1989 made everything Soviet obsolete overnight while Russian things were still accepted (though they never became as popular as they were in the days of compulsory Russian lessons). And this idea seemed easy enough to accept.

Then I heard the Main Title of James Horner’s Gorky Park and my mind was blown. The ingenious coupling of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with the most Soviet sounding opening of any film made me realize that these two “separate” worlds were direct continuations of each other and cannot be separated no matter how politicians try to frame this problem. This realization also helped me understand more about my own society because it’s effectively the same. We like to pretend that Communism was a bad dream, that everything started anew in 1989 with new hopes, new dreams, etc. But the fact is that the people remain the same, I myself am a good example of that because I was born before the cutoff date. This single moment of music made me realize something that helped me understand my contemporaries a lot better – and I think having an introspection based around this idea could do a lot of good things for every nation who had to share in this historic past.

Sorry, I may have gone off on a tangent here, but I think this example shows that great ART (not just film music) can teach you things about yourself, things that can later define you or your outlook on the world. James Horner happened to write something that had a huge effect on me and the best I can do is to explain to you what he achieved. For everyone else on Earth, the music to Gorky Park can remain a Tchaikovsky pastiche with tension music based around dated synth pads. But to me, it taught me something about myself – all the while it also gave me some cool action cues and one of the most beautiful love themes I can think of (even though I’m sure one of the composer’s detractors could easily point out where he took it from). With the passing of James Horner, I’d like to urge you all to find and cherish those pieces of film music that may be ignored by the general public but mean something special to you – if you articulate your feelings well enough, you may also change someone’s life.

Antonio Pardo (Journalist and Writer)

The Time Traveler

It is interesting the impact that literature may produce in the lives of some people. Well known works such as The Bible, The Iliad, Don Quixote, The Lord of the Rings or The Razor’s Edge are just a few examples of the unlimited capacity these texts have to amaze and excite the most avid readers. Of all of them I would like to highlight (an important condition for being able to understand Horner’s music) “The Time Machine”, written by Herbert George Wells and published in London in the late nineteenth century. The Time Machine tells, in short, the adventures of a somewhat eccentric scientist who discovers the door to the so called “fourth dimension” (Time, in fact) building a vehicle that travels through it. Wells devised a curious artifact made of “metal, crystal and ivory” and which provided the ability to go where no one has gone before. Time travel forcing Nature, buff, is that possible? Of course, it is. If Wells invented his machine during the Second Industrial Revolution, after 1800, it was only three decades ago that Horner conceived his own time machine, with no bolts, no nuts, no ivory nor valves or drive belts. His machine was built on staves, quarters, eighths, sharps and long, deep silences. His music is the vehicle we use to travel through time, from the composer’s mind to all those worlds he imagined. Ludwig Van Beethoven said: “It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer.”

Still today, only two decades afterwards, I clearly remember those great Schubertiades my friend Ginés Belzunces and me organized every Friday, close to a good coffee. Thank God Horner’s machine is a two-seater. There we rode blazing horses, Ride of the firemares, Krull (1983), anachronistically galloping with accompanying timpani and trumpets. Among discussions and funny stories of enthusiastic novices we fought in the spectacular Battle in the Mutara Nebula, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982); a crusade that made us learn that Jerry Goldsmith (with whom Horner is said to have fought his own battles) had a worthy successor. The idea that haunted us was traveling inexhaustible along the magic the maestro fed into us. It did not matter if we had to jump into the Jurassic, Whispering Winds, The Land Before Time (1988), to observe Littlefoot, an amiable baby dinosaur, talking to his mother in one of the most exciting melodies in cinema; or whether we should, instead, take to our heels and run into the future to discover that the Three Laws of Robotics, The Gift Of Mortality, Bicentennial Man (1999), are really based on the humanity of your melodies, a couple of leitmotivs that exude so much love that they are still able to shed tears from my torn eyes. How much inside me!…

But we keep traveling, next stop… A place called feeling. I remember the day, Ginés, my friend, we received the CD of The Spitfire Grill (1996), Care of the Spitfire Grill, a new Horner, a new sound that his genius forged in his workshop, where the six strings of the guitar and an intimate piano put together the staff feelings are made of. And what to say about that occasion when a disfigured, uncouth and hermit-like old man, Lookout Point, The Man Without a Face (1993), taught us that the ugly can be beautiful if looked through a touching melody. Time has gone by and we continue with our Schubertiades, so needful and painful from now on… He is gone, but our travels will continue thanks to his legacy. It is impossible to forget those evenings that José Antonio Planes (the smartest film reviewer I have ever met) and I went to Rex cinema in Murcia to attend the premiere of all the films by the maestro. We changed coffee for popcorn in the peanut gallery (Opera is for dilettantes) to visit Mexico, where Zorro, The Plaza of Execution, The Mask of Zorro (1998), aided by castanets and Shakuhachi fought the cruel and ruthless governor of California. Listing each and every one of the trips we have done thanks to this original (his music speaks a different language) time machine is quite difficult, almost impossible, but we still walked through Pandora’s bioluminescent jungles (his last great opus) proving that his genius was there again; or the countless times we witnessed the works of Shelley, Stevenson and Melville, Towards the Open Sea, The Pagemaster (1994), came to life under your music. The great voyage of the Titanic (his only and well deserved Oscar), the failed space odyssey of the Apollo XIII, love and betrayal for a Scotsman called Braveheart or the heartbreaking howl of his last great adventure, Wolf Totem (2015), are round trips. In all of them we keep discovering new things, different nuances that make his music immortal.

Ad Aeternum

Beyond Time, this could be the most accurate definition for Horner’s music, a timeless piece of art that is rewritten again and again, note by note, verse by verse, showing that there is far more than good intentions behind the disconsolate stroke of his prodigious genius. I never thought a man could beat the beauty that is implicit in works such as the Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti, master of masters, or divine da Vinci’s The Last Supper, or Werther by my beloved Goethe; but after listening the moving voice of his original and chromatic writing I may only say that James Horner has the warmest voice I have ever heard, a voice that is no longer of this world…

James Horner

(1953-2015)

Florent Groult (Journalist and Member of Underscores)

Inside Out

« Heart ». As far I can remember, this is the word which I always instinctively associate with James Horner’s music, thanks to one of my closest friends who used to choose that specific word when he described it.

Unlike the most part of film music lovers from my generation, I can hardly say that I grew up with Horner’s scores. My interest in film music became obvious only at the beginning of the 90’s, but when it finally came to me, he was of course one of the very first composers I discovered. Because of the movie which still was at the time the only medieval fantasy substitute for any J.R.R. Tolkien reader, Willow came quickly and became one of the first soundtracks of my collection. And when I listened to this beautiful score from 1988, I realized soon that some of my best film emotions from the 80’s was linked to James Horner’s name, like An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Cocoon, Aliens or The Name of the Rose. How many times some friends and me used tracks of the latter as musical background for our long and night role-playing game sessions ? In my mind AD&D2’s world Ravenloft will eternelly sound like the Main Titles from Annaud’s movie.

Year after year I then learned to grasp and fully appreciate the various sides of James Horner’s music, his personality, from Krull to Legends of the Fall, from Where The River Runs Black to Apocalypto, or even more recently Wolf Totem. In the current film music world when so many scores sound like the others, who can say that he didn’t keep all his life a voice of his own, so unique ?

Of course I would lie if I said that I had loved all his scores with the same intact passion. Sometimes, the way he systematizes the same musical recipes, using them again and again in a too predictable way, bothered me, annoyed me. To be brief, let’s say that, in some cases, the intellectual pleasure that I also search in music restrain my emotional pleasure. Despite my constant admiration for the composer’s melodic inspiration, it simply doesn’t work for me for some of his scores, with the bitter feeling that he could do so much better, that he wasted his chance to reach a new level. Am I too exacting ? Do I ask for too much ? Or is it here in fact the greatest sign of the deep respect I give to a true artist ?

Because if there is one very specific thing that I can never, ever, deny to him, it’s his incredible ability to convey the right emotion at the right moment. Whatever the feeling is, joy, sadness, anger, hate, fear, injustice, excitement, optimism,… love, not only he knew exactly what a movie needed, but he knew how to contain it to go straight to the heart with the best effect possible, and then how to keep it strong, without restraint, to go deeper and deeper inside. At this very moment the best you had to do is… to let yourself go !

Besides, he even knew how to explain it much better than all of us. In 2009 for example, he gave to the Los Angeles Times a wonderful answer which could be a true and inspiring profession of faith for many young film composers : « When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears — at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role. » Finally, by leaving us so brutally, so tragically, so shockingly, didn’t he play with our hearts one more time, one last time, in the most powerful way ? So long, Maestro, we will miss you.

Julie Kirgo (Journalist and Writer)

Sadly, I never had the chance to meet James Horner.  But, through sheer serendipity, I did once find myself standing next to him at an SCL event.  As we were all allegedly listening to some no doubt excellent speakers, I took the opportunity to study one of my film music heroes:  the soft, dark, elegant clothes; the fine features; the thick quiff of hair and slash of beard.  To my mind, Horner looked the perfect incarnation of the sensitive Romantic poet-composer.

And in fact, although he is perhaps most celebrated for his big epic scores—the Star Treks, Braveheart, Titanic, Avatar—it is his gentler, more poetic work I have come to treasure most.  Testament, Cocoon, Field of Dreams, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Iris:  all these are scores featuring passages of spider-web delicacy plus power—they catch you, stop you in your tracks.  Horner could use the same light touch in cleverly suspenseful ways, as well:  check out Sneakers to hear music that is both thrilling and, somehow, witty.  And then there are the scores I first discovered through my children:  *batteries not included, Willow, The Land Before Time, and, above all, the utterly loveable An American Tail. To say that I have probably warbled Somewhere Out There hundreds of times is no exaggeration; it’s the perfect lullaby, yearning yet comforting.

It is a rare composer whose music somehow works its way into your most precious daily rituals, but that was James Horner:  a rare bird, indeed.  And now, as we mourn his loss, I try to find solace in the fact that, as many have said, he died doing what he loved—flying.  I can only wish he hadn’t flown so far, so soon.

Juan Arbona (Fan and Member of ABABS)

The first time I read the name of James Horner on an album (Humanoids from the Deep), I felt that a new stranger had come to town, and with the intention of staying for long. He also led and marked the beginning of the generational change. Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams already had a worthy successor, someone who had seemed to never come, but he did at the right time, together with Basil Poledouris, Alan Silvestri, Bruce Broughton and Christopher Young among others.

The grandeur of the Movies is that any name in the credits of a film seems to live forever, that time does not go by, that those people are always there, that they are immortals, and, in fact, it is so. From now on, when reading “Music by James Horner”, we will know we are going to feel an incredible bunch of emotions that will make us see that movie as if it were the first time and as if it will never be the last one. We will get again goosebumps, because James Horner will be with us. Please guide us with your music and make us better, help us to live and let live.

James Horner, always.

Octavio López (Fan and Writer)

Riding with the Stars

On a personal level, I think my first memory of James Horner‘s music begins with Aliens (1986). In particular, during the passage of Ripley’s rescue of the Marines, besieged by xenomorphs and aboard that assault vehicle with that design so tied to those futuristic, flat and black surfaces foreseen in the eighties. That chase whipped by metals became, for me, the perfect definition of the furious dynamism of impending, dangerous and frenetic races. Later, when my friends and I started shooting amateur short films, we employed twice that piece while editing. The first time was in “Nobody’s Perfect”, a short in which I murdered those who did not like Jim Carrey. “Ripley’s Rescue” was heard while I was chasing one of my victims, knife in hand. And the second one was in “Behind the Feeling”, when the main character, totally drunk, drives a friend’s car in a completely negligent way, to end up crashing into another car. As I said, there was no better theme to describe anguish, frenzy or, in general, something thrilling.

Being a lover of dinosaurs, I saw The Land Before Time (1988) soon afterwards, when it was released on video and I was barely seven. But I have to admit that I didn’t like the film. Perhaps it was due to the excessively gloomy atmosphere, to some baby dinosaurs with whom I couldn’t empathize (the Spanish dubbing did not help on that matter either) and a too tragic initial mood (even today I can hardly digest movies supposedly for “children” where the protagonist suffers a bereavement in the family). However, much later, when I heard the soundtrack apart from the movie, tears surprised me, falling over my face, caused from discovering the so delicate, so tender and so warm beauty Horner was able to invoke.

Keeping on with dinosaurs, and years before the world was flooded with his famous composition for Titanic, I discovered his talent for rock and songs with We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (1993). The song featured in the film, sung by John Goodman (who plays the main character, Rex) had a fierce and funny rhythm, and the chorus of “Rock To Roll Back the Dawn of Time”, which gives the song its title, is something I never get tired of listening to. Even Little Richard developed his own version of the theme for the soundtrack.

The last discovery I made with Horner was thanks to a recommendation, if I don’t remember wrong, from my friend Miguel Civica. He did take me to Krull (1983) and thus I was exposed to a musical space epic, from its very first minutes. Main Title And Colwyn’s Arrival is one of the most heroic, glorious and fantastic themes that I have heard, and where Horner showed his innate ability to get the adventure of other worlds to blossom in an explosion of action, epic and fanfares.

Considering the above, for me, Horner symbolizes the perfect harmony between lyricism, fun, passion and fantasy; all in a unique ensemble, riding with the stars, fiercely.

Gregorio Umbría Llorente (Fan)

Just a few days left us James . During breakfast last Tuesday the news came on social networks and within minutes it was confirmed on the local radio station. My heart was broken.

Since childhood Horner has been part of my life, and until this Tuesday have failed to measure in what amount . I feel his loss in the same manner as if I have lost a dear childhood friend who had shared with me countless moments of beauty, excitement and unforgettable feeling. No doubt he is the film composer that has reached closer to my heart with their music.

A heart that is now only able to offset the pain of his loss while hearing his music, and the emotions re-emerge in a way that only his music is capable of doing.

Thanks , James.

(Willow  – My First LP 1988, Star Trek III – My First CD 1990)

Felipe Múgica (Fan and Member of BSOSpirit)

Loved by some and hated by others. We criticized him for abusing his four-note motif (the famous “Parabara” as we called it), for his self-plagiarism and his “inspiration” in classical works. But it has been due to his untimely and unexpected death that all of us agree he was a great composer, one of the best symphonic authors who emerged in the 80s, together with Bruce Broughton and Alan Silvestri.

Looking back at his old works and comparing them to the reigning soundtrack mediocrity in present day Hollywood, it is when one realizes the great loss that his death has brought to film music. He was a great melodist (with the musical development I love, long, elaborated, as it is telling you the story on its own), with an extraordinary sensitivity, able to give us from the best and most exciting love theme to the most exciting and heroic adventure one.

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.

Daniel Fernández (Member of AsturScore)

You have gone too early and none of us understand why. I do not understand it. Why someone so young, so talented, with so much to offer, must go in such a cruel and unfair way?

I cannot accept it. I cannot find the proper words to pay tribute to you. All of us who love film music are mourning. One of the greatest has left us orphaned. What may we do, once that film music is no longer an art and has become just a banal accompaniment? You know what I am talking about, do you?

I still remember the Canal + preview of Legends of the Fall in 1995; I was not captivated by the story, or by the amazing scenery or the actors… just the music. I heard a breathtaking melody, with an epic air, which sublimely melted with the images and which seemed to make the characters legendary. The music transcended the story and took the characters to a place reserved only for some chosen ones…, the place where you are now. That was the moment I met you for the first time, when I knew I had to learn more about you and discover many other of your works. You significantly contributed in sowing the weed for an interest in film music and how magical it may become.

The Mask of Zorro, The Perfect Storm, the unforgettable Willow… How to express this? Your music breathed charm and grandiloquence into characters and stories; but there was a lot of sensitivity and empathy. Magic…, as in The Pagemaster or in Krull, two of my favorites. Sensitivity…, as in the masterful The Man Without a Face or Searching for Bobby Fischer. Until you were finally recognized for your music for Braveheart or Titanic, when the general public was able to realize that music may transcend the moving images.

With you I felt that music was boundless, that you could grasp what happened behind the scenes and inside the characters. You broaden space, breathed air into the story and transformed it into an experience we were part of…, carried away by your notes.

I still have in memory our latest meeting at the movies: Wolf Totem, directed by your friend Jean-Jaques Annaud, who is mourning your irreparable loss as we are. You felt again comfortable broadening space, breathing life into the story and empathizing with the characters. Perhaps the last howl we heard on screen meant the prelude for our last goodbye. Your voice has gone, but it will resonate as the one from the composer who was able to combine magic and epic. Maybe like the wolf, that faithful and noble animal, trying to protect its territory, you had to fight against new trends in film music, to show that, like the film itself, it has a soul and transcends the screen. Having, simply, a place in the world.

You made it possible. Rest in Peace, James.

Óscar Salazar (Member of AsturScore)

The news of the death of James Horner a couple of weeks ago was a trauma. I could not believe it. I did not want to believe it. It was a shock. It was a death in the family. A close friend for over twenty years, one of those who open their hearts to you. Someone who had accompanied me in difficult times and who, on the other hand, had given me immense joy. And we had never met. Only through the universal language that is music.

I will not talk about his incredible talent for musical storytelling in film, which was unique. I will not mention any of his works in particular. It has been done by others already. In fact, I have been unable to write anything of my own these last couple of weeks. I took refuge from shock in translating the words of others. Supporting this AsturScore Tribute has allowed me to return to Horner, as we friends knew him, a fraction of what he gifted me.

An invisible and enveloping friend. In inconsolable moments, he consoled me; when I could no more, he pushed me to keep walking. I grew up under the shadow of his music. I fought through my studies with his music, something for which I will be eternally grateful. A small part of me is gone in that plane. A small part that has been replaced by a bit of him. Forever, James Horner.

Sorry, but I cannot write anything else. He was one of the bravest, a lone wolf, the last wolf. And he won Heaven:

In the year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom.

Gorka Oteiza  (Member of AsturScore)

A few days ago, when I first read the rumor and then the news about James Horner dying in a plane crash, I could not believe it. I hoped it to be one of those many fake news that easily appear on the Internet. But unfortunately it was not so and, as time went by, my worst fears were to be confirmed.

My feelings at that time were similar to those of losing someone close. It is curious how unprepared we are for death, something usual in the cycle of life, and how we live avoiding it, because our busy lives do not allow or want to think about it.

My earliest memories of James Horner’s music go back to my college days, in the 90s, when his success was booming. I was fortunate enough to discover film music with John Williams, Danny Elfman and James Horner. I will never forget how many times I did listen to Willow, enjoying Elora Danan, unaware that its beginning was a musical resource that would appear in almost all his work.

Then came scores as wonderful as Sneakers, The Rocketeer, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, Apollo XIII, Bicentennial Man and Titanic, and I also began to look back, recovering classics such as Krull, The Land Before Time, Aliens or both his Star Treks.

Two years ago, in 2013, I was fortunate to attend the “Hollywood in Vienna” festival dedicated to James Horner, with the composer himself attending the event too. The concert was splendid. Splendid? Rather wondrous! And it is engraved in my memory forever. One of the best concerts I have ever attended (and that only because maestro John Williams gets the first place for a concert in Boston).

I feel myself lucky, because Vienna is one of the few film music events with James Horner attending. There we could hear his music filling the concert hall, exceeding any physical barrier and touching soul and heart (the Avatar Suite has been in my playlist since then). We felt James Horner’s humbleness and sensitivity, when he gave in tears his acceptance speech of the Max Steiner Award.

I must say that, apart from his scores in the 80s and 90s, I have not followed James Horner’s career closely and I have many of his works waiting in the queue (including some of the “important” ones… Yes, I know, heresy…!). But, as a good friend of mine said in Vienna: “You are a lucky guy… I would do anything to listen to some of his works for the first time again… To feel those emotions again.”

I believe this is the perfect moment to start with it…; because James Horner has left us, but his music remains, inspiring new generations, forever.

Rubén Franco (Member of AsturScore)

It is hard trying to put into words how I feel after James Horner’s death, as it was with Jerry Goldsmith or Michael Kamen. It is a total shock and, in the cases of Horner or Kamen, even worse, as they met an untimely end, well in advance their time.

I remember chats about Jerry Goldsmith with several people, when a couple of glances, two brief comments and a knowing smile said it all. Either you feel it or you do not. That is all.

Horner was special, an undeniable truth. He was one of my pillars, independently of how often I did listen to his music. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and he was one of the most delicious fruits I have ever tasted.

After his death it took me two days to assimilate the truth: there will be no more James Horner on screen. There is a legacy to enjoy, but nothing new to come. A harsh reality.

Thinking about this cooperative Tribute you are reading, quickly put together thanks to the availability of countless persons and their affection for James Horner, lots of his works came to mind; the incontestable Krull and Start Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, both essential to understand my musical growth and my present passion for film music (Ride of the Firemares or Battle in the Mutara Nebula are two perfect examples), without forgetting the needful Willow, Aliens, Legends of the Fall, The Mask of Zorro, The Perfect Storm, Cocoon, Sneakers, Braveheart, Titanic…

Once I was ready to write something and to work on this Tribute, I remembered two scores, which are essential for me. Krull, and my friends know why: my VHS tape was literally torn out as I heard the music for different scenes, well before CDs were available.

The second one, Brainstorm (1983), a very particular film for me (one of my first LPs), full of emotion and melancholy, where Horner found a project, perhaps the first of all he had, where to develop his deeply emotional touch. That one that naturally comes into your heart, breaking you into tears.

Death is a painful experience and Horner conveys this in his score with atonal, violent music, traumatic at times; but eventually everything is just a prologue for the final scene, when the main character can experience Lillian’s death through a machine recording human feelings.

It is at that moment when we discover that experiencing death never had such wonderful music, making us feel that the passage to the other side is not only painful, but necessary; a transition to another place, one I hope is better than ours, excruciating and cruel.

Michael’s Gift to Karen also includes the musical essence of lyricism, when a great Christopher Walken records his memories of a broken marriage for his former wife, Natalie Wood, thus making it possible for her to experience them. In fact it is Horner’s music what makes the trick work, in one of the most beautiful musical sequences in film history, at least for this writer; a piece of music that takes me literally on the verge of tears.

James Horner has achieved exactly the same: a machine able to record musical feelings and emotions, his Brainstorm, which is nothing more than all the music he has composed. A legacy which, listened to again and again, makes us experience our hidden feelings: love, pain, horror, action, thriller, adventure…

It is Horner’s Gift to Humanity, a gift that will remain not only for our enjoyment but also for next generations, so they know who James Horner was: a musical poet, an artist of colorful canvases…, a unique genius.