Picard Of The Pops - James Horner

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Chris Morley looks at the life and career of James Horner in this week's Picard of the Pops.


Another sadly departed man of music joins our pantheon now as we salute James Horner, who sadly left this world on June 22, 2015 following a plane crash. The movie which really bought him to the forefront in the world of scoring for film was The Wrath Of Khan in 1982...



Though he'd actually first earned his spurs on 1979's The Lady In Red (thankfully no cameo appearance there by Chris De Burgh).....



Spacemen going travelling is of course the central premise of Star Trek, mind. Fortunately, going na na na na na na na na na na na has nothing to do with it. Dismissed as highly illogical! Two years later the very Vulcan who may well have said such was at the centre of The Search For Spock, James again jumping aboard to score.



Listen closely & you'll hear borrowings from Prokofiev- excerpts of both Alexander Nevsky & Romeo & Juliet can be heard in sections of the music. A far cry from working for Roger Corman on the likes of Battle Beyond The Stars, which got him his first compositional credit.



Within two years of helping in the search for Spock Horner would have his first nomination at the Academy Awards for his score to Aliens.



Versatility was quite possibly his middle name as he would go from science fiction to films for a far younger audience in the late Eighties/early Nineties with soundtracks for children's movies like An American Tail, from which Somewhere Out There was nominated for Best Original Song at the very same ceremony his Aliens score was put up for Best Original Score!



His co-writers on that song, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, wrote many a pop hit in their day, and James would soon have a monster hit of his own in taking on the job of providing the music to James Cameron's Titanic in 1997.



The tale of the doomed liner & its tragic sinking to this day possesses the best selling orchestral soundtrack of all time as well as snaffling an Oscar win for My Heart Will Go On, a Horner co-write with Will Jennings.



As Classic FM would note,
"Titanic was a record breaker, in a truly titanic sense. Box office targets were smashed when, in 1998, millions of us went to see this much-hyped movie. It garnered more Oscars than any other modern film, it ran on (and on ... and on ...) for over three hours, and it placed huge demands on Horner- not least because of the amount of music that such a long film was bound to require. The composer apparently turned his back quite deliberately on the traditional idea of what a film score for a Hollywood blockbuster should sound like."
And in doing so he indulged himself a little, choosing to focus on Celtic music, something of a passion of his. Most obviously he'd earlier deployed it to great effect in Braveheart.



After Titanic, he & Cameron would in a sense outdo themselves with Avatar, which broke the record set by Titanic upon its 2009 release!



Music preparation alone had, rumour has it, taken over two years by itself. Horner took on no further commissions during that time, the results blowing minds everywhere. Sadly within a few years he had passed away, not before finishing the likes of The Amazing Spider-Man.



The Hollywood Reporter would later offer details of his killer crash,
"Horner was piloting a single-engine S312 Tucano turboprop plane when it crashed into a remote area about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, officials said an earlier report noted that the plane, which was registered to the composer, had gone down, but the pilot had not been identified."
Perhaps the greatest tribute to their fallen colleague came from the orchestra of long time associates who played with him, Cameron recounting that they had "loved him". A love shared by cinemagoers of all ages, proof of his talent in itself if any were needed, surely?

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