Michael’s Movie Mentions: James Horner – 1953-2015

On June 22, 2015, renowned film composer James Horner died from a plane crash at age 61. James Horner was one of the most prolific film composers of the modern era, regarded by The Guardian as “one of the most successful and admired composers of film soundtracks in Hollywood.” Among his many scores are those of Avatar, Braveheart, Apollo 13, and Titanic. He was known for combinations of choral and electronic components, and his dramatic, sweeping orchestral compositions; particularly, those of Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar.

He collaborated with director James Cameron for the films Titanic and Avatar, both of which are currently the two top highest-grossing movies of all time, while his music album for Titanic is one of the best selling albums of all time.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Southern California, and for his postgraduate work, took on the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He began work in the late 1970’s, but it was only till 1982 when he gained major recognition, due to his score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of the Khan.

My opinion, after thinking over James Horner’s film scores, is that he was one of the best film composers of the modern era, and perhaps would have been for the future. Also, just recently I, my dad and my older sister Susannah went to see the San Diego Symphony Orchestra perform my favorite composer, John Williams’s, film scores.

Not weeks before this event, we had actually seen John Williams in person for a recital at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. For years I have been listening to his miraculous scores, an awestruck spectator of his genius. I still remember the electric thrill I felt, as I climbed up the Hollywood Bowl’s steps, hearing, for the first  time, the pure musical wave of the live performance of Jurassic Park echo around the stadium and out to the parking lot.

Not only was the San Diego Symphony performing his scores, this time; in fact, Williams was supposed to be conducting himself! Unfortunately, ahead of time, we received an email that he could not arrive–he had a “minor illness”. We attended the performance anyway.  This “minor illness” was a little reminder to me that John Williams is not exactly young, being currently 83 years old. Who would take his place when he is dead? Practically no one, I thought. Michael Kamen (Band of Brothers; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), though not the composer John Williams is, had already died prematurely in 2003. Then James Horner flashed into my mind. As he was one of the only composers who could come close to matching up to Williams, and also twenty years younger, his abilities seemed like the viable, and singular option for the close future of Hollywood soundtracks–maybe for another twenty years. But that dream of mine is gone with James Horner. He is now history, ready to be made a composer’s legend.

I’m sure Alex Harwood would agree with this view. Alex was also a film composer who knew Horner well. She said that he was “one of the last of that old school of composers, like John Williams, with proper classical training and unbelievable musical knowledge.”

A report from the Guardian will conclude:

“At the time of his death Horner had three films slated for release in 2015: the boxing drama Southpaw, Annaud’s Wolf Totem, and The 33. But he was not solely concerned with film work. In 2014 he premiered his double concerto for violin and cello in Liverpool, and in March this year he unveiled his concerto for four horns at the South Bank in London.”

Alan Silvestri might have to do for now.

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