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  • Stefan Riedlinger

James Horner dead!

This week, I wanted to discuss the soundtrack of “Jurassic World”, but this shocking news changed my mind:

“James Horner, the consummate film composer known for his heart-tugging scores for Field of Dreams, Braveheart and Titanic, for which he won two Academy Awards, died Monday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara. He was 61. His death was confirmed by Sylvia Patrycja, who is identified on Horner's film music page as his assistant. "We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent," Patrycja wrote on Facebook on Monday. "He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road."

I was leaving my office in Mountain View when I saw a post from Intrada about the crash. At this moment, we all did not know what really happened, but a few hours later the death of Horner was announced.

James Horner was a great film music composer, without any doubt one of the most talented people who ever composed music for films. On my website, I already discussed some of his work, and I will continue to do this, Horner composed over 130 soundtracks and a lot of them a true masterpieces!

I was not always happy with Horners’ way of composing because of his attitude to steal from himself and especially from classical composers. Therefore, a frequent criticism has been this “musical borrowing”. Film music can be an homage to classical music; and why not using classical music as inspiration to create your own work?

John Williams did this with “Star Wars” that reminds us of Richard Wagner. Jerry Goldsmith composed a lot of his music in a style that is similar to Bela Bartok or Igor Stravinsky, and Bill Conti was highly influenced by Gustav Holts “The Planet” when he composed his Academy Award winning score for “The Right Stuff”, but Horner copied a lot from classical works, especially Sergej Prokofiev and Aram Chatschaturjan, and did not mention this on his scores, so people think that this music was his own original work.

In the last years, Horner also seems to become a bit lazy when composing music. Some of my friends told me they just have to buy “Braveheart”, “Titanic” and “A Beautiful Mind”, and they have all Horner soundtracks together.

That is not true. Horner created a lot of wonderful music that was original. Goldsmith, Williams and especially Zimmer are composing in their very own similar way, so why not accepting Horner’s way of composing music as his own? The reason could be that Horner really copied music one by one from one soundtrack to another, and that gave him a bad reputation in the last years.

Anyway: Never speak ill about the dead. James Horner will be truly missed; his ability to create beautiful melodies for intimate moments, his sense of drama and his talent to use the symphonic orchestra in all its richness were marvelous. Horner’s music will live forever, and all music fans will remember him as one of the most talented composers in the amazing world of movie music.

My first idea was to talk about one of my favorite soundtracks here, but I think let’s celebrate Horner with examples of three of his most enjoyable scores. Rest In Peace James, and greetings to Jerry!

The Mask of Zorro - “Plaza of Execution”:

An American Tail - “Flying Away and End Credits”:

Avatar - “War”:

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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