James Horner (1953-2015) - Titanic and Prolific

James Horner - photo In some ways James Horner may be compared to Jerry Goldsmith, sharing his ability to turn his hand to many different types of film with relative ease, and of course they share an association with the Star Trek franchise having both penned more than one Trek movie. Whereas Goldsmith studied in the US, Horner studied at the Royal College of Music in London before moving to Hollywood, which has kept him in steady employment ever since.

James Horner - Legends of the Fall soundstrack CD cover Horner's scores seem to belong a number of different categories. There are the science fiction movies like these Star Trek ones for which "Battle beyond the Stars" was a warm-up. There are a number of children's or family films where Horner's sweet and sentimental mode is to the fore such as the dinosaur cartoons "Land before Time". Some of these family movies also tread into sci-fi or fantasy territory for example with "Casper", "Batteries not Included" or "Cocoon". These latter two movies display a talent for Glen Miller style themes to represent the older generation. One mustn't forget his comic book venture in the form of "The Rocketeer" with its soaring theme. Then there are the action movies, and a few which display a leaning towards a Celtic tradition including "Legends of the Fall", "Braveheart" and Titanic. In "Legends of the Fall" the theme is similar to that used by Alex North in Cheyenne Autumn. In Horner's hands the extended Celtic themes bring a sense of home and family, despite the events which break them apart. In this film the characters' ancestral origins are not Ireland but Celtic Cornwall.

James Horner - The Rocketeer soundstrack CD cover It has to be said that Horner is not averse to borrowing ideas from other composers such as the music from Kachaturian's ballet Gayaneh, first used to represent the loneliness of deep space in Kubrick's 2001. Horner has used this music on several films and on his recent score to Troy, the Achilles heroic theme is taken from Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. Nevertheless, Horner is clearly a capable tunesmith who can deliver scores for any occasion, and his popularity is assured with the blackbuster successes of The Titanic and Avatar. Many of his main themes have a kind of homely feel to them, whether it's the gentle family tunes or those with a Celtic flavour. His real skill is in building excitement and tension into enormous climaxes.

James Horner - The Music of James Horner soundtrack double-CD cover Although he is still frequently scoring action movies, with "Apocalypto" being one recent example, Horner seems very much at home in recent years also with character driven movies. Stories like "A Beautiful Mind" and "Iris" have allowed his lyrical talents to display great freedom of expression, and it is easy to imagine film makers coming back for more of this caliber. While "Avatar" was good but functional, Horner's take on the "Karate Kid" story is delightful - a traditional and instantly likeable soundtrack, and it also has much of that lyrical quality. A new double-album called "The Music of James Horner" celebrates 3 decades of the composer's career from those recent scores "The Karate Kid" and "Avatar" through many highly-regarded scores to his earliest successes with "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" and "Battle Beyond The Stars" in 1980. The double-album can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

It seems that superhero films get rebooted with amazing regularity these days and "The Amazing Spider-Man" is no exception. With James Horner as the composer rather than Danny Elfman, it seems as though the filmmakers are taking an old-school approach. Although we've only heard small samples so far, the music does indeed sound refreshingly old-school and the soundtrack album is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

It is with deep sadness that we report the death of James Horner in a tragic accident at age of 61. With a heavy heart we publish a James Horner Obituary containing a retrospective of his career. Among several films scored by Horner and released this year is Wolf Totem whose score exemplifies those musical qualities for which he will be remembered. 2016 sees the release of The Magnificent Seven which was sketched out by Horner before his death, and then completed posthumously by Simon Franglen.

Films by James Horner

    James Horner - The Missing soundtrack CD cover
  • The Lady in Red
  • Battle Beyond the Stars - warming up for Star Trek
  • Wolfen
  • 48 hours 1, 2 ("another") - there's a lot of tracks with a jazz, blues or beat influence but it's not clear how many of these are Horner's
  • Star Trek 2, 3 - re-using some thematic material across the two related films
  • Something Wicked this Way Comes
  • The Dresser
  • Gorky Park
  • Uncommon Valor - great action score
  • Krull - an exciting fantasy adventure score, here's a suite on YouTube
  • James Horner - Apollo 13 soundtrack CD cover
  • The Journey of Natty Gann
  • Commando
  • Cocoon 1, 2 - an enjoyable score, and using some music by Lionel Newman
  • Aliens - note the Khachaturian bit
  • Clear and Present Danger - Khachaturian again
  • An American Tail 1,2 - Horner co-wrote the song for No.1
  • Red Heat
  • The Name of the Rose
  • * Batteries Not Included - another fun score
  • The Land before Time - and many sequels
  • Willow - there's a lot of music in this movie, an heroic theme tune (heard in a Kinder surprise advert on UK TV), a quieter homely theme, and much variety to match the settings and events in this fantasy tale
  • Legends of the Fall - some homely Celtic themes
  • Field of Dreams - an ethereal dreamy but magical score
  • Glory - notable for its Carmina Burana soundalike track "Charging Fort Wagner"
  • Honey, I shrunk the Kids - he's good at these fun movies
  • The Rocketeer - an exciting soaring theme tune
  • The Man without a Face
  • Jack the Bear
  • Hocus Pocus - the soundtrack song "Sarah's Theme" on this film scored by John Debney
  • Patriot Games - the Khachaturian style music mixed with a shade of Shostakovich is very effective in the desert infrared sequence. This film also featured the theme from "Harry's Game" by Celtic group Clannad
  • Clear and Present Danger
  • The Pelican Brief - low-key compared with some James Horner, but a very effective use of sound and music in a suspense score
  • James Horner - Titanic soundtrack CD cover
  • Jumanji
  • Balto
  • Pagemaster
  • Casper - during a "fencing" scene (with plunger and umbrellas) Horner does a nice little pastiche of Korngold's Swashbuckler style of music
  • Class Action
  • Ransom
  • Courage under Fire
  • Braveheart - with its Celtic passions
  • Apollo 13 - with a "last post" bugle-type tune
  • Titanic - some similarities to the work of Enya, but an effective track as the ship sets out to see depicting its slow acceleration and the hustle and bustle of the crew
  • Deep Impact
  • Sneakers
  • The Mask of Zorro - bits similar to Aliens and much Spanish guitar-led music (including a malagueña and much clapping and stamping) following in the Zorro footsteps of Alfred Newman
  • A Perfect Storm - yet more trouble at sea!
  • Bicentennial Man - suitably sentimental music for this adaptation of the Isaac Asimov story
  • A Beautiful Mind - nominated for many oscars included best Original Score for Horner, main song sung beautifully by Charlotte Church
  • Iris - a moving story which flits backwards and forwards between past and present, the CD tracks simply named Part1 to Part8 and featuring Joshua Bell on violin
  • Windtalkers - war movie where the Navaho language is used as a code
  • The Missing - the Western again pairs Horner with director Ron Howard
  • House of Sand and Fog
  • How the Grinch stole Christmas - Jim Carrey plays the Dr. Seuss character
  • Enemy at the Gates
  • Troy - on which Horner replaced Gabriel Yared who had worked on the score for a year!
  • Radio - though nicely done, Horner's music takes a back seat to the source tracks on Radio's radio
  • All the King's Men - the film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren
  • Apocalypto - sees Horner reunited with Mel Gibson, the music is earthy and ethnic - mostly drums and wooden flutes
  • James Horner - The Amazing Spider-man soundtrack CD cover
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - nicely scored from the child's perspective, the music is homely and innocent until the last few scenes
  • Avatar - an effective score which complements the stunning 3D visuals - the score sounds not so much alien, but more ethnic with its voices and drums sounds
  • Karate Kid - first impressions suggest Horner's score may find as many fans as the original by Bill Conti
  • Black Gold
  • For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada
  • The Amazing Spider-Man - a re-boot of the spider-man story with Horner providing old-school melodic music
  • Southpaw
  • Wolf Totem - a classic James Horner score released in the year of his premature passing
  • The Magnificent Seven - the composer's final film score, completed by Simon Franglen

TV Music by James Horner

  • Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer - TV Movie
  • Fish Police - theme
  • CBS Evening News with Katie Couric - Horner's theme music was used for the news slot for several years

James Horner - CD Recommendations:

Many soundtracks are available on CD including Braveheart, Apollo 13, and Titanic and there are many inclusions on compilation albums including some dedicated to the Start Trek music. Here are some specific soundtrack recommendations which we think you'll enjoy:

James Horner - Sheet Music Recommendations:

Sheet music for piano and other instruments exists covering "The Titanic" including the popular title song. See also "The definitive James Horner collection" which has a good selection from Horner's popular scores.

James Horner - Memorabilia:

Here are some CD covers signed by James Horner. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.

James Horner: Balto - signed CD James Horner: Glory - signed CD James Horner: Krull - signed CD James Horner: Legends of the Fall - signed CD James Horner: The Journey of Natty Gann - signed CD James Horner: The Man Without a Face - signed CD