The news of James Horner’s death has hit me harder than I ever saw coming. It was his music that inspired me to want to pursue a career in film scoring. Not John William’s music as so many other composers say. I love John William’s of course, but for me, it was James Horner. As a young Junior High school kid my three favorite scores were Willow, Krull and The Rocketeer. At the time…I did not even really pay attention to who scored them. But one day I paid special attention to the composer and it was James Horner. I instantly thought…I must like his music. I began collecting everything I could get my hands on from his catalogue of work on any media bootleg or not. I had to have it. I studied it. It was all I would listen to. I found hard to find recordings. Captain EO’s score from the Disneyland attraction…Battle Beyond The Stars…anything and everything. He essentially scored my childhood. I hear his themes today and they instantly take me back to a time when movies still had that Hollywood magic.
In the Fall of 2009, I was invited by a friend of mine who worked for James to attend the Avatar orchestral scoring sessions at the 20th Century Fox Scoring stage. Seeing Horner take command of the podium was nothing other than masterful. The musicians loved playing for him...you could see it, hear it and feel it. He used mostly the same musicians on every score he recorded in Los Angeles over his entered career. Being there hearing Avatar come to life through its music is an experience I will never forget.
Ironically, some of Horner's best cues were attributed to his musical interpretations of flying. Last year he had the world premiere of a concert work performed by the Pacific Symphony here in SoCal that was taken from a piece of music he composed for the Flying Horseman Aerial Acrobatics team. He scored their live stunt plane show. It made sense. He was a pilot as well. He loved to fly. So writing music for them was scoring an experience that only the few who fly can truly understand. But his music evokes the sensation of flying perfectly. It is a tragic bit of irony that his death was from piloting his plane. He loved to fly. He understood it so well. He tried to leave with us that feeling though his music. The video linked here below is so hard to watch now but you should take 7 minutes and watch it. It is such an appropriate glimpse into his love for flying and his amazing music and so ever ironic given these events.
I will miss not being able to hear anything new from you James. But your gift of music to us will live on forever. You inspired me more than you will ever know. And there is not a melody or theme that I write that will not have been influenced by your work. It is part of the fabric of what I hear in my head. And for that I am forever grateful. May you rest in peace and may your soul take flight.
To further understand what a fundamental loss this is to both Hollywood and the world in general, please take time to watch this video as well. It is a compilation of a small sampling of just some of the beautiful and memorable music and themes James Horner wrote over the incredible course of his career.