At age 5, Horner began studying piano and by age 24, he started composing music for film, with almost 160 film credits to his name as a composer, he leaves behind a legacy with his music.
As a tribute, I’m going to share just five of my favourite pieces; it was no easy feat choosing them, which once again highlights the breadth of his talent.
1. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982)
James Horner wrote the music for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982) at the age of 28, he even reworked the classic Star Trek television series opening theme. The entire soundtrack is one of my all time favourites, as the music perfectly captures the mood of the character or the scene. I always feel something, whether that’s adventure, curiosity, wonder, happiness or sadness; who didn’t shed a tear at his flourishing rendition of Amazing Grace?
The Genesis Cave captures a mysterious beauty, we’re discovering new worlds through the music alone, and this leads into one of my favourites The Battle in the Mutara Nebula, which is packed full of excitement as we witness Khan’s theme, who is in command of the Reliant, battle with the main theme, which is representative of Kirk’s Enterprise as the cat and mouse chase ensues. The final third is a real crowd pleaser and helps to propel the action that we’re seeing on screen.
2. Titanic (1997)
Here’s the big one! Horner won his “Best Original Score” Oscar for the work that he did on Titanic (1997), and the complete soundtrack became one of the all-time best sellers. The piece that I have included is “Rose”, which is heard best during the most famous “I’m Flying” scene. The heroism is felt as the music gently builds and then… freedom with Celtic leanings at the beginning and closing of the piece, sparking waves of nostalgia.
3. Aliens (1986)
Horner received the first of ten Oscar nominations for his thrilling work on the Alien (1979) sequel. The main orchestral military style thread is interrupted by sudden and abrupt sounds, conveying a sense of menace and adding to the tension of this science fiction adventure.
4. Braveheart (1995)
Braveheart (1995) was the second of three collaborations that Horner had with director Mel Gibson. He composed and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra to craft the achingly beautiful, Celtic influenced, Oscar-nominated score, which was up for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe awards.
5. An American Tail (1986)
Horner composed a lot of music for children’s films too, some notable mentions for Casper (1995), Batteries Not Included (1987) and The Land Before Time (1989), proving that he really could cater for everyone! I couldn’t resist including this number from An American Tail (1986), which was nominated for “Best Song”, and is just pure magic. This is a wistful piece that is full of heart and innocence, helping to elevate the overall charm of the entire film.
The world became a lot less talented today, rest in peace James Horner (1953-2015).
Which are your favourite scores by James Horner?