Greetings fellow Nerds and Nerdettes; it is with a very heavy heart that we report that James Horner, film composer, has tragically died in a plane he was piloting. He was 61.
James was a truly gift musician and got his first real break in the low budget science fiction classic “Battle Beyond the Stars.” Fans of the genre will already know that this film is a milestone in science fiction due to the number of now high profile Hollywood A-Listers that worked on it. These included John Sayles, James Cameron and Gayle Ann Hurd.
From this one movie, James was given his next big breakthrough: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan. Director Nicholas Meyer was given the then unenviable task of bringing the sequel to the big budget and, in all honesty, the headscratcher that was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” With a considerably smaller budget, Nicholas gave the job to James Horner for composing and conducting as he was impressed with his work on Battle Beyond the Stars. The result of this gamble has become one the most recognisable and much loved original score motion picture soundtracks of all time!
James stayed with the science fiction throughout the 1980s which included Star Trek III – The Search for Spock, Krull, Brainstorm, Cocoon and Space Raiders (though this was just a re-release of the Battle Beyond the Stars score). However, in 1986, James was hired to write and conduct the score which ended up being done in three weeks! Under tremendous strain (the score had to be heavily edited so that it would fit into the finished film), James delivered one of the most iconic pieces of music in film history… Aliens. Not only was the Aliens score nominated for an Academy Award, samples from it hold the record for the most used pieces of music in movie trailers.
James worked steadily through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, delivering such genre varying scores for films such as The Name of the Rose (one of my personal favourite scores of all time), Willow, Red Heat, An American Tail, Patriot Games and Sneakers to mention but a brief few.
In 1995 he created one of the most lyrical film scores ever with Braveheart. The use of regional instruments gave the film another dimension and in the process earned James another Academy Award nomination. The score also sparked a dance version which in turn became a mega hit.
However, in 1997, James reached mega stardom when having sworn he would never work with James Cameron, he agreed to compose and conduct the score for “Titanic.” The film, which went on to become of the highest grossing movies of all time, finally earned James not just one, but two Academy Awards: Best Score, and Best Original Song for the Celine Dion epic “My Heart Will Go On.” If for no other reason, James will be remembered by fans young and old, and countless wedding invitees who witnessed “The Couple’s First Dance” to this song.
James continued to bring to the silver screen one glorious score after another which included A Beautiful Mind, All The Kings Men, Avatar, and more recently The Amazing Spider-man.
Few film composers have crossed various genres successfully and provided audiences with delight. James Horner was certainly one of the greatest; his music is inspirational and he will be remembered by both fans of movies and classical music for years to come.
You will be greatly missed, James.
James Horner 1953 – 2015