I so love movies! My idea of a perfect day would involve watching one favorite flick after another without a care in the world, no laundry, no bills to pay, no cooking, no worries whatsoever. I suppose that it is not at all surprising that my granddaughter has been completely taken by the prospect of working in the film industry. She comes by her love of movies naturally. I suspect that it is in her DNA. At this juncture in her young life she is mostly fascinated by the art of learning about all aspects of the trade. Landing a starring role is secondary to her love of the process. She is just as happy with working all week long on a set only to be featured for a split second as she would be if she were one of the major characters. She so enjoys watching the anatomy of a presentation unfold and she imagines herself one day working as a production designer, a career that would use her creative and artistic abilities quite well. She has already done a research project on the job and knows which universities in the United States offer the best educational programs for learning more about the filmmaking trade. As of now she is most interested in one day attending NYU or Northwestern University but I suppose that in the next seven years there will be many changes in who she is and what she wants to eventually do with her life. In the meantime she is having great fun learning about all of the facets of movie making.
Most people get up hurriedly when the final credits of a movie begin to roll. They are anxious to move on to their cars and the next big event, but I have always liked to tarry a while long after the theater has become almost empty. That is when some of the best music of the film occurs and I have long thought that it is in those intricately orchestrated melodies that the true heart of a great movie may be found. I am a soundtrack junkie. I have a huge collection of my favorite pieces and an inordinate number of them come from James Horner, composer extraordinaire. I’ve often wondered if my favorite movies have more to do with the music in them and less with the actual story. Abby would probably chide me and insist that a true classic film incorporates thousands of tiny details and hundreds of workers all contributing to a final product that transports us to worlds that take our breaths away. Still, it is the music that pulls at my emotions the most and James Horner has been responsible for some of the very best.
Long ago I had a student at South Houston whose all time favorite movie was Glory. He boasted that he had watched it well over thirty times. He was obsessed with the story and the pathos of the film. He and I discussed it often because it was also one of my all time favorites and it remains on my “best of “ list. I fell in love with Denzel Washington when I first viewed it and I knew that he would earn an Academy Award for his performance. Almost as good as the acting and the screen play was the music. To this very day I can’t watch the ending without responding to the emotional crescendo of the soundtrack created by James Horner. I always end up ruining my makeup when I cry like a baby. I’m not so sure that I would react as much without those incredible orchestrations although that tear running down Denzel’s face after he has been flogged gets me every single time.
Of course everyone is more than familiar with the music that earned an Academy Award for James Horner, Titanic. The soundtrack is as iconic as the story of love and tragedy. It is masterful in creating a mood from one scene to the next so flawlessly that we hardly notice that it is there and yet it is burrowing into our hearts. I particularly love the way there is a steady beat like a telegraph signal sending an SOS as the ship fills with water and the terrified passengers seek safety in the limited number of lifeboats. The music itself becomes a messenger of irony, metaphor, and personification.
James Horner was one of the most beloved and prolific composers of movie soundtracks in Hollywood, especially in the nineteen eighties which I often think of as the golden years for film. Field of Dreams is another of those movies that I am willing to watch over and over again. The music is as haunting and enchanting as the script. It’s difficult to imagine the movie being as wonderful without the amazing sounds in which Mr. Horner captured the spirit and the theme of baseball, relationships between fathers and sons, and the American Midwest.
The catalog of music from James Horner is extraordinary. He was the man who increased our fright in Aliens. He built a new world in our minds in all of the Avatar movies. We thrilled to the glory of struggles for freedom in Braveheart. What would we have been missing in A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, An American Tail, Legends of the Fall, Star Trek, Patriot Games, House of Sand and Fog, Enemy at the Gates, Cocoon, and so many more were it not for his beautiful sounds? His contributions to film number in the hundreds and somehow he was able to find just the right notes for each scene of every movie for which he provided music.
Soundtracks tend to be humble by nature in that the best ones almost recede into the background unconsciously providing us with subliminal messages regarding the plot and the climaxes. Sometimes we hardly notice how wonderful the compositions truly are until we remove them from the distractions of the acting, the scenery, and the story. James Horner has been one of the most masterful and sought after composers in Hollywood and the list awards for his music is as long as his contributions to the world of movies.
James Horner was the son of immigrants from Czechoslovakia which makes him somewhat of a kindred spirit to me. He was only sixty one years old and tragically like so many of the films that he made so great his story is one of a genius who died far too soon. I suspect that there was still a great deal of magic left in Mr. Horner, pieces that we will never get to hear. He died today in a plane crash and all of us will miss him and his great talent whether we realize it or not.
When the theater goes dark and the first strains of music signal the beginning of a grand drama it will be someone else whose poetry of notes fills our heads with the sounds of make believe. James Horner has walked into the field of dreams where all of the greats live on for eternity. Every time one of us revisits one of the films to which he contributed we will fall under the spell of his mastery and we will remember his greatness.
Rest in peace, Mr. Horner. You have given me and countless others so much so for so many years. We will miss you but we are certain that you are now conducting choirs of angels. Thank you for sharing your brilliance with us and the lovely sounds of your music. Near, far, wherever you are I believe that your heart will go on.