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This is a comments thread about Blog Post: Horner, the Mystic? by Kjell Neckebroeck
 Posted:   Aug 24, 2013 - 9:27 AM   
 By:   scorecrave   (Member)

I just finished reading this article for the first time while listening to "Futile Escape" from Aliens.
I have to agree with the author on basically every point. I own nearly every James Horner work ever made available on record, CD and digital and have studied his music, just as the writer has, to the degree in which I see the evolution of motifs, ideas and themes in Horner's music.
For instance, To Gillian on her 37th Birthday features the birth of the fabulous "Rose's Theme" from Titanic. I truly believe, as I even heard Hans Zimmer say once in an interview, that if a composer creates a melody or symphonic palette, they typically like to revisit and improve upon it in other film projects. The desire to fine-tune and perfect themes and colors comes naturally.
I, myself, write music for my own enjoyment (and to hopefully compose for TV or Film one day) and I have a tendency to believe that nearly all, if not all composers are extreme perfectionists. Composers constantly see opportunities for their music, whether they want to or not. A day or two will pass by and I will discover myself humming a piece I was working on approximately a month ago. This revisiting of ideas, as James Horner seems to do, doesn't necessarily mean he is being lazy or just doesn't care, I believe he is truly trying to create the best musical product possible, even if it means a previous work may bleed through. He may also be so in love with a color or idea that he just cannot give it up and continues to present it in continuing scores, until he is satisfied with the end result.
Take the musical idea from The Four Feathers, for example. This theme has cropped up in Avatar, The Karate Kid and more recently, For Greater Glory. In my opinion, he may have thought The Four Feathers did not give him enough opportunity to explore his idea, though he does give it a fair shake (13 minutes to be exact) in the end credits piece "A Coward No Longer". Several years later, he receives the gargantuan project for Avatar. He starts to play some themes on the piano, rediscovers his idea from The Four Feathers, combines it with a little of the heart of "Rose's Theme" and now he has produced yet another one of his evolved themes.
A last minute assignment, The Karate Kid comes along a few years later, possibly without even realizing it, he molds the theme again into something "new", creating the sweeping theme heard in stunning cues such as "From Master to Student to Master" and "Final Contest".
In the film For Greater Glory, Horner digs around his arsenal of ideas and once again comes up with another incarnation of The Four Feathers theme. This time, almost a carbon copy of the original thematic idea. As the article's author mentions, I believe Horner works somewhat like a silent film organ/piano player. Horner has certain motifs, ideas, colors, chord progressions and even themes that he attributes to certain ideals, locales, subject matters and characters, so he uses them when the appropriate occasion arises.
The common thread that I draw from the Four Feathers theme is that every film the theme has been featured in was an underdog story. The Four Feathers, Avatar, The Karate Kid and For Greater Glory all start with a character that by the end of the film, are nearly unrecognizable because of the physical, emotional and spiritual journeys they have taken.
The Four Feathers focuses around a character that was a coward, yet in the end he redeems himself after an incredibly difficult journey to self discovery and realizing his character flaws.
Avatar is about a disabled man that is unwanted, except for his similar DNA to his deceased brother. In the end, he ends up becoming one with an alien people and falling in love after having assisted in the salvation of their planet.
The Karate Kid is about a child that is extremely unhappy about having to move from Detroit to China. He is mistreated and nearly brutally beaten by his peers, until he finds an unlikely friend and mentor who leads him to a martial arts tournament victory, by the end of the film.
For Greater Glory is about a man that takes it upon himself to lead a nation against religious persecution, when in the beginning, he doesn't believe they should fight back.
Every one of these films follows an underdog through the realization of their greater potential; conquering fears, character flaws and physical obstacles to become the victor, in the end.
In summary, I believe that the Four Feathers theme could very well see another incarnation in the future, depending on whether Horner has the opportunity to complete another film assignment that centers on a story involving the thematic material mentioned above.

 Posted:   Aug 25, 2013 - 2:02 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Howdy, scorecrave.

I don't have a great deal of stuff from Horner. I think my collection of his works consists of ST:WOK, Titanic, Braveheart, the original Zorro, Apollo 13 and that's it I believe.

Braveheart tops that list. He got that one absolutely right. The Sons Of Scotland theme is, perhaps, my favourite piece of his. Anyway, thematically the whole score just works for me. It's a pitch perfect effort and I'll always enjoy listening to it. Mystic Horner indeed.

 Posted:   Aug 25, 2013 - 2:12 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

And one more thing. If you look on YouTube for the 'Orbiter' space flight sim derived mini-movies and tributes to Apollo, you will find Horner's theme to Apollo 13 applied just about universally as accompaniment. Soft spot or what! big grin

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