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True story.

I walk to the back of a huge warehouse into the confined, fume-filled finishing room. I get the attention of David, the busy man in charge, and ask him my question (it’s about putting glaze on a cabinet door, if you must know). He asks if I have some time to wait, then sprays some noxious finish on my sample door.

I stand around waiting for it to dry. He gets back to his business, pausing only to press play on the portable cd player perched on a shelf beside bottles of stain. The music begins. It’s instrumental, which immediately draws my attention. It’s not country or pop or anyone singing at all. And it’s not classical either, not exactly. I can’t place it -- but I know film music when I hear it. So I ask him what we’re listening to.

Mask of Zorro,” he replies.
I freak out a little, inside at least. If you’re here on this site reading these words, you know how rare it is to hear film music being played anywhere other than your own stereo.

“You listen to a lot of film music?” I ask, trying to draw him out.

“Not really,” he says. “I like this one. It’s by James Horton.” 

I bite my tongue, then, “You listen to a lot of Horner?”

“Nah,” he says, measuring out a custom stain color. “If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all.”

I laugh out loud and actually do a fist jab into the air.

“I have a friend who listens to a lot of this stuff,” he continues, “and I like this one, but all of Horton’s stuff tends to sound the same. He seems to have just one bag of tricks he uses over and over again.”

In my mind, I see all those message board threads, all the back and forth, and I hear the danger motif in my head and I recall my own first experiences with Horner. I actually saw Battle Beyond the Stars in the theater and just loved the score. For a long time I thought that if I could only have that soundtrack album, I’d be happy. When I got it, I laughed with glee at the flubbed notes during Cowboy and the Jackers and thought the opening French horn trills were thrilling and unexpected and my girlfriend, who played French horn, agreed that the score was a lot of fun to hear. I remember getting excited seeing Horner’s name on the Star Trek II poster, and joking with my girlfriend that maybe we’d hear those French horns again. Little did we know…

Back in the warehouse, I eventually asked David if he ever listens to Jerry Goldsmith.

“Never heard of him,” he said. “What did he write?”

I’m pretty sure I now know exactly what the word “aghast” means. Sadly, I was so flummoxed that I couldn’t come up with anything. I eventually coughed out, “Uh, the first Star Trek movie, uh, Patton…” and then all I could think of was The Thirteenth Warrior, which I was currently listening to in my car, and other similarly obscure titles. Mercifully, David interrupted my train of thought.

“No, I don’t really care about that old stuff. Who did National Treasure? That one’s great.”


This happened to me last week.  My purpose in relating it is not to reopen the various Horner self-plagiarism arguments or start a round of bashing Media Ventures or whatever it is they’re calling themselves these days. No, I just wanted to share because even as we think of ourselves as a tiny group of aficionados, as much as we sometimes feel like musical outcasts in a pop culture sea, there are others out there. There are regular folks out there who like one or two scores, and that’s about it. They don’t need to own every Trevor Rabin score. They just like to listen to National Treasure. They have a favorite Horner score and they couldn’t care less about Jerry Goldsmith. And it’s okay. It’s what makes this music so great. It doesn’t always just disappear amidst the wall of sound that most movies have become. Sometimes a score can pop out and grab the attention of someone who normally wouldn’t care less. And that person will seek out that score and it won’t be just the hardcore Rabin completists who buy the cd. Sometimes it’s just a guy who likes what he heard in one single movie.

And next time, maybe he’ll perk up when he sees the composer’s name in the credits. And later, he’ll form some general opinions and maybe, just maybe, one day he’ll stumble across this wonderful little place called Film Score Monthly.

Then we can finally start ramming Goldsmith down his throat… 

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