James Roy Horner (August 14, 1953 – June 22, 2015) was an American composer, conductor and orchestrator of film music. He was known for the integration of choral and electronic elements in many of his film scores, and for frequent use of Celtic musical elements.
Horner was an accomplished concert hall composer before he moved into writing film scores. His first major film score was for the 1979 film The Lady in Red, but did not establish himself as a mainstream composer until he worked on the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Horner's score for Titanic is the best selling orchestral film soundtrack of all time while Titanic and Avatar, both directed by James Cameron, are the two highest-grossing films of all time. He has also collaborated multiple times with directors Jean-Jacques Annaud, Mel Gibson, Walter Hill, Ron Howard and Joe Johnston. Horner composed music for over 100 films, and won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, three Satellite Awards, three Saturn Awards, and was nominated for three British Academy Film Awards.
Horner was an avid pilot, and died in a single-fatality crash of his personal turboprop aircraft at the age of 61.
Horner was born in Los Angeles in 1953, the son of Joan Ruth (Frankel) and Harry Horner. His father was a set designer and occasional art-director, who was born in Holíč, Czechoslovakia, and moved to the United States in 1935. He had a brother, Christopher, who is a writer and documentary film maker.
Horner started playing piano at the age of five. His early years were spent in London, where he attended the Royal College of Music. He subsequently attended Verde Valley High School in Sedona, Arizona. He received his bachelor's degree in music from the University of Southern California. After he earned a master's degree he started working on his doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied with Paul Chihara, among others. After several scoring assignments with the American Film Institute in the 1970s, he finished teaching a course in music theory at UCLA and turned to film scoring.
Horner was also an avid pilot.
One of Horner's first major film scores was for the 1979 film The Lady in Red. He began his career scoring films by working for B film director and producer Roger Corman. His first composer credit was for Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars. His works steadily gained notice in Hollywood, which led him to take on larger projects. Horner made a breakthrough in 1982, when he had the chance to score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, establishing himself as a mainstream composer. The film's director Nicholas Meyer famously quipped that Horner had been hired because the studio couldn't afford to use the first film's composer Jerry Goldsmith again, but by the time Meyer returned to the franchise with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the director found that he couldn't afford Horner either.
Horner continued composing music for high-profile releases during the 1980s, including 48 Hrs. (1982), Krull (1983), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Commando (1985), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986), *batteries not included (1987), Willow (1988), Glory and Field of Dreams (both 1989).
Aliens earned Horner his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score in 1987, at the 59th Academy Awards. "Somewhere Out There", which he co-composed for An American Tail, was also nominated that year for Best Original Song. He would go on to be nominated 10 times in total.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s and the 2000s, Horner also wrote orchestral scores for children's films (particularly those produced by Amblin Entertainment), with credits for An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), The Rocketeer and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), Once Upon a Forest and We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (all in 1993), The Pagemaster (1994), and Casper, Jumanji, and Balto (all from 1995) and Mighty Joe Young (1998) and How the Grinch stole Christmas (2000).
1995 saw Horner produce no fewer than six scores, including his commercially successful and critically acclaimed works for Braveheart and Apollo 13, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations. Horner's greatest financial and critical success would come with the score to the 1997 film Titanic. The album became the best-selling primarily orchestral soundtrack in history, selling over 27 million copies worldwide.
At the 70th Academy Awards, Horner won Oscars for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for "My Heart Will Go On" (which he co-wrote with Will Jennings). In addition, Horner and Jennings won three Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for the soundtrack and My Heart Will Go On. Titanic also marked the first time in ten years that Horner worked with director James Cameron (following the highly stressful scoring sessions for Aliens, Horner declared that he would never work with Cameron again and described the experience as "a nightmare").
Since Titanic, Horner continued to score for major productions (including The Perfect Storm, A Beautiful Mind, Enemy At The Gates, The Mask of Zorro, The Legend of Zorro, House of Sand and Fog and Bicentennial Man). Aside from scoring major productions, Horner periodically worked on smaller projects such as Iris, Radio and Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius. He received his eighth and ninth Academy Award nominations for A Beautiful Mind (2001) and House of Sand and Fog (2003), but lost on both occasions to Howard Shore. He frequently collaborated with film director Ron Howard, a partnership that began with Cocoon in 1985.
Horner composed the 2006–2011 theme music for the CBS Evening News. The theme was introduced as part of the debut of Katie Couric as anchor on September 5, 2006.
Horner recollaborated with James Cameron on the 2009 film Avatar, which was released in December 2009 and has since become the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Titanic (also directed by Cameron and scored by Horner). Horner spent over two years working on the score for Avatar, and did not take on any other projects during that time. His work on Avatar earned him numerous award nominations, including his tenth Academy Award nomination as well as Golden Globe Award, British Academy Film Award, and Grammy Award nominations, all of which he lost to Michael Giacchino for Up.
Regarding the experience of scoring Avatar, Horner said, "Avatar has been the most difficult film I have worked on and the biggest job I have undertaken... I work from four in the morning to about ten at night and that’s been my way of life since March. That's the world I'm in now and it makes you feel estranged from everything. I'll have to recover from that and get my head out of Avatar."
Horner also composed the score for the 2010 version of The Karate Kid, replacing Atli Örvarsson. This film—the first that Horner worked on after Avatar—was released in 2010. In 2011, Horner scored Cristiada (aka For Greater Glory) which was released a year later and Black Gold. In 2012 Horner scored The Amazing Spider-Man, which starred Andrew Garfield and premiered on July 3. In a recent interview on his website, Horner revealed why he didn't return to compose the second movie; that he didn't like how the movie resulted in comparison to the first movie, and even called the movie "dreadful." Upon his departure, he was replaced by Hans Zimmer.
At the beginning of 2015, Horner wrote the music for Jean-Jacques Annaud's adventure film Wolf Totem, which marked his fourth collaboration with Annaud and also Horner's first film score in nearly three years.
At the time of his death in 2015, projects to which Horner was attached included the forthcoming film The 33 for director Patricia Riggen, and Southpaw, a sports drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams. Both films are slated for release later in 2015.
Horner's scores have been sampled in trailers for other films. The climax of the track Bishop's Countdown from his score for Aliens ranks fifth in the most commonly used soundtrack cues for film trailers.Orchestral work
In 2014, Horner composed the commission piece Pas de Deux, a Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, which was premiered on November 12, 2014, by Mari and Hakon Samuelsen with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko. The work was commissioned to mark the 175th season of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Horner also composed Collage, a Concerto for Four Horns, which premiered on March 27, 2015, at the Royal Festival Hall in London by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jaime Martin, with David Pyatt, John Ryan, James Thatcher and Richard Watkins as soloists.
Many of James Horner's works incorporate passages from his earlier compositions, and feature brief excerpts or rework themes from other classical composers. For example, his scores from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock include excerpts from Alexander Nevsky and Romeo and Juliet, both by Prokofiev, while the heroic theme from Willow is based on that of Robert Schumann's Rhenish Symphony. The climactic battle scene in Glory includes excerpts from Wagner and Orff.
Although "musical borrowing" has been commonplace since the Middle Ages, and was practiced by composers such as George Frideric Handel, who borrowed extensively from composers such as Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti and Georg Philipp Telemann, a frequent criticism of Horner has been that his tendency to borrow passages from other composers as well as his own earlier work makes his compositions inauthentic or unoriginal.
On June 22, 2015, Horner was killed at the age of 61 when his Embraer EMB 312 Tucano turboprop aircraft crashed into the Los Padres National Forest in southern California. Horner was the sole occupant of the aircraft. Though the fallen pilot was not immediately identified, Horner's attorney said, "we know it's his plane, and we know we haven't heard from him." Variety later confirmed Horner's death. His assistant wrote on her Facebook feed, "We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent [who] died doing what he loved."
Source: wikipedia.org, news.lv