FOND MEMORIES - EPISODE 1: 1953-1978 - A MUSICAL EDUCATION
1953-1978 – A MUSICAL EDUCATION
"I had been playing the piano since the age of four and I decided at the age of 10 or 11 that I wanted to be a composer. I remember distinctly when that moment happened: I was listening, at school (ed. note: probably the Holland Park School in London), to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony. I already knew the piece, but for some reason it just really struck me as especially stunning that day. When I went home I listened to it again, maybe 20 times, and that was the day I decided I wanted to compose." 1
"My musical abilities prompted my father to enroll me in an undergraduate class at the Royal College of Music in London, where we were living. I was very intimidated by the idea of entering this venerable institution. When I saw that the alumni list on the brochure included Benjamin Britten, Colin Davis, Gustav Holst and John Ireland, I wondered if I would ever be able to walk in their footsteps. But the warm and creative environment quickly dispelled my doubts. I ended up totally immersed in the surroundings and discovered a taste for composition and conducting." 2
"I was going to college at the Royal College of Music and I was studying what everybody studies in college: Bach… I was completely, in my own head, in a different place. I was writing requiem masses and I was thinking of arias and different worlds… I left college after my 2nd year." 3
"I took time off and I went to Hamburg and studied with György Ligeti. We didn’t study so much his music,but we studied Renaissance music (ed. note: Thomas Tallis) which was a love of mine in college and a love of his, and if you study Lux Aeterna or his requiem or a lot of the Ligeti pieces, they are put together in a way that I very much admired. In a very traditional way it ends up sounding very atonal. When we first heard Lux Aeterna in 2001, when you first heard these pieces, they were considered as avant-garde in those days; but, really, they were put together like Renaissance pieces and his voicing was very similar. I was intrigued by that and I did study with him. I was also interested in studying Benjamin Britten. I had all these weird things that I liked, Prokofiev… None of the stuff was particularly taught in college, it was just the particular interests that I had." 3
"I returned to California to get a teaching job and work on my doctorate." 4
"I thought if I could land a job teaching in the United States, it would be easier to be granted scholarships, subsidies and funds to have my work performed." 5
"And even having grown up in England, I felt it was more pragmatic to get an American degree; things were bleak academically in the UK, and so I got American post-graduate degrees." 6
"I attended school during the last gasp of modernism. The focus was avant-garde 20th-century music, from Arnold Schoenberg to such then-leading lights as Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, and Witold Lutosławski. Post-Romantic music was considered hopelessly tacky. No one studied Richard Strauss. But I remember Jamie walking around with Strauss’s Alpine Symphony score under his arm. He was smarter than everyone else." 7
"I worked very, very hard on that piece and I worked very hard on pushing it around, sending it to all kinds of people, working very hard to finally find and orchestra to play it and a place to perform it. I went to Indianapolis and pushed them very hard to get rehearsal time and after all that work they perform it for one evening, and you say, "Now what?" It gave me such a feeling of having had an impact only on the immediate four hundred people in the audience. It was very well received but it didn't have any impact – I couldn't get another performance. It was too expensive because it was a big orchestra piece, and it's a modern piece and there were a lot of things that were going against writing modern pieces." 8
"The almost empty hall shook my faith in contemporary music and its impact on the public. That's when I was asked to write music for a student film." 2
1 – Titanic Live – Souvenir Programme – Pierre O'Reilly – Avex Classics International Production, page 48
3 – International Film Music Symposium – October 2, 2013
7 – James Horner, 1953-2015 – Tonefiend.com
Thank you so much for Fond Memories#7, which has made me return to #1 today. Very interesting information as to the musician he became. I did forget that he studied for a while in Hamburg, amazing as our son himself worked and lived there for five years and, because of this, a city we love to revisit. It is a beautiful place, and now I can imagine James being there in his younger formative years, alongside his tutor who obviously taught him so much. I shall now re-read #2-6. Thank you very much to all who contributed. It makes me feel James is still with us. Pamela.
I was at Holland Park School with James Horner and had the honour of playing next to him in the school Orchestra. He played the side drum and was much admired for his drumming and good looks. He had many fans even at the age of 14 or so. A wonderful gentle person.
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