FOND MEMORIES - EPISODE 2: 1978 - FINDING A NEW LOVE: FILM MUSIC
1978 – FINDING A NEW LOVE: FILM MUSIC
“It was never my intention to go into film music. I was going to be a composer, that was my calling.” 1
“I was studying music and my plan was basically to write serious avant garde classical music per se and exist in the world of grants and commissions. For this you really need a power base of being in a University, being a professor. 2
“I was having a piece performed and in attendance was the director of the American Film Institute and he asked if I had ever done a movie before… I said “Sure, I’ll give it a try.”” 3
Arguably, the piece James Horner refers to is not Spectral Shimmers, which was performed only once, in January 1979, and that was after the AFI scores.
“There was no money. They could hardly pay the musicians. I was destitute. And I didn’t have any training in film technique. I sort of jumped in and learned the job. I lied my way in at the beginning. Said I knew more than I did. I was too embarrassed to say that I didn’t know”. 4
“I was asked to do an AFI film, The Drought. I said what the hell. I fell in love with the film, like a stroke of lightning. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do—write film music.” 5
“Once I had written my first piece against picture, I sort of fell in love with it. It was like lightning hit me. I found that I could write anything I wanted to write and there wouldn’t be a label attached to it. I was no longer considered conservative, I was no longer considered avant-garde or anything in between.” 3
“That was my second lightning moment: when I realised my compositions could change depending on the material I was writing for : horror films, westerns, space movies and love stories all require very different types of composition, and I became enamoured by the storytelling ability of music when it was married to picture.” 6
“So I turned my back on academia and that world all together, I just had a change of heart completely after spending my whole life in conservatories and turned my attentions to film music.” 2
“Nowhere else do you get the opportunity to write something, and four weeks later stand in front of the best players in the city and hear your work. It's the best learning experience in the world.” 8
“When I left academia, and left school, and started writing for film, I thought I’d found a new media for myself because I thought going into a dark hall and just listening to Strauss or Bruckner or Mahler being played–for younger audiences, that wasn't a world that was going to work for me anymore. What younger audiences were interested in was going into a mixed media world where there would be dance and music, or film and music, and that's what really drew me into film music, that it was mixed media.” 1
“I did about seven or eight AFI films, and a bunch of student films, and gradually I went to low-budget independent films, and slightly higher-budgeted independent films. Then I worked for Roger Corman.” 8
4 – Titanic! Howard Lucraft talks to the composer James Horner about his musical career in 1998 – Source: Jazz Professional
7 – Interview with James Horner by Didier Leprêtre, Dreams to Dream … 's 1998
8 – CinemaScore, issue # 11/12, 1983; interview by Randall D. Larson
9 – The Master out of his Cocoon by Didier Leprêtre, Dreams to Dream … 's.
Royce Hall (UCLA): By Alton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Thank you very much for these two pieces on how James got started….things we would now never get to know if not for your great articles. A lovely gift for the new year. Very best wishes and may you all continue your good work in James’s honour. Thank you. Pamela.
Thank you so much for your articles on how he got his love for film music. I am going to study film composition like him. I know I’m not close to him but It does hurt me when his music doesn’t come out. I know that musicians everywhere, instrumental or otherwise will miss his music. He changed the perspective on films for everyone. Thanks Zoey
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