"It's logical" is a series of articles about the logical construction, the coherence, the visual, narrative, symbolic and emotional dimensions of the many and significant allusions and quotes that James Horner always peppered his work with.
SNEAKERS, APOLLO 13, ALL THE KING'S MEN
Beyond the colors of the piano, Sally Stevens and Darlene Koldenhoven’s ethereal vocals and Branford Marsalis’s warm saxophone, Sneakers (1992) features a mysterious and captivating theme. All of its statements accompany interactions between the movie’s two antagonists, Bishop (Robert Redford) and Cosmo (Ben Kinsley).
This theme first appears in a particularly high-speed statement four seconds into the Main Title, where it returns twice (at 1:22 and 1:35). Horner presents it as a signature, a jingle of sorts, covering the characters’ backstory. Speaking to the bond between Bishop and Cosmo, this theme goes right to the heart of the intrigue. The story within the story is about two friends, two computer nerds who once had the same ideals but eventually drift apart and become enemies.
In the late sixties, Cosmo and Bishop (whose real name is Martin Brice) infiltrate the computer network of the US Republican Party. When Martin goes out for pizza, the cops bust in and Cosmo ends up in jail, where he allegedly dies. Left with a life on the run, Martin changes his name to Bishop to avoid prosecution.
Logically, twenty years later, when Cosmo resurfaces to the surprise of all, the reunion with Bishop feels like a surreal breach of time. In Cosmo … Old Friend, the theme sheds the youthful vigor of the Main Title and takes on a languid pace which now reveals the inspiration, Horner in fact drawing from one of the most famous pieces of Arvo Pärt: Fratres.
By tapping into the colors, the rhythms and the melodic nature of this theme, which dates back to 1977, James Horner refers both to its title, the Latin word for Brothers, and the minimalist approach taken by the famous Estonian composer.
The title Fratres is a reference to the deep friendship between the musicians of Hortus Musicus, a group of strings, winds and percussion players responsible for the first performance of the piece. Other sources suggest that the title is a tribute to Benjamin Britten, whom Arvo Pärt came to admire shortly before the British composer’s passing in 1976.
Whatever the origin, there’s a strong notion of brotherhood here: the link that binds the band’s musicians or the musical affiliation between Pärt and Britten. It seems fitting that James Horner should take a page from Fratres to underscore the relationship between Bishop and Cosmo, who were once friends and almost brothers.
Cosmo…Old Friend – Sneakers – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
Moreover, the minimalism running through Cosmo…Old Friend is perhaps motivated by James Horner’s desire to emulate the mystical dimension of Arvo Pärt’s piece, and in doing so, bring a timeless and enigmatic quality to the two antagonists’ reunion.
During the first five minutes of Cosmo…Old Friend, the composer does not stray from these eerie tones, the music weaving in and out of notable silences that are built into the cue, as if time was endlessly stretched. Orchestrated for triangle and strings, the theme is unique in the way it favors repetition and permutation.
This nod to Arvo Pärt’s piece gives Cosmo’s speech and ideas a mysterious and disturbing aura, offset by the muffled sounds of the saxophone, referring to the values put forward by Bishop, who makes a futile attempt to connect with his old friend.
This strangely seductive musical color along with Ben Kinsley’s vaguely alluring yet destructive vision of capitalism and democracy, makes the Cosmo character utterly fascinating; despite his limited screen time, Cosmo’s shadow hangs over the entire film.
When at last the theme unfolds (4:58), it reveals Cosmo as a true radicalist, who is hell-bent on abolishing the concept of private property, doing away with banks and disrupting the financial markets, everything that leaves society and politics deeply corrupted.
At this point, the music sheds its minimalism to underscore Cosmo’s longing for utopian change. Later in the film, the material returns when Cosmo’s obsession leads him to shoot in Bishop’s direction for not handing over the universal code breaker Cosmo so desperately needs.
On the album, the last brief appearance of the theme in the second half of Goodbyes (from 2:00) underscores the last lines exchanged between the two former friends. The final and cathartic release (2:48) symbolizes Bishop’s victory.
Three years later, Horner revisited the theme in two scenes from Apollo 13 (1995).
First, it accompanies the three astronauts as they pass behind the dark side of the moon. From the beginning of mankind, the moon has always been a source of myths and mysteries. Shortly after the start of The Dark Side of the Moon, saddened strings take up the theme (0:33 to 1:07) and then again at 2:47.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Apollo 13 – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
Each time, the theme emphasizes the mysterious beauty of the lunar expanses as seen through the ship's porthole. Not unlike Cosmo, the Moon appears only briefly in the film but it is on everyone's mind, a haunting presence that guides and steers the behavior of all the individuals involved.
But there’s more. In its two statements, the theme also comments on the communication loss between the crew in space and mission control back on Earth. It symbolizes the human fascination with the splendor of the moon, but also the double communication breakdown, between the three astronauts and the Houston technicians and between Marylin Lovell (Kathleen Quinlan) and her husband. (In her bedroom, Marilyn used a NASA receiver to listen to the voice of her husband Jim Lovell).
One final statement of the theme occurs a few minutes before the climactic descent into the Earth's atmosphere, in a very short unreleased cue (15m1 Distant Thoughts) which shows Jim Lovell and his wife mutually alerted to each other’s presence despite the thousands of kilometers between them. The commander of the ship wipes the porthole and contemplates Earth with a vague sense of fascination, as we see his wife looking up at the sky.
At this point, director Ron Howard’s staging suggests an almost telepathic bond, some kind of intuition which brings these two characters together and which is the result of a lifetime spent together. The reprise of the theme now underscores both the link between Jim Lovell and his wife and Jim’s budding realization that Earth is every bit as appealing as the Moon, as it is the place where he will reconnect with the ones he loves and is closest to.
It’s all in this theme: the bond between the musicians of Hortus Musicus, between the two friends Bishop and Cosmo, and in Apollo 13 between Jim and Marilyn.
"Quotes are something of an art. It’s all about integrating the quote in such a way that your own music works and that the original composer’s music is not cheapened. This is quite different from the notion of imitation, which is all too common in film music. When Monet quotes the Renaissance masters, he integrates them so perfectly into his own paintings that the connection is a shining new layer of meaning."
Horner was fond of quotes. In fact, he was so obsessed with Kachaturian’s Gayaneh adagio (1942) that it ended up as an integral part of Horner’s own musical vocabulary. As for the Fratres theme, James Horner revisited its languishing and melodic potential one more time over a decade after Sneakers and Apollo 13 for All the King's Men (2007), in a cue that was dropped from the final film but, per the composer’s wishes, made it to the album: All Our Lives Collide.
All Our Lives Collide – All the King's Men – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
It’s an evocative title that nicely sums up our article. The lives and destinies of the characters of All The King's Men intersect and collide. In a broader sense, one might consider the ties forged over the course of many years between Hortus Musicus,Sneakers and Apollo 13 as a metaphor for the underlying dynamics of history itself.
By listening to All Our Lives Collide, our memories suddenly return us 22 years earlier to the link between Spock and Kirk, an early friendships set to music by James Horner. When both characters find themselves after the "resurrection" of Spock at the end of Star Trek III, James Horner had previously utilized a similar musical structure in the second part of The Katra Ritual to evoke a magical encounter …
The Katra Ritual – Star Trek III: The Search of Spock – Original Soundtrack by James Horner