As part of the writing of Episode 6 of Fond Memories, we found two articles originally published in Cinefantastique and Starlog. We propose them as transcripts below. Special thanks to Ken Hanley (Fangoria), Randall D. Larson, Chodisetti-Ravi Shankar Chandra, Byron Brassel and John Andrews.
Starlog Number 63, October 1982
Going back in time to October 1982, from the 63rd issue of the famous, long since deceased Starlog magazine, comes a geriatric interview with a young James Horner about the scoring of the endearing cinematic triumph: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Having been written in a time when the name James Horner was not known to many, the two page article delves into the details of how the talented composer got from graduate school to scoring his first film and leaping to the point of writing the the music for The Wrath of Khan. Touched upon are the extreme time schedules accorded to Horner in all the films he had scored up to that point. Also presented is the important notion of him choosing to write new thematic material for this, the second Star Trek film.
James Horner speaks also about the orchestration processes and the sizes of the orchestras per film, including budgetary constraints (added to the above mentioned time constraints) and the small period in his career where horror films were the only entities that seemed to come his way. This now geriatric article once again provides us with a unique insight into the mind of James Horner, specifically his mind as it was in 1982, so very new.
New Melodies for the Starship "Enterprise"
By Tom Sciacca
"The film needed a powerful score," explains Horner. Director Nicholas Meyer wanted Horner to give the film a Captain Horatio Hornblower mood in space, so that the Enterprise would have that feeling of majestic motion. "The score is designed to help create a feeling of tremendous speed and power for the Enterprise," says Horner.
Music for Star Trek has a history all its own. There is the well-known music for the old TV series and Jerry Goldsmith's score from the first film. Horner was instructed not to use any portion of the Goldsmith score, but Alexander Courage's original Star Trek theme was another matter. Harve Bennett left that decision up to the composer.
"I didn't think there would be any place for it in the film. I said I'd think about it. I worked out a way to use the Star Trek fanfare, which I used about four or five times, and it works very well. I always had wanted to use that fanfare, actually. Unlike the first Star Trek film, I wanted right from the start, from where the curtain first opened, to grip the audience, to tell them that they were going to see Star Trek. And there are only two things that can do that, either the Enterprise, or the Star Trek fanfare. The fanfare draws you in immediately — you know you're going to get a good movie."
"There were certain ways that drama was treated musically on the TV show. In certain spots in the film I tried to play upon that. In the sequence where the Ceti eels are put in the helmets, Khan says 'That's better. Now tell me about Genesis …" There, you hear a very high, weird lyre. And the strings are doubled with several percussion and electronic instruments.
"That's a very weird permutation of the Star Trek love theme from the TV series," reveals Horner. "It's a strange internal joke on my part. Very few people recognize it, but it's the kind of thing I smile at when I hear it. Maybe I perverted it so much that no one can recognize it now."
The size of James Horner's film orchestras have steadily increased in size and importance, as have the films. Star Trek had 94 musicians as opposed to 40 for Battle Beyond the Stars.
"Star Trek had a large brass section—six French horns, otherwise it was a general, large symphonic orchestra. There was a theme I composed for Kirk, (that nautical, Horatio Hornblower-sounding theme), a separate theme for the Enterprise, and the two themes are intertwined—Kirk and the Enterprise as one. There's a very strange, etheral theme for Spock."
Two things, says Horner, grip the Trek audience immediately: the memorable fanfare and the majestic Enterprise.
"Spock never had a theme before, and I wanted to give him a theme to tie the whole of 'Genesis' and 'Spock' by the end of the film, so that it would all mean something. The theme for Spock, incidentally, is actually heard at the 'leaving drydock' sequence," Horner explains.
One of the major, if not the major musical problem of Star Trek according to the composer, concerns the hymn "Amazing Grace."
"I never wanted to use it," states Horner. "I begged, begged, 'Please don't make me use 'Amazing Grace.' It was the only battle in the film I lost. They all seemed to feel that 'Amazing Grace' was the only thing to make them happy. It was 15 seconds—I just did it.""It had already been shot, and I had to match it," Horner explains.
"Then I had the additional problem: Would I continue the bagpipe music outside the ship or would I switch to orchestral music? My feeling was to do something very etheral."
“The bagpipes were the wrong move. They sound like bleating goats. What you heard in the film originally was just the bagpipe alone. Now [Paramount] had a problem in the previews with people laughing at the sound. The producers wanted the bagpipe sound changed."
"The only thing I could do about the curse of the bagpipes," Horner shrugs, "was put in a cue. It starts where there's a pause as Kirk is talking—'Of all the people I have met in my travels, he is the most human.' There, the music came in. I had this strange chord that hangs over the whole scene; it did quite a bit, but doesn't solve the problem completely, because you still get people laughing at the bagpipes. It was, perhaps, a slight miscalculation, but it's one of those things that you're not going to know if it works until you do it with an audience."
"And there is another sequence, too, that I liked very much, but Paramount was having problems with. After Kirk sees Spock on the ground, you think he's dead. Spock gets up and straightens out his coat. Well, occasionally that gets laughter, too. I don't know whether it's good laughs or bad ones. But they were worried about that. To me, it was very touching the way he straightens out. Spock's under the worst possible situation, but he's still his old self. I've been to screenings where nobody, nobody has said a word in either scene — total silence during the engine room and torpedo room scenes."
John Williams takes anywhere from 12 to 14 weeks to complete a score. Ken Thorne did the score for Superman II in 12 weeks. James Horner seems to need little time, in comparison, to produce superb work.
"I had four-and-a-half weeks to do the score. Star Trek had a pushed production schedule; they had to be in the theaters by June 4th, and they started dubbing April 9th. I had to have the music available by April 15th. They locked the picture four weeks prior to that, and they were still getting special effects shots while I was writing it. It was a very rushed schedule. As you know, Nick was editing while he was directing: editing nights, directing days. Hollywood doesn't usually do it that way, but the film turned out to be wonderful. Every sequence I scored was in the film. There was one bit I wanted taken out. It was after Kirk surprises the Reliant, hits it with photon torpedoes, and Scotty carries the dead guy up to the bridge. Everyone just closes their eyes on the bridge, then they cut to the Enterprise, 'blowing in the wind.' I scored a big bittersweet chord for that cut. I wanted it to play very ghostly, very, very quiet, after all that battle noise. And we finally cut the music at that point. It works terrifically. Now the Enterprise just turns in that silence. It's really kind of nice."
"I have very concentrated work days," comments Horner. "I work 12-14 hours a day. I've never had more than six weeks to complete a score. I don't know what I'd do with the extra time. That's the way I like to work—in concentrated doses. I'm sure if I had to do 100 minutes of music, I'd need more time.
"I do my own orchestrations," Horner explains. "I look at the film on videotape and write directly on my score paper. A piano does not help me sketch out the 'color,' but it is a tool to help me with the timing. A lot of people write piano scores, and hand it to someone else to orchestrate."
Before Horner scored the film, he was able to view scenes from Star Trek II that were left on the cutting room floor.
"One interesting scene cut was when Kirk boards the Enterprise for the first time," he reveals. "Kirk talked to Peter Preston, played by Ike Eisenmann, whose character reference as Scotty's nephew was cut. In the engine room, Preston says, 'Sir, if you don't see this as the best ship in the fleet, sir, you're blind.' He had all this dialogue going. It was all cut."
"For whatever reason, various people higher up in the production did not believe the father-son relationship with Kirk and wanted it trimmed. The best way to trim it was to make it seem that Kirk didn't know that his son knew that Kirk was his father, until the very end. There were a lot of scenes cut out, like when Kirk introduced his son to Spock before going to battle stations."
Despite the cramped production schedule and "the curse of the bagpipes," Horner found Star Trek ll to be "the most enjoyable project I've worked on. Everyone—Harve Bennett, Bob Sallin, the actors—were great to work with."
Road to "Trek"
The road to the Enterprise began in London, specifically at the Royal College of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the western world. Living in England from the age of 10 to 20, Horner returned to his native California and enrolled at USC. There, he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Composition, then transferred to UCLA where he received a Master's and began teaching music theory. Horner's opinion of film music wasn't always high.
"I had up until that time looked down at film music," he says. "I looked at myself as a classical composer. I was asked to do an AFI film, The Drought. I said, what the hell. I fell in love with the film, like a strike of lightning. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do — write film music. I did another six or seven AFI films, learned about Roger Corman, bothered him until he gave me a job, stopped working on my PhD, resigned from UCLA, left academia, and began working on film music, which I am doing to this day."
The first feature James Horner composed for was The Lady in Red, a fairly unknown film about John Dillinger that starred Robert Conrad. Following that, in 1979, was an uncredited job on Roger Corman's Up From the Depths. Here, Horner worked only on the underwater scenes; the music for the above-water locations was stock Filipino rock music.
After that "novelty item" came Humanoids From the Deep, a deep-water film that paired busty girls and lusty seaweed monsters, which led to the New World/Orion Pictures Battle Beyond the Stars. The score to this film, a remake-homage to The Seven Samurai, required Horner to generously mix the scores of Star Trek and The Magnificent Seven—two films that Roger Corman liked tremendously and Horner's score reflects Corman's request. Battle's look seems influenced by the Klingon sequence of ST-TMP; likewise, some of the music, bits here and there, use the same instruments, evident in the cut on the Battle album "The Battle Begins." The Magnificent Seven Western motif arises in the cut "Cowboy and the Jackers," an homage to the film's influence.
From SF to Horror
The success of Horner's scores for Battle Beyond the Stars brought him an offer from Orion Pictures to score the Oliver Stone horror film The Hand.
"Orion, the co-producer of Battle, asked me to do The Hand; that's how I got out of Corman and into more legitimate films," remarks Horner. "My orchestra for The Hand was more string than brass, so I could give it an eerie effect, unlike Battle, which was 40 pieces, mostly brass. There was to be a soundtrack to The Hand—I won't say it was doomed before it began, but there were so many problems along the way, and it's so expensive to put out records because you have to pay a re-use fee to the musicians. Unless a film is big enough, or important enough to be able to spend $70,000 on re-use fees, a company won't do it at all."
Following The Hand Horner scored three T.V. movies: Weasle Creek, The Gibson Evans Show [pilot] and Angel Dusted. Horner then returned to feature films.
"Deadly Blessing, for Polygram Pictures was interesting—perhaps we can leave it at that," says Horner. Then I was asked to do Wolfen. This was an interesting film because another composer had scored the film. The music was disliked by the producers: the score was an abstract score, which would not work on the picture. It was a very noisy, avant-garde, atonal score. Everybody had nothing to relate to. It didn't have any emotional quality."
"Wolfen was about three weeks from print delivery at this point. Orion asked me if I could do the score in 12 days! What you hear in the Wolfen was done in 12 days, about 58 minutes of music. I worked very closely with the sound effects people, particularly Andrew London, who's done sound effects for TRON. He is a master at doing those very stylized sound effects. A whole 'sound world' was created for Wolfen. It was originally a four-and-a-half hour 'epic,' one of those 'troubled' pictures that went way over the budget. It was taken away from the director and re-edited. Unfortunately, it never found its audience."
The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper was a welcome respite from horror films and established Horner as a composer outside the fantasy realm.
After the TV movie A Piano for Mrs. Cimino, which starred Bette Davis, Horner's agent received a call from Harve Bennett, the producer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Horner met Bennett, they got along, and Horner became the composer of the $12 million dollar epic. From AFI to Paramount in two years! Things are looking positive for Horner, whose agent has several projects lined up for him in the near future. And as far as prospects go for Star Trek III, Horner says, "For me not to do it, I'd have to be in a bad accident or get killed!"
Cinefantastique, July-August, 1982, Vol. 12 No. 5 and 6
Contained within the pages of this classic fantasy/horror/sci-fi magazine was yet another commentary on the beloved space opera Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As we come ever closer and closer to the first anniversary of James Horner's tragic passing, these rare writings present unending comfort to those who loved him the most around the world.
An important idea not touched upon in several articles but presented here is the notion of genesis. The 'space' soundscape. Where did it come from? Horner explains how legend John Williams began a trend in space epics, with the orchestral colours he used in Star Wars (and how in turn several other genres received these colours too): the idea that old fashioned writing works anywhere because it tugs at the emotions. At the time, James Horner was merely 28 years old, but had worked on several films (many of them belonging to Roger Corman). It seemed like destiny was presenting itself to James Horner as he perfected his craft.
The article further delves into the process of the 'hows' and 'whys' of the scoring process, including the almost intimate inputs of the musically inclined director Nicholas Meyer on James Horner's score. It is with these notions that James indeed wrote a score that took into account what the director said: Give the film the feeling of an adventure on the high seas.
'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan': How the TV series became a hit movie, at last"
By Kay Anderson
“Director Nick Meyer wanted to give the film the feel of an adventure on the high seas. It’s that kind of nautical, wind-blowing spirit I’m after.” –James Horner, composer
The makers of Star Trek II wanted a rousing orchestral musical score in the best adventure film traditions of Erich Korngold and recent imitators such as John Williams. Composer James Horner was approached with the assignment by Joel Sill, vice-president of music for the motion picture division of Paramount, and was introduced to executive producer Harve Bennett, producer Robert Sallin, and director Nicholas Meyer. Horner agreed with that approach and started composing in mid-January.
“There is a tendency to want to compare scores of big outer space movies,” said Horner, “like John Williams’ music for Star Wars and The Empires Strikes Back and Jerry Goldsmith’s for the first Star Trek film. There will be similarities, of course. For one thing, if you close your eyes and play Star Wars and my Star Trek score, the first notion that will come to your mind is that the same instruments are playing. Williams created a trend in music for space movies with Star Wars because that was the first big space movie to come along in quite a while. But that style of scoring is very old-fashioned. It works well, whether you’re on a train or a pirate galleon or in deep space. That kind of approach is very tactile. It’s easy to use it to manipulate emotions.”
The 28-year-old Horner, has turned out a prolific amount of film scores in the past two and a half years. Starting with small films for the AFI, he graduated to doing “schlocky films for Roger Corman,” including Humanoids From The Deep, Up From The Depths, Battle Beyond The Stars, and others. “It’s hard to keep track,” he laughed, “because Roger changes the titles, if films don’t preview well, to sort of erase the word-of-mouth.” Other credits include The Pursuit of D.B Cooper, Wolfen, Deadly Blessing, and The Hand.
Horner composed about 70 minutes of music for Star Trek II in five weeks. A lot of music for a film that, as of the latest cut, is 129 minutes long. “The last three reels are almost wall-to-wall music,” he said, “including some tremendous battle scenes.” Horner utilized a 90-piece full symphony orchestra for the scoring sessions, which lasted five days.
Director Nicholas Meyer, who comes from a family of professional musicians and is not bad on the battered grand piano that sits in his living room, worked closely with Horner. In fact, Horner credits Meyer with a lot of input on his composition of the score.
“He and I talked about it at great length,” said Horner. “We spent so much time together on this project that we’ve become rather close friends. Nick knows what he’s talking about, musically. He wanted to give the film the feeling of an adventure on the high seas. It’s that sort of nautical, under-sail, wind-blowing spirit that I’m after, as opposed to Star Wars’ very imperial, martial kind of theme.
“I could do something very avant garde and very atonal,” continued Horner, “such as Tangerine Dream’s scores for Sorcerer And Thief, and my own score for Wolfen. But I have to sort of toe a line. There are certain givens in a movie like Star Trek. The setting, the plot, the characters, all demand a certain approach. If I tried to do something more avante garde I would not only upset my producers, I would probably do harm to the film itself. I have to work pretty straight-forwardly with the scene elements, but I don’t sock it on the nose too much, or hype the action. An audience will resist that kind of manipulation.”
Part of Horner’s score is composed of character themes for both Mr. Spock and Khan.
“Spock’s motif is a very haunting theme,” said Horner, “very different from anything else in the film, but done with conventional instruments. It emphasizes his humanness more than his alienness. By putting a theme over Spock, it warms him and he becomes three-dimensional rather than a collection of schticks.”
For the complex character of Khan, the genetically-engineered superman from the 20th century, Horner provides what he calls an orchestral texture.
“It’s sort of a menacing undertone,” said Horner, “very quiet music that underplays his insanity in a subtle way that will have a disquieting effect on the audience. When he’s involved in battles, the music is wild and pagan. A lot is going on in this movie, and by means of music you can help the story along. You can represent how characters feel about each other in an instant by using a bristling theme or a friendship theme. We do that with Khan. You know he’s crazy the moment you see him, but you don’t know why you feel that way.”
Horner’s most overt theme is for the terraforming Genesis Effect that transforms barren Gamma Regula into a resplendent paradise.
“It’s not the swelling dawn-of-creation, Stravinsky-violins theme you might expect,” said Horner. “It’s kind of awe-inspiring. There are large sustained orchestral chords which slowly and almost imperceptibly change. The closest comparison I could give you would probably be certain passages in 2001. It’s got a nice texture, but we’re not in it for all that long.”
Horner enjoys doing music for science fiction and horror movies because he gets more chances to stretch himself creatively, but like most people in the entertainment business, he worries about becoming type-cast.
“I get worried sometimes, that I’m being locked into being a horror movie composer,” he said. “I was doing horror movie after horror movie because that’s all I was being asked to do. And whenever I’d try to get some other sort of work they’d say ‘Yeah, you just did Wolfen and that was terrific, but, you know this is a sensitive story. We’ll get Dave Grusin.’ ”
Photo credit: @ Paramount Pictures