THE WORDS OF JAMES HORNER #4: BACK TO TITANIC
One more unpublished interview in English, dating from 2005 at the release of the Special Collector's Edition DVD of the film, will follow.
Recall: The Words of James Horner is a series of articles intended to republish some twenty interviews Didier Leprêtre and Jean-Christophe Arlon conducted between 1997 and 2006 and published only in French in the magazines Dreams To Dream and its successor Cinéfonia. Unfortunately, the English-language audio tapes of the interviews are now lost, so we decided to take the French-language publications and retranslate them into English as faithfully as possible. We are immensely grateful for the chance we have been given to publish the colossal work done over the course of an entire decade and to give the interviews a new lease on life, all the more since we think they are an invaluable and unique window into the oeuvre of James Horner.
DtD) The booklet says James Cameron himself asked you to do a second Titanic album.
JH) That’s right. The first album had turned out to be a phenomenal success and Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount received thousands of requests for « more music from Titanic ». Jim realized how big a deal the movie was and in April 1998, while we were having dinner at my place, he brought it up. He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted, except he wanted to include the music for the Irish party down in third class and the song Come Josephine, In My Flying Machine. Sony and the majors then went and gave him carte blanche for the second CD. Jim came back to see me, and together, we assembled Back To Titanic, we decided on the idea of the two suites, the portrait cue etc.
DtD) So that’s why you produced the disc.
JH) Actually, I always produce my music, but in this case, I wanted total control over the product. And I wanted to make sure I got the quality I desired. So I produced Back To Titanic myself all the way, from my own cues to those of our « group » : Jack Dawson's Luck, Lament, Nearer My God To Thee from Eileen all the way up to Gaelic Storm, I Salonisti.
DtD) You mentioned control and quality, but were you 100% free to do what you wanted ?
JH) Sony Classical gives me all the freedom I need. I’m free to create, free to choose, I have artistic freedom and professional freedom.
DtD) Could you tell us some more about the suite and the epilogue ?
JH) I composed the two suites as one single musical entity, in fact. It’s like a symphony for Sissel and Eileen, during which I develop some of the score’s main themes. From the themes composed for the film and developed within that framework, I sort of recreated the themes for the suites. I was no longer held back by the visuals, which sometimes keep you from saying exactly what you want to say as a composer. I deliberately left out much of the underscore and went straight to the heart of the piece, and that’s basically the ideas inspired by Rose : love, tragedy and old age. As Jim notes so eloquently, The London Symphony lends the recording even more grace and majesty. It’s not about the melodies, it’s a certain lyricism expressed by music. I love the sort of majestic quality of the epilogue, and by that I don’t mean the orchestral force but the exact opposite, the chance it gave me to bring out nuances in the melodies, to exploit to the fullest the tenderness inherent in every theme in some orchestral way or other, but without relying on symphonic fireworks. So I guess I would define the suite and the epilogue as a symphony in two movements, based on Rose and her memories. And her soul, of course !
DtD) The voices of the Cambridge college choir add extra weight to those memories.
JH) The choir element is exactly the way I used it in the first album. I used the choir as a musical contrast to Sissel’s voice. From a melodic point of view, I didn’t change a thing, except some expostion in the first movement and rather extensive counterpoint in the second. I approached Eileen’s contribution the same way. Her violin gets the spotlight, but I surrounded the sound with the LSO strings : five double basses, fifteen violas and two celli. The real creative work here was in the contrast and the harmonies involved rather than the themes, which had already been established by the first album. I felt I had to develop the form and not settle for a suite of themes. In that respect, the epilogue is structured like An Ocean Of Memories and it goes well beyond that. But yes, the movement’s particular energy springs from from an ocean of memories. Love (Sissel). Eternity (Eric). Emotion (Eileen). Expressiveness (the Cambridge college choir). Life (the orchestra and the soloists.) Both as a score and as a film, Titanic is dedicated to memories as a remedy for oblivion.
DtD) And what about A Shore Never Reached ?
JH) In fact, Jim spent a long time editing the film’s epilogue. As a result, I composed two cues for those scenes, and as it turned out, it’s a third cue that ended up in the film. The final cue was a montage of two cues I had composed for other scenes. The first one was An Ocean Of Memories, which was on the first album. The second is the one on Back To Titanic, I wanted to make sure it would not be lost. I just adapted it for the orchestra.
DtD) And what about The Portrait ?
JH) Again, it’s not the film version. I re-recorded the piano solo and made it quite a bit longer. I basically indulged myself. I hope you like it too.
DtD) What did « the group » of Back To Titanic consist of ?
JH) If I was really going to express the emotion I wanted to get across, I needed more than an orchestra. I needed more than synthesizers. I needed the perfect chemistry between the organic and the electronic parts and especially, I needed soloists who could really light the fire. Tony Hinnigan of course, but also Eric Rigler, Zan McLeod and so on, they’re the soul of Back To Titanic. Moreover, I had composed lots of celtic stuff that was never used in the film. Tony helped me assemble all those cues, we took a look at the traditionnal repertoire and we assembled various cues by blending them together. We ended up including two, Jack Dawson's Luck and Lament. I think we recorded close to an hour of music but we only put those two cues on the disc. That’s why I speak of a « group ». Tony and I laid the groundwork and then every soloist came in and had their say. They all went off in wildly different directions : Eileen and Zan wanted different cues for different reasons. In the process, we became something of a « band », and we favored interpretation over composition. These sessions were very refreshing, rather unique too, in fact, and representative of the working spirit of the « group ».
DtD) Where did you put the two Oscars you won in March ?
JH) I put them on a shelf, there for everyone to watch. Although it’s all a bit relative now that the dust has settled, I like to watch them from time to time to remind myself of the wonderful experience I had on the project. Memories, ah those memories !