It is well known that James Horner is a flight enthusiast, and when we learned that the composer had crafted a score for the short AFI film, First in Flight (2012), it was exciting but not surprising news (see our previous article). The film focuses on a particular moment in the later lives of the Wright Brothers after they invented the airplane and their acrimonious patent battles that plagued them until the end of Orville’s life, with numerous flashbacks to their seminal days at Kitty Hawk and an especial attention to the tender relationship Orville and Wilbur shared throughout their career together. This cinematic effort features two elements that clearly motivate Horner’s best musical expressions: intimate human drama and the love affair with flight.
Unfortunate for his fans eager to see the film and hear the score, there has been no score release scheduled, and the film itself could only be viewed at festivals and limited screenings. Those hoping to eventually see the film need wait no longer: AFI has offered the 29-minute film at its website for the very reasonable prices of USD 0.99 to rent for one week and USD 1.99 to own indefinitely (similar price options are available for other currencies around the world). The video is presented by Vimeo in high definition and can be played through Vimeo’s technology partners on mobile, tablet, and TV.
The film features twenty minutes of original score by James Horner, featuring a chiefly intimate but often soaring score for piano and small synthesized ensemble. Brief but sublime, arpeggiated piano chords take a central role in building the sense of impending magic during the flashback scenes, and simple melodic lines for synthesized strings, solo flute, solo oboe, and two horns delicately underscore the moments of tenderness and heartache in the film’s latter-year scenes. A five minute end title sequence featuring dulcimer, piano, synthesized strings, exotic wood flutes, and a reprise of intertwining lines of two horns is simultaneously nostalgic and ethereally untethered, reminiscent of the composer’s mid-eighties scoring for Americana adventure.
The film itself merits attention, and it’s a beautiful thesis that director Brandon Hess could expand into a full feature and from which he ought to launch a promising career. But, for any fan of James Horner’s music, the closing titles alone are worthy of your two dollars.
Image credit: © American Film Institute


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