JAMES HORNER - FIVE YEARS AFTER - SIX FULL TESTIMONIALS
The videos of the testimonies of Christopher Young, JAC Redford and Sandra Tomek will be published in separate articles.
In 1994-95 I had the good fortune of working as orchestrator with James Horner on three of his movies: Apollo 13, Jumanji and Balto. Once a project had begun, I drove out to his home and studio west of Los Angeles every several days to look over and take home the sketches he had ready for me. His studio was in a large building separate from his home. At the far end of the larger of the two rooms was his grand piano, to the right of the bench was a small collection of outboard audio gear he used for video and audio playback and, suspended from the ceiling several feet from the piano bench, was a large CRT monitor that would playback footage of the project he was working on. Before entering the studio we would first remove our shoes. I remember James would always wear clogs but I don’t remember whether he had them on and then removed them before entering his studio or whether he removed the shoes he was wearing and then put on the clogs to enter the building. I think it’s rather famously well known now, but to get from the door of his studio to the piano, you passed through a vast collection of mechanical toys. If there was ever any downtime, if he had to take a phone call for example, I would wander the room looking at all of them.
But our time together was always focussed on the work at hand; rarely any small talk or chit chat about anything. I assume he knew at least something about my work and background, otherwise why else would I be there? But it never came up. He never asked or seemed interested. Nor did talk about anything else other than the score he was writing. Each time I visited, I brought with me a cassette tape that James would put into his tape machine and he would record our sessions together so that I could review our discussions as I worked on the orchestrations at home.
And so it went over the course of several months and three movies: I would go to his home, we would work, no real extraneous conversation, he’d say thanks, I’d say thanks and then we would be done.
I had stopped working as an orchestrator in 1996 when I was offered the opportunity to write my own original music for the TV show JAG. So although I proofread the score to The Spitfire Grill (it was a small score that he orchestrated himself), I never worked for James again.
Flash forward eighteen years: In 2013, music I wrote for the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland, Paris was selected to open the program of that year’s Hollywood In Vienna concert. Hollywood In Vienna is an annual “gala” event honoring an individual composer with their Max Steiner award for contributions to the world of music in cinema. In addition to the concert, there is a symposium on film scoring with various contributors offering talks on their work or topics related to scoring. As it happened, that year’s honoree was James Horner! Our paths did not cross much over the few days of that weekend but at the dinner following the concert, James caught me passing by to take my seat when he turned to me, looked me directly in the face and with a big smile congratulated me on my piece and asked if I was pleased with the performance. It caught me off guard: it’s true I had not seen or spoken to him for many years, but it also was a part of James I had never seen before and a pleasure to hear him ask after my work in this way, showing a collegial interest in my work.Steve Bramson
It was such a wonderful gift to be able to have worked with him on so many films over the years. I went into the IMDb database today and I came up with about fifteen or eighteen over the years that I had worked on. But it's funny. I've been working in film music for fifty years. So I sometimes get mixed up with the titles that I worked on and the films that I just loved. [Laughs] But most of James' scores fall under both categories. The first thing I worked on with him was a little film called The Stone Boy. And it was primarily solo vocal cues, and Tommy Tedesco guitar. Tommy was part of The Wrecking Crew, and he was a beautiful, wonderful musician. And I remember recording that at the recording studio on the Disney lot, which we didn't work on very often. So that was an unusual situation. James looked like a kid. He was so young. And he conducted. Over the years, I worked with him on Deep Impact and Beyond Borders. [For] Sneakers, I did solo-duo cues with another singer here in town, Darlene Koldenhoven. And I worked on An American Tail and Apollo 13. Ron Hicklin did a lot of contracting for James. I think Edie Lehmann Boddicker contracted several things for him, and I contracted several things for him. And he wasn't a person that always went to the same contractor for his vocals. It was always coordinated through the studios.
One of the things I remember so strongly about James is that when he recorded at a wonderful scoring stage called Todd-AO, which was here on the CBS Radford lot in the valley. He used to bring treasures into the control booth with him. He would have those little bubble lamps, and all kinds of interesting, little, magical-looking things. And I never had a chance to talk to him about that in a personal moment. But the control booth, you knew that James was occupying it because it was filled with his treasures for that day.
I think my favorite scores of his were– I loved Braveheart, which of course I did not work on. And I loved Field of Dreams. That was one of the most beautiful film scores and meaningful films that I can remember. But I'm thinking of James today and always. He was a dear, wonderful, brave, gifted gentleman and we lost him way, way too soon.Sally Stevens
I'm Cécilia Tsan. I'm a French-American cellist in Los Angeles, and I would like to talk a little bit about my fabulous years working with James Horner. First, in June 2015, when I heard about the plane crash and the fact that he might be dead, my heart just stopped. We hoped and prayed for a few hours until the terrible news came of his death, and it was truly devastating. Going a few years back, after I moved from Paris to Los Angeles, I heard so many of my colleagues raving about his film music, especially those who recorded for Titanic with him. And when I finally broke in the “super-protected” Hollywood film business, really one of my favorite composers to work for was of course James Horner. The richness of his music and the intense emotions he could create in a very personal way really made those recording sessions an immense pleasure. I realize that it's because his music shows a very very beautiful soul. And I never felt like I was working because he was so nice to us musicians, and the music was so enticing. He had a very high sensitivity and an incredible sense of humor. So I was lucky enough to record many scores with him in his favorite studio in LA. That was Todd-AO. Fabulous room, really. And it's sad that it's now no longer a sound stage. So, among the various films I recorded, there was A Beautiful Mind, Windtalkers, Jumanji, Avatar (my favorite), House of Sand and Fog, All the King's Men, Spiderwick Chronicles, Karate Kid, and more. I remember he was very generous and kind to us musicians, and sometimes after we worked really hard one morning, he would say, way before the 1 PM break time, he said, “Oh, I think we should have lunch now, and let's be back at three instead of two.” That's how kind and generous and respectful of us he was. My last session with him was, I think, October 2014. And strangely, it was at Fox Studios. It was for The 33, the movie about the Chilean miners drama. But we were happy to talk with him, and he came with us during a break. And I was chatting with him, and the subject came about the non-film music. And he said to me, “Oh, you should play my Pas de Deux for violin, cello and orchestra.” And he mentioned the fact that besides Brahms' double concerto, there was nothing else for that instrumentation. Anyway, we miss him a lot. He's sorely missed by the entire community, and I want to thank him for the gift of music. Thank you, James Horner. We miss you.Cécilia Tsan
I first met James Horner via his music. In 1981, directing what became Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan, I listened to a great many audition tapes, one of which jumped out at me immediately. The music was lyrical, forceful and original (words are typically useless to describe music, anyway), and I shortly thereafter sat down with James. We took each other's measure and liked what we saw – and heard. I engaged him to write the score for my film and over the course of working on it we became more than collaborators; we became friends. I have many happy memories of his sly wit and also of his enthusiasms, musical and otherwise. I would visit his studio in Dorothy Road and together we'd sit and listen to music for hours. I particularly remember his introducing me to Master Peter's Puppet Show by Manuel De Falla. In the years to come, we would swap musical experiences and James wound up writing two other scores for me, one for my comedy, Volunteers, but perhaps most precious, a tiny score he wrote for my Fairytale Theatre production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. There was no money in the project but he was happy to contribute to what he found a droll version of the Robert Browning poem and his score remains for me a sweetly nostalgic memory of this superbly gifted and generous friend. To say that I miss him is to understate the case.Nicholas Meyer
It’s twenty three years since we started Titanic, it’s five years and a day since James sent me an email the night before, but he has never really gone. If I hear his music, I blink and I’m back in the studio with James… and Jim and Ian and Simon and Dick and Joe E. and JAC and Tony and… In my head I can still hear his unique singing speech patterns (any name with two syllables involved a descending minor third… ‘I-an’, ‘Si-mon’) and imagine a pair of leather Crocs, a huge pile of FedEx boxes and an increasingly convoluted path to the piano at his studio.
Life with James was never, ever boring. Any Horner alumni get together always involves a “Do you remember when James…” story that ends with a smile. He was an enthusiast for life, which probably accounted for his love for the mayhem of film scoring. He was utterly devoted to his family, with the tattoos to prove it. He was a fan of great music; too often a one hour dinner over Sushi ended up with three hours discussing Ron Goodwin or Stravinsky or the Dropkick Murphys. I regret the music yet unwritten, but I think he left us with treasure even so.
It’s been five years since Jim Henrikson phoned me at 6am to break the news that our best mate had died.
I miss my friend.Simon Franglen
It has been five years since James left the physical world. He lives in my heart and thoughts each and every day. Our union started out as composer and music editor but evolved into a symbiotic relationship that transcended friendship. I became his consigliere, a buffer between James and the non-creative elements of film scoring that he abhorred.
James was such a complex individual. Painfully shy but with a crazy sense of humor that embraced the “whacky”. I have visions of the recording booth overflowing with Lava Lamps, talking fish and singing skeletons.
The appetite of a sparrow but the endurance of a marathon runner. When working on an electronic score with few players, I would have to remind him that the rest of us needed re-fueling.
He did have a fondness for sushi and Indian food and I relish the memories of countless restaurant dinners James would host at end of a project.
He loved movies and had encyclopedic knowledge of films and actors. After Titanic I asked him why he didn’t pursue the concert arena and he replied, “I’m a film composer”. He viewed his composition, not as a standalone creation, but as a very important element in a larger work.
A sensitive man who was able to communicate his emotions and feelings thru the music he created. How fortunate for the world that his gift will live on.Jim Henrikson