"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.
[divider]DAD, A FAR OFF PLACE, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, THE 33[/divider]
Although it’ not the first Horner score that comes to mind, the music for 1989’s Dad is typically sentimental and overflowing with subtle emotions. When his wife is admitted to hospital, retired Jake Tremont (Jack Lemmon) is home alone for the first time. He turns to his son John (Ted Danson), who teaches him to be independent. During this time, John gradually becomes aware that he is estranged from his own son, Billy (Ethan Hawke).
The music is built on melodies which are at once nostalgic and tender. The composer often resorts to a hypnotic piano (Prologue, The Farm, Recovery), which speaks to Jack’s memories.
The main theme breaks up into two parts, both introduced in the Main Title cue: an upbeat piano performs the A part at 1:55 before an oboe takes up the B section at 2'27. James Horner really only resorts to this B section during scenes of resolution in the second part of the film, that is, when the characters hug, reconcile, declare their mutual affection or say goodbye.
The Vigil – Dad – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
© 1989 Universal Pictures, under license to MCA Records, 2292-57072-1
It is heard in such notable third-act cues as The Greenhouse and Goodbyes.
The final declaration of love between Jack and his wife (The Greenhouse)
John's farewell to Jack (Goodbyes)
The theme returns in A Far Off Place (1993), a little-seen Disney production about the African adventures of two teenagers, Nonnie (Reese Witherspoon) and Harry (Ethan Embry), who team up with the young bushman Xhabbo (Sarel Bok) and a dog, and set off on a long walk through the fierce Kalahari desert to escape ivory hunters. At the end of the film, the fellowship breaks down as the characters go their own ways. To accompany their goodbyes, James Horner uses the B section of the Dad theme as the foundation for a new melody.
End Titles – A Far Off Place – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
© 1993 Walt Disney Pictures, under license to Intrada Special Collection Volume ISC 303
The theme finally explodes in the film’s last scene, when Harry changes his mind and returns to Nonnie. It is fully developed during the end credits. Once again, Horner uses it for scenes of goodbye and reunion.

Barely a year later, James Horner started work on the classic Legends of The Fall (1994). Adapted from the work of another J.H., the adventure drama chronicles the dramatic lives of three Ludlow brothers (Alfred, Tristan and Samuel) and their father, Colonel William Ludlow. The Dad theme returns six times, three of which underscore separation and reunion scenes between Tristan (Brad Pitt) and his father (Anthony Hopkins).
In the movie version of Off To War, when the Colonel says goodbye to Samuel and Tristan as they leave to fight in the war, the theme illustrates the colonel’s attachment to Tristan. Logically, this love of his favorite son is sparked when Tristan returns home (in a cue missing from the album).
When Tristan leaves again and only returns years later, the theme reaches a highly-charged climax in The Changing Seasons, Wild Horses, Tristan's Return (4:13-4:49). The strings underscore looks filled with tears of happiness, before a clarinet highlights the second embrace between the two men.
The Changing Seasons, Wild Horses, Tristan's ReturnLegends of The Fall – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
© 1994 TriStar Pictures, under license to Sony – B000002AT6
The theme features three times in more subtle form for Tristan and Susannah (Julia Ormond): in the woodwinds, when the young woman dwells on the months of separation (Farewell, Descent Into Madness 5:14-5:31), during their reunion (Goodbyes 1:07-1:30) and one last time at their final meeting. The theme is relegated here to the status of motif, merely evoking a distant past and a love lost forever, one that the young woman seems unable to let go.
Finally, 20 years after Legends of The Fall, the theme made one final appearance in 2015’s The 33, about a 2010 mining disaster that found a group of thirty-three workers trapped in Chile’s San José mine. As in Dad, the melody is built into the second part of the score’s main theme.
CelebrationsThe 33 – Original Soundtrack by James Horner
© 2015 Warner Bros, under license to WaterTower Music B017OKMUZQ
It now emphasizes the joy when rescuers find the miners after three weeks of drilling (We Are All Well In The Refuge, The 33 – 2'08-2'38), and during the final embrace between the heroes and their families (Celebrations – 1'26 and 3'12).
We Are All Well In The Refuge, The 33 – 2'08
Celebrations – 1'26
In these four scores, the theme performs the same role: it underscores characters hugging and feelings of separation, goodbye and reunion.

Photo credits:

Dad: © Paramount Pictures
A Far Off Place:  © Walt Disney Pictures
Legends of The Fall: © TriStar Pictures
The 33: © 2015 Warner Bros


  1. Legends of the Fall is one of my Horner Favorites, so would love to hear similar tones in all the other films mentioned today. Agree with Zoe’s comments. I still wonder how many musical notes he wrote down which will never be heard. Thank you again for today’s piece. Pamela.

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