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Julie Brown
    Compositional Analyst
  • On November 13, 2015

On this second page you can find the story of how this publication came to be, as told by Tim Rodier.

"Here's the complete history of my company, including the release of Willow:
I've been releasing complete film scores since 2013, starting with Edward Scissorhands. At first, it started with a teaser copy for Danny Elfman. He expressed interest in a full score of Edward, after I engraved the main titles to Batman and presented it to him at a recording session. He indicated interest in a full score treatment of Edward, since the original hand-written scores were hard to read. Based on accounts of Edward being his most favored score, it was a logical choice to engrave that one and present it to him after the MIBIII sessions at Sony. He was obviously touched by such an impressive gift. After a few months, I asked for his permission to make the Edward score available to publish, with his tacit blessing and the permission of the film studio. This is how Edward was available with a release in N. America. Soon after, I asked him if he would be fine if I did the same for Batman, and he was fine. Then I approached Don Davis about The Matrix, who was kind enough to provide electronic files to work from, since they had performed the score live. Then I approached Alan Silvestri to publish Back To The Future. Soon after that Bruce Broughton approached me and asked if I could do Silverado. Looking to do another score, I turned my attention to J.A.C. Redford who was lead orchestrator for James Horner. We work together on Thomas Newman's scores, where I do music prep. I asked him if he would ask James about publishing Willow. In the fall of 2014 he showed James one of my other published books and was quite impressed, although at that time he was involved with other projects and didn't want to commit to anything. His work schedule slowed down as the Titanic live to picture project was finishing up. So, J.A.C. then asked him again while at his home in Calabasas in February 2015. Horner wasn't sure that Willow was the most representative of his output, but agreed and right there let J.A.C. borrow his personal, hard-bound score book. J.A.C. immediately called me and told me the good news. I then requested permission from the publisher, and once the royalty fees were paid I began engraving the score on March 28th. I had to make scans at J.A.C.'s home to work from, since Horner insisted that his score book not leave J.A.C.'s possession, nor have it be photocopied for fear the binding would get damaged.

The score contained all the orchestral material from the film. There were cue numbers, but a title for only one cue which meant I had to create titles for 19 of the 20 cues. The underscore music for the island sequence had no orchestral music. I had to transcribe that cue and also the tune that starts the end credits. In the book, I explain that Horner assembled the musicians and instructed them to improvise based on the chords and a few melodic ideas. For the island sequence, James created a synth pad on a Fairlight and invited woodwind players to his studio to layer that on top. Most of the shakuhachi was improvised by Kazu Matsui. In the original score, it was indicated with wavy lines, but left up to the player to interpret. I notated specific pitches from the recording because I like to have published scores match the recording, even though there's still an element of improvisation. There were also discrepancies between the original score and the recording which had to be corrected. These are things that Horner either changed, omitted, or added.

Analysis of major themes of music from Willow, video published by Omni Music Publishing

To Horner's credit, he recorded everything live, including the pan pipes, 2 alpine horns, 2 choirs, and a massive 120-piece orchestra. The music in Willow is extremely complex, both rhythmically and harmonically. Adding to this complexity is the fact that Horner free-timed all the music, meaning, no click. He relied on punches and streamers. In the tavern escape sequence, there's a nightmarish shift in tempo from q=140 to q=80 (ca.). He accomplished this, according to the original score, by timing out the new beats using visual punches in the film indicated by very specific timings. The four beats contain the timings of :41.05, :41.8, :42.55, and :43.3. Each beat lasts .75 seconds. A 4/4 bar would last 3 seconds for a bpm of 80. To keep him on track, every other bar had a punch on the downbeat. For the un-initiated, a punch was literally three holes punched out of the center of every other frame at key musical points. The effect was a quick flash on screen to indicate where the downbeat should be. If the conductor missed this visual mark, he/she could speed up or slow down to adjust. Streamers were made by marking a long, diagonal line across a copy of the film from the top-left to bottom-right. A grease pencil was used that would scratch off the emulsion. The ending point was at the frame that needed to be synchronized. The effect gave the appearance of an almost-vertical line streaming across the screen when the film was played back. These clever devices were used for years until the digital age rendered these techniques obsolete."


Special thanks to Tim Rodier

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  1. Ruth Fabiano

    Oh lordie!!!! Please someone make a complete release of it on CD now!!!!!!!!!! It is time to release an extended version.

  2. Pamela Read

    Just by chance I spotted a cd in a local shop to us, by Incantation, named On Gentle Rocks. I went inside and bought it. On opening the pages once home, to my happy surprise I could see track 7-Find the Child, written by James Horner. Quickly played it-a different version of the Willow main theme. So glad I got it.

    • John Andrews

      The Incantation albums are indeed lovely. Pamela, you should check out Tony Hinnigan’s website, If you register, you can download mp3 versions of the Incantation albums, including “Camera” which features several Horner pieces. Also, in the “Movies” section, he shares some wonderful stories about his experiences with James Horner.

  3. Pamela Read

    Thank you for your info John. I do have the Camera cd, which is great. Will look up the movie notes he has written. Had the pleasure of talking to Tony about JH music,a few years ago now, at Inca’s concert near Milton Keynes. Wish they would do another. Cannot wait now for the final two new cds. Pamela.

  4. Pamela Read

    What a great interview Ron Howard gave yesterday on Classic Fm At the Movies programme-he spoke so fondly of his friendship with James and how he respected his musicality…and above all, like many of us, thought this collaboration would go on and on for ever. Thank you Ron Howard. Pamela

    • Jean-Baptiste Martin

      Thank you for the information Pam!

  5. Ruth E Fabiano

    I have a petition going for a FULL release of the Willow score. Please sign if interested:

  6. Scott R.

    What a great thing you’ve done with this! Such incredible music from a classic film! I’m working on an essay on film music analysis from an ethnomusicological perspective, and I was very excited to learn of Horner’s borrowing of the Bulgarian song “Mir Stanke Le”. Although I don’t require the entire book (yet), I’m very curious about the diegetic Nelwyn music during the festival in the Nelwyn village, as well as the Nelwyn music that begins the end credits (I believe, without having the film currently at my disposal to check!). Is this another case of Horner asking musicians to improvise over a set structure? Or did he compose more aspects of these pieces than just chords/main melody, etc.? Do you know who the musicians were who performed on these tracks? Did he take inspiration from somewhere, as was the case with “Mir Stanke Le”? Thanks in advance for your reply – and those of anyone else who may come across this and have an answer!

  7. Holy c!!! I have lived a life being madly in love with Willow’s Theme after being a crazy fan of the movie as a child. It is my wake-up melody now. I was curious how the writing of it came to James Horner, and googled the story behind the idea. WOW. The thought of it stemmed from Mari Stanke Le, a song a knew well as a child in Bulgaria. Yup, I am a Bulgarian. It all just made total sense. Thank you for the inspiration, James. I just found out that we shared the same birthday too. Rest In Peace.

  8. Richard Clifton

    Would love the complete score to willow, One of his best .But who do you ask about it!.

  9. Leif Sanchez

    It’s a shame it’s not on the omni music publishing website anymore.

  10. YOSHIKI, Shinji

    I can’ t order…..
    I would like to get one.

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