One of the most important roles in the production of a film is that of the film's composer. Generally acting as the guardian to the musical content of a project, the tone of the story and visuals must be accurately reflected in the score, or else the movie just doesn't work. James Horner was one of these great guardians of music who crafted memorable themes to some of the most memorable motion pictures over the last few decades - and it is with a heavy heart that we report that he has died at the age of 61.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the story earlier this evening that Horner, who was an avid pilot in addition to being a musical maestro, was feared to be dead in a plane crash in California earlier today. A couple of hours after reporting the wreck 60 miles north of the Santa Barbara area, his untimely death was confirmed by his assistant, Sylvia Patrycja, in a post on her Facebook profile.
Horner's pen had written the themes to such classic films as Aliens, Apollo 13, and most recently, The Amazing Spider-Man . After a three year absence from film scoring, James Horner was set to return with three upcoming features: Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wolf Totem, Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw, and the trapped Chilean miner film The 33. There's no word yet on how far along Horner's work on any of these films was, but it is clear that his absence will be felt deeply in the film community, as well as among those who knew him best.
Out of all of the genres in which James Horner worked, crafting themes for science fiction was arguably his greatest strength. Not only did he work on the aforementioned Aliens, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, he also created themes for two of director Joe Johnston's greatest entries into the canon. Out of those two films, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and The Rocketeer, we had to choose the latter for reflection – as it is still one of those themes that we know by heart to this very day.
Even greater than James Horner's partnership with Johnston, though, was his association with legendary director James Cameron. Cameron started bringing Horner into the fold with 1986's Aliens, only to score a double play with the maestro as they collaborated on 1997's Titanic and 2009's Avatar. And while you may think of Celine Dion’s "My Heart Will Go On" instead of the score when it comes to Titanic, Horner was actually credited with composing the music for that track as well. The score and the song for the blockbuster film netted him two Oscars in the same year, and you can hear why as evidenced by his work in the cue selected below – entitled "The Sinking."
Of course, as any good film composer will tell you, it's the marriage between the image and the music that make the art complete - which brings us to, in my opinion, one of James Horner's best and most underrated scores of all. In 1992, with the assistance of Branford Marsalis as a featured soloistt, Horner brought the world of hackers to life in the film Sneakers. In particular, the cue "Too Many Secrets" comes to mind when recalling his work on this film, as it moves from inquisitive to playful to downright fearful in the course of almost three minutes. You can listen to the song as it was featured in the film in the clip below.
James Horner's musical prowess will truly be missed in the world of film. He made us believe a man could fly with a jetpack, that war with Xenomorphs truly was hell, and he helped create all kinds of emotion with his work in Field Of Dreams. We extend our dearest sympathies to Mr. Horner's friends and family in this time of great sadness, and we will honor him in the best way we can possibly think: through the longevity of his work.