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Spectral Shimmers

Updated: May 15, 2022

Above: James Horner’s cameo in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Wow, we finally got to hear “Spectral Shimmers”!

This was an early James Horner concert work for large orchestra, written in 1978 (he was 25) and performed once, by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra “to a nearly empty hall,” Horner recollected.

The whole experience was so depressing, he shifted gears to scoring film—first for AFI, then Roger Corman, and the rest is history.

The piece has been resurrected and performed as part of “James Horner: The Emotionalist,” a concert by the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Torodd Wigum and the James Horner Film Music Association.

The concert was performed May 13, 2022 and live-streamed, which is still up as of this writing, but probably not for much longer. (UPDATE: It was pulled down due to copyright issues; the promoters did not have the longterm rights to the music and video clips.)

Having always read about “Spectral Shimmers,” I was dying to know if it was secretly the origin of any of his famous film scores. Would we suddenly hear Spock’s theme? Nothing so obvious or shocking.

It’s shorter than I expected (14 minutes) and a very imaginative, playful pastiche of classical themes (as in, quoted from the classical literature) with avant garde stylings. But aside from some modernist effects and colors that also found their way into his film work, it’s not the secret antecedent to Wolfen, Star Trek, Krull, Aliens, or any of his familiar film score canon.

I don’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed?

The concert also performed his 2000 piece, “A Forest Passage,” and that one is chockfull of film themes...and I’ll have to leave it to others more familiar to explain which is which.

My favorite part of the concert was the three-part documentary with Sara (his widow) and Emily (daughter) at their house in Calabasas—including James’ studio which remains essentially untouched since his 2015 passing, loaded with an indescribable collection of toys, gadgets and playthings.

Sara and Emily have a wonderful way of remembering James—poignant, heartfelt and also funny—and I love hearing them talk about their family. James was brilliant but also “a weirdo” (their words) who essentially had an undiagnosed form of autism. He found it excruciating to interpret others’ emotions—yet was, ironically, one of the all-time greats in expressing the emotions of a film through music.

Hashtag irony!

I wish I had known this during his lifetime.

And I wish he had chosen a less-dangerous hobby than stunt flying antique planes.

But he really was a package, so lovingly accepted and remembered by his family.

The concert also featured music from...

Well, let me quote the message board post by JB-Martin:


Tribute Video - Part 1 - 3:35

The Rocketeer (End Titles) - 6:30

The Mask of Zorro (Zorro’s Theme)** - 3:00

For Greater Glory (Jose’s Martyrdom)** - 4:10

Braveheart (For the Love of a Princess/Bannockburn)* - 12:00

Spectral Shimmers (European Premiere)* - 14:00

Tribute Video - Part 2 - 7:05

Legends of the Fall - Concert Suite (World Premiere)**** - 14:00


A Forest Passage (European Premiere)* - 10:00

Avatar (Jake’s First Flight)*** - 4:30

Aliens Suite No. 1 (Main Titles/Ripley’s Rescue) - 10:00

Titanic Suite** - 12:00

Tribute Video - Part 3 - 9:00

SECRET SURPRISE* - XX:XX [this was “Flight”]

* Arranged by Johannes L. Rusten.

** Arranged by Kim Spildrejorde. Titanic Suite is a re-arranged, 12 minute version of the 20 minute Titanic Suite 2012 version, first performed at the premiere of Titanic 3D, and later in Stavanger.

*** Arranged by Simon Rhodes, from James Horner: The Classics, but with solo violin, as originally written by Simon Rhodes

**** New concert suite arranged by Nikiforos Chrysoloras

All the arrangements have been reviewed and approved by J.A.C. Redford.

Important message

This concert is part of our four-part series called James Horner - The Emotionalist:

- The Concert: Organizing a series of concerts around the world

- The Book: Write a reference book

- The Documentary: Make a documentary film

- The Album: release a CD album with all the unreleased works

To realize these projects we need your support.

Without you, these projects will not happen.??

With you, they will become reality!

To help us, and to enjoy exclusive content, follow the behind the scenes of the projects, join us on our Patreon page.


Many thanks to all who worked on this terrific concert.

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