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The Most Illuminating Video on James Horner

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

UPDATE 3/8/22: Wow, was I grouchy when I wrote the below! So many negative ways to express things. Sorry!!! But for posterity’s sake, here it is:


Writing a bit about Star Trek II yesterday reminded me of what it was like to be a James Horner fan in the 1980s and 1990s.

For a lot of people, it was a pretty simple love–love relationship. But it was more love–hate for me—because I loved his early scores, but as time went on, became annoyed by all the borrowing and self-borrowing.

And, in general, I found his scores going in a more “precious” and subdued direction. I loved the giant orchestras, but he became bored with that and began immersing himself in ethnic colors and non-traditional, textural styles of scoring.

By the time he had the Uilleann pipes fetish, I was thoroughly annoyed.

In hindsight, Horner was the one totally in tune with contemporary audiences, and filmmakers, whereas I was stuck in the past.

But one thing was always bizarre—the phony English accent and concocted details of his biography. He was the son of a famed Hollywood art director, Harry Horner, but made it sound like he was English (where he did, in fact, spend some years going to school).

And he was always evasive about his borrowings. I mean, we could hear it—entire passages from Prokofiev, Khachaturian, etc. Not to mention copying themes verbatim from score to score.

After his tragic death, his widow Sara Horner has given a handful of interviews which, finally, give some explanations (above, and at NPR).

Long story short...he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. Which kind of explains everything: the musical genius, the need to express himself emotionally through his work, and the weird interviews.

I wish somebody had said something at the time!

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Ian Whitcombe
Ian Whitcombe
Dec 20, 2021

The hilarious chaser to me in regards to Horner's classical borrowings is that composer Mitsuo Hagita very liberally borrowed from BRAINSTORM to such a degree for his dreadful score to the anime series "Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory" in 1991. (As well as Jay Chattaway music from INVASION USA!) There were a couple of plagiarism fiascos in various anime projects in the late-aughts that we later saw things like Sunrise Inc. having to even go beyond the "300"-level mea culpa by crediting the tracks as "ALBION from MICHAEL'S GIFT TO KAREN" for the album re-release.

Lukas Kendall
Lukas Kendall
Dec 20, 2021
Replying to

I remember hearing about that, thanks!

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