Tag Archives: James Horner

Remembering James Horner: Troy (2004)

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Troy is a 2004 epic film that is a (greatly abbreviated) adaptation of the Illiad (which tells the story of the Trojan War). The film features a star-studded cast:

  • Brad Pitt: Achilles
  • Sean Bean: Odysseus
  • Brian Cox: Agamemnon
  • Peter O’Toole: King Priam
  • Eric Bana: Hector
  • Orlando Bloom: Paris
  • Diane Kruger: Helen

While not perfect, Troy is a good film with a remarkable score by James Horner. The music is even more remarkable when you consider that Horner put it together in the space of four weeks after Gabriel Yared’s score for the film was rejected.

For the score, Horner employed singer Tanja Carovska (who had also provided vocals for Yared’s rejected score) as well as using Eastern Mediterranean music and brass instruments to create a feeling of ancient Greece.

Troy Movie

Horner created several motifs throughout the score, a few of which I’d like to point out:

-The Greeks: The theme for the Greek army really emerges in full when they approach Troy in their thousand ships. It’s distinguished by a driving trumpet theme, highlighting the relentlessness of the Greek soldiers led by the egomaniacal Agamemnon. Most tellingly, it also re-emerges (briefly) just before the Trojan Horse is revealed onscreen for the first time, a musical hint that there are Greeks hidden inside.

The Greeks arrive at Troy

-Achilles: The theme for the legendary hero is also based on brass instruments, but it has a nobler tone than the theme assigned to the Greeks. Most notable appearance would have to be when Achilles storms the beach leading the Myrmidons. There’s also a reprise when Achilles heads off to find Briseis during the sacking of Troy.

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Achilles on the beach (theme starts when Achilles jumps off the ship)

-Achilles and Briseis: The love motif for Achilles and Briseis (a Trojan princess turned priestess turned captive) forms the basis of the end credits song “Remember” as performed by Josh Groban. No matter what Achilles claims, I think throughout the story he remembers what his mother said, that if he goes to Troy he will never come home. So his love for Briseis is tempered by this knowledge, that’s why the theme is relatively sad for a love theme. A good example of hearing this theme is at the end right before Achilles dies and he tells Briseis to leave with Paris.

Troy “The Trojan Horse”

-The Trojan Horse: I’ve covered the music for the Trojan Horse in depth before, but I have to talk about it again because it really is my favorite musical moment in the film. Even if you’re not familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse, the sheer ominousness of the music tells you that there’s something fishy with this horse. But of course no one listens to Paris’ suggestion to just burn the horse where it stands (the one time he makes a good decision in the entire film) and the horse is brought into the city. The music is triumphant and tragic all at once, because the Trojans think they’ve won but in fact they’re doomed.

Horner’s score for Troy remains one of my favorites and I highly recommend it to any fans of James Horner’s music. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for three years already, but as long as we keep listening to his music, he’ll never really be forgotten.

This is my contribution to the Remembering James Horner Blogathon, hope you enjoy it.

See also:

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Day 1

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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West “The Girl You Left Behind” (1991)

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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West “The Girl You Left Behind” (1991)

The first sequel to Don Bluth’s beloved-if-somewhat-disturbing An American Tail is an underrated gem of a story that follows Russian immigrant mouse Fievel Mouskewitz and his family as they immigrate to the wild West to make a better life than the one they have in New York City. Predictably, Fievel is separated from his family during the journey and he must race to catch up to their new home in Green River before the nefarious Cat R. Waul (John Cleese) fulfills his dream of turning all the mice into mouse burgers via a giant mouse trap.

One of my favorite sub-plots in this story is that of Tanya, Fievel’s older sister. With a gorgeous singing voice, Tanya is filled with dreams of becoming a great actress or a singer (or both) but her mother won’t hear of it. It’s not until Cat R. Waul happens to hear her singing to herself one day (“Dreams to Dream”) that Tanya is given a chance to realize her dream of becoming a performer. She’s taken to the local saloon and made up into a show girl by Miss Kitty (Tiger’s on-again off-again girlfriend) and is then thrust onto the stage where she has to perform for a saloon full of cats! Tanya’s nerves almost get the better of her, but with a little encouragement from Miss Kitty, she lets out a glass-breaking note that leaves the entire room staring at her in awe, and then the real fun begins!

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“The Girl You Left Behind” is one of my favorite animated songs that doesn’t come from a Disney film. It was created by the late James Horner and features the vocals of Cathy Cavadini (aka Blossom from The Powerpuff Girls). In this song, Tanya entertains the cats by singing about “the girl you left behind” and how they shouldn’t let her go.

Do you… do you ever miss…

Do you ever miss the girl…you left behind?

Is the girl you left behind out there tonight romancin’?

Makin’ eyes at someone else and singin’, is she dancin’?

Only the girl you left behind is real when you’re sleepin’

Puts the teardrops in your eyes from secrets she is keepin’

Happy just playin’ a tune and dance the whole night away

Hope the girl you left behind will be there for you someday

Lonely is the wind that blows, you know you’ll always miss her

Lonely is a lover’s heart, if only you could

Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her

Tanya’s debut takes place while Chula (Cat R. Waul’s tarantula henchman) is hunting Fievel to eliminate him as a loose end (he knows about the cats’ plan to kill all the mice). The poor mouse tries time and time again to get his sister’s attention but she’s so caught up in her performance that she doesn’t notice.

Chula is a sadistic tarantula with a high aversion to pain (just listen to his dialogue during the scene where he gets sprayed with Miss Kitty’s perfume). At one point, he corners Fievel and sings a demented version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” that goes like this: The itsy bitsy spider caught a mouse in his web/The itsy bitsy spider BIT OFF THE MOUSE’S HEAD!

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All the girls you left behind could fill up California

Please don’t leave them too darn long, I think I oughta warn ya

Absence makes the heart go cold and makes a heart to wander

If you stay there by their sides, you’ll feel their hearts grow fonder

Cats:

Hope you see her someday

Hope I find my way

Back to the girl I left behind

Tanya:

So tell me you will never roam

Cats:

(We swear we won’t go roaming)

Tanya:

You’ll be by your fireside

Cats:

(We’ll all be home sweet home and kiss her, kiss her, kiss her)

Tanya:
So where’s the girl you left behind?

Cats:
She’s waitin’ for her sister

We won’t stop until we’re home we’ll hug and hug and kiss her

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

I’ll find the girl

All:
You’ll (I’ll) find the girl

You’ll (I’ll) find the girl you (I) left behind

Tonight! Tonight! Tonight!

That’s right

Alright!

I can’t lie, as a little kid, I used to pretend I was Tanya putting on the performance of a lifetime. I wanted to put a big feather in my hair and dress up too (*sighs* good times…) What do you think of “The Girl You Left Behind”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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See also: Disney Soundtracks A-Z

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The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the blogathon so far. Today is the last day and here is my contribution. Enjoy!

It’s been two years since James Horner was ripped away from us, his passing left a void that may never be filled. He had a gift for creating magical themes that stuck in the head for hours after the movie was over. And one of my favorite examples from the mid-90s was the main theme from Casper (1995).

Loosely based on the comics character Casper the Friendly Ghost, Casper follows a paranormal therapist, Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter “Kat” as they travel from state to state in an attempt to make contact with the spirit of Harvey’s deceased wife Amelia. The pair come to Casper’s former home when the spoiled heiress who inherited the home wants the ghosts (Casper and his uncles) removed so she can claim the “treasure” hidden inside.

Casper’s Lullaby

Casper’s theme, listed on the soundtrack as “Casper’s Lullaby”, is a haunting piano melody that comes to the forefront particularly when Casper remembers the events of his death, and also during the Halloween dance when Kat realizes she’s dancing with Casper (who’s alive for one night).

How Casper Died

It’s such a haunting melody, one that highlights the tragedy of Casper’s short life, and the fact that he “didn’t go where he was supposed to” but stayed behind instead. Actually, ever since Horner passed away, I’ve had a hard time listening to this theme, as it reminds me that one of the greatest film composers is gone before his time. I hope you enjoy listening to Casper’s Lullaby, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the blogathon today.

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

See also:

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 1!!

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 2!!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon Day 3

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

It’s finally here, the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon is here! Even before I woke up this morning day 1 is off to a good start with two amazing entries already. As I see new entries come up, I will add them to this list below. Enjoy!!

Day 1

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews: The Land Before Time (1988)

Movierob: The Pelican Brief (1993)

Listening to Film: “Nautical but Nice”: James Horner and the Music for Wrath of Khan

Listening to Film: “The Underappreciated” (Star Trek III)

Reelweegiemidget: Willow (1988)

Day 2

Sean Munger: Postmodern patriotism: Howard’s “Apollo 13” as history and mythology

MovieRob: Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Day 3

MovieRob: The Karate Kid (2010)

The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Christina Wehner: Sneakers (1992)

Listening to Film: The Rocketeer (1991)

Tranquil Dreams: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Old School Evil: The Land Before Time (1988)

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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Star Trek II: “Inside Regula I” (1982)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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One doesn’t normally associate the horror genre with Star Trek in any way, shape or form (though the infamous “Genesis” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation comes awfully close in my opinion), and yet there is a scene midway through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that could be straight out of a horror film.

“Aboard Regula One” (beginning to 1:35)

The Enterprise is diverted from a routine training mission by an emergency call from space station Regula One and along the way are ambushed by Khan Noonien Singh, who seeks revenge against Admiral Kirk for stranding him and his followers on Ceti Alpha V fifteen years previously. Barely surviving this attack, the Enterprise limps to the space station, knowing Khan has been there and gone, not sure what they’ll find. Kirk, McCoy and Lieutenant Saavik beam over to see what, if anything, remains on the space station.

From the moment they transport down, the music is like something straight out of a horror film. The space station appears totally abandoned, and the music is dark and ominous. Even though Khan has left, there’s still no way of knowing if he’s left any “surprises” for Kirk and his crew.

Kirk, Saavik and McCoy walk through the empty corridors of the station, and the air is thick with tension. But it isn’t until we go back to a last shot of McCoy that we get the big “horror film” moment. He’s about to cross into a new section when he’s suddenly startled by a rat (because of course there are rats on space stations). And just when he thinks it is safe to keep going….WHAM!! He walks headfirst into the arms of a dead crew member, hanging upside down from a balcony.

It’s a truly horrifying moment, and one that I think is slightly underrated, due to the space battle that happens before and after this segment of the film. But this music is beautiful foretaste of what will come when Horner scores Aliens a few years after this film. I hope you enjoy a look at the scene “Inside Regula One.”

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

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James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

As I’ve mentioned before, 1995 was a very good year for James Horner. In that year alone he composed the scores for Casper, Apollo 13, Jumanji, Balto, Jade and Braveheart.

Braveheart was one of the standout films of 1995, eventually winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Directed by and starring Mel Gibson, the film tells the story of how William Wallace led the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

Braveheart

Wallace is spurred into action after his new bride Murron is executed by the English after she attempts to flee being raped. The Scots have several victories, including sacking the city of York. King Edward sends his son (also named Edward) to deal with Wallace, but that proves to be a failure. Then Prince Edward’s wife Isabella is sent (in hopes that Wallace will kill her and spur the French to jump into the war), but instead the two become enamored of each other and end up having an affair instead. Ultimately, Wallace is betrayed by would-be ally Robert the Bruce and is painfully executed by the English while Isabella is pregnant with Wallace’s child.

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While the film takes numerous liberties with actual history (Isabella and William Wallace never had an affair for example), the film was still very well received and James Horner’s score became one of the most commercially successful soundtracks of all time.

The footage features Mel Gibson’s comments on the music as James Horner leads the scoring sessions. If you’ve never seen Braveheart before, the music is absolutely gorgeous, a perfect example of James Horner at the top of his craft. Since the weekend is here, take some time, sit back, relax and enjoy the sounds of Braveheart.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of James Horner, see here

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*poster image is the property of Paramount Pictures

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

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James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

In 2002 MGM released the war film Windtalkers, based on the true story of the Navajo Code Talkers, who used a code based on the Navajo language to send encoded transmissions that the Japanese couldn’t understand or decode as they had no direct knowledge of the Navajo language. The film follows two code talkers, Pvt. Ben Yahzee and Pvt. Charlie Whitehorse, and their “chaperones,” Sgt. Enders and Sgt. Henderson, who are ordered to protect these Navajo soldiers with their lives (as only a handful of people know how to use the code).

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Though the Japanese tried many times, they were never able to break the code. In fact, due to evidence that the Japanese are brutally torturing any Navajo soldiers they can capture in order to get the code, Enders and Henderson are given particular orders that they are to kill their respective “windtalker” if they are in danger of being captured by the enemy. Enders is later forced to kill Whitehorse with a grenade when he sees the Japanese capturing him (Whitehorse himself gives a stiff nod when he sees Enders preparing the grenade, signalling that he knows what must be done and he is prepared to die).

The score for this film was created by the late James Horner, and the clip above is part interview and part scoring session, showing Horner at work in the recording studio. As beautiful as the music sounds, it’s a shame that the film wasn’t better received at the box office (I don’t think having Nicolas Cage as the main star helped much). This just reinforces the sad truth that a film can have a beautiful score but still be ruined by other factors, the biggest of which being that the titular “windtalkers” were relegated to secondary character status, despite being pivotal to the plot.

Having just finished the James Horner blogathon, I still had his music very much on my mind, and I was glad I could find another recording of the composer at work (there aren’t as many out there as you might think). I hope you enjoy watching and listening.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of James Horner, see here

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*poster image is the property of MGM