Tag Archives: James Horner

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

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.

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.

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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.

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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

*poster image is the property of Paramount Pictures

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.

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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

*poster image is the property of MGM

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Recap

Wow! I can’t believe the Remembering James Horner Blogathon is already here! I’ve seen some great posts so far, here is a recap of Day One:

More will be added as they come, but it’s been a great blogathon so far! Thank you so much for participating and making this so much fun! See you on day 2 and day 3! -Bex

Day 2

 

 

 

Day 3

 

Remembering James Horner: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

*This is part of the Remembering James Horner blogathon to remember the late composer James Horner (1953-2015)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is (rightly) regarded as one of the best, if not THE best Star Trek film ever created. The film continues a story told in the Original Series episode “Space Seed” and brings back the villain Khan Noonien Singh (as played by Ricardo Montalban) to face off with Kirk and his crew once more.

Given how Star Trek: The Motion Picture suffered at the box office, Paramount greatly reduced the budget for the sequel and removed series creator Gene Roddenberry from the active production process. The music for the first film had been scored by Jerry Goldsmith, but with less money in the budget, he was no longer available. Nor was the second choice, Miklos Rozsa for that matter (though it would have been interesting to hear him score a Star Trek film). James Horner (who was only 28 at the time) was ultimately chosen because his demo music stood out from the group; this was Horner’s first big break into major motion pictures (his first credits after leaving film school begin in 1980). Horner stated once that the producers wanted a completely different score than what Goldsmith had given for The Motion Picture; it couldn’t be John Williams-like, but it still had to be different: more modern, more nautical. Horner did his best to oblige and the results are unforgettable.

In place of the grand theme created by Jerry Goldsmith for the first film, Horner created an entirely original theme and overture first heard in the opening credits of the film. This theme is repeated as the Enterprise leaves Spacedock (a theme I briefly discussed in the “Enterprise Clears Moorings” post below). What I love about this piece is the way the music audibly “ripples” as it builds to the climactic sounding of the main theme. I could literally visualize Horner conducting this music, and at times, I like to pretend that I’m conducting it as well. There’s a huge swelling of enthusiasm that wells up as the music grows and grows; which makes sense since the Enterprise is currently full of young cadets who have never been on a major space voyage before.

“Enterprise Clears Moorings” from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Another theme from this film that I love is “Surprise Attack” (originally covered in the post linked below). Horner related in several interviews that he created Khan’s musical theme to reflect the villain’s increasingly unstable mental state. For over fifteen years, Khan has obsessed over getting revenge on James Kirk, and now that he has his prey in sight, nothing and no one is going to stand in his way. “Surprise Attack” takes place when the Enterprise is being approached by the U.S.S. Reliant (which has been hijacked by Khan and his followers). From the opening notes, this theme is full of tension, created by contrasting Khan’s theme with that of the Enterprise (in a sense this could be considered Kirk’s theme as well). Khan’s theme is full of tension, rage and a thirst for war (lots of drumbeats and high shrilly strings and woodwinds), while the Enterprise/Kirk theme is dominated by lower, calmer strings and minimal percussion. Horner knew that in the upcoming battle scenes it would be vital to have two themes that were noticeably different from each other, to make it easier for the audience to keep up with which ship they were seeing (since there would be some very fast scene changes).

Star Trek II “Surprise Attack”

James Horner’s theme for Spock is also extremely beautiful and simple at the same time. It was created using a glass instrument that is something of a bowl and a chime, put together (think of how a crystal goblet will ring if you fill it with water and rub your finger on the rim). The theme highlights Spock’s devotion to Vulcan logic with it’s simplicity, there is not one note out of place. It is just the sort of music you might expect to find for a Vulcan. After Leonard Nimoy’s death, and again after Horner passed away, I played this theme several times a day for several days, as a way of saying goodbye to them both.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “Spock” (1982)

Another theme that always tugs at my heartstrings is the conclusion of the “Genesis Countdown” (probably the last two minutes of the piece), which takes place when the crew is observing the formation of the Genesis Planet, unaware that Spock has given his life to save the ship. The moment when Kirk races down to Engineering (because deep down he KNOWS what has happened, even though McCoy won’t tell him) always makes my heart hurt, because I think we can all imagine the horror of that moment: racing down to find our closest, dearest friend, whoever that may be, already dead or nearly dead, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. This moment remains one of the most iconic in Star Trek history, because this is SPOCK we’re talking about, one of the most important characters in the series. Typically, there’s an unwritten rule that says these major characters never die; to see this happen sent shock waves through the Star Trek Universe. Actually, Spock’s death was originally going to happen at the beginning of the film, but news of this leaked out so to preserve the surprise it was switched to the end of the film. I know that after Nimoy’s death, viewership of this scene spiked, because so many people associated Nimoy with Spock, that it seemed like a good way to say goodbye. I did a similar thing when James Horner passed away. I didn’t just listen to the Spock theme, and various other themes, I also listened to this part as well, because in my mind, I needed to let the pain of Horner’s untimely death go (film composers mean a great deal to me).

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “Genesis Countdown” (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “Spock (dies)” (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “Spock’s Death” (Film Version) (1982)

I could keep going about James Horner and Star Trek II for thousands of more words, but I think this will do. I will say that I highly recommend the full soundtrack of this film to anyone who has not heard it before. The entire soundtrack can be found on YouTube, so if you have a spare afternoon or evening one weekend, give it a try, you will not be disappointed. And if you’ve never seen The Wrath of Khan, definitely give that film a look as well, you won’t be disappointed.

We lost James Horner over a  year ago, and I don’t believe the void he left will ever be truly filled. But remembering him in this blogathon was the best way I could think of to honor his legacy, and I think that if he were here he would like that very much. James Horner, you are truly missed. Keep making music up in Heaven!

*The Remembering James Horner Blogathon has begun today! Several great posts have already appeared and I’m excited to see what the rest of the weekend will bring. Thanks again for contributing, this means a lot to me. -Bex

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

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James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

In 1991, Walt Disney Studios released The Rocketeer, a period film set in 1938, which told the story of how a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord discovered a prototype jetpack that could enable him to fly without a plane. He uses this device to become “The Rocketeer”, a hero and a media sensation. Before the story is over, Cliff will have to use all his skills to save the girl he loves from some Nazi spies, including one hidden right in their midst!

While the movie was favorably received, it didn’t perform well enough to justify continuing the story and plans for a set of sequels were cancelled (which is a shame, I remember enjoying this movie very much, though I found a hard time accepting Timothy Dalton as a villain).

James Horner was selected to compose and conduct the score for this film and the score is still highly praised as one of the stronger elements of the film. I think it’s interesting to listen to how he composed music before his big successes in 1995 and 1997 respectively. I hope you enjoy this all too brief interview with James Horner regarding his work on this film. Please enjoy!

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney Studios

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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Unbelievably, it’s been 15 years since A Beautiful Mind took the cinematic world by storm. Based on the real-life story of mathematician John Nash (1928-2015), the film follows Nash from his days at Princeton, through his diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia and the struggles that came with dealing with an illness that was not well understood yet. It’s not even clear for a good portion of the film that Nash is seeing things that aren’t there. A good case in point comes with Nash’s roommate at Princeton Charles. He’s introduced the way any other character would be, he talks with Nash and even walks in public with him and later introduces his young niece. I remember being totally shocked when it was revealed that only Nash could see Charles (it put certain episodes at Princeton in a completely different light).

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A Beautiful Mind took home four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It also received four additional nominations for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

I don’t remember exactly when I saw this movie for the first time, but I do remember it had something to do with school (we might have been learning about mental illness). I should also mention that I knew nothing about Nash before watching this film, so the revelation that so many of Nash’s “friends” were delusions came as a huge surprise to me, and it made me question every interaction Nash had for the rest of the film.

For this film, director Ron Howard called upon composer James Horner to assemble the musical score and oh did he ever! Horner gives an eloquent description of how he assembled the musical themes for this film and not only that, he also described his thought process for creating a film score in general (he compares it to painting, which is just beautiful!) Considering it’s been just under a year since he passed away, I felt a few tears come to my eyes, knowing that a talent like this was gone from the world.

Please enjoy listening to how the music for A Beautiful Mind was put together!

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

My Thoughts on: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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

*the film poster is the property of Universal Pictures

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Beginning in 2010, Columbia Pictures decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise (that had previously starred Tobey Maguire from 2002-2007) and recast the title role with Andrew Garfield. The film was very well received, with Garfield’s performance being highly praised.

The film, being a reboot, starts the story of Peter Parker over again, showing how he develops from a bullied teen into a superhero after a genetically modified spider bites him. Parker begins using his abilities to hunt down criminals, and eventually must stop a rampaging villain known as the Lizard (who has also discovered that Spider-Man is Peter Parker!) The story was continued in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

James Horner was brought in to compose the musical score for the film. On that merit alone, I would recommend this soundtrack to anyone (because by this stage in his career, Horner had writing film music down to a fine art).

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I admit I haven’t actually seen the reboot of Spider-Man, but the general consensus is that it is a good film worth seeing. Please enjoy this behind the scenes look at the scoring of The Amazing Spider-Man, featuring the one and only James Horner (it sends chills down my spine to see him conducting the orchestra, he was surely a master of his craft), enjoy!!

 

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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

*the film poster is the property of Columbia Pictures

Balto “Heritage of the Wolf”

1995 was a very good year for James Horner. In that year alone, he composed the scores for: Jumanji, Braveheart, Casper, Jade, Balto and Apollo 13. “Heritage of the Wolf” from Balto (1995) remains one of my favorite musical moments. Balto recounts the true story of how vital diphtheria medicine had to be relayed from Nenana to Nome, Alaska by rail and then by sled dog, to combat an outbreak of the illness. Being an animated film, the story does take some liberties with the events (for instance, it was multiple teams of sled dogs, not just the one), but the overall event is true (and there IS a statue of Balto in Central Park, I went there myself in 2009).

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In the film, Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon) is a Siberian Husky/wolf hybrid, ostracized by the rest of the dogs because he’s a “half-breed” and unwilling to embrace his wolf side. Determined to help, Balto has set out after the missing sled team that was supposed to bring the medicine back to Nome. After a series of events (this film will eventually have a post all to its own), Balto has found the team and the medicine, but has plunged off a cliff (with the medicine box) and his current fate is unknown.

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As the cue starts, Balto’s friends listen at the door as the other dogs discuss the fact that the children of Nome are likely doomed if the medicine does not arrive soon (there’s no time to send another team). All hope seems to be abandoned as the lights of Nome are one by one turned out. However, Jenna, a female husky (and in love with Balto) has not given up and is dragging out a lantern and creates an artificial aurora by placing the light behind shards of glass (a trick Balto showed her earlier), hoping the light will guide Balto home.

“Heritage of the Wolf” Film Version

“Heritage of the Wolf” Soundtrack Version

Meanwhile, Balto is shown to be alive, dragging himself out of the snow. This is the main part of the cue, and the part I love the most. Balto is at rock bottom right now, he believes the medicine is gone and that he’s failed. But then, a white wolf appears in front of him (later sequels establish that this is his mother), and invites him to “become a wolf” by howling, but Balto refuses, and the wolf walks away. But then, Balto realizes that the medicine is intact and he remembers the advice his friend gave before he left “A dog, cannot make this journey alone. But maybe…a wolf can.” Inspired, Balto turns in the direction of the wolf and sets one paw down into the print (it matches perfectly). Realizing and finally accepting that he has been a wolf all along, Balto rears up and howls, drawing the white wolf back to him.

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For the moments where Balto faces the white wolf, Horner repeats the same melody in strings over and over, it changes registers on almost every iteration. And when it peaks in the high strings (listen to the moment when the wolf turns to walk away), it always makes my eyes tear up. The timbral changes reflect the changing mood of the scene. First: despair (low and almost minor); second, hope (a change to major as the wolf appears); third, denial (a slide back to minor as the wolf walks away, melody high in strings); realization (a mix of major and minor, the ensemble plays together); decision (firm major key, melody in horn).

There’s a few more minutes of music beyond this, but that’s a discussion for another time. For now, I’ll leave you with the triumphant moment where Balto finally finds himself.

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

For more Disney and other animated film soundtracks, see here

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*All images are the property of the film studio, and are only being used for illustration

Film Music 101: Borrowing

Borrowing is a tricky subject to discuss in the world of film music. Almost all composers do it, but hardly anyone will talk about it (officially that is). And that’s a shame because borrowing is one of the most interesting things to look at in a film score (or group of scores).

Borrowing is what happens when a composer takes a theme from another score (usually one of their previous works, but not always) and places it in the score they’re presently working on. There are many reasons why this might need to happen. A composer might be working on several scores in a single year (i.e. James Horner in 1995) and instead of creating a wholly original score for each film, it might be more convenient to borrow and re-use several themes, particularly if the music fits in the new film.

As a general rule of thumb, if a composer scores at least two films in the same year, it’s likely you can listen to both soundtracks and find at least several identical cues.

Jerry Goldsmith talks about Alien

Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien (both from 1979) both provide a good example as well. In this case, the similarity is slight, but unmistakable. First, watch Alien and listen to the music in the opening of the film (after the opening title), when the camera is panning around the empty ship. Then, go to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and fast forward to the scene where Spock steals a spacesuit. It’s the exact same music!

John Williams is equally guilty in my opinion. While not identical, compare Princess Leia’s theme from Star Wars (1977) to Marian’s theme in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); they are suspiciously similar.

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Elmer Bernstein (of The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) fame) borrowed a fragment of his Magnificent Seven theme and placed it in the opening for The Great Escape (1963) (it can be heard during the opening credits).

But why doesn’t anyone talk about this if everyone does it? Well…while borrowing is a fact of musical life (classical composers have been doing it for centuries), many (outside the industry) view the practice as tantamount to “cheating.” The feeling is that it’s not right to re-use parts of a film score because it “cheapens” the new product. Of particular irritation are the moments when composers borrow themes that they did not originally create. For this reason (I believe), composers choose not to talk about this process very often (though that’s not to say they never talk about it, I just don’t think they discuss it enough).

First of all, I need to point out that this is NOT plagiarism. Once a theme has been written, it belongs to the studio and NOT the artist. So if a composer needs to borrow a certain theme that another composer created, they are free to use it. Case in point: John William’s theme for Superman: The Movie (1978) being reused in Superman Returns (2006) (the first attempt at rebooting the franchise). Also, in a similar vein, John William’s main theme for Jurassic Park (1993) makes a prominent reappearance in Jurassic World (2015).

Become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

*all images are the property of their respective film studios, they are only being used for illustration

See also:

Film Music 101: Arranger

Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Film Music 101: Empathetic Sound

Film Music 101: Foley

Film Music 101: Montage

Film Music 101: Compilation Score

Film Music 101: Leitmotif

Film Music 101: “Stinger” Chords

Film Music 101: Dubbing

Film Music 101: Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

Film Music 101: Underscore

Film Music 101: Sidelining

Film Music 101: “Test” Lyrics

Film Music 101: The First Film Score

Film Music 101: Orchestration and cues