Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Passing: James Horner

Initially it might seem a bit weird to note the passing of a composer here on an Alaskan cartooning blog, but James Horner ranks in my personal pantheon, up alongside the likes of Howard Shore & Hans Zimmer. No exaggeration to say not a single week goes by that I don’t listen to something of his work, esp. as I primarily have soundtracks + scores on heavy rotation in the studio while I’m hunched over a drawing. Above & beyond that visceral connection he defined many of the movies I count as favorites: glancing at my “Soundtrax” iTune playlist there’s something from "Aliens," plus "Wrath of Khan," "Braveheart," and "Patriot Games" to name just a few. He might be remembered for more epic scores to blockbusters such as "Titanic" and "Avatar," but for me there's an immediate and intimate presence and connection, usually through a pair of headphones.

Of special note is the collaborative effort between Horner and my all-time favorite director, Terrence Malick, in the 2005 film “The New World.” It's the meshing of these two artforms into a singular vision of Malick's caliber which transcends the cinematic experience into what in my humble opinion is the highest example of what the medium of image + sound can possibly achieve. These latter two posted samples here are of bookending sequences that incorporate passages from Wagner's Das Rheingold (Vorspiel). As per Alex Ross, "Malick's deployment of the Rheingold prelude in The New World is possibly the most idiomatic use of Wagner in cinema history." If you haven't already had enough what with the embedded linkage here, peruse Richard Neer's article here, or even better yet, read Hannah Patterson's 2007 volume of collected essays in "The Cinema of Terrence Malick: Poetic Visions of America."

Presumably there’s a faction of pretentious critics that hold popular Hollywood composers such as James Horner in the same view as that of many such snobs do for cartoonists versus Fine Art. Yet I would challenge them to show any other artists who have the power to touch so many people in a memorable sense, affecting our interpretations and shaping multisensory experiences which inspire so many: from theater-goers all the way to some dude sitting and drawing in a cabin out in the woods somewhere up in Alaska.

1 comment: