Monday, February 15, 2010

Why do I notice these things?

At least one person expressed interest in seeing my strange little observations about James Horner soundtracks, so here it is in all its glory.

Let me begin by saying that this is not a criticism. James Horner has produced some of the greatest film scores of our time, and I have a great deal of respect for his skill and achievements. This is simply my sharing things I have noticed about his music after having listened to it over the past decade, things I find humorous if nothing else.

Before going any further, if you have no idea who James Horner is or what he has done, it would probably be helpful to take a quick look at this. With that, the big thing I have noticed about James Horner's film scores is that he has a habit of using exact snipits from his earlier compositions in his newer ones. The best way I can explain this is with a list.

1. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982) music is heard in Project X
2. Project X is heard in Willow (1988)
3. Project X is heard in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
4. Braveheart (1995) is heard in Titanic (1997)
5. Titanic and Willow are heard in Avatar (2009)

What we see from this list is that Horner, on several occasions, has reused an exact or near-exact portion of one of his earlier scores in a more current work. What I found most intriguing about this is that some of the most recognizable music from films such as Willow and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - music that is a staple of those movies and reminds us of them, didn't actually originate in those films. In the case of Willow and HIStK, some of their music came from Project X, a relatively unknown (but very good) movie from the late 80's staring Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt. Who knew?

There is nothing wrong with Horner borrowing from his own past works. With as many movies as he has scored, one could argue that it would be impossible for him not to do so. For whatever reason, I found it incredibly entertaining to recognize music from an earlier movie in a newer movie. I have not seen every movie scored by James Horner, and now find myself motivated to watch them and look for yet more similarities.


  1. I'm gonna have to rewatch some movies soon so that I, too, can spot the similarities. :)

  2. He is just sampling himself. You can do that, right?

  3. ...and the award for most unexpected/humorous acronym goes to Isabel Farrell for "HIStK".