The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Little Jack Horner 

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Since Scott Spiegelberg has brought his name up, here are my two best James Horner-Titanic stories. They could be heresay, but my source was pretty reliable.

Firstly, as Alex Ross observed back in 1998, Horner had switched to a "New Age Celtic sound ... reminiscent of that deracinated voclise you hear in overpriced boutiques." Now, films don't tend to get scored these days until pretty late on in the production process, and what often happens is that the composer isn't involved until he is shown a rough edit of the film. Underneath this, the director often adds a soundtrack (usually culled from his CD collection) to give the composer an idea of the kind of effect he is after. For Godzilla, for example, the director imaginatively backed his rough edit with the music from Jurassic Park - if it works for T-Rexes, it'll work for 40-storey sea monsters, right? As I understand it, James Cameron simply played Enya records to Horner (must be a water thing I guess), and bingo: deracinated, New Age film score ahoy!

The better story is how Horner got so rich off Titanic, since usual practice is for composers to be paid a flat fee, and to relinquish their copyright to the film company. However, Cameron did things his own way, and got so heavily involved in every single aspect of the film, including editing the soundtrack, that things ran massively behind schedule, and over budget. Feeling the studio pressure, he cut a deal with Horner - no fee, but you get to keep your copyright. "No problem", says the canny composer. 12 months later the film score is number one in every country in the world, and Cameron has to explain to his bosses why they aren't seeing a penny off the CD sales ...

Just reporting what I was once told, from a reliable source.

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