Monthly Archives: June 2015

Glory: James Horner (1953-2015)

Today started in an unusual manner. I woke on a normal school day and the children were already up and dressed (odd). Whilst making a cup of tea my wife told me to read the screen on her mobile phone. I read it, but it took a moment to fully digest: “Film Composer James Horner aged 61 dies in a plane crash”. I was quietly devastated.

The very first time I recall remembering his music was for the trailer of Backdraft back in 1991. I remember thinking “WOW”, that music has a real emotional punch to it.

When I watched the film I came away bitterly disappointed that this wonderful music was nowhere to be heard! What was this music? I needed to know and I discovered (long before the days of Google or Shazam) that it was James Horner and the piece was taken from the ending credits of Glory:

This is the piece I am going to remember James Horner for, it made me sit up and take notice (really at a point when I didn’t do this much). It feels more poignant today than ever.

James Horner (image by Getty)

It wasn’t long before I discoverd he had composed music to other film scores I loved – most notably Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (I honestly thought it was Jerry Goldsmith), Aliens (I’ve lost track of the number of trailers which use Bishop’s Countdown in them), The Name of the Rose (I still find those bells creepy).

He would go on to win an Oscar for both his Titanic score and the song ‘My Heart will go on’. He was nominated for six other films. At the risk of being somewhat controversial – I didn’t rate Titanic as one of his better scores, but he did so many other memorable scores such as Apollo 13, Avatar, Braveheart, Casper and Field of Dreams – that there really is something for everyone.Β  The thing about James Horner for me was the way he could emotionally connect an audience to the scene in a beautiful yet bittersweet manner. Knowing we will never hear another of his majestic scores makes me feel a little emptier inside. RIP James Horner.

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In the Moog for Music

My favourite band of recent times is Goldfrapp, yet I’m an 80’s child at heart. My favourite 80’s band is Tears for Fears. I had no idea of any link between the two until recently (Will Gregory collaborated on saxophone for Tears For Fears). Will is currently touring with his Moog Ensemble – something of a “Super Band” including the talents of Ade Utley from Portishead and film composer Graham Fitkin. The ensemble recently played in Oxford, I naturally felt compelled to attend.

Moog synths are analog with no presets but plenty of twisty dials and buttons to help sculpt sounds. They are also monophonic meaning you can only play one note at a time. As you can imagine, bringing this together takes skill. We thought it would either be complete genius or total disaster (and were extremely curious to know which).

The varied line-up included a number of classical pieces akin to Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach – clearly a source of inspiration.

The highlight of the first half was the rendition of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, the second half was arguably even better once their own material was introduced.Β  Firstly there was a sublime piece called Swell. My personal favourites of the evening were the tracks written for the film “The Service of Tim Henman”, both extremely catchy!

Topping off the whole experience was the venue: St John The Evangelist church which allowed sounds to reverberate to great effect creating a wonderfully rich ambience.

Will Gregory Moog Ensemble

By the end, the audience were applauding for more despite the fact the band hadn’t rehearsed an encore (hey – we were the first place for the tour). All in all I’d recommend this to anyone interested in retro-synths or looking for something a little different from the norm. The current tour ends on 8th July, further information is available on the website.