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Section Header
A Beautiful Mind
Composed, Conducted, Co-Orchestrated, and Co-Produced by:
James Horner

Vocals by:
Charlotte Church

Co-Orchestrated by:
Randy Kerber

Co-Produced by:
Simon Rhodes

Decca Records

Release Date:
December 11th, 2001

Also See:
Bicentennial Man
Deep Impact
Searching for Bobby Fischer

Audio Clips:
1. A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

5. Cracking the Russian Codes (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

12. Saying Goodbye to Those You So Love (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

15. All Love Can Be (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, and a Golden Globe.

A Beautiful Mind

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Buy it... if you have always had a soft spot for James Horner's "dancing key-shifting motif on piano," an idea that flourishes with Charlotte Church's voice and calculated brilliance in this incarnation.

Avoid it... if you demand to hear any idea in A Beautiful Mind that hadn't already been explored by Horner in the past, despite the fact that this score repackages those ideas into a superior form.

A Beautiful Mind: (James Horner) The darling of Academy voters in the holiday season of 2001, A Beautiful Mind is loosely based on Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash, Jr. and his battle with schizophrenia. Director Ron Howard's fascination with telling human tales against a historical backdrop hit the jackpot with this film, praised across the board for its intelligent script (despite, as in Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon, taking some dramatic liberties with facts) and its engrossing acting performances. The film is mostly a love story, using Nash's disease, his brilliance at mathematics, and his code breaking for the government as obstacles to his relationship with his wife, and, for that reason alone, A Beautiful Mind's appeal is universal. Another aspect of the film's success was James Horner's score. The composer's collaborations with Howard have inspired some of his most powerful music, and A Beautiful Mind stands alongside those strong works despite its inherent problems relating to Horner's methodology. Criticism over the composer's borrowing of motifs from classical composers, overshadowed by his own repetition of ideas from previous works, had come to the forefront of discussions about him in 2001, due largely to his extremely derivative score for Enemy at the Gates earlier in the year. Regardless of this ongoing problem, Horner had positioned himself well going into the awards season of 2001; while Windtalkers had been delayed due to the 9/11 attacks, he still offered music for A Beautiful Mind and Iris that appealed to arthouse crowds. Contributing to his success in this area was his choice to emulate John Williams' tactic of employing a famed soloist for his works, featuring a standout voice or instrument with which the composers were attempting to give their recordings a unique edge. For Iris, it is acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell (whose work for John Corigliano on The Red Violin garnered award recognition) who set the tone. For A Beautiful Mind, which hit the stores on album a month before Iris, Horner chose the haunting voice of then 15-year-old opera phenomenon Charlotte Church.

Inviting noteworthy guest performers had been the highlight of Williams' 1990's maturation, but Horner's continuously strengthening reputation in theatres and music stores by 2000 had thrown him the same consistent opportunities to draw top of the line talent to compliment his works. Intriguingly, Horner's movement towards such solo emphasis per score would throw a glass of cold water in the face of the negative critics of Horner's consistency in instrumentation and thematic verse, despite the fact that the underlying constructs were still distinctly from his own style. The use of Church's name and voice in A Beautiful Mind is handled in a far more professional fashion than the highly debated, concurrent use of new age artist Enya in Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The appearance of Enya in the other score came across to many fans as a publicity stunt, as it should, because her voice was used for only a sliver of the The Lord of the Rings score (and even then it was inserted with an easily identifiable break between Shore's and Enya's recordings). This is not the case with Church for A Beautiful Mind. While the packaging for the score's album emphasized Church's lovely, though short song on the product, her voice carries several sections of underscore with its haunting and ageless qualities. One of the attractions of that voice is that it leaves you wondering, because of its tone, if you are listening to a child or an adult. That exact combination of innocence and mature vocal development contributed to wild excitement over her initial albums, and in A Beautiful Mind, that inflection functions beyond all expectations. Interestingly, that timeless quality of her performances works stunningly well when she performs without lyrics, especially in relation to the addressing of Nash's child-like innocence in the softer side of his personality. Her appearances in the underscore are limited to a handful of tracks, but the excellent mixing of her heartfelt tone sets an otherwise typical Horner score apart from his other string-heavy, melodic efforts of the era. She unselfishly blends into the massively-conceived orchestral performances as merely one fluid element, ultimately making the vocal presence in A Beautiful Mind a more poignant subtlety than uses of the female vocals in more pop-oriented scores.

In terms of the overarching style of the score, you can simply state that if you are disturbed by the infamous "Horner self-ripoff technique," then don't bother with A Beautiful Mind. At times, the similarities between his scores are too blatant for even Horner supporters, such as a seemingly "composed on the same day" melodramatic sound of Bicentennial Man and Deep Impact. There are countless previous efforts in Horner's career that could be cited as having directed the movement of this work, but essentially, A Beautiful Mind is a score of two primary halves (a logical move given the main character, of course), both of which reminiscent of previous scores in his career. The part of the score with the most airtime is the turbulent, but dramatic love theme for Nash and his wife, with the prototypical Horner drama progressions that become the basis for Church's song performance in "All Love Can Be." This theme doubles as the identity for Nash himself, creating a sympathetic tone for a character that desperately needs love and care. The other part of A Beautiful Mind is both its main attraction in terms of style and detraction in terms of originality. When Nash's mind becomes lucid and he engages in his flashes of brilliance, he is accompanied by a dancing, creatively jumbled, and percussively diverse series of shifting progressions that form a very distinct (though remarkably singular) motif that Horner collectors heard in fragments in Sneakers and Searching for Bobby Fischer before it flourished in the opening cue of Bicentennial Man. This motif is one of the truly distinguishing trademarks of Horner's career, and he expands upon the idea for extended periods to accompany Nash's mind in this score. With an enthusiastic set of pianos leading the way, this frenetic style of development builds momentum through the constant shifting of key while maintaining enough pleasant, major-key harmonies to establish the idea as a theme in and of itself. It's a complex dance of the orchestra, allowing a single rhythm to be passed from section to section with a remarkably inspirational and upbeat tone. Substitute Church's voice for the trumpets and woodblocks in the Bicentennial Man cue and you get a more delicate, elegant version of that motif (though the bass strings are mixed so heavily this time that they drive more power into the idea).

The four or five applications of this calculated rhythmic idea in A Beautiful Mind, despite reprising key shifts heard several times before, are easily the highlight of the work, gravitating towards the earlier portions of both the film and score. The score's more dramatic half defies the orchestral dancing of the mathematical genius of Nash, and the troubled self-discovery process that nearly derailed his run to the Nobel Prize is handled in a much more introverted way by Horner in the conversational underscore for the picture. The painful and tragic inner-travels of Nash are tackled with a heavy and broad string approach, leading to several very lengthy cues of meandering and borderline depressing cues of a seriousness that Horner employed often in Deep Impact and Bicentennial Man. While pleasant to the ear, these cues extend for long sequences that may lose the interest of the listener after several minutes. The magic of Church's voice from the cues of mathematical triumph is replaced by solemn solo woodwind instruments for these dark passages. With the basses still mixed heavily, the cues offer a formidable, though consistent tone of gravity. Although it may cause some awkward moments in the listening experience, Horner's choice to expand upon the "dancing key shifting" motif was a remarkably astute one to represent Nash's brilliance, because there could be no greater a contrast than between that and the broad bass string brooding that Horner was probably going to employ for the darker half of A Beautiful Mind anyway. The precision with which the piano spurts its measures and the percussion taps in tingling, metallic shades creates a sort of electricity that seeks to match connections in the brain while Church's voice offers an elegant sense of beauty to Nash's abilities. This technique in the more subtle "Playing a Game of 'Go!'" may be faintly reminiscent of Apollo 13 and several other Horner scores, but it's packaged here in perhaps the best form ever to be heard. On album, it may be a little disappointing to hear the rambling fun of the orchestra suddenly cease without warning (which it usually does) and delve into the depths of despair, but if you think about the personality of Nash, it's not only appropriate, but clever as well. The superior mixing of the score, as mentioned before, is alone a good reason to forgive Horner for his regurgitation in this circumstance.

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Ultimately, A Beautiful Mind is, despite its inherent flaws in repetitive constructs, a superior score. While Horner has revisited the same ideas many times through the years, there are certain scores that triumph with those motifs in ways that the other scores cannot touch. For the four-note danger motif, that score was Willow. For the ethereal ambience of light percussion, it was The Spitfire Grill. And for the dancing key-shifting motif, it is A Beautiful Mind. This score elevated not only that specific idea, but a handful of others as well, shaping them into the best format that the composer's collectors have heard. For that achievement alone, A Beautiful Mind is not only one of Horner's more compelling scores, but a top five competitor in the extremely competitive year of 2001. Will the score bother Horner's critics who can't tolerate the recycling of ideas? Absolutely, because there really is no clear, fresh new idea to be heard in the work. But you can't expect to hear scores that travel wildly in a tangent, like The Mask of Zorro or its sequel, every time. You won't even hear the individuality of Titanic on most occasions (a good thing for many listeners). If you accept the fact that Horner resides in a comfort zone and will occasionally blast out something as horrifically derivative as Enemy at the Gates, then A Beautiful Mind is, by comparison, about as good as it gets. On album, there is enough flash in the several performances of the key-shifting motif to create that appeal. Buyers should be aware, however, that due to the overriding seriousness of the film's exploration of Nash's paranoid hallucinations, these cues of mathematical dancing with Church's voice are limited to only about ten minutes in length. The song performance by Church near the end of the product is surprisingly mellow, not the kind of inspirational or overwhelming effort that you felt was the intention behind the Horner/Celine Dion collaborations. It relies on operatic tones rather than those of pop, reaching towards a different crowd. The score holds a consistent volume for a total of over seventy minutes, and it doesn't feature a loud mood-breaking set of cues in any sequence. It's a clever and momentous score in its highlights and a solid background listening experience in its moodier explorations. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,962 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.77 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 74:31

• 1. A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics (4:55)
• 2. Playing a Game of "GO!" (3:34)
• 3. Looking for the Next Great Idea (3:02)
• 4. Creating "Governing Dynamics" (2:33)
• 5. Cracking the Russian Codes (3:22)
• 6. Nash Descends into Parcher's World (4:39)
• 7. First Drop-Off, First Kiss (5:15)
• 8. The Car Chase (2:24)
• 9. Alicia Discovers Nash's Dark World (8:29)
• 10. Real or Imagined? (5:47)
• 11. Of One Heart, Of One Mind (6:21)
• 12. Saying Goodbye to Those You So Love (6:43)
• 13. Teaching Mathematics Again (3:16)
• 14. The Prize of One's Life... The Prize of One's Mind (3:02)
• 15. All Love Can Be - performed by Charlotte Church (3:17)
• 16. Closing Credits (4:48)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains no extra information about the film or score, but the CD is an auto-loading enhanced product with textual and video interviews with Horner (who appeared to have gained both some weight and a scruffy beard) and Ron Howard, along with pictures from the film and a trailer.

  All artwork and sound clips from A Beautiful Mind are Copyright © 2001, Decca Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/7/01 and last updated 1/4/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.