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Comments about the soundtrack for Avatar (James Horner)

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Re: I agree. This score is heavily overrated (like the film)
• Posted by: ken wiggins   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2010, at 11:52 a.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: Re: I agree. This score is heavily overrated (... (Kurt)

> The ‘Avatar’ score has a range of ideas and a musical scope that is quite remarkable. Many contrasting elements are expertly fused by Horner into a coherent and, yes, listenable work in a way that is far beyond the reach of Horner’s most ambitious scores of yesteryear, for example ‘Krull’ (1983) and ‘Willow’ (1988). I think the difficulty highlighted by many of the responses to the score is connected with the issue of style, and a perception that the music lacks creativity. It is undeniable that the score is stamped throughout with the hallmarks of Horner’s style. Because the soundtrack can be so easily identified as a James Horner effort, it has been argued that the score has no original substance. Yet careful listening to the cd reveals a composer meticulously marshalling a stream of ideas that flow from start to finish, albeit ideas that are very precisely channelled within the limits of his own trademark style, which he has been refining for the past 30 years. In short, Horner’s creativity, while very much active, is nevertheless tempered by an innate conservatism. It may be the perception of an underlying sense of compromise, of Horner playing safe, which informs some of the comments made on the quality of the music for ‘Avatar’. It is interesting that while James Cameron was unrelenting in his drive to bring the audience to a whole new world through his filming, his composer was inclined more towards staying rooted in his own world. This suggests a taut, and we have to believe, deliberately contrived, dynamic operating between the two–Cameron determined to fly, Horner sensibly waiting below him with a safety net. The results are not in any way a compromise, but the fruits of a perfectly balanced partnership between director and composer. Horner’s creations for the movie are brilliant precisely because of his intuitive understanding of Cameron, together with a mutually agreed view of Horner’s role in the ‘Avatar’ adventure. Underneath the superficialities of style lies a work that resonates with depth and substance; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The complete score manages to transcend its apparent limitations, ultimately forging an identity of its own. While this may not qualify it as monumental, it is nevertheless an achievement. Horner’s mission was to produce music that connects with the listener’s emotions, something even his sternest critics would admit he has the ability to do. If you can listen to ‘Quaritch’ at maximum volume on the headphones without totally freaking out, then Horner has failed in his mission. But listen to it again–you may be pleasantly surprised!

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