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Comments about the soundtrack for Windtalkers (James Horner)

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Re: I don't understand
• Posted by: Dan Sartori   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Wednesday, May 15, 2002, at 9:31 a.m.
• IP Address: 1cust175.tnt23.chiega.da.uu.net
• In Response to: Re: I don't understand (Matt)

> The reason we expect John Williams to produce five-star scores every time
> out is because of the enormous success he has had over the last thirty
> years. Maybe you do not like Williams's music as much as Horner's, that is
> your opinion, but like it or not that opinion is in the distinct minority.

I never said that I didn't like Williams's music as much as Horner's. In fact, if you read my profile on the scoreboard forum, many of my favorite soundtracks are of Williams (E.T., Jurassic Park, etc.), and my top ten list includes just as many Williams soundtracks as it does Horner soundtracks. I just don't write in favor of Williams on this site so much because there is already an abundance of people who do that.

> A three-star score from Williams is the exception rather than the rule,
> whereas it is the reverse for James Horner.

Not really. There may be more three star scores on this site for Horner because of the John Williams bias, but other people don't necessarily hold the same opinion. Part of the reasoon why we hear so much about John Williams's really good scores is the simple fact that his career has spanned almost 35 years, whereas Horner has only been around for 15 years. But you have to realize that John Williams has had his fair share of clunkers. He hasn't really had a good score since The Patriot, and Harry Potter was a disappointment.

Horner has composed some outstanding film scores, such as Star Trek II, Glory, The Mask of Zorro, Apollo 13, Braveheart...but the overwhelming majority of Horner's scores
> are rather average, merely functional scores which work for the film but
> not as well on CD.

I don't think this is true at all. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing each of Horner's scores to each other, but to truly appreciate each score for what it is it is imperative to look at it as an individual entity. If you did all the comparing of Williams scores that you do with Horner scores, you would find that THEY would sound much the same too. I can point to several specific areas where Williams is blatantly using "self-plagiarism", as you Horner-bashers so like to call it. And what are these "merely functional scores"?

It is the opposite with John Williams; he's had some
> clunkers, such as Sleepers, Nixon, Heartbeeps...but by far his music is
> vastly superior to Horner's

This is your opinion, not a fact.

(I can't even fathom Horner writing music as
> bombastic and thematically rich as Star Wars, or as heart-wrenching as the
> theme from ET, or as threatening as Jaws, or on a lighter note as purely
> Christmasy as Home Alone).

I will tackle each of your assertions individually.
bombastic and thematically rich - This is Williams's style. It doesn't necessarily mean that his music is better. Williams is the king of the bombastic and thematic style (which, by the way, is not original - it's a direct takeoff of how Wagner wrote) whereas Horner is the king of the subdued and developed theme. Just as Horner's bombasticity looks weak compared to Williams, so also Williams attempts at subdued themes suck when you compare them to Horner's masterpieces.

heart-wrenching - This again has to do with the different styles. Williams's method of being heart-wrenching is shooting walls of sound at you (which is not a bad thing, just the way he chooses to do it). However, I prefer Horner's method of keeping everything quiet. I just think that a whisper is often much more powerful than a shout. If you prefer Williams's style, that's your choice, but please don't flaunt it as evidence that Williams is better. This is just plain not true.

threatening - Have you heard the score for Jade?

lighter tone - The Land Before Time is quite light-hearted at some parts, and is infinitely better music than Home Alone.

And don't give me any arguments about how the
> Titanic soundtrack has sold more copies than Star Wars: take that Celine
> Dion song off of it and it wouldn't have sold half as well.

I wasn't going to say anything like that. You could make the same argument about the Lord of the Rings: that if you took Enya off it wouldn't have sold half as well - but that really has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the score (as evidenced by Howard Shore's masterpiece).

> So it's not that we give "breaks" to John Williams and are
> unduly harsh on Horner; this is what these two composers' histories and
> accomplishments to date have brought us to expect.

Much of the reason that Williams has a greater core of excellent scores is that his career has been more than twice as long as Horner's.

I know there is a lot
> of Horner-bashing out there, and maybe some of it is a bit extreme, but
> nobody can argue with the fact that Horner DOES borrow substantially from
> himself from score to score.

So does Williams. Even though I agree that Horner does it more.

No matter how extreme the bashing is, there
> is always a basis in truth. John Williams is not immune to this, he'll
> write something similar-sounding to a previous work (such as the love
> theme from Attack of the Clones sounding similar to the theme from Hook).
> But nobody, anywhere, will mistake Across the Stars from Flight to
> Neverland. They may have roughly the same sequence of notes, but they have
> their own distinct sound and flavor to them. Horner's music is MUCH less
> unique, and can readily be interchanged from one film to the next.

I disagree. Show me how Glory sounds like Braveheart, and how that detracts from the effectiveness of either score. Horner's themes are much more developed than Williams's, and Horner varies his instrumentation more effectively.

> So please don't say that visitors to this site have a "bias"
> towards John Williams. There is no getting around the fact (and this is a
> FACT, not an opinion), that John Williams's music is substantially more
> popular than James Horner's.

This is true, but are the reasons for this good?

Williams's music is popular for a reason,
> beyond simply the success of the movie for which it was written...IT IS
> GREAT MUSIC.

So is Horner's.

> To provide perhaps a better analogy:

> John Williams = New York Yankees

> James Horner = Boston Red Sox

> Sure, both are very good baseball teams, but when the World Series comes
> around, who would you expect to win?

Nice analogy. Doesn't change my opinion.

You're seeing John Williams's music through rose-colored glasses, just as many other people see it. It's very good, don't get me wrong. I adore John Williams's style, but when I need to listen to something more subdued, I'm going to grab some Horner or Hans Zimmer scores, not Williams. Williams is better at his particular style of writing, but his music is NOT necessarily all-around better than any other composer. He is more popular because of two basic reasons: he has scored films that have become popular or have been landmarks in the film industry (like Schindler's List), and he has had a longer career than most other composers.




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