The James Horner theory

bear with me

For decades now there has been a film composer named James Horner who has been dividing opinion in soundtrack fandom.

James Horner wrote the scores for “Titanic” , “Aliens” and a couple of Star Trek films as well as “Glory” and many more.

From the very start many film music fans and soundtrack collectors have had a special axe to gring against Mr. Horner. He has been called a plagiarist, or at best derivative. He steals whole passages from classical music and sticks them into his scores. He also just lifts whole passages from his own scores, whole sections of music, fully orchestrated, and dumps them into whatever score he is working on at that moment.

When you pay attention to film music it is incredibly annoying to suddenly be pulled out of the movie you are watching and hear a piece of score from “Gorki Park” or “Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan”.

But the thing is, Horner used to be a fast writer (no wonder) and cheap (at least until he won an Oscar). He also has an incredible ear for effective orchestration and an uncanny sense of how to use music to heighten emotion. He also has a great sense of melody. Individual musical themes of his are great (as long as you cannot track down his source). His themes are hummable and lyrical. In other words he has great qualities as a film composer.

How this relates to Lost. The producers got together a great group of writers. They wrote wonderful bits that dovetailed and played into each other. They has a great sense of drama and humour. They set up wonderful premises and knew how to communicate a lot of content in very little screen time. Those flashbacks are models of economy.

But there has to be more to it than that. These guys teased us for several years with intricate interlinking stories and way out ideas and then couldn’t figure out their own stuff.

Think about this. They needed a guy, Greg Nations, just to keep track of their own story continuity. This was because they got so confused by their own plotting they couldn’t keep track. They promoted Nations to the status of producer… And Greg Nations (Jacob bless him) sometimes had to look stuff up on Lostpedia.

Does that suggest people who had a handle on what they were doing storywise?

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46 yr. old husband and father of two boys (aged 8 and 10). Lives in Montreal, Canada. Works in theatre, film and television.

3 thoughts on “The James Horner theory

  1. Exactly, I think the writers got totally “lost” along the way and forgot where the story was going. They would create mysteries thinking that they would reveal the origins later, but forgot all about them, and couldn’t figure out how to incorporate them or how to explain them.

  2. Well, first of all – I truly LOVE James Horner(and shame on you for not even mentioning BraveHeart;)
    And he is my favorite composer.

    However, I do understand your point.
    There have been times when I’ve actually been able to hear the “James Horner” in his music.. I remember watcing “the Legend of the Fall” the first time and thought – “I gotta look this up – it has to be James Horner – which it turned out to be..”

    Having said that – I don’t feel that his style is repetive in a bad way – in the end – for me – it’s all about enhancing the emotion in a scene – which I think he does flawlessly.

    Though your theory could absolutely be true – I don’t think it is – I no longer think the writers had any idea where the show would end up.
    They might have had a few ideas in the beginning – but nothing that they knew what to make out of..

    In the end – Lost was about establishing
    a mystery to make the audience feel that this is no ordinary show – to get them hooked.

    Then they keep adding mystery after mystery – with no idea how to explain them..

    “There had been an egyptian culture long ago…that’s it..that’s what’s up with all the heroglyphs, seen around the Island, nothing more..”

    Yet the first “Egyptian” thing we were introduced with was down in the hatch –
    on the Countdown timer(Which you can see at the top of the page here)
    And as far as I understand – the egyptians did not build the hatch.

    The countdown-timer is an excelent example of an idea they didn’t know what to do with – and still couldn’t get rid of.
    So finally we’re Told – egyptians lived on the Island for some time – and did……stuff… nothing more..

    Same thing with the Numbers – they just threw them in – without knowing what they’d really mean in the End.

    Where they cursed numbers, blessed, magical – where they in fact Destiny Incarnate – or did they perhaps predict the End of Mankind(as the Valencietti-equation states)

    No – nothing of sorts, not when the chips where down…
    the answer we finally get…
    “Jacob had a thing for numbers…”
    that’s all they ever were – nothing..
    And you could even stretch it as to say – but the Numbers represented each of the Candidates..

    Wow….Why..? What the Hell was the puropse of having the Candidates preceded by a number anyway(When it turns out that in the end – the sequence didn’t even matter – Only Jack-23)

    Because they had to do SOMETHING with the numbers – smoehow connect it to the larger mythology of the Island..
    And it came down to “Jacob had a thing for number…” So despite of all the events the Numbers have “gone through” it turns out – they meant nothing, had no meaning, and nothing in the entire world(of Lost)
    would change because of them..awesome…

    Ideas and more ideas – that kept piling up on – until there were too many.
    And given that the story itself had progressed(where no one involved with the show had any idea it was heading)
    that meant only attacking the “Oldest” qustions/mysteries of the Island – those we’ve been draging on for too long.

    The Whispers is another fine example.
    I’m willing to bet my life that the Whispers weren’t initially going to be simply “the Dead left behind”
    but have a little more complicated
    (and probably more interesting)
    reason behind them. But that was one of the oldest mysteries – that they had to deal with – and the simplest answer ever – the dead…

    No, I don’t think they ever thought ahead actually..
    It makes me really sad and angry – having defended the show when others have said – “there’s no logic in the show whatsoever,
    that we’ll never get answers..”
    I said they were wrong – that the writers had a plan, and that they were gonna blow us away.. I was wrong..

  3. AngiveL No you were not wrong. You were misled.

    sorry for leaving out Braveheart. A beautiful score. Most of them are wonderful. Until one of his old mannerisms crops up. At least for me.

    James Horner is a very talented person, but the nature of his talent is very divisive.

    The guys who got together and created LOST are very talented. They took the premise and ran with it. Like Horner, they created something and at some point they realized there was a great deal of expectation out here and that they could not satisfy that expectation.

    For me, the dishonest part of what they did was in not even attempting to satisfy those expectations and in putting it all on our shoulders as fans. They basically said in interviews “Don’t blame us because you loved the show too much. Those expectations were never part of the show premise. We just set out to write a nice little adventure show. Most of what intrigued you was forgetable little details that had no relevance to what we were actually saying”.

    That is a divisive thing to say or put out there. It is divisive in that there are people who will still love the show for what it is, for its inherent qualities. For the thrill it provided while they watched it. They will disregard its very big flaws, the ones that are now most apparent because it is complete.

    Lost is no longer a work in progress. It is a completed work and should be regarded as a finished work. But it is also a fatally incomplete work. A flawed work.

    There are narrative parts missing to that are necessary to understand it. There are fractured character arcs. There are under developped ideas. There are many many things that do not make any sense.

    This makes it a botched piece for me.

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