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QuestionMarkMan

Horner On The Score: Troy

140 posts in this topic

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Tune in to On the Score at Film Music Radio next Monday the 25th when Oscar-winning composer James Horner gives a candid interview which looks at his controversial replacement of TROY's score, the fight to keep original music in THE NEW WORLD, and his new and powerful soundtrack for ALL THE KING'S MEN. It's a rare, fascinating on-demand interview that Horner fans won't want to miss. And it's only at On the Score at FMR (www.filmmusicradio.com), the station and show that's attracting Hollywood's top composers to reveal the story behind the scores.

Tune in now to listen to Trevor Rabin on his scores for FLYBOYS and SNAKES ON A PLANE. Then join On the Score in the future for Tomandandy, who discuss putting their spell on THE COVENANT.

I'm most interested in what he's going to say about replacing Yared.

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Interview's up here?

Edit: Starts at 01:07:17

-Horner basically says that Yared didn't know how to score "big" movies.

-He calls the music "atrocious," "like a 1950's Hercules movie"

-Doesn't have any knowledge of writing "real film scores like that"

-"Absolutely dreadful" (twice)

-"This guy just doesn't get it"

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You're not serious are you?

Horner is complete ass if that's what he said.

Yared's score was more original and refreshing than anything that ole Jamie has written in the last 15 years.

What an arrogant jerk.

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It's a fascinating trip inside Horner's monumental ego.

On The New World...

It was cut by a bunch of incompetents!

He had his music editors re-cut the film as he wanted it, and scored that!

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I just heard this interview and I am beside myself insofar as how venomous Horner's comments are towards Yared and his music. I lost respect for Horner's music ethics (or lack thereof) years ago but now I think he's a reprehensible little shit. I'm astonished and appauled at his candid remarks.

Oh and his score is only better when it directly rips off Shostakovich- since it's Dmitri's b-day today.

Horner didnt stop at ripping Yared either:

- "If I were offered a Star Wars 4 or Star Trek 4 at this time, I wouldn't do it because i've done that before and no matter how brilliant the composer, those scores all sound the same"

He also demeans Alex North's 2001 indirectly. Someone ought give this guy a tall glass of shut the f*** up.

Oh, what's funny is during the bit they play of Horner's "original" score to All the king's Men, I realized that Horner had ripped off Tom Newman's Shawshank Redemption cue "And that Right Soon" with the alternating pizz. strings with ow horn line. And the intervalic relationships are exactly the same. What a little creep.

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What follows is a complete transcript of the section QMM indicated where Horner talks about his experience working on Troy. You'll find this between 67 and 79 minutes into the program:

DANIEL SCHWEIGER: Now, two films, two recent films that you've scored that I imagine were very challenging were Troy and The New World.  

Now, on Troy, you were coming in as the replacement composer for Gabriel Yared and you had already done The Perfect Storm for the director, Wolfgang Petersen. In a way, was it as hard as it was easy? Because, I think you've got two to three weeks to do this score, but because there is like no time for you to do it, that there isn't gonna be the kind of studio second guessing that may have, you know, messed up the first score that was done for it.

JAMES HORNER: Uhm, let me see where I start with Troy.

Wolfgang is very opinionated. And a very proud man. And he wants everything to be huge. The biggest ever, the most grand. "We've never had a shot of 5,000 people or 50,000 army before - look at the shot of the ocean and you see 5,000 ships - that's the biggest shot in history!" I mean, he's very much into this huge old-fashioned grandure, and I think that he was making what he felt was the best film of the decade. I think that was his mindset.

And I wasn't asked to do the original, which was sort of - at the time - a bit of a twinge for me, because I did such a nice job, or he seemed so pleased on The Perfect Storm. Even though everybody, including myself, very very vocally begged him to take down the ocean water sound effects, which he wouldn't do in The Perfect Storm. And I think ultimately it didn't do as well, because people just got overwhelmed by the constant barrage of noise. So it didn't do as well as it was supposed to or as it was promised and hyped to. And I think he felt that he probably could do better musically.

So he started Troy with Gabriel, and of course Gabriel is very well known in Europe. He was going to make this huge Movie of the Decade, the Trojan War, you know, very dramatic. And he worked with Gabriel and gave Gabriel free reign to do whatever Gabriel wanted, without thinking of how an audience might react, or whatever. And the two of them worked, and Gabriel dutifully did whatever was asked of him by Wolfgang, and Wolfgang's musical tendencies are to overscore everything, like a Wagner opera. He's not into subtlety. At all. Not in the slightest. And emotion to him is a 3,000-pieced orchestra playing a sappy violin theme.

I mean, I'm being nice, but not being nice. I'm being - this is what I mean by being direct.

He's a lovely man. These are only issues that become issues when you're in the trenches and you're really working on a film and it has to be stunning and these are the issues you come up with another -- with your employer, or your -- somebody you're working closely with.

So, Wolfgang gave a lot of instructions to Gabriel that were hugely wrong. And just so old-fashioned. And Gabriel dutifully did his job and Gabriel also brings to the project a certain quality that is not necessarily the most cinematic, but perhaps is a little more operatic, and didn't have the experience of scoring a big action movie. His movies are a little bit more refined.

And, you know, his previous, The English Patient, was really very much based on Bach's music. I mean, if you listen to Bach's preludes and fugues and those things you'll hear Gabriel's score. And I suppose I could say you would have to be a trained musician or a musician with some sort of education to know that, but when you hear the two things you think: "That's Bach."

I don't say that to denigrate Gabriel, I only say that to give you an example of how Gabriel was not familiar with this big action movie thing that Wolfgang wanted. And Gabriel and Wolfgang made the score together, fifty-fifty.

So what happens is, they have The Score from God in The Movie from God and they're in London doing post-production. Gabriel has a huge choir, huge percussion, huge this, huge that. And, before they put the chorus on, they brought it to California to preview - the studio insisted on a preview. And Wolfgang was so sure of himself he thought, "Oh my God, you wait until you see the reaction to this movie." And Gabriel hadn't even put the choir on. The choir was doubling some of the string stuff, and it was going to make it more massive, okay?, and he had lots of sort of Middle-Eastern stuff and --

The audience -- They played it for an audience in Sacramento and took the usual focus group and the cards, and there were lots of comments about flaws in the movie, but to a man, everybody said the music is the worst they had ever heard. To a man. I mean, 100 percent take out the score. I'd never heard of a preview where people are so in tune to the music that they even notice it, much less demand that it ruins the movie for them. And in the focus group, the same reaction, they all said, "it's horrible music. Who did this music?" And, you know, I hadn't seen the film. I didn't -- this is all sort of in hindsight, cause I hadn't -- I didn't keep up with the movie.

They previewed it again with the same result, and Wolfgang was white. Completely shaken. Totally lost his confidence. Warner Brothers asked me, I guess because I had experimented with so much music of different cultures in various films, but somebody suggested me, and they approached me, and said, "would you look at the film and tell us what you think? And do you think you could do this if we took out the score?"

And I looked at the film, and it was -- I don't even know how to describe how atrocious the music was.

It was like a 1950's Hercules movie.

And it wasn't because Gabriel's not a gifted writer, it's because he just doesn't have any knowledge of writing film scores. Real film scores like that. And it was like -- It was so corny. It was unbelievable.

And apparently it made the audience laugh in places during serious scenes. And this combination of this "please do it bigger and bigger and bigger" and "more is better" from Wolfgang and Gabriel's, you know, not knowing what cinematic, big cinematic action music should be, they both came up with this score that was absolutely dreadful. Absolutely dreadful.

And I looked at it and I said, "when do you need this score?" And they said, "well, they're dubbing it now, they basically need it -- you have to be finished nine or eleven days at the very most." So I didn't even have the two or three weeks that you alluded to before. I had nine or ten days to do it.

And I met with Wolfgang, and he of course, is completely cowed out, apologetic, emberrassed, everything. Gabriel, meanwhile, in Europe, is furious. Because -- And he's going on his website saying he was cheated and short-changed and they put his music in the film without the chorus and the chorus makes the differenc. And you know, you're saying to yourself, "this guy just doesn't get it." The chorus would have made it worse. If the problem was it was like thick, thick, black loudness over everything. And corny at that. But they hadn't completely -- I hadn't taken on the assignment yet. And I met with Wolfgang, and he was very emberrassed, and said I would be allowed to do whatever I wanted - would I please, please, please, do this, as a favor? And how grateful he would be at that trouble.

Well, that's Hollywood talk. I don't ever expect people to be grateful. If it happens, it happens. Usually it happens with the low-budget filmmakers, because they truly are grateful. But with the big guys, when they say how grateful they are, I, it's not something I put on the bank and put in my pocket. And the example is that, of that is that he didn't ask me to do the next movie he did. He, after all the work we went through, I would not have done - what was the movie he just finished? - the one with the wave that turns the boat over.

SCHWEIGER: Oh, Poseidon.

HORNER: I would not have done Poseidon Adventure if you'd paid me 10 million dollars. I would not have done that movie, honestly. But before I even knew what the movie was, he asked another composer to do it. So it shows you how, after all we went through on Troy, it shows you sort of how people's minds work. They're really not really grateful. They just want you to do it, help them out, and that's where it ends.

So I took it on as a challenge, because I didn't know if I could do it in nine days, I had never done -- well, I'd worked on very short schedules on Paramount films and Disney films, which had very short post-production, Patriot Games and some of those films that, you know, Paramount. But I thought it would be a real challenge for me as a writer to see how much music I could write in nine days.

And I promised that I could do, you know, 75 minutes. I didn't know if I'd be able to do 95 or 100 minutes. I would do my best effort. But I was contractually bound to do 75 minutes. The film needed, when we went through it and spotted it for where the music went, it needed actually close to 118 minutes.

SCHWEIGER: Why, I certainly think you did a fantastic job on it.

Now here's music from James Horner's score for Troy: The Trojans Attack

[music plays]

- Marc

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Hollywood sucks. I don't see why you say he has a huge ego. I haven't heard many other comments of his, though. But in this case, he's right. Hollywood isn't grateful. He doesn't say that they SHOULD be grateful to him, he just says they won't be so he doesn't want to hear how Petersen would've been grateful. As for the music, it WAS cheesy and didn't fit the movie, at all. If 100% of people said the music needed to be removed, imagine how awful it would've sounded in the movie. NO score gets that kind of reaction.

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And I looked at the film, and it was -- I don't even know how to describe how atrocious the music was.

Arrogant, plagiaristic asshole. I get totally distracted by that awful fanfare as they enter the city and he has the balls to say that??!

I'm honestly not going to believe he said that until the link above actually works and I can listen to it.

Edit - I'm listening now. Horner knew this was being recorded right? I really am shocked at this :P

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Yes, Horner may be arrogant, but, most of the time, he knows what's he's doing when it comes to scoring films. I believe him on this one.

Karol

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I get totally distracted by that awful fanfare as they enter the city and he has the balls to say that??!

Well, to be fair, one atrocious fanfare isnt' the same as an entire atrocious, cheesy score. Troy was an alright score, but Yared's was worse.

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While his comments were harsh and could have been more diplomatically put, it's nothing new in this industry.

And while Yared's Troy on album is infinitely above and beyond Horner's no one really knows how it functioned in the film, and Horner's impressive resume and experience with Hollywood gives him the grounds to judge Yared's Troy as a big Hollywood film score.

but Yared's was worse.

And your opinion sir, is outrageously insane.

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While his comments were harsh and could have been more diplomatically put' date=' it's nothing new in this industry.[/quote']

Notice though' date=' that Horner put the blame almost equally on Petersen as he did on Yared.

Although the bit about [i']The English Patient basically being Bach is very ironic coming from Horner.

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He could be right about Yared's score, but he really comes across as an ass! Compare that interview with any by Williams. Yes, he doesn't necessarily give us the juicy details we always want, but he's professional, modest, and extremely gracious. Horner just sounds like a spoiled little kid.

Ray Barnsbury

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I can understsand he's pissed off (he's been kicked off from two projects this year) about the current Hollywood situation, but those comments are too harsh for someone so important in film music industry.

Seriously, what a big disappointment (and many of you know I always defend Horner) :P

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And your opinion sir, is outrageously insane.

God, how could I be so crass as to differ with the supposed majority? Punish me, oh Distributor of Eternal Truth and Justice, and ascend to your rightful righteous throne.

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While his comments were harsh and could have been more diplomatically put, it's nothing new in this industry.  

"could have been more diplomatically put" is an interesting take on it... actually it couldn't have been any less diplomatically put.

And while Yared's Troy on album is infinitely above and beyond Horner's no one really knows how it functioned in the film, and Horner's impressive resume and experience with Hollywood gives him the grounds to judge Yared's Troy as a big Hollywood film score.

Well, the scenes I have matched against the film worked beautifully and much better than Horner's score. Like in the transition from Achilles' contemplating face after speaking to his mother, to the wide shot of the 1000 ships... Horner is absolutely anticlimactic here, I couldn't believe it. And for Horner to accuse Yared of not knowing how to score a film like this, when his score includes sooo much stolen material (more than usual), ...

And Horner's comment about how this is not so much like a film score, but more like a Wagner opera... what's wrong with that generally? There could be more scores that are a thought-through piece of music. The trend is going in a certain direction in Hollywood these days, and Horner seems to champion this... when we have arrived at a state where all film music is supposed to be is a collection of drones, grooves and athmospheric ambience if it doesn't want to run the risk of being overscored or "too musical", will Horner be at the forefront defending this?

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I get totally distracted by that awful fanfare as they enter the city and he has the balls to say that??!

Well, to be fair, one atrocious fanfare isnt' the same as an entire atrocious, cheesy score. Troy was an alright score, but Yared's was worse.

Good thing that Yared's Troy isn't atrocious or cheesy then isn't it.

Chris, I totally agree with you. It's incredibly unprofessional to call a fellow composer's work 'atrocious' and what I've learnt about him from that interview has brought my respect fo him down several rungs.

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I find Williams responses to tough questions pretty annoying.

If Horner pulled a Williams it'd be in his oh so smooth voice:

"The studio adjudicated...that my colleague's score, who I believe to be quite gifted, was not esteemed by the audience, and wasn't very befitting, and they asked me if I could, if I could write something in a few days....and I tried to come up with something more restrained..."

If not outright lying and saying

"I did not get to hear what Mr. Yared came up with"

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Well, the scenes I have matched against the film worked beautifully and much better than Horner's score. Like in the transition from Achilles' contemplating face after speaking to his mother, to the wide shot of the 1000 ships...

But didn't you have a strange feeling that you were watching actually a music video to the Yared score? I always thought that he could make some tone poem from this one (much like SW:SOTE) since his music doesn't need this film at all.

I'm impressed by his music overall. Yes, it's big. And yet it maintains such clarity. Very rare these days.

"The studio adjudicated...that my colleague's score, who I believe to be quite gifted, was not esteemed by the audience, and wasn't very befitting, and they asked me if I could, if I could write something in a few days....and I tried to come up with something more restrained..."

:P

Karol

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Horner's music has gotten so bland, boring and predicatable. It just shows you the sad state of Hollywood that he even continues to get work.

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It continues to amaze me every time I hear another version of the Braveheart theme with one note changed. I really hope it's studio or directorial pressure as has been previously suggested.

I do however like The New World and The Chumscrubber in musical terms, so in my opinion he hasn't lost it yet.

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No one here is trying to say Horner is a musical genius, or even creates good music. But the guy has a right to his opinion. You don't have to be good at something to know when someone else is bad at something.

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It's ironic that Yared had 90-piece orchestra and Horner employed 125-piece in order to be more subtle :P

Karol

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"More subtle" in Horner's mind was evidently to score the monumental 1000 ships scene in a way that the scene comes about as "oh, nice, some ships... what's next?"

Which is quite a shame, since the theme heard there is actually good on its own, it's just absolutely to powerless for the scene.

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But his approach is innovative. Who else would make the most epic shot ever so ordinary. That's genius :P

Karol

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The only scores from Horner that I really like are the following...

Apollo 13

Batteries Not Included

Field Of Dreams

The Land Before Time

Legends Of The Fall

The Legend Of Zorro

The Mask Of Zorro

Project X

and

Willow

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Those are some good ones...try Glory, if you haven't yet. It's a great score.

Ray Barnsbury

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and Sneakers!

Everybody misses Sneakers

Max-who just had a master class with Eugene Rousseau himself, and even shook his hand

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Oooops, I just realised I forgot to include The Wrath Of Khan and The Search For Spock to that list. Those two I like as well.

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I have a hard time enjoying Glory because I am so fond of Ivan The Terrible by Prokofiev. And SNEAKERS is merely an almagum of Glass, Reich and Adams far superior minimalist works. Anyone schooled in classical and modern orchestral works sees Horner for plagiarist he is.

Yes, Horner may be arrogant, but, most of the time, he knows what's he's doing when it comes to scoring films. I believe him on this one.

Karol

Horner takes the "it worked once, it'll work again" philosophy a little too literally. He rehashes Sneakers piano chordal work in Bicentennial Man, and Bobby Fischer and A Beautiful Mind. It's really gotten so bad that non-musical friends of mine point of music references from another film while they are watching a new film scored by Horner. If I hear that bloody Rachmaninov "danger motif" again I'll give someone from that estate a call so they can sue Horner.

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Glory is great, other than the shameless ripoffs from Britten's War Requiem.

Btw, notice how innovative Horner is with his rips in Troy? He used the War Requiem, as in Glory, but a different part of that, and he used Holst's Planets, as in Zorro (e.g.), but a different part... here he rips off "Saturn", unlike every other Planets rip that copies "Mars" :jump: Now that's some creative writing!

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Horner's comments about Bach and Jared's score for "The English Patient" come across as particularly naive. Bach was the whole point in that score, or at least the western tradition was, mixed with other - contrasting - musical traditions in an often beautiful polyphony. Jared was composing a deliberate TRIBUTE to Bach.

Also, fancy forgetting the title to "Poseidon".

Mind you, I do like parts of "The Perfect Storm", to give Horner his due, although it all sounds roughly the same. And there are quite breathtaking melodic thefts from Copland in it.

Can you imagine Williams being quite so openly arrogant though? And abusive?

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