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MikeH

James Horner's synths

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I've been on a Horner binge lately and I've noticed several cues contain sampled strings, woodwinds, and harps amidst an otherwise fully acoustic orchestral recording.  A few that come to mind are Braveheart, Bicentennial Man, and Karate Kid.   Some cues will have a totally live orchestra and others will have their sampled counterparts.  To me it doesn't sound like these choices were made for 'color' reasons, it sounds more like not enough budget or super-late rewrites.  Anyone have any thoughts on why he might have done this?  Funnily enough though I've never been bothered by the synth choir in Titanic, probably because it's a consistent color throughout and also works in the new age-y way the score is written.  But on the expanded Braveheart release it's a bit jarring and perplexing to go from the beautiful LSO strings to 90's synth strings and back from cue to cue.  

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Braveheart works very well that way. That previously unreleased cue "A Father's Final Return" is (my favorite) addition not heard outside the film prior to the LLL release, and a prime example of how to use the synth strings and choir effectively in place of the orchestra. It didn't need the grandeur of the opening LSO strings in "Royal Wedding". 

 

The still-unreleased film version of "Betrayal and Desolation" transitioned from orchestra to a synthesized ending. 

 

"The Pelican Brief" goes back and forth a lot, as does "Searching For Bobby Fischer" and "Clear and Present Danger". I'm sure some scores might have been done this way for budgetary reasons, but if you follow the reasoning of "Field of Dreams" and how the orchestra was held back until the end, but had synths and acoustic instruments all the way through prior, a lot of these could be, and in some cases sound like, creative choices. 

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Thanks all!  Yes, it's very interesting.  NL197 you mentioned Bobby Fischer and I just started listening to that again this evening.  Sure enough some cues are mainly synth and others are fully acoustic.  One cue will have a synth oboe, the next will have a real one, etc.  I didn't realize it was such a common pattern throughout his scores.  

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Quite honestly, this is the first time I have ever in my life seen this question asked. With JH it's always the same tired useless crap about borrowing and personal attitude nonsense.

Never have I seen anyone ask it, or give it any thought - I never gave it any thought before. I just started to think about what scores have a lot of synth cues and it all seemed to click together. 

 

Apollo 13 is another to add to the list. It's a LOT more electronic than most realize, and if the score ever goes get its proper (legit) album expansion, that will be very noticeable. 

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It was so avant-garde to combine these weird Enya-esque synth vocals with booming percussion in Titanic, for instance. I have no personal bias towards that score, by the way. The same goes for Apollo 13, where the synth choir is interpolated with this sort of militiaristic stuff. I wonder how he pitched it, or if he just sort of did it on his own and demoed it for these directors. I never had an issue with Horner using electronics. I thought he was quite skilled at it, actually. Goldsmith could go either way, Williams was in the middle (you don't notice the electronics a lot of the time), but Horner excelled.

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I've never taken to Goldsmith's electronics because they seemed to be so gimmicky and really stuck out. Aside from a synth tone in Empire Strikes Back I don't recall ever noticing electronics apart from the keyboards in Home Alone in a John Williams score. But I freely admit I don't listen to much of his music apart from their films. 

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Does anyone know the name of the first JH score to use synthesizers?

ST:III, perhaps, or SWTWC?

 

Synthesizers can be effective, if used well. In LOGAN'S RUN, JG keeps synthesizers for inside the dome, and a full orchestral pallet for outside. That illustrates the cold environment of the dome, compared to nature. It works.

As to why composers embellish their scores, who knows.

Personal choice? Illustrating a point, like Pub suggested? Director's preference? Product-placement? A mock-up that sounded good?

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My favorite synthesized effect Horner used was the 'air' effect, like a faint whistle in a huge amount of his scores, notably in "To Gillian on her 37th Birthday", "Deep Impact", "Braveheart", "The Forgotten" and many, many others. 

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7 hours ago, NL197 said:

My favorite synthesized effect Horner used was the 'air' effect, like a faint whistle in a huge amount of his scores, notably in "To Gillian on her 37th Birthday", "Deep Impact", "Braveheart", "The Forgotten" and many, many others. 

 

Example?

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House of Cards:

The cue "Distant Memories" is largely made up of this effect, which really shows itself in 1:30 into the cue. 
 

To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday:
In "Gillian" throughout the cue the effect plays underneath the piano solo. 
 

Deep Impact: 

In "Drawing Straws", you hear it at 2:20 into the cue underneath the high strings as a tension device. 

 

Braveheart: 

It plays throughout the cue "Revenge". Also, 30 seconds into "Wallace's Dream" but you hear it at various times in the score. 

 

The Forgotten: 

1 minute into "Remember..." the effect is used to show the change in perception for the character Ash. 

 

 

 

 

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On 13/09/2017 at 5:43 AM, publicist said:

Horner had crappy synth (parts), too, but he mostly stuck to his palette - basses, bells, high-pitched voices or piping sounds - that created often a more atmospheric color. 

Funnily enough, as he became more "sophisticated" in his synth arrangements in latter years, something was missing from the overall package. His usual palette might have been bit crude but it had certain atmosphere, as you say.

 

Karol

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4 hours ago, MikeH said:

Over half of the Titanic score was synth only because there was practically no music budget.  

 

I can't help but wonder if such an over-dependency on electronics in what became the most popular film score ever (and shush about everyone buying it for the song) ushered in this dark age for film music.

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4 hours ago, Blanche Hudson said:

 

I remember both ST:II and Krull integrating synths (Jupiter 8, Serge Modular and Arp 2600).

 

Thanks for that. Did he use the Blaster Beam on BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS? That's not a synthesizer, right?

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