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James Horner vs. Bernard Herrmann
Last post Wed, Feb 14 2018 by JamesPDX, 97 replies.
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Posted on Thu, Jan 25 2018 17:52
by JohnM2
Joined on Sun, Apr 23 2017, Posts 8

You're right, Herrmann's music did become the basis for many temp tracks- but in his later works with the Hollywood Brats, he was only able to write the music that he did because he was so revered by them.  Scorsessee wanted something like Ghost and Mrs. Muir or Psycho for Taxi Driver, and was given something completely different.  And DePalma, who dared to temp track Obsession with Herrmann's music before presenting it to him, pissed off Herrmann so much that he demanded the temp music be removed after just being shown the opening titles!  And those are just the times that Herrmann successfully worked on a project, let us not forget the fights he got into with others from that generation like Kubrick on Lolita or Friedkin on the Exorcist.  Herrmann was very skilled, but also very lucky in his last years.  Horner never had the same luxury.  Reading about his work experience with Cameron on Aliens sounds like the type of thing that would drive most composers suicidal.  Of course, plenty of others had done better than Horner despite being put in even worse situations at the time (most notably Goldsmith), but I still don't think it's fair to compare him to Herrmann. 

Still, Horner is something of an arrogant scumbag who has said and done some below-the-belt things that I deem unforgivable, like that time he replaced Gabriel Yared on Troy and pooped out his usual terrible rehash album for the movie, and then publicly badmouthed Yared's music for being "too old-fashioned".  It's sort of terrible for me to say this, but his plane crash was pure karma at work.

Posted on Fri, Jan 26 2018 02:53
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

That is an extremely offensive statement and I can't take part in a discussion in which people say things like that.  

Posted on Fri, Jan 26 2018 05:53
by JohnM2
Joined on Sun, Apr 23 2017, Posts 8

Don't get the wrong idea, no way am I implying that Horner deserved such a tragic fate.  I would never wish that on anyone.  But, I do not believe such a punishment came out of the blue.  I always expected for him to get in serious trouble one day for either his plagiarisms or his hypocritical arrogance towards others, but not the way it turned out. 

Horner has made many questionable choices in his career and compostions, and that is what this thread is about.  There is no need to dwell on his untimely demise.

Posted on Fri, Jan 26 2018 14:38
by mh-7635
Joined on Wed, Aug 04 2004, Posts 148

 

"but his plane crash was pure karma at work"

Fellow composers, if you don't want to die a terrible death, be nice to one another and no more spiccato minor 3rds please, otherwise millions of you will die, except the one who first used them. Remember, death or should I say, punishment, comes from somewhere that isn't blue.

JohnM2, that was a lousy thing to say, way below the belt. Horner might not have been an angel, but to suggest he deserved what he got is too far beyond the pale... I suppose the other poor people on the plane also deserved their fate did they? He died in an accident, not a retribution.

Posted on Fri, Jan 26 2018 15:01
by JohnM2
Joined on Sun, Apr 23 2017, Posts 8

Please read what I said again in my second post, I did not wish for Horner to perish.  You are taking one line of what I said and extrapolating it.  Retribution or not, what happened was the result of Horner's own actions.  He was the sole pilot of that plane, he owned it and it was a small hobby of his.  Unfortunately, he was very much an amateur when it came to flying planes, and his enthusiasm from it came from his involvemet with the 3 Horsemen flight team towards the end of his career.  It is not far off to assume that it was Horner's inexperience in the plane that ultimately did him in. 

Now, you can continue grasping onto straws based on one sentence that I made, and continue to go into detial on a morbid topic that we are unfortunately now forced to go in-depth about because attention has been brought on it, or you can continue with the thread.  If my statement upsets you so much, send me a PM. 

Posted on Sat, Jan 27 2018 01:29
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 988

I'm all for issuing pilot licences to everyone using minor-3rds-spiccato-strings-ostinati! Let them try and simulate flying as they do composition - they're used to auto-pilot settings!! I will supply the triumphant mixed choirs with apt irrelevant/non-sensical Latin proverbs and eastern solo vocalists and solo ethnic woodwind; you bring the Taikos. Let's make it an event!

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Sat, Jan 27 2018 04:14
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

As a completely irrelevant (to this thread)  aside I just watched an excellent Greek film based upon Greek mythology - Medousa (1996).  Note the (English) spelling.  A very well filmed modern version of the myth, with a punk Perseus and people being turned to stone including all the cops who were looking for Medusa!  Though I didn't like the music.   Now the thread is sufficiently derailed.  

Posted on Mon, Jan 29 2018 02:39
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

"I will supply the triumphant mixed choirs with apt irrelevant/non-sensical Latin proverbs and eastern solo vocalists and solo ethnic woodwind; you bring the Taikos. Let's make it an event!" - Errikos

So Errikos, I see you have been studying recent film music and sample libraries.  It is true, there is some difficulty aesthetically in reconciling these disparate influences.  A bit like a recent Kentucky Fried Chicken dish that basically mixed all ingredients from gravy to chicken slugs to freezied-dried vegetables into a bowl then supplied it all blended together to the eater.  This is something big in America, in case you have not noticed it.  

Posted on Tue, Jan 30 2018 01:34
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 988

William: Yes, it's awful when you present these specific gourmet dishes in those terms, but the comparison is very fitting. Reading your post, and considering that the 'Hot Bucket' is certainly a favourite of my wife's (also a musician), and I don't mind having a few of those "treated" wings myself (we might have this sort of thing 3-4 times a year and only at the movies - what a coincidence!), I was thinking that a proper chef would be disgusted and appalled at our alimentary choices and view us as subhuman creatures enjoying such refuse when we should (and do) know better. Much as I view anyone who enjoys spiccato-based -'Epic' or not- tracks in film - especially when ethnic solo woodwind and female eastern vocalise are also employed. As with KFC, you just can't get any lower...

The main difference is that if you go to any great and expensive restaurant in the world, you will never get served such shyt. You can't say the same about the great expensive Hollywood productions now, can you?... Fast, mass-produced foods / Fast, mass-produced tracks, for 'slow' masses.

 

P.S.: Curious, 'Medousa' is the closest spelling to the Greek...

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Tue, Jan 30 2018 02:32
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

Yes Medousa was a unique and brilliant film.

"Alimentary choices" is an excellent term for current film music.  I am again amazed at how you Errikos are able to understand in such exquisite detail the true sleaziness of aspects of America such as KFC.  Though I hasten to add that KFC is not the sum total of American contributions to culture as some would attempt to proclaim. 

As an example of American culture I was just reading a very interesting essay in a book about the Twilight Zone, which interviewed all the original creators of that show.  The particular essay was by John Ottman, about the music in the series, which had to be done for 10 players only according to the budget. This gave some inspiration to the talented composers like Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, and other imaginative scorers who came up with unique sounds that were more noticeable precisely because they were so exposed - without a huge generic ensemble sound. Ottman notes that today people can use these giant generic ensembles very easily with sampling.

The KFC Bucket of film scoring. 

Posted on Sun, Feb 04 2018 07:27
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 278

If I am allowed to deviate slightly...but staying loosely on the topic of film scoring....

I was on a long flight a few days ago and forced myself to watch 'Dunkirk', with all the hype surronding the film and score by Zimmer fans.

What a travesty the music was (to clarify I was listening to it on good quality headphoes, not the airplane's earbuds). Sorry to trash Zimmer again. I simply cannot understand what was so great about the movie either. 

I was quite depressed that such mediocre, repeitive noise is called a filmscore and also got an oscar nomination.  This just seemed to be a rehash of his horrible Batman score. Just wanted to share my thoughts. Where else can I do that?

cheers

Anand

Anand Kumar
Posted on Sun, Feb 04 2018 10:30
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1283

Originally Posted by: agitato Go to Quoted Post

I was quite depressed that such mediocre, repeitive noise is called a filmscore and also got an oscar nomination.  This just seemed to be a rehash of his horrible Batman score. Just wanted to share my thoughts. Where else can I do that?

Funny, the same thing occured to me too regarding Dunkirk  I mean what music?  It was more like just swaths of incoherent sound.  Although I think I enjoyed the film a little more than you did.  Nowadays, World War II movies pretty much fall within two categories: Pre Saving Private Ryan and Post Saving Private Ryan.

I have to give credit to Nolan for trying to break free from the Saving Private Ryan standard established by Spielberg.  War combat isn't always just nonstop explosive action.  Nolan pointed out what many combat vets attest to that combat is mostly long stretches of moving from place to place doing nothing punctuated by terrifying moments of fierce and unimaginable violence.

As for The Twilight Zone... well they just don't make TV like that anymore now do they.  Although the show was a little bit before my time I still think it was one of the best written shows to air in television history.  Contrary to popular beliefe Rod Serling wasn't the "creative force" behind that show although he did create it he only wrote some of the episodes.  In fact, Richard Matheson wrote many of the classic episodes like "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."  But who the hell is Richard Matheson.

Matheson went on to write movies like Somewhere in Time.  Okay, the movie wasn't all that great but what a beautiful score by John Barry.


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Mon, Feb 05 2018 01:41
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

You are dead wrong about Serling - he was a great writer - his teleplays were some of the best writing done at the time and with Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight, many others, he became  one the major playwrights at the time on live television.  This allowed him to do the Twilight Zone which was partly a way of doing serious themes without interference from the money people at the networks, since these themes were disguised within "fantasy" stories. 

So that is not true about Serling not being the creative force - Serling wrote a large proportion of the scripts and was so prolific that he had to dictate the scripts via a tape recorder recorded in the middle of the night.  He was a maniac writer.  Richard Matheson also - he is a great writer of fantasy and sci-fi who created an enormous amount of the best work in the field.  Many collections of short stories, "I am Legend," "What Dreams may Come," "Somewhere in time" - a tremendously prolific writer.     

Concerning Zimmer though I agree - his so-called music is a horrible oppressive noise.  I want to see certain films but when I see he scored them I can't go because I don't want the pain of hearing that noise.    The fact he is now the most highly paid film composer is extremely disturbing and indicative of total decadence and dysfunction in the medium.  In the past there were Herrmann, Korngold, Goldsmith, Max Steiner, Elmer Bernstein  - now there is a mediocre hack creating "sound design" - TRANSLATION:  "I can't compose actual music."   And all the directors and producers are fooled by him.  It is sickening. 

Posted on Mon, Feb 05 2018 10:36
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1283

You know it takes a big man to admit when he is wrong

Unfortunately, at 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighing about a buck 75 I'm hardly a big man so that should exempt me from ever admitting fault but I will admit that William was right. 

After a little research it turns out Rod Serling really was the creative genius behind The Twilight Zone.  A few years ago, my wife and I binge watched The Twilight Zone on Netflix and I noticed that many of my favorite episodes like "Steel," "To Serve Man" (DON'T GET INTO THE FLYING SAUCER.  "TO SERVE MAN." IT'S A COOK BOOK!) and "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" were written by others.  Although Serling wrote the teleplay for "To Serve Man" it was based on a story by somebody else. 

However, Serling did write my favorite episode whcih was "The Rip Van Winkle Caper."  If you remember that was the one where four theives steel a bunch of gold then escape into the desert and sleep for a hundred years.  When they wake up, greed takes over and they start killing each other off.  What they never find out is that 100 years in the future gold can be made synthetically rendering it worthless.  Good stuff.  So my apologies to all of the Rod Serling fans out there

Getting back to Zimmer, You know I actually liked some of his early works like Rainman.  It was a simple score; not much to it, nothing like the bombastic crap he does now, but I thought it worked very well considering the subject matter of the film.  I don't know maybe he's just succumbed to the present zeitgeist of mediocre filmscoring.  It's all about just capturing a mood nowadays and you could pretty do that by depressing one key on your keyboard. .


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Mon, Feb 05 2018 17:00
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

I was going to apologize for jumping all over that, Jasen.  It was only that I've recently been reading a fascinating book  - "Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone"  which has interviews with all the original writers, producers, directors, actors, and they all talk about how Serling was such an intense driving force.  Also some of the best like "The After Hours" and "Mirror Image" were written by him. 

Though one of the all time best TV shows ever done has got to be "A World of Difference" by Matheson.  I watched that again recently and noticed how there is not a wasted word, image, shot or sound in it and it is a story that questions the very nature of reality in an extremely eerie way with a man going about his ordinary life suddenly hearing the word "Cut!" yelled. He turns around  to see a film crew is shooting him and they all think he is only an actor.  Which naturally drives him crazy, though he manages to vanish back into his imaginary/real (?) life at the end.  Just an amazing story.  Also had a great music score using that scaled back orchestration that the composers actually benefitted from! 

Posted on Tue, Feb 06 2018 03:08
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 988

As a great fanatic of 'noir', I was (and remain) a fanatic of short, mysterious stories -even mediocre ones- whether TV scripted (The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Hammer House of Horror, Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, The Ray Bradbury Series, Tales from the Darkside, etc.), or novelized (the usual suspects, from Dahl and Saki, down to King and Straub). Sure, some are utter crap in all this, but there's always a great story among stupid ones and I don't want to miss it. I am not an old man, but I so prefer the pre-90s, even pre--80s scripts for TV and film, as the writing post these dates is almost always patronising in the worst possible way, vulgar, and obscene - allowing for great exceptions on both sides.

The music in those shorts also ranges from very bad to actually very good. I think Constant's TZ theme is overrated, but more emblematic than Snow's X-Files.

Too off-topic?

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Tue, Feb 06 2018 03:55
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

"Too off-topic?" - Errikos

Not at all, the Outer Limits is a classic and Hammer House of Horror has some great episodes.  Also, some other lesser known anthologies (which are now forbidden by the network money people)  like "Ghost Stories" from the 90s, an obscure one that created some very good ones.  

Outer Limits is particularly interesting because it has not only some great episodes - like "Forms of Things Unknown" by Joseph Stefano (who was the screenwriter of Psycho and became a major part of OL)  but also briilliant music by the mysterious, reclusive composer Dominic Frontiere.  He was a "Production Executive" as well as composer.  I dont know exactly why, but perhaps because the producer realized how important his music was for the show.  The group that made Outer Limits is a very inspiring bunch of ragtag filmmaker/special FX innovators who worked totally independent of the network, just making stuff up as they went.  That was in a time long ago, the 1960s, when you could get away with that.  Now you have to be a lone filmmaker to do it.  

Btw I have to mention a very little known anthology that is equally great - "Thriller" which was introduced (and ocassionaly starred in) by Boris Karloff.  It had some lame episodes, but a few of them are among the weirdest and greatest television ever put on the air, and in fact surpass any movies of the time.  One is an adaptation of Robert E Howard's horrific "Pigeons from Hell" that is unforgettable (no matter how hard you try). But some others were original stories that - like the Outer Limits - were actually more surreal than most surreal films.

It is also interesting how all these series had such great music scores - they seem to go hand-in-hand and inspire each other.       

Posted on Wed, Feb 07 2018 05:59
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1283

William,

No need to apologize.  You called me out on something that needed to be corrected.  I would have done the same thing.  In fact, this discussion has caused a rediscovery of Serling's work for me.  I've always been interested in irony and irony is a common element in Serling's work. I remember an interview where he seemed to stress about ideas because he said they were a precious commodity and production had to go on with or without a script.

That brings me to Gene Roddenberry.  I was reading a book about the original Star Trek series and I can't imagine the stress that he went through.  His wife said that crunch time came around the end of the seasons and Gene would start a script for an episode and would have no idea where it would end.  Yeah, like you said, basically just making stuff up as they went.  His wife, who played a recurring role as a nurse in the show, would literally run down to the studio and deliver pages of script hot off of Gene's typewriter.  Those pages were filmed that same day.  That's insane!  But they had to get the show on the air.

Errikos,

As a youngster I would sneak up past my bed time and watch many of those shows you and William mentioned late at night.  You're right, the episodes were hit and miss along with the music but when they were good they were really good.

I remember a show from the late 80's early 90's called Friday the 13th.  No, it had nothing to do with the hockey masked lunatic slaughtering horny teenagers.  Basically, it was about a souvenir store owner who made a pact with the Devil to curse all of his souvenirs into instruments of evil which would find their way into the hands of unwitting customers.  Of course, the premise became tiresome after about season 3 or 4 but it was a fun watch.  It was produced by the same people who produced the movie franchise, hence the name. 

And I agree, the TZ theme was a little overrated but it's pretty much an icon now. 


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Wed, Feb 07 2018 15:26
by Dethlok
Joined on Wed, Feb 07 2018, Posts 1

I think it's hard to compare the majority of latter era film composers with giants like Herrmann, Rozsa, or Alfred Newman. Those men were helping to invent the entire form, they blazed trails left and right. The former two were great composers even with their concert music.

The top film composers post-Rozsa are guys like Morricone, Williams, Goldsmith imo. And even they borrowed liberally...the difference is that (unlike the majority of film composers today) they all also studied art music along with their film heroes.

Posted on Wed, Feb 07 2018 16:15
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4879

That famous Twilight Zone main title theme replaced Bernard Herrmann's more subtle theme which was in the first season.  I was just reading recently that it was composed by Marius Constant in two sections, which were to be used as part of a "library" of music that Twilight Zone amassed for use in multiple episodes.  Though some of the episodes were through-scored, some of them used a library but it was their own library,  Somewhat like the Outer Limits had a stock of cues that Dominic Frontiere had composed.  The Constant themes had not been used because they were so "weird" and modern. But later the main theme was created by putting those two together.  

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