James Horner: film composer as auteur or ‘collabor-auteur’

Draper, Natalie (2012) James Horner: film composer as auteur or ‘collabor-auteur’. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Considering his extensive discography and the identifiable similarities in his scores, it is contended that eminent film composer James Horner should be considered an auteur. Traditionally the label of auteur is reserved for writers or directors; those with the significant creative influence on a text. As such, an auteur may be defined by their signature style or the repeated use of themes in several examples of their work.
    James Horner is renowned for collaborating with acclaimed directors James Cameron and Mel Gibson on several occasions across the last twenty five years. The reunions of the composer with both Cameron and Gibson suggested profitable and familiar partnerships, which both parties benefited from. The scores Horner produced for the films of Cameron are diverse in themes and content to those the composer created for Gibson. This suggested the external influence of each director on the manner in which Horner wrote each score and was indicative of a collaborative effort.
    An examination of Cameron’s diverse blockbusters Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) in comparison to Gibson’s epics Braveheart (1995) and Apocalypto (2006) illustrated the different approaches of Horner to the director’s narratives. The composer underscores the key binary oppositions in Cameron’s narratives, ascribing distinct melodic themes to the rival classes in Titanic and the cultures at war in Avatar. Whereas the composer’s work for Gibson, identifies key emotional themes of war and peace, love and conflict in the directors epic’s Braveheart and Apocalypto.
    Despite the different manner used by Horner for each director, certain auteuristic traits of the composer’s style can be traced across all four films, suggesting the authorative power of Horner as an auteur in the final score. The composer’s conglomeration of ethnically diverse instruments and his preference for Celtic sounds can be identified across all four of the soundtracks. Similarly his utilisation of core vocal themes to accent the emotion of key scenes is likewise identifiable in each score. Thus confirming that although influenced, the composer is an auteur with signature pattern of themes he adapts to each text he worked on with the directors.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2014 15:00
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:32
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/14168

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