Born August 14, 1953 in Los Angeles, California, James Horner has become one of the most well-known and critically acclaimed film composer of the late-half of the twentieth century.

Horner's musical talents became apparent at age five, when he began studying piano under the instruction of Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti. He continued to learn at the Royal College of Music in London, and later earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern California, and a masters and Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory at UCLA.

Joining the American film Institute, he began to score music for low-budget motion pictures, and soon moved up to more mainstream films, the earliest of which include Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Cocoon, Commando, and many more.

Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, Horner's work spans from sweeping, majestic fanfares to understated, subtle chord progressions textured with ethnic instrumention that are finely tuned to match the dramatic nature of his films. His talent has not gone unnoticed, and much of his work has become almost legendary in modern film. His most celebrated scores include those for Titanic, Braveheart, and Apollo 13.

Editor's note: James Horner died June 22, 2015, in a plane crash. He was a pilot and was flying an Embraer turboprop aircraft which crashed near Los Angeles.

Sometimes the Universe will shock you with its timing. Sometimes it will simply shock you.

On the morning of June 22, 2015, 61-year-old James Horner climbed into the cockpit of his Embraer EMB 312 Tucano turboprop airplane. He soared into the sky, but one must presume something went terribly wrong, for this latter-day Icarus came crashing down in southern California's Los Padres National Forest.

The earliest reports, some twelve hours later, simply related that a plane owned by Horner had crashed, its pilot being killed, and coincidentally, Horner himself wasn't answering his phone. It is as though the world resisted acknowledging that such a fire as this had been untimely snuffed, hoped beyond hope that somehow the body in the woods was somebody else. But the truth has now taken us in its icy grasp. James Horner -- amongst the finest composers and film scorers of our age -- is dead.

His life was a gift to us all. His scores roused, and his talent blossomed over time. It is true, the knock on him was that (early in his career, especially) he borrowed heavily from his antecedents and his own previous works, a flourish here, a progression of notes there. But in truth, even in his youth his artistry and ability to assemble fittingly inspirational music was at a level reached by only a few. Alongside the ubiquitous John Williams, Horner possessed possibly the most instantly recognizable canon of movie music.

From this body of work, there will be no dearth of pieces worthy of playing at his memorial. A sampling of, arguably, Horner's finest compositional feats can't help but include:

From Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- Battle of the Mutara Nebula, by turns claustrophobic and triumphant in a sense reminiscent of great naval tradition; and the sequel sequence from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock -- Stealing the Enterprise, mixing into these an element of playfullness, and a fully realized grandeur.
From Titanic -- Hymn to the Sea -- with a Celtic heartbeat, unquestionably Horner's most famed work;
And lastly, my personal favorite:
From A Beautiful Mind -- A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics, hauntingly launched, and with a progression which makes the mind of the listener feel alive.

And for those who can never have enough from this canon, here is a thoughtfully assembled compilation of numerous score passages.

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