James Horner – Enemy at the Gates: Hacktackular

enemy at the gates

James Horner is a hack.

That’s my opinion. Some people think he’s a good or even great composer. I don’t. I happen think he has precisely 1.5 Good scores to his credit, namely Star Trek 2 and 3. Those two score, I also happen to think, are among the finest score of the late 20th century, with an asterisk. (the asterisk being that the highlights of each are highly derivative of Prokofiev).

I mention it because I listened to Horner’s score for the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates today and was once again frustrated by the music. Despite my accusation above, Horner can be a talented composer, I just think he’s fond of shortcuts that lower the quality of the final product. For example, this Enemy at the Gates score opens with the type of epic 15+ minute suite The River Crossing to Stalingrad that I am quite fond of. It effectively incorporates an all-male chorus and evokes the same Slavic character that I enjoy in Dvorak’s and Tchaikovsky’s work. Additionally, there are some really nice melodic passages throughout the score.


And this is a deal-breaker, horner re-guritates the same "Menace" Motif that he originally wrote for StarTrek 2 (1982) and already recycled at least once for Aliens (1986). And this motif is everywhere in the score, ruining what might have been compelling music.

It’s not the motif’s fault really. It’s actually a simple and effective couple of bars of music. But in my mind, it is far too overused and too closely related to Khan for it to work anywhere else. So I may hang on the opening suite, but the rest of this score will be departing my library.

tunequest week in review

for the week ending may 20, 2006.

stats: a superlative week here at tunequest. 394 songs played over 25 hours and 40 minutes. a further 5 songs were removed from the library for a net progress of 399, a new record. frankly, i'm surprised by the results. an afternoon braves game and a couple of extented meetings cut into my normal office listening time and i didn't really expect saturday's listening to be able to compensate. not that i'm complaining about it. i'm thrilled.

highlights for the week include sharing the chicago symphony's performance of mahler's no 6 with the neighborhood, revisiting some  grunge and post-grunge rock from nirvana's bleach and soundgarden's down on the upside, appreciating the smooth grooves of the well-pollished idm of to rococo rot's hotel morgen, getting funky with morton steven's very compelling tv score to hawaii five-o (best tv theme song ever!), and finally finally finally finally getting through all those babylon 5 scores* (it took 7 weeks, but i did it), as well as enjoying a host of other really great music.

also mixed in this week were a couple of james bond scores (john barry's diamonds are forever and david arnold's die another day. both excellent) and william shatner's has been. now don't laugh at this, but that shatner album is some powerful stuff. he's got a very engaging spoken-word delivery as well as some respectable collaborators. the result is 11 songs that pack more heartfelt sentiment than all the songs on top 40 radio in the past 10 years combined. i mean that.

it was also apparently "records that time forgot week" here at tunequest. i only covered 7 albums in that short-lived series, and 3 of them managed to pop up this week: can's ege bamyasi, louis and bebe barron's score to forbidden planet and martin denny's space-exotica extravaganza exotic moog. as soon as i track down that file, i'll post it.

see this week's complete list of albums in the extended entry.

*technically, i have one album left, a compilation called 'the best of babylon 5.' it's currently not eligible for play because the tunequest-ipod is into the I's and it's not smart enough to ignore the "the" at the beginning of album names. artists yes, albums no.

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woohoo to 4 digits!

at 5:19 pm eastern, i officially crossed into 4 digit territory. i now have less than 10,000 songs to go before i complete the tunequest. that is of course if i don't add a lot of new songs to my library…

for those who are interested, the lucky song was the first movement from dvorak's symphony no 1 performed by the royal scottish national orchestra. good piece, that is. 

March 27 – 66 songs played. 25 removed.

exclusively composed music today it seems, mostly from film and television, though the most excellent slavonic dances were mixed in as well.

  • bavarian radio orchestra performing dvorak’s slavonic dances op.46
  • joseph loduca [army of darkness]
  • alan silvestri [back to the future]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: in the beginning]
  • the boston pops performing select john williams compositions
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: the long night]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: sleeping in light]

sleeping in light is the last episode of babylon 5 and is also probably christopher franke’s best score for the series. it is contemplative yet sweeping in its composition, a fitting accompaniment to the episode that wraps up the character’s loose threads.

the babylon 5 scores, like the show itself, dramatically improve as the show progresses. the first season in particular is hard to enjoy. don’t get me wrong; i admire what jms was attempting at the time and ultimately what he achieved with the series, but the production value of those early episodes left a lot to be desired. and franke’s new-age inspired music for the first season didn’t help matters. however, as the action, suspense and intrigue mount of the course of the show, franke really steps up and produces some contemplative and engaging music.

if i had to recommend just one soundtrack, it would probably be sleeping in light. or maybe coming of shadows, just for the scene where the centari emperor has his heart attack. •

the army of darkness score is rousing and fun, just like the movie. it also contains the march of the dead by danny elfman, which hey, is good. •

Dvorak and Mouse on Mars for a Drive Home

Now that’s more like it. Eight hours of music over two days should put a dent in the deficit i developed over the weekend. If i can keep up the pace of 4 hours of music per day, i’ll complete this project on october 23, 2006. However, 4 hours appears to be my practical listening limit, fat chance on that. Of course, i could be more generous in my weeding, but i suppose that would be cheating.


Dvorak’s 9th is among my favorite orchestral works; It so made my evening drive though suburban atlanta much more pleasurable.

Also mixed in today was, for intents and purposes, the Mouse on Mars remix album. It’s not billed as such, but that’s essentially what Agit Itter It It is. It takes material from Niun Niggung and reworks it as if it were from the Idiology session. untitled states of and Spedualist are pretty damn cool that way.