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14 Surprising STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN Music Facts

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) 
Academy Award-winning composer James Horner, known for scoring movies like Titanic and Avatar, is feared dead. He was an avid and experienced pilot, but a small plane belonging to him crashed in central California yesterday and killed the pilot. While it's not confirmed that the pilot was 61-year old James Horner, his assistant Sylvia Patrycja posted on her Facebook page, "A great tragedy has struck my family today, and I will not be around for a while. I would like some privacy and time to heal. We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart, and unbelievable talent. He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road. Love Sylvia." If it's true, the world has lost a wonderful composer who  won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and was nominated for three British Academy Film Awards.

While he worked on over 100 films, it was the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that established him as a mainstream Hollywood composer. While the movie has been watched for decades, here are some things you might not have known about Horner's work on the film.

1. Jerry Goldsmith had composed the music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but because of the smaller budget for The Wrath of Khan they couldn't afford him.

2. Horner had done some low-budget films for Roger Corman and was considered an unknown

3. Horner didn't know much about Star Trek before working on the film

4. The producers wanted the music to be very different from the first film. "They did not want the kind of score they had gotten before," Horner said. "they did not want a John Williams score, per se. They wanted something different, more modern."

5. Director Nicholas Meyer wanted a nautical sound to the main theme, Horner explained, "He wanted something very sea-faring, something that gave the feeling of space as an ocean, and I tried to achieve that without getting to literal about it."

6. Horner incorporated the opening fanfare from the original television series in a few places saying, "At first I was not going to do it, but then as I started writing the music I figured out a way to incorporate part of the fanfare into the music, and it works very well. I felt it was very important to Star Trek to somehow tie in the characters and the ship that everybody knew."

7. Nicholas Meyer said that when the audience heard the familiar theme from Star Trek they started applauding

8. Horner composed a "haunting motif" for Spock saying, "by putting a theme over Spock, it warms him and he becomes three-dimensional rather than a collection of schticks."

9. Khan had a "warlike" theme using french horns and percussion that emphasized the character's insanity.

10. The theme of the Enterprise was melodic and strong using french horns and stringed instruments

11. While science-fiction films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Thing preferred to use traditional orchestras, Horner used synthesizers for some effects.

12. Horner was given four and a half weeks to write the score, which came to a total of 72 minutes worth of music, which was then recorded by a 94-piece orchestra.

13. After working on a film, Horner never watched the movies because he was frustrated that post-production often added sound effects that obscured his work

14. By the time Star Trek III came out, James Horner was in demand and the production couldn't afford him.

What's your favorite part of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan? Do you remember the work of James Horner?

About the Author: Maurice Mitchell
"I'm an avid science fiction fan, former professional graphic designer and certified blerd. After the death of my Star Wars action figures I use my powers for good and not for evil."
Visit my concept art blog: http://filmsketchr.blogspot.com

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  1. Such a tragedy.
    He worked for Corman? Everyone has to start somewhere.

  2. I just heard about Horner today. I know of his work by watching some of the movies he composed work before, but I didn't recognize his name. Sad news.


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