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James Horner - "Titanic" Soundtrack Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 1998

Music from the Motion Picture Titanic

Composed by James Horner
format: 5.1 CD
label: DTS Entertainment
release year: 2000
performance: 8
sound 7
reviewed by: Richard Elen

ImageThis recently-released album is in many ways a good example of the quality that a modern surround recording can offer - even though the majority of the surround in this case actually consists of ambience and reverberation, and some of the actual instrumental mix is hardly even in stereo! The added depth and feeling of envelopment provided by the surround system underline the fact that virtually anything in surround is better than virtually anything in stereo. That's true even (or perhaps particularly) if you have nothing flying round the room, or instruments contrived to pop up behind you. There is room in the repertoire for all kinds of artistic expression when it comes to a surround mix, and there are thankfully few, if any, rules about what should work and what should not.

The music on this album was written, recorded and mixed with 5.1 in mind - but 5.1 with pictures, dialogue and effects, none of which you will find on this album! Bear this in mind, but don't worry, as the music stands up for itself, as does the "proscenium-plus-reverb" approach to the mix without which the music could not have properly handled its task in the context of the movie.

Composer James Horner is up there in my book with the best of 'em, including Jerry Goldsmith and Maurice Jarre. Horner’s work for ‘Titanic’ breaks down into three distinct musical approaches: warm, lush orchestral pieces; lighter, Celtic-influenced material; and the interwoven synth and sampler lines that so appropriately and unusually complement the orchestral elements. Synthesist Simon Franglen has received far too little recognition for his work on this movie as far as I am concerned, not only for his synth parts but also for his central work on "My Heart Will Go On" (at least he gets a well-deserved co-production credit here). And if that's the main piece of music you recall from the movie, I'll bet that the next thing you remember is Franglen's haunting sampled choral lines.

Indeed, much of the Music from Titanic is memorable in style if not in actual notes. The "neo-Celtic" material draws so strongly on the work of modern Celtic-inspired musicians and composers that you can today hardly listen to a modern Celtic album without thinking that it is reminiscent of the music on this album. Just remember that the reference is, of course, the other way around.

Horner's writing is very much his own, and he is a master at the game of film scoring. He has his own style and it doesn't belong to someone else (unlike, say, John Williams, who has now gone beyond lifting stuff from Holst and Elgar to plagiarizing his own work, with echoes of ‘Star Wars’ in the music for the horrifyingly iniquitous ‘Patriot’).

In the past, even the most impressive "original soundtrack recording" has lacked the envelopment that you experienced in the movie theater. Today, CDs like this one bring the music home from the theater for you to enjoy as it was designed and intended: in full surround.

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