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TITANIC – James Horner


Original Review by Craig Lysy

James Cameron had long been fascinated with shipwrecks and conceived to write a love story set on the greatest shipwreck of all time – the RMS Titanic. He believed that telling the story of the sinking of the great ship in and of itself was insufficient, so the addition of a love story as well as an intimate exploration of the lives of the people who died would add a compelling narrative to the tale. He pitched his story to 20th Century Fox executives as ‘Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic’. They bought his idea given his resume of directorial success, as they wanted to secure him for future projects. He was provided with the largest budget ever for a film at that time – $200 million – and took it upon himself to do what had never been done before; to produce, direct, write and edit a film. He brought in a fine cast to support his vision, including Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, Billy Zane as Cal Hockley, Frances Fisher as Ruth DeWitt Bukater, Gloria Stuart as the older Rose, Kathy Bates as the Unsinkable Margaret “Molly” Brown, Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, Bill Paxton as Brock Lovett, David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy, and Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi.

Cameron’s vision, offering a love story and intimate portraits of the many people who lost their lives or survived the sinking, added a human dimension to the tragic backdrop of the Titanic voyage. The film opens in 1996 aboard the research vessel Keldysk where Brock Lovett, a treasure hunter, and his crew are searching the wreck of the Titanic in hope of retrieving the famed Heart of the Ocean blue diamond necklace. They succeed in retrieving a safe and discover that the necklace is missing, but instead recover a picture of a young naked woman wearing the necklace. Rose Dawson Calvert, who is pictured in the drawing but is now almost 100 years old, is brought to the ship and proceeds to tell her intimate story of the fateful voyage in 1912. She relates how she was unhappily engaged to wealthy steel magnate Cal Hockley, a man thirteen years her senior. What unfolds is a story of love, of how she met a young man called Jack Dawson, and how he, in every way, saved her. The film explored this love affair, and Jack’s supreme sacrifice in saving Rose’s life, against the backdrop of the sinking of the greatest cruise liner the world had ever known. The film received universal critical acclaim and secured the greatest number of Academy Award nominations in the modern era, fourteen, winning eleven including Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Costume Design, Art Direction, Visual Effects, and Sound Editing, as well as Best Original Song and Best Original Score nods for composer James Horner – the only ones he would win in his career. The film was also an astounding commercial success, earning $2.2 billion at the box office.

Cameron’s initial conception of the score was to have Irish singer and songwriter Enya compose it. Indeed, he even temp tracked the film with her music. Yet she declined, and so he turned to past collaborator James Horner, whose score for Braveheart had greatly impressed him. He and Horner had a falling out while working together on Aliens in 1986, yet both men respected the talents of the other, sought each other out, and made amends. Cameron instructed Horner that he wanted music with the auras and romantic sensibilities found in Enya’s Celtic music, to provide both intimacy and timelessness to the story. This was welcome news to Horner as he had a well known love of and proclivity to infusing his scores with instruments and auras of Ireland and Scotland. Horner related;

“Jim and I both did not want a Hollywood 1940s type big drama score. It had been done brilliantly on many different types of disaster movies so many times before. I also desperately wanted to avoid the traditional 1912 English sound, which had also been done many times. The color I wanted to go with was primarily synths and vocals, because I could do so much with them. I could make them sound contemporary and I could make them sound elegiac. I could give the score a slightly different patina or color, using synths, then you would have using only and orchestra. That was very important – how we addressed the colors of the movie, and what we put against the images.”

The foundation of the score is built upon five primary themes and four motifs. The first is the Titanic Theme, which serves as the score’s Main Theme, and speaks to its enormity, magnificence, and grandeur. It resounds with unbridled optimism and a glorious questing confidence. Bright horns regale, sparkling synth and synth voices join in a twinkling uplifting effervescence filling us with a sense of wonderment. There is also a regality to its narrative flow, which speaks to its architectural and technological grandeur as it cuts effortlessly through the waters. Juxtaposed is Tragedy Theme, which speaks of Titanic’s fate. It offers a mournful lamentation full of sorrow, which informs us of the tragedy that befell Titanic. It is articulated by Uilleann pipes and/or haunting sound of Norwegian vocalist Sissel Kyrkjebø. Of all the Titanic’s themes Rose’s Theme has become indelibly woven into humanity’s collective consciousness, taking its place as one of the most loved and timeless themes in cinematic history. It serves as her personal identity, and although it presents with a major modal graceful gentility, we discern with the choral element’s minor modal strains of melancholia, which speak to the unhappiness of her gilded caged existence. As Rose and Jack fall in love, the theme evolves into a Love Theme, achieving a sublime lyricism in Céline Dion’s singing of the End Title’s song “My Heart Will Go On.” The theme is articulated by violin and kindred strings, piano, synth choir and Sissel’s timeless vocals. The Heart of the Ocean Theme speaks to the brilliance of the treasured necklace intended by Cal to be an engagement gift for Rose. Sparkling synths and ethereal synth chorus create a refulgent melody, which matches the brilliance of the famed blue diamond.

The Remembrance Theme offers an eloquent and wistful melody by woodwind chorale, which speak to the memory of Titanic. The Death Motif provides a grim, descending three-note phrase, which speaks of Titanic’s sinking descent to the ocean floor, and her internment. The Doom Motif is kindred to the Death Motif in that they both share descending three-note phrases, which speak to the demise of Titanic. This motif is full of foreboding, portending Titanic’s doom. The Iceberg Motif offers a menacing three-note construct born by dire horns that rises grimly from deep in their register, which speak to the iceberg’s enormity. The Danger Motif offers the score’s most kinetic construct, which speaks to the danger facing Titanic’s crew and passengers following the iceberg strike. The motif features a rapid-fire synth ostinato, aggressive snare drums, kindred drums, horns of doom, and shattering anvil strikes. For authenticity, Horner had to speak to time and place. As such he also infused his soundscape with classical music pieces, for string quartet, which were routinely played in high society. For the common folk he provided traditional and source music of the times.

Lastly, we come to the now famous story regarding Céline Dion’s song, which closed the film. Horner, in clear violation of Cameron’s explicit orders not to include a song, nevertheless composed a song for the End Credits and joined with frequent collaborator Will Jennings to create “My Heart Will Go On”, with Céline Dion intended to sing it. Horner relates that he waited for a day when Cameron was “in a good mood” and sprung the song on him. Well, Cameron really enjoyed it and approved its inclusion. The song soared to #1 in the billboard charts, becoming a sensation with the public, which earned Horner his second Titanic Oscar for Best Original Song. As for the soundtrack album, it too soared to #1 and became the top selling soundtrack in cinematic history.

“Logo” opens with a mournful rendering of the Tragedy Theme on Uilleann pipes. This music was dialed out of the film. At 0:56 we segue into “Main Title” where Sissel’s vocals, so full of mourning flow over a dark bass substrate as septa photographic images of Titanic’s past grace the screen. We end with the film title displayed on the screen and a descent into the ocean depths. With these two opening cues Horner captured the film’s tragic tone. Cameron cut most of Horner’s grim conception of “2 1/2 Miles Down” from the film, instead lightening its tone. The cue supports submersibles combing the ocean floor in search of Titanic’s internment, and then the release of a drone to retrieve Hockley’s safe. Horner supports the scene texturally utilizing eerie electronica and synth voices, ghostly strings with ominous bass strikes. Repeated phrases of the Death Motif juxtaposed with shimmering electronic fill us with dread. “To the Keldysh” reveals Brock returning in triumph having secured Hockley’s safe. Horner supports his elation with a bright rendering of Main Theme by sparkling strings and French horns nobile. The theme slows and becomes more solemn as they saw off the hinges on deck. At 0:56 we segue into “Rose Revealed” where we see Jack’s drawing of a naked Rose wearing the Heart of The Ocean necklace. Horner creates a sense of wonderment with shimmering electronica, ethereal synth voices and gossamer piano of the Heart Of The Ocean Theme as Brock and the crew look on with a sense of wonderment.

“Distant Memories” offers a beautiful cue, which reveals Rose, now 100 years old viewing a TV report of Titanic only to discover her portrait. Horner supports the moment with a shimmering rendering of the Heart Of The Ocean Theme. At 0:55 the Main Theme sounds as Brock receives a call from Rose, advising him that she was the girl in the portrait. At 1:05 we flow into the Remembrance Theme, which was dialed out of the film, resuming confidently at 1:32 atop the Main Theme as Rose helicopters to the Keldysh. “My Drawing” reveals Rose gazing at her long-lost portrait supported by the ethereal Heart of the Ocean Theme, now embellished with solo oboe. At 0:39 we segue into “Relics & Treasures”, which was dialed out of the film. Horner had conceived it to support Rose’s discovery of her old mirror and hair comb using a warm rendering of the Main Theme by French Horn and twinkling harp, concluding with a final ethereal reprise of the Heart of the Ocean Theme. “Southampton” offers a wonderful score highlight, which showcases the Main Theme. Rose begins to tell the tale of Titanic and we commence with her aristocratic arrival with Cal at the dock. Horner supports vistas of the magnificent ship and its boarding with a full extended rendering of the Main Theme bursting with ebullience. Bright synth voices soar above a foundation of bass and drum percussion, perfectly capturing the exhilaration of the moment. At 1:11 the theme shifts to warm violins, which introduce us to Rose and the music demurs due to conversation. We resume with a more regal expression as they board, yet end darkly as Ruth relates to us the sadness of her life.

“Leaving Port” is fateful as Jack and Fabrizio win two tickets for Titanic playing poker. An Irish jig carries their progress as the run and barely catch the closing boarding gate. As the ship releases its ties everyone is filled with exhilaration, and Horner speaks to excitement of the departure with a confident exposition of the Main Theme now adorned with crystalline chimes and cymbals. In “Marguerite Waltz” we are introduced to the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown who boards at the port of Cherbourg. Horner supports her arrival with a graceful rendering of the William Edwin Haesche’s classic Marguerite Waltz. “Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch” is another score highlight where we see Captain Smith order First Officer Murdoch to take Titanic out to sea. A proud and questing exposition of the Main Theme resounds as the great ship heads out to sea. As the order for full speed is transmitted to the engine room, we build upon the theme to a crescendo at 1:25 as we see the ship’s engines power up to full speed. At 2:35 twinkling synths support Jack’s and Fabrizio’s joy of seeing dolphins jumping ahead of Titanic’s bow. At 3:30 Jack shouts out “I am king of the World” and his joy crests upon the theme, which modulates into the Tragedy Theme atop lush strings. The music is shorn of all its ebullience, now minor modal, and the scene ends with portentous horns, harps and twinkling chimes as Titanic sails to her destiny. In “First Sighting” Jack sees Rose on the first-class deck and is captivated by her beauty. Rose looks back at him a couple times, yet remains aloof. Synth flute delicato and twinkling gossamer piano offer Rose’s Theme to support the scene from Jack’s perspective.

“Wedding Dance” offers an interlude for cue 5 and reveals Rose formally dining with Horner supporting the elegant first-class ambiance with Carl Lincke’s gentile waltz “Wedding Dance”. At 0:39 we segue in cue 5 into “Rose’s Suicide Attempt” where we see that Rose has left dinner, unable to bear her gilded cage existence, and prepared to end her life by jumping off Titanic’s stern. Horner creates a tortured musical palate born of fluttering panpipes, rumbling piano, wailing synth voices and beleaguered woodwinds as she runs to the stern. Woven within the soundscape are threads of her theme, and the menace of the tolling Death Motif, which calls her to the icy depths below. We end darkly with male voices and bass. There is an album-film discontinuity. In the film as Rose climbs over the railing, a mournful flute emotes the Tragedy Theme, as Cameron believed its sadness better spoke to her state of mind than the menace of Horner’s original conception. “Jack Saves Rose” opens with an interpolation of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” rendered warmly by strings as Jack extends his welcoming hand. At 0:23 menacing rumbling piano, and writhing violins support Rose slipping off the railing, and dangling for life with only Jack’s grasp saving her from an icy death. As they struggle and work together to reach the safety of the deck, Horner begins an inspired ascent crescendo, which culminates with her retrieval. We end darkly with plaintive strings as her screams attracted crewmen who arrive to find them in a compromised position, which suggest a rape attempt.

In a scene not referenced on the album, Cal comes to Rose in her boudoir and stuns her with his engagement gift, the famed Cour de la Mare blue diamond necklace. He desperately wants her to open her heart to him, yet we clearly see that she does not. Most interesting is how Horner scores the scene as he does not speak to the moment, nor the necklace instead, instead using the grim strains of the Death Motif to portend the fate of their relationship. “The Promenade” reveals Rose and Jack bonding on the first-class deck as she marvels at the beauty of his sketches. Horner supports the intimate moment tenderly with a meandering piano delicato, which never coalesces into a melody. The second part of the cue comes from a later film chronology and will be assessed later. The next five cues are all ambiance cues where Horner interpolates classical pieces to support the formality and elegance of Titanic’s elite first class realm. In “Poet and Peasant” Molly takes Jack under her care and provides him her son’s formal dining attire to ensure he makes a suitable impression. As we see Titanic sailing against the sunset, Horner supports by interpolating the “Poet and Peasant” overture by Franz von Suppe. “Blue Danube” reveals Jack walking into the ornate grand staircase of the first-class area of the ship carried by the elegance of the iconic “Blue Danube” waltz by Johan Strauss II. The waltz carries Rose to him down the staircase, where he kisses her hand. In “Song Without Words” Jack escorts Rose into the formal dining room and the lyrical piece “Song Without Words” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky carries their progress and conversation at the dinner table where Ruth does everything in her power to embarrass and provoke Jack, failing in every attempt. “Estudiantina” reveals the merriment of the table during desert, which Horner supports with the festive “Estudiantina” by Emile Waldteufel. As the men depart dinner for brandy and politics in “Valse Septembre”, Jack says his goodbyes and passes a note to Rose. The scene and Jacks departure are carried by Felix Godin’s gentile waltz, “Valse Septembre”.

The next four cues support Jack taking Rose to “A real party” down in the third-class deck. We bear witness to a festive party full of happy people and dancing. For their arrival Horner supports with the traditional festive drum propelled Irish jig “Blarney Pilgrims”. Jack proposes that Rose join him on the dance floor supported by another festive Irish jig “John Ryan’s Polka”. As each showcases their steps on the dance floor, the jig launches an accelerando as Rose lets go of all inhibitions and surrenders to the fun of the moment. “Kesh Jig”, another tradition Irish jig supports men arm wrestling and Rose and Jack drinking stout beer. In “Drowsy Maggie Dance” Rose taunts the men regarding their strength and challenges them to have the strength to do as she does as she assumes the pointe position for ballet supported by the traditional Gaelic dance. The festive dance rhythms carry their dancing merriment and good times. During Sunday religious services Horner uses the hymn “Eternal Father Strong To Save”, a traditional British seafaring song written by William Whiting. The song is solemn and unfolds with religioso power, which inspires, yet also offers deference to God’s might. The next day Jack sneaks onto the first-class deck and pulls Rose aside, expressing his love for her and concern that she will not find happiness with Cal. She departs conflicted and joins her mother and friends in the dining room for tea and discussion of her wedding. When she sees a young girl being pressured by her mother to sit with correct posture, she has an epiphany. Horner supports the moment using “Vision of Salome”, a gentile waltz by Archibald Joyce.

In “Rose” we bear witness to the score’s supreme moment where music, cinematography and romance achieve a sublime confluence, one of the finest in cinematic history. Sunset approaches and Jack is alone and forlorn as he stands at the Titanic’s bow and contemplates his future. Rose joins him and Horner in a masterstroke allows his Love Theme to unfold with a stirring exposition carried by an ensemble of solo woodwinds, Sissel’s haunting vocals, synth voices, piano delicato supported by a warm bass line. She steps up on the rail as he holds her, opens her eyes, and is awestruck as she appears to be flying. As they embrace in love amidst the fiery sunset auras, he whispers tenderly into her ear a refrain from the song “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine”. As they kiss the theme has a breath-taking climax at 1:15, which brings a quiver and a tear. The cue ends however in sadness as the scene transitions to the sunken Titanic and the older Rose who relates in real time that it was the last daylight Titanic would ever see. At 1:31 of cue 11 we segue into “Butterfly Comb” where Rose asks him to draw her like his French girls, naked and wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace. As she removes the butterfly comb from her hair Horner reprises the meandering line by piano delicato of the “Promenade” cue.

“The Portrait” offers another score highlight, which supports Jack’s drawing of Rose. Horner’s original conception was disc 1 cue 12, which utilized an electronica ensemble of synth voices, strings and harp. Cameron substituted Horner’s more intimate solo piano rendering of the Love Theme, which he had previously submitted as a demo to earn the scoring assignment. In “Méditation de Thaïs” Cal orders Lovejoy to hunt down Rose and he searches their cabin. The plush ambiance of the luxury suite is supported by Jules Massenet’s intermezzo from his opera “Thaïs”. The traditional song “Titsy Bitsy Girl” joins a Rose and Jack try to exit the cabin without notice. “Lovejoy Chases Jack and Rose” reveals Lovejoy spotting Rose and Jack in the corridor, which initiates his hunt as the younger couple outruns, outsmarts and escapes him. Horner propels the chase with a spirited Irish piece carried by Uilleann pipe, drums and woodwinds animato. In “Lovemaking” Rose and Jack find refuge in the cargo hold. They locate a luxury car and make ardent love in the back seat. Piano tenero, oboe delicato, synth woodwinds and strings emote an impassioned Love Theme, which crests at 1:31, and ends gently on a diminuendo,

“Hard to Starboard” offers the score’s first and finest action cue. We open with dark, thumping bass, chimes and horns of doom as the lookout divert their eyes from the ocean ahead to the deck below where Rose and Jack have emerged. As they embrace the Love Theme returns atop synth voices and oboe – the calm before the storm. At 1:24 dire horns sound the Iceberg Motif as the lookout’s eyesight return to the seas ahead, which now reveal a massive iceberg dead ahead. They sound the alarm that unleashes the Danger Motif, a tense martial drum ostinato, horns of doom and electronica, which support the call to the officer of the watch to alert him of the danger. A crescendo builds and unleashes an orchestral torrent empowered by kinetic electric guitars, a ferocious string ostinato and deafening anvil strikes as he initiates action, ordering hard to starboard and engines to reverse. We see frantic effort in the engine room to stop and then reverse the ships engines. At 2:50 we return to the bridge atop the martial drum ostinato as Murdoch and the lookouts pray for Titanic to begin turning. Slowly the ship begins to turn, but it is too late with a crescendo cresting at 3:39 as the ship strikes the iceberg and we see its hull being fatally gored. Frenetic strings and horns of doom join the drum ostinato of the Danger Motif to support the aftermath as the crew tries to ascertain the extent of the damage. At 4:31 Captain Smith tries to determine the extent of damage and Horner again unleashes a ferocious orchestral torrent. We close on horns of doom as passengers flee the flooding third-class cabins. The remaining portion of the cue, was excised and features a horn ostinato intended to support Andrews relating to Captain Smith that with five compartments flooding, Titanic had at most two hours before she sinks.

The life boats are being lowered yet inside life goes on, oblivious to what is happening. Horner supports the scene diegetically with a string quartet playing and number of classics including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” and “Sphinx”. The quartet moves to the outside deck and attempt to allay fears with a diegetic performance of Carl Lincke’s gentile waltz “Wedding Dance”. In “Rose Frees Jack” Jack has been arrested and locked up after Lovejoy on Cal’s orders plants the necklace on him. Rose descends to the armory through icy flooding corridors in an effort to free him. Horner supports her search and rescue effort texturally with an eerie ambiance of foreboding synth strings. As the life boats begin to be lowered the string quartet renders Jacques Offenbach’s classic “Barcarole” to support the scene. “A Building Panic” offers some of Horner’s most energetic and kinetic writing of the score. It reveals the ship sinking by the bow with the waters soon reaching the fore deck. We at last begin to see realization of Titanic’s dire situation and a rising panic as people struggle for the safety of the life boats. Horner relentlessly sows unease, tension and panic with frenetic strings animato, pounding snare drums, pulsing panpipes, metallic percussion and eerie synth voices. At 2:45 the Doom Motif begins resounding against thunderous drums portending Titanic’s fate, as does the call of Death Motif from the icy depths below. At 4:20 horns dramatico resound as Andrews orders the crew to stop under-filling and to place more people in the life boats. A tense string ostinato joins horns of doom and percussive crashes as Jack and Rose struggle to ascend to safety.

As Jack and Rose reach the main deck the string quartet offers a diegetic rendering of Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus” as the men try to counter the panic with their music. “Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave” offers another tense scene as Cal reunites with Rose and Jack, and convinces her to board a life boat, assuring her that he had made alternative arrangements for he and Jack. As her boat descends the Love Theme is reborn on synth flute, Sissel’s sad vocals, Uilleann pipes, synth strings and woodwinds. As her and Jack’s eyes lock, she realizes Cal’s deception and exits the boat to the deck below supported by an achingly beautiful statement of the Love Theme, which carries her back to Jack’s welcoming arms. At 2:32 as Cal watches from above fury builds in him, he snaps and grabs Lovejoy’s gun, firing madly at them as he chases them below deck. A descent atop aggressive chase music empowered by kinetic pounding drums, fierce strings and piano carry the chase ever downwards as they successfully escape to the flooded dining room deck. We end on a diminuendo of uncertainty as they cower in fear in a flooded causeway, unsure if Cal is still following.

“Trapped on “D” Deck” offers an astounding cue with some of the score’s finest writing. We open darkly with pulsing electronica, rumbling piano and disquieting string figures as Jack and Rose seek escape through the now flooded dining room. At 0:45 a grotesque accelerando by rumbling piano, and frightening drum strikes support a growing desperation. Strings animato, elegiac trumpet calls and kindred horns support their efforts to regain the upper decks. At 1:48 an accelerando unfolds on strings animato, synth voices and snare drum percussion as Jack and Rose flee a torrent of rushing waters, becoming trapped in a stairwell. Horner sows a rising panic atop a frightful crescendo as they struggle to find the keys and unlock the door. At 3:03 fierce rumbling piano, anvil strikes, racing strings and ethereal choir join as Murdoch realizes that time is running out as the rising waters close in. At 4:19 we commence a stirring crescendo ever rising on impassioned strings, horns and snare drums, which culminates at 6:02 with their escape from the rising waters. Trumpets catalyze a frightening crescendo at 6:44 as scenes of panic and exterior views of Titanic portend its doom. “Murdoch’s Suicide” was dialed out of the film. Ethereal female synth voices speak to the agony and futility of his circumstances as he kills himself after shooting two men.

In “Nearer My God to Thee” we bear witness to one of the most emotional confluences of music and narrative of the film. The quartet accepts their fate and decide to continue to play rather than flee. Horner creates an aching pathos, a threnody using Sarah Flower Adams Christian hymn “Nearer My God To Thee” to support the worsening tragedy. We see a despondent Captain Smith locking himself in the bridge to accept entombment, a distraught Mr. Andrews adjusting the first-class clock, an old married couple cuddling in their cabin, preferring to die together than apart, and an Irish mother putting her kids asleep with a fairy tale. Top side the waters are rising over the life boat deck and the crew frantically tries to cut them loose. Under the grand staircase magnate Guggenheim awaits his demise. Windows bursting in the bridge and waters engulfing Captain Smith launches “The Sinking”. Horner unleashes a powerfully energetic cue empowered by strings bellicoso, tolling bells, driving snare drums and wailing horns of doom as the ship begins to rear up and people are fleeing to the stern or jumping into the icy waters. The driving, relentless percussive rhythms support strings and horns animato, which join religioso synths to carry the desperation unfolding before our eyes. At 1:44 synth voices allude to the Love Theme as Jack and Rose seek the stern. At 2:06 tolling bells of doom portend death and launch a snare drum driven, string ascent crescendo, joined by the Love Theme as Jack and Rose struggle. At 3:19 the crescendo crests horrifically as a smoke stack uncouples and falls, crushing Fabrizio. We close atop urgent ascending strings and orchestral wails as Jack and Rose climb ever higher carried by their Love Theme, closing in on the stern.

“Death of Titanic” offers an astounding score highlight where Horner’s genius is on display. We open with great energy and urgency atop synth voices, driving snare drum percussion, thunderous drum strikes, and strings energico as the ship’s stern begins to rise up higher and higher, cresting with the Love Theme at 1:48 as Rose relates to Jack that this is where they first met. At 2:10 a priest is leading people in prayer ending with “The former world has passed away”, where Cameron cuts away to the ghostly lite angelic image of a drowned woman, which Horner supports elegiacally. The Love Theme gains prominence amidst the unfolding tragedy as Horner never loses sight of the humanity of their love story. At 3:49 thunderous percussion and horns of doom supports dishes and furniture being upended and people falling to their death. A diminuendo follows as perspective shifts to the life boats and we see through the eyes of grieving survivors. At 4:31 we crest on a dissonant crescendo of horror as Titanic splits in half sending Lovejoy to his doom. At 4:58 trumpets resound and launch an ascent crescendo, which mirrors the stern section of the ship rising up, perpendicular to the sea. At 5:28 the end is near and one last reprise of a desperate Love Theme rises to a stirring climax as Jack and Rose prepare for the inevitable. At 6:00 ghostly synth voices portend doom and Titanic’s death as an eerie calm descends. At 6:52 pulsing trumpets launch the great ship’s descent to her watery grave, which is carried by wailing synth voices, dissonant horns and screeching strings atop an accelerando of doom, ending on an entombing dark bass sustain and a horrific sea of human wailing.

In “A Promise Kept” the film offers its most poignant moment. Jack and Rose survive and swim to a floating wooden platform, which can only support Rose. Jack realizes he is doomed and cherishes his last moments with her as she confesses her love for him. He exhorts her to go on and live a long life. He states he has no regrets and is thankful that fate brought her to him. He extracts a promise that she will survive and not give up. Horner does not score the scene, letting the dialogue carry it. Music enters to support life boats searching for survivors. Grim low register synth, bass, rumbling piano, horns affanoto and ghostly synth voices carry us through the ghastly sight of a sea filled with hundreds of floating frozen corpses. At 1:41 synth flute and upper register synth create an ethereal ambiance as Rose looks at the starlit sky. At 2:51 a hesitant Love Theme emerges, gaining strength on Sissel’s vocals as she resolves to live, kissing Jack goodbye as his corpse sinks into the icy depths. Slowly, yet inexorably the Love Theme gains strength and carries her to life as she swims to a crewman, retrieves his whistle and whistles for help. These next two scenes are not referenced on the album. As the aged Rose completes continues her tale, she relates that the 700 survivors all lived their lives waiting for an absolution, which never came. We shift back to the past to a scene involving Rose and Cal’s rescue by the Carpathia. The Love Theme born by Sissel’s sad vocals carries the scene and closes with Rose evading Cal’s search for her on the Carpathia.

“A Woman’s Heart Is a Deep Ocean of Secrets” supports the conclusion of Rose’s sad tale of 84 years ago. We switch back the Carpathia sailing into New York Harbor as Rose gazes upwards to the Statue of Liberty. When queried by a crewman as to her name, she states Rose Dawson. The heartfelt Love Theme is restated carried by vibrato flute, Sissel’s vocals and adorned with piano delicato for a wistful rendering, which achieves a stirring confluence with her spoken words:

“But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me in every way that a person can be saved. I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now only in my memory…”

Inexplicably, the album does not reference the film’s final scene and epilogue, which is unfortunate as the confluence of story-telling and music is sublime. We open with the Tragedy Theme born by Sissel’s haunting vocals as Rose walks to the railing, steps on the first rung and gazes into the dark waters below. She opens her hand to reveal the necklace and a flashback takes us back to the Carpathia where we see Rose discovery of the necklace in her jacket. Horner supports the revelation with the sparkling brilliance of Heart of the Ocean Theme. The aged Rose raises her hand an in an act of catharsis tosses it into the sea. We shift to her bedroom where a sleeping Rose has passed. He room is adorned with photo memorabilia of her life, which reveals she followed through on her promise to Jack to live a full life. The Love Theme so full of warmth supports the tender moment as well as our journey back to the sunken Titanic, which transforms back to its original grandeur. We are carried by the swelling theme into the great hall, past a room of smiling faces, and up the grand staircase where Jack awaits. As she joins him in the afterlife they embrace, kiss, and the Love Theme blossoms as an affirmation of their reunion and eternal love, bringing the film to a most satisfying conclusion. “My Heart Will Go On” launches the end credits and offers one of the finest and most popular songs to grace a film. Dion initially rejected Horner’s offer to sing but was persuaded by her husband René to take up the song. The rest is history, where we bear witness to one of the finest confluences of melody, lyrics and vocal performances in cinematic history. Dion brought tremendous emotive power to the Love Theme and captured not only our hearts, but also the heart of Cameron’s tale. Following the song, we transition to a bright full exposition of the Main Theme. We conclude darkly with repeating statements of the grim Death Motif.

I explore three additional non-film cues and the theatrical trailer. “Hymn To The Sea” opens with the Tragedy Theme carried by Sissel’s haunting vocals as a requiem. Uilleann pipes, synth flute and dark bass offer a reprise, joined at 2:21 by synth strings. At 3:19 synth voices carry the Main Theme, yet it is shorn of its bright questing confidence. The theme reprises on Uilleann pipes, ending darkly upon the grim horns and bass of the Death Motif. “An Ocean of Memories” is an album highlight that is not associated with the film proper, but is instead a suite. We open with the shimmering brilliance of the Heart of the Ocean Theme graced with Sissel’s resplendent vocals. At 1:33 we flow into a tender and moving rendering of the Remembrance Theme, its best exposition on the album. At 2:52 solo oboe carries us into the Main Theme, rendered oh so gently. A sparkling bridge ushers in the grim Death Motif. At 4:42 Sissel ushers in the Love Theme, which joins with the shimmering Heart of the Ocean Theme for a splendid statement. We close with the stirring lyrical eloquence of the Love Theme, which ends with a shimmering flourish. “Never an Absolution” does not support a film scene, but is instead a merging of the “Logo” and “A Life So Changed” cues, originally used to introduce the commercial album. The cue is elegiac and opens as does the “Logo” on Uilleann pipes emoting the Tragedy Theme. We then transition to the Love Theme carried by Sissel’s haunting vocals, concluding with the B Phrase of the Main Theme by angelic boys’ choir. “Trailer” is an album highlight, which features the actual theatrical trailer used to promote the film. We open darkly with the grim Death Motif, which transitions at 0:23 to the Remembrance Theme, and then brightly into the Main Theme born with its confident questing spirit. At 1:55 we ascend into the Love Theme, which blossoms for a full statement. At 2:52 the Danger motif resounds on snare drums and trumpets with the now contrapuntal Love Theme for stirring interplay. We close as we began with the grim Death Motif.

I would like to praise Mike Matessino, Neil S. Bulk, and MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys of La La Land Records for this magnificent four CD box set of James Horner’s masterpiece. This is a quality album with once again pristine audio quality provided by Mike Matessino’s peerless mastering. My only critique is the lack of the finale and epilogue as a discreet album cue linked to film scene context. James Horner and James Cameron achieved a sublime confluence of music, cinematography and story-telling rarely accomplished. Horner composed six primary themes, four motifs while incorporating classical pieces and source music for setting authenticity. His conception of Sissel’s haunting vocals and use of synthesizers created the timeless qualities Cameron sought for his film, allowing him to achieve his vision. The love theme is iconic and takes its place in the hallowed halls of the Pantheon of great cinematic themes. Masterful is how Horner managed against the backdrop of the tragedy of Titanic’s epic disaster to not lose the intimacy of the Jack and Rose’s love story. The fact that the soundtrack album and song “My Heart Will Go On” both achieved #1 billboard status for several weeks offers a testament of his brilliant achievement and mastery of his craft. Titanic is one of the finest scores in Horner’s canon, and a late Bronze Age gem. I highly recommend the purchase of La La Land’s superb 4 CD album as an essential part of your collection.

I have embedded a YouTube link for the beautiful Finale and Epilogue where Cameron and Horner achieve a sublime confluence of film and music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v-L-b3wF0g

Buy the Titanic soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Never An Absolution (3:03)
  • Distant Memories (2:23)
  • Southampton (4:01)
  • Rose (2:52)
  • Leaving Port (3:26)
  • Take Her To Sea, Mr. Murdoch (4:31)
  • Hard To Starboard (6:52)
  • Unable To Stay, Unwilling To Leave (3:56)
  • The Sinking (5:05)
  • Death Of Titanic (8:26)
  • A Promise Kept (6:02)
  • A Life So Changed (2:13)
  • An Ocean Of Memories (7:57)
  • My Heart Will Go On – Love Theme from Titanic (written by James Horner and Will Jennings, performed by Céline Dion) (5:10)
  • Hymn to the Sea (6:25)
  • Logo/Main Title (2:28)
  • 2½ Miles Down (10:33)
  • To the Keldysh/Rose Revealed (1:43)
  • Distant Memories (2:24)
  • My Drawing/Relics & Treasures (1:52)
  • Southampton (4:00)
  • Leaving Port (3:27)
  • Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch (4:31)
  • First Sighting/Rose’s Suicide Attempt (3:05)
  • Jack Saves Rose (1:42)
  • The Promenade/Butterfly Comb (2:40)
  • Rose (2:54)
  • The Portrait (1:58)
  • Lovejoy Chases Jack and Rose (2:24)
  • Lovemaking (2:26)
  • Hard to Starboard (7:42)
  • Rose Frees Jack (2:41)
  • A Building Panic (7:25)
  • Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave (3:56)
  • Trapped on D Deck (8:46)
  • Murdoch’s Suicide (0:37)
  • The Sinking (5:06)
  • Death of Titanic (8:25)
  • A Promise Kept (6:03)
  • A Life so Changed (2:14)
  • A Woman’s Heart Is a Deep Ocean of Secrets (1:43)
  • An Ocean of Memories (8:00)
  • Post (2:44)
  • Never an Absolution (3:06)
  • Trailer (4:12) BONUS
  • The Portrait [Album Version] (4:43) BONUS
  • Logo (Alternate Extended Version) (2:10) BONUS
  • 2½ Miles Down (Alternate) (1:36) BONUS
  • Southampton (Alternate) (3:05) BONUS
  • Leaving Port (with Alternate Ending) (3:00) BONUS
  • Leaving Port (Alternate) (2:15) BONUS
  • Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch (Alternate) (4:29) BONUS
  • Rose (Alternate) (2:58) BONUS
  • Piano Theme – The Portrait (5:00) BONUS
  • Lovejoy Chases Jack (Alternate) (1:55) BONUS
  • Hard to Starboard (Alternate) (6:50) BONUS
  • A Building Panic [Album Suite] (8:05) BONUS
  • Death of Titanic (Alternate) (8:29) BONUS
  • A Promise Kept (Alternate) (4:32) BONUS
  • Hymn to the Sea (6:26)
  • Valse Septembre (performed by I Salonisti) (3:43)
  • Marguerite Waltz (performed by I Salonisti) (2:34)
  • Wedding Dance (performed by I Salonisti) (2:30)
  • Poet and Peasant (performed by I Salonisti) (6:48)
  • Blue Danube (performed by I Salonisti) (6:55)
  • Song Without Words (performed by I Salonisti) (2:37)
  • Estudiantina (performed by I Salonisti) (3:11)
  • Oh, You Beautiful Doll (traditional, conducted by William Ross) (2:12)
  • Blarney Pilgrims (performed by Gaelic Storm) (2:11)
  • John Ryan’s Polka (performed by Gaelic Storm) (2:53)
  • Kesh Jig (performed by Gaelic Storm) (1:59)
  • Drowsy Maggie Dance (performed by Gaelic Storm) (1:22)
  • Come Josephine in My Flying Machine (traditional, conducted by William Ross) (1:46)
  • The Merry Widow (traditional, conducted by William Ross) (1:30)
  • Méditation de Thaïs (performed by I Salonisti) (4:25)
  • Vision of Salome (performed by I Salonisti) (2:42)
  • Titsy Bitsy Girl (performed by I Salonisti) (1:35)
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band (performed by I Salonisti) (2:28)
  • Sphinx (performed by I Salonisti) (3:48)
  • Barcarole (performed by I Salonisti) (3:31)
  • Orpheus (performed by I Salonisti) (8:40)
  • Song of Autumn (performed by I Salonisti) (3:53)
  • Nearer My God to Thee (performed by I Salonisti) (Extended Version) (3:14)

Running Time: 72 minutes 22 seconds (Original)
Running Time: 262 minutes 47 seconds (Expanded)

Sony Classical SK-63213 (1997)
La-La Land Records LLLCD-1446 (1997/2017)

Music and conducted composed by James Horner. Orchestrations by James Horner and Don Davis. Featured musical soloists Simon Franglen, Tony Hinnigan, James Horner, Randy Kerber, Eric Rigler and Ian Underwood. Special vocal performances by by Sissel Kyrkjebø. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Edited by Jim Henrikson. Score produced by James Horner. La-La Land expanded album produced by Mike Matessino, Neil S. Bulk, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

  1. Kevin
    April 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Good review. This was the culmination of Horner’s 90s peak, two years after Apollo 13 and Braveheart.

    I really like “Southampton” but I love the Hymn to the Sea (perfect elegy to Titanic) and “The Deep and Timeless Sea,” which is on Back to Titanic. “Hard to Starboard” has some of the most ferocious action music Horner ever wrote, which is saying something.

  2. Jack
    August 19, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Don’t kill me all you Horner fans out there, but, I neither enjoyed this film or the score.

  3. Armando Castaneda, Jr
    January 20, 2020 at 9:42 am

    An Ocean of Memories is the epilogue and final scene. The cue was originally intended to accompany the alternate ending where the Keldysh crew find out Rose had the diamond all along. The last minute and a half of the cue still syncs up perfectly with the end of the film. When the ending was changed, the cue was replaced by sections or Rose, Relics and Treasures, bits of An Ocean of Memories and Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave.

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