Titanic composer: classical music is stuffy. Here's how I'd fix it

As James Horner prepares for the world premiere of his new concerto, the composer of movie soundtracks from 'Titanic' to 'Avatar' says he's nervous about his return to classical concerts.

James Horner film composer Oscars

Horner - who has more than 100 scores to his name and won two Oscars for his best-selling Titanic score – has been telling Classic FM about the moment he turned his back on classical music in the 1980s.

"I did find the classical world very, very stuffy and in a sense I still do,” he says. “I’m nervous that it’s harder and harder for classical orchestras to make a go of it and keep churning out new performances of the classics.

"I stayed at school all the way up to getting a doctorate and it was so difficult to get pieces performed. I took time off and reassessed everything and I discovered film by accident.

"I just never looked back. I put it all behind me."

The composer believes that classical music must be presented in innovative new ways, including incorporating visuals and experimenting with the orchestra layout. 

"The concept of going into a dark room with people in tuxedos, where there is no multimedia - I am not sure that’s a viable model anymore for new listeners," he says.

"I think there are a lot of things that could be done to bring younger audiences closer to music. It’s so stunning and wonderful and I just hope that younger audiences are still attracted to it."

Horner hasn’t produced a ‘classical’ work for the concert hall since the 1980s but all that changes tonight with the world premiere of Pas de Deux , performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Classic FM’s orchestra in the North West.

The composer’s return to the concert hall comes at a time when he feels he has achieved what he set out to do in the film world. 

The duet for cello and violin with orchestral accompaniment is the first of three concert commissions that he has been working on – and he says he’s nervous about how it will be received. 

“It’s very difficult to come from film back into serious music and be taken seriously. I’ve looked at the careers of some of the great Hollywood composers who have done that and it hasn’t been entirely successful,” he says.

“The world tends to look down on film people who have than re-expressed an interest in writing for the concert world. Hopefully the music I am writing will be accessible enough that that won’t happen.” 


James Horner Composer James Horner

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