Willow (1988) James Horner
First released October 5, 2015
I approached JAC Redford to inquire about Willow. JAC, who is a good friend of mine, also worked as James Horner’s orchestrator. Even though the score recorded in London, I was told the music was somewhere at Lucasfilm, which it wasn’t, nor was it in London. I asked JAC to ask James, and he said he had his own personal copy. It seemed this was the only copy in existence. James was reluctant at first to let it out of his studio, but finally agreed, with the stipulation that it not leave JAC’s possession for the duration of the project. This meant I had to purchase a portable scanner, which was inadequate, so I resorted to taking six photos of each page: top left, top right, and the same for the middle and bottom of the page. This was in April, or May of 2015. I was working on the score the day I found out about Horner’s tragic accident in June. I was crushed. It was my hope to present the finished product to him at his studio, and possibly the only chance I’d have to chat with him privately. As a courtesy, I even planned on printing out a rough draft for him to look over. This is something I’ve offered to all composers for the books I’ve released. Even though that will never happen, I’m confident that James would have been impressed.
The story of Willow stemmed from the mind of legendary filmmaker, George Lucas. He enlisted the directing talent of Ron Howard. James Horner was given the task of creating the music, and while relatively young, his reputation was gaining respect in Hollywood in the 1980s. Willow was a creative breakthrough for not only the composer, but also the visual effects team, who pioneered the early use of computer technology. Nearly every possible dramatic element is represented through the music, whether it be adventure, romance, fantasy, or the otherworldly. He created music for epic moments with as much care as those of tender reflection.
Horner instinctively knew that the musical landscape would need to be a familiar one to Western audiences. Yet, the story, while seeming to take place in medieval times, existed in an alternate land where witches and evil sorcery existed. To accomplish this, Horner anchored the score with a traditional-sounding orchestra, and layered on top of it the sounds of various pan pipes, didgeridoo, hammered dulcimer, the South American queña, and also an instrument from the Renaissance period known as a shawm, an early double-reed precursor to the oboe.
With this musical palette at his disposal, as well as conjuring memorable themes and motives, Horner was able to create an original sound for the film Willow. It was the highest budget for a motion picture score at the time, and Horner put it to great use. It included the King’s College Choir Of Wimbledon, 2 Alpine horns, no fewer than 40 different percussion instruments, and the shakuhachi, the use of which would influence many other contemporaries to include in their own film scores.
Now musicians, music students, conductors – any music lover – can study Willow in this durable, high-quality edition, carefully reproduced and edited from the original handwritten manuscript.