Film Music Fridays: James Horner

james horner soundtrakcs

James Horner is an American film composer most famous for his scores to James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) – the two highest grossing films of all time. Almost uniquely amongst other film composers, Horner is a great advocate of Celtic music and has written several film scores in this style; notably Braveheart and Titanic.

“I’m a fanatic about Irish music. I love its moody, modal and timeless quality. I’m different from some other composers, because I don’t look at this as just a job. I think of music as art.” 


Despite the characteristic musical cliches that many film composers are guilty of, his ability to write some of the most emotional music in in film has brought phenomenal success. The following 20 Great Songs list are in no particular order and feature multiple entries from the big hitters like Avatar, Titanic, and Bicentennial Man, but also some of the lesser known earlier films like The Rocketeer (1991) and Glory (1989).

[If you’re logged into Spotify, scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full embed playlist].

Ten Song Taster

1) Climbing up “Iknimaya – The Path To Heaven” (from Avatar)

2) The Search For Another (from Bicentennial Man)

3) Zorro’s Theme (from The Mask of Zorro)

4) The Portrait (from Titanic)

5) The Gift Of Mortality (from Bicentennial Man)

6) To The Rescue/End Credits (from The Rocketeer)

7) End Credits (from Braveheart)

8) Dance (from Zorro)

9) The Ludlows (from Legends of the Fall)

10) Pandora (from Avatar)

Full Song List

  1. Climbing up “Iknimaya – The Path To Heaven” (from Avatar)
  2. The Search For Another (from Bicentennial Man)
  3. Zorro’s Theme (from The Mask Of Zorro)
  4. The Portrait (from Titanic)
  5. The Gift Of Mortality (from Bicentennial Man)
  6. Glory – End Credits (from Glory)
  7. To The Rescue / End Credits (from The Rocketeer)
  8. End Credits (from Braveheart)
  9. The Ludlows (from Legends of the Fall)
  10. Pandora (from Avatar)
  11. Rose (from Titanic)
  12. Emotions (from Bicentennial Man)
  13. Apollo 13 – Main Title (from Apollo 13)
  14. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan – End Credits (from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan)
  15. Wearing Clothes For The First Time (from Bicentennial Man)
  16. A Gift of a Thistle (from Braveheart)
  17. Becoming one of “The People” Becoming one with Neytiri (from Avatar)
  18. Jake’s first flight (from Avatar)
  19. Diego’s Goodbye (from The Mask of Zorro)
  20. Unable To Stay, Unwilling To Leave (from Titanic)

Full Spotify Playlist Link: James Horner


20 Great Covers: 2) Dancing In The Dark by Amy MacDonald

The second song in the 20 Great Covers playlist is Amy MacDonald’s cover of Bruce Springsteens ‘Dancing In The Dark’. Amy MacDonald is a “rootsy folk-rock” Scottish singer-songwriter-guitarist best known for This Is The Life and Mr Rock & Roll. This subtle, orchestral interpretation of the song with minimal staccato accompaniment works really well and allows the lyrics their deserved prominence. Clip is taken from a performance with the German Philharmonic Orchestra in Luxembourg, 2010.

You can check out Amy MacDonald on her website or Twitter page.

20 Great Covers: 1) Evolution of Music by Pentatonix

Kicking off the 20 great covers category is Pentatonix’s Evolution of Music; a very clever mash-up of a wide range of songs from the 1100’s to the 2010’s, with each piece or song lasting for between 5-15 seconds before seamlessly blending into something else. Pentatonix are a Texan a capella group who do an incredible job of arranging and covering popular songs (another great cover of theirs is Can’t Hold Us by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis on Youtube).

You can check out Pentatonix on their Twitter pageYouTube channel, or Facebook page.

Luke Britnell – Think Positive

Luke Britnell is a 19-year old singer, songwriter and guitarist from London who recently appeared on the X Factor UK, delivering his original uplifting song ‘Think Positive’ to the X Factor judges and over 9 million viewers. Since the audition he has attracted a large following on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and he is now in the process of recording and releasing his debut EP.

Here is the original music video for ‘Think Positive’ or you can see the X Factor audition by clicking on the link below:

(You can see his great X Factor audition here:

Luke was kind enough to chat to 20GreatSongs and share his inspirations, aspirations and thoughts on the X Factor audition:
First of all, what or who are your musical influences?

They actually vary from a wide range. One day I could be listening to Bruno Mars and be loving it and the next I could be jamming out to some Guns N’ Roses, Bob Marley, Jay-Z, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Elvis, I could go on all day. As a whole I try to listen to a lot of different musical styles purposely to open my mind to discovering as much new music as possible.

And where did the inspiration for the song (Think Positive) come from?

Well I initially had wrote this bubbly, happy sounding guitar part and wanted to expand on it by adding some lyrics. My vocal teacher at the time had taken a listen to it and helped me finish writing it. We basically thought about what we wanted the song to be about, eventually coming up with the idea of having a song with a positive message (it was the first song I had worked on and I didn’t want to start writing love songs just yet) we then added the lyrics that would become the verses, and chorus. The ‘Woohoo’s’ were put in as I was recording the original version, basically to fill the gap that had nothing there at the time, as it sounded pretty empty without those added, that was the same case for the ‘Doobedoo’s’.

The song is incredibly catchy – it was definitely a good sign when Gary joined in on the ‘woo hoo’ and started swaying and clicking to the song with the other judges! How did it feel? Have you been approached with any offers to record professionally?

Thanks! It was pretty surreal. Especially after feeling so anxious before the audition, knowing I’m about to go in and perform the song without having a single clue of how the judges would react to it, so to have them singing along was a lovely little surprise. I was also pretty stoked to find out a few people had got in touch with me about recording, but for now the plan is to go in and record an EP full of originals, and then get that on iTunes as soon as possible.

Which was more nerve-wracking, the initial intimate audition for the judges or the live arena audition and why?

Both to their own; the room audition is nerve-wracking as it’s so up close and personal, if you make one little mistake they could spot that from a mile off. The arena audition is nerve-wracking as you are performing to such a large number of people at such a large venue, and if that’s not what you’re used to or have experienced before, it’s pretty daunting. But if I had to choose I’d say the obvious nerve-wracking audition for me would be the arena audition, as you saw, haha.

Coolest gig you have performed so far?

Definitely in Belfast a couple of years ago, so many people turned up and had made signs, bracelets, etc and sung along to every song! That was such a rare, and fun night for me.

What would be your dream gig venue?

The O2 Arena in London. I’ve seen so many different artists perform there and was lucky enough to get a chance to walk on the stage and get a tour of the place on a college trip, always loved the atmosphere in there, dream big!

Is there anyone that you would want to duet with?

Without a doubt, John Mayer or Katy Perry.

What advice would you give to other singer songwriters?

I wouldn’t say I’m in such a position to give advice as I’m always learning so much myself. But I’ve learnt personally is to just write about what you know, and your true emotions. Just be as honest and true to yourself as possible, and believe in what it is you’re doing, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, then who will?

Most unusual situation you have found yourself in?

I had flown to Malta on my own late last year to play a gig on new years eve. Unfortunately for some reason the gig got cancelled and I was stuck in Malta for new years, so someone who lived there had arranged for me to go out with some of his friends that night. I ended up spending 2012 new years partying with three maltese guys who I had met literally that night. Pretty crazy, they were a right laugh.

What are you working on at the moment?

My main focus at the moment is to get my EP recorded and up on iTunes as soon as possible. I’m so excited to finally have something to show for all the incredible support and following I’ve gained since the X Factor. I’ll still be uploading tons of covers on YouTube and playing loads of gigs.

You can check Luke out on Twitter, Facebook or his YouTube channel.

And what would your 20 Great Songs list be?

This is a tough one, I’ll probably end up kicking myself later on remembering songs I haven’t put in this list. In no particular order:

  1. Zac Brown Band – Keep Me In Mind
  2. Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
  3. Guns N’ Roses – Nightrain
  4. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Is This Love
  5. Eric Clapton – Change The World
  6. Foo Fighters – Best Of You
  7. Bruno Mars – It Will Rain
  8. John Mayer – Slow Dancing In A Burning Room – Live at the Nokia Theatre
  9. John Mayer – Free Fallin’ – Live at the Nokia Theatre
  10. Aerosmith – Same Old Song And Dance
  11. Aerosmith – Love In An Elevator – Single Version
  12. Karaoke Library – Only You Can Love Me This Way (Full Vocal Version) [In the Style of Keith Urban]
  13. Bruce Springsteen – Pay Me My Money Down
  14. David Ryan Harris – For You
  15. Des’ree – Crazy Maze
  16. John Lennon – Imagine
  17. Toto – Africa
  18. Train – Drops of Jupiter
  19. 2Pac – Changes – 1998 Greatest Hits (Explicit)
  20. Kanye West – Clique

Spotify playlist here: Luke Britnell’s 20 Great Songs

Or if you’re already logged into Spotify, you can listen to the full playlist below!

20 Great Songs: Classical Crossover

Less of a genre of music and more of a way to bundle the music that doesn’t fit into one category together, the term ‘classical crossover’ tends to cover everything from rock/pop-classical fusion to classically trained musicians performing in an unusual way or context, experimenting and bringing new music to a broad and varied audience. This list contains a wide range of artists and music, from Andrea Bocelli to Metallica and everything inbetween.

Ten Song Taster 

1) Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends (The Piano Guys) 

[From The Piano Guys website] What do you get when you mix up a marketing genius that does video, a studio engineer that writes music, a pianist that had a successful solo career, and a cellist that does pretty much everything? The Piano Guys: a miraculous meeting of “guys” with the same intrinsic purpose – to make a positive impact in the lives of people all over the world through music videos.

2) Smooth Criminal (2CELLOS) – Original by Michael Jackson

2Cellos, comprised of Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, have achieved phenomenal success with their interpretations of pop and rock songs. Smooth Criminal is the song that originally shot them to fame:

3) Berlin Song (Ludovico Einaudi)

Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, probably most famous for ‘I Giorni‘ and ‘Le Onde‘, writes minimalist solo piano music with world, pop and folk music influences. A personal favourite is Berlin Song:

4) Concerto for Group and Orchestra, Movement 3 (Deep Purple)

Written in 1969, this pioneering work composed by Jon Lord of Deep Purple was the first known combination of rock music and a complete orchestra and often considered to have paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances such as Metallica’s S&M concert. The third movement is the most dramatic and it’s worth having some good speakers or headphones to play it through. There is an orchestral introduction until 2:30, then the band take a more prominent role.

5) Csárdás – Performed by Nigel Kennedy (Composed by Monti, performance from Last Night Of The Proms 2013)

British violinist Nigel Kennedy originally began performing in the classical field before diversifying and expanding into jazz, klezmer and other genres. Injecting humour and a fresh perspective into his performances, this performance of Monti’s Csárdás was a highlight of this year’s Last Night Of The Proms.

6) Spring I – Max Richter (from the ‘Max Richter Recomposed’ album – Vivaldi 4 Seasons)

In 2012, British composer Max Richter took on the project of ‘recomposing’ Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Keeping the main themes but discarding 75% of the original material, he uses phrasing and loops to create a more contemporary and minimalist tone.

7) O Sole Mio – The Three Tenors

The Three Tenors is the name given to opera singers Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, who sang together in concert during the 1990s and early 2000s. Bringing together opera, Neapolitan folksong, musical theatre and pop, their personalities, humour and range of styles engaged a vast concert and television audience.

8) Electric Counterpoint III – Steve Reich

One of the pioneers of the minimalist style, Steve Reich is an American composer who makes extensive use of looping and overdubbing to create an original sound and genre. Here is Electric Counterpoint, composed for electric guitar or amplified acoustic guitar and tape.

9) Nothing Else Matters – Metallica (from the ‘Symphony and Metallica’ album)

The S&M (Symphony and Metallica) album was recorded live in 1999 and was an idea of Cliff Burton’s: “to combine heavy metal with an epic classical approach”. (Wikipedia) Burton’s love of classical music, especially of Johann Sebastian Bach, can be traced back to many instrumental parts and melodic characteristics in Metallica’s songwriting, including songs from Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets. The other inspiration was Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra (number 3 in this ten song taster list).

10) Time To Say Goodbye (Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman)

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli is one of the biggest-selling singers in the history of classical music and performs a lot of music in the classical crossover genre. Together with soprano Sarah Brightman, they released Time To Say Goodbye in 1996, a year after Bocelli had first released the song in Italian as Con Te Partiro. The song has become one of the best-selling singles of all time.

The full playlist can be found on Spotify: Classical Crossover

  1. 2CELLOS (Sulic & Hauser) – Smooth Criminal
  2. Einaudi, Ludovico – Einaudi: Berlin Song
  3. Deep Purple – Concerto For Group And Orchestra – Movement III
  4. All Angels – The Sound Of Silence
  5. Nigel Kennedy – Czardas
  6. Luciano Pavarotti – O Sole Mio
  7. Richter, Max – Richter: Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons – Spring 1
  8. Mats Bergstrom – Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast
  9. Metallica – Nothing Else Matters (Live with the SFSO)
  10. David Garrett – Master Of Puppets
  11. Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im spiegel
  12. George Fenton – The Blue Planet
  13. 2CELLOS (Sulic & Hauser) – Technical Difficulties
  14. Pet Shop Boys – The miracle – Ceremony
  15. London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) – Allegretto from Palladio for String Orchestra
  16. Tolga Kashif & London Symphony Orchestra – Ripples
  17. Vitamin String Quartet – In Your Eyes (String Quartet Tribute to Peter Gabriel)
  18. Yiruma – River Flows In You
  19. Brian Crain – Moonrise
  20. Andrea Bocelli – Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro) – English Version With Sarah Brightman

Or if you’re already signed in, you can listen below:

Maia – Living in the Alligator

Introducing a new sound to the folk music world, Maia are the second act to be featured in the 20GreatSongs Artist Spotlight series. Fresh from the success of their first Glastonbury performance earlier this year, they are pioneers of a genre that they call “sci-fi Folk” – ‘a combination of highly polar instruments, other worldly harmonies and four quirky lads’.

Here is Living in the Alligator:


Big thanks to Maia‘s Joe Haig (Piano/ Trumpet/Vocals) for sharing some of the bands’ experience and wisdom with 20GreatSongs:

How did you guys meet?

We were all reading variations of music and music technology, in our first term at Huddersfield Uni, and kept bumping into each other on nights out. Lots of red wine was involved and it’s all rather hazy now!

What or who are your musical influences?

Well everything we’ve ever heard is somewhere in our heads, but listening to ‘Love’ (Arthur Lee’s band) was a bit of a turning point for creating pop music together

Where did the inspiration for the song come from?

Tom (who does the main singing and the words) was walking round the Natural History Museum in London and saw an iron lung, the Victorian breathing apparatus, and it had the caption ‘Living in the Alligator’ – history was born!

Coolest gig you have performed so far and what would be your dream venue?

There have been so many awesome gigs so far, and each has it’s own surprises! It would have to be a top 3; playing at Glastonbury Festival was a bit of a dream come true, Broadstairs main stage and selling out of merch, and coming off stage at the Wharf Chambers in Leeds to an enormous roaring cheer!

Dream venue would be Wembley, but that might be too small. Failing that, the moon

What advice would you give to other singer songwriters?

There is nothing more important than recording, be it words or music, every single idea you get. You never know!

Oh and get a band together.

Most unusual situation you have found yourself in?

It has to be the time we woke up on a ship in the Thames, and thought we had walked out into zombie apocalypse.

They turned out to be ravers by the thousand!

What are you working on at the moment?

We are working to put out a few singles in the new year, and trying to build a time machine. The former is going better than the latter.

Check Maia out on their Facebook page or their website at

Maia’s 20 Great Songs list:

  1. David Bowie – Heroes
  2. Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
  3. The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin
  4. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water
  5. Horseflies – Hush Little Baby
  6. Loudon Wainwright III – The Swimming Song
  7. New Order – Blue Monday
  8. Love – Alone Again Or
  9. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean – Single Version
  10. Bot’Ox – Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse
  11. The Cherry Boys – Kardomah Cafe
  12. John Grant – Chicken Bones
  13. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
  14. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
  15. Kraftwerk – Pocket Calculator
  16. Black Star Liner – Superfly And Bindi
  17. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
  18. The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??
  19. Tom Waits – Martha
  20. America – A Horse With No Name

Or if you have Spotify and are logged in, you can listen to the playlist here:

Film Music Fridays: Thomas Newman

thomasnewman collage 2

Thomas Newmans’ prolific career has seen him write for some of the most successful films of the last twenty years- even if you’ve never heard of him, you’re likely to already know his music. Shunning the John Williams-esque epic theme approach, he instead subtly captures the emotion of each film with a distinct style: clustering harmonies, striking rhythms, synthesised sounds, delicate solo passages and rich string accompaniment

Like many director-composer collaborations in the movie industry, Newman’s enduring creative partnership with director Sam Mendes has brought considerable success.  First collaborating together on American Beauty in 1999, an impressive list of hits has followed with Road to Perdition (2002), Jarhead (2005), Revolutionary Road (2008), and most recently, Skyfall (2012). Of these films only American Beauty is featured on the playlist as it is the most iconic and the remainder are made up of various great films including Meet Joe Black, The Shawshank Redemption and Finding Nemo. [For the full Spotify Playlist, scroll to the bottom of the post].

Ten Song Taster

1. Dead Already (from American Beauty)

On his inspiration for his American Beauty (1999) score: “Sam [Mendes] wanted things that hammered and thwacked a bit. He was interested in percussion and mallet instruments, so I started working on various ideas that involved xylophones and marimbas.” (IMDb) 

2. Cold Lamb Sandwich (from Meet Joe BlackWatch the scene here

3. Finding Nemo / Nemo Egg (from Finding Nemo)

4. Deviled Eggs (from The Help)

5. The Whistle Stop Cafe (from Fried Green Tomatoes)

6. Little Women (from Little Women)

7. The Letter That Never Came (from Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events)

8. Road To Perdition (from Road To Perdition)

9. The Shawshank Redemption End Titles (from The Shawshank Redemption)

10. That Next Place (from Meet Joe Black)

Spotify Playlist: 20GreatSongs from Thomas Newman (Excluding ‘The Whistle Stop Cafe’: not available on Spotify)

Feel free to post any suggestions for additions to the list below!