Max Peter on the best film music of 1986:
In 1986, composer James Horner wrote powerful and impressive scores for different cinematic genres. The American musician composed, for example, the lovely music for Steven Spielberg´s first animated production An American Tail, which was directed by Don Bluth. For Aliens, James Cameron´s entry in the saga of Alien, the artist wrote another stunning score, which went musically in a more darker direction than the more romantic and melodic score for An American Tail.
Four years before, director Bluth established his great artistic style in the movie The Secret of NIMH – an adventurous jewel of the genre –, which inspired legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith to write one of his greatest musical efforts of the early 1980s.
The score for Tail is without question one of James Horner´s very best works of the 80s. Melodic, romantic and exciting. Even though a lot of people considered this score as Horner´s ´´real masterpiece´´ of 1986, Aliens got even more attention and received an Academy Award nomination in the category Best Original Score. The only musical creation for Tail, which earned recognition at the Oscars, was Horner´s song ´Somewhere Out There´ (with lyrics by Barry Mann). The song became one of the most popular ones of its genre and even won a Grammy Award in the following award season.
For Aliens, James Horner had six weeks to compose a thunderous action score. Like the score for An American Tail, the music for Aliens was performed by the famous London Symphony Orchestra. For James Cameron´s action-oriented blockbuster the musician had only four days to record the score at the famous Abbey Road Studios. The music is a mixture of Horner´s darker musical thoughts for film and Jerry Goldsmith´s mastery in action scoring – a few Horner-motifs are very similar to several Goldsmith had written for the first film in 1979 and other science fiction movies of the decade.
Another great animated feature of 1986 was The Great Mouse Detective. Maestro Henry Mancini wrote a fantastic score for Disney´s last animated film before The Little Mermaid (which became a milestone of the genre years later). Especially the great main theme is one of Mancini´s very best – a catchy tune that musically evokes all the greatness and fun of the main character Basil.
You will notice that the year 1986 had a lot of little film music gems. Apart from the mentioned scores Ennio Morricone wrote one of his most satisfying compositions and one that ´´everyone in Holllywood´´ paid attention in 1986. For Roland Joffé´s The Mission, a masterful British drama film about the experience of a Jesuit missionary, the Italien composer Morricone created a memorable soundtrack, which includes an extraordinary main theme, powerful in its dramatic construction and its melodic value. The cue Gabriel´s Oboe is perhaps the most famous composition of the whole score, and a welcome piece for every concert program since.
There is only one score of 1986, which is as extraordinary as Morricone´s work for The Mission and that´s the one Jerry Goldsmith wrote for David Anspaugh´s basketball film Hoosiers – one of the greatest sports movies ever made. Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper did amazing jobs in bringing to live their characters. The latest got an Academy Award nomination in the category Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The phenomenal score was nominated, too. Goldsmith combined orchestral and electronic elements within his score. He used recorded hits of basketballs on a gymnasium floor and utilized them as additional percussion sounds. Finally the soundtrack became a musical mirror of the energy of basketball and a rhythmic and melodic masterpiece of film music. Great!
By Maximilian Peter