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American Composers Festival 2014: From Screen to Score

Flight

Concert Premiere

Notes by the composer, James Horner


“Flight” was originally conceived and written as an orchestral piece to be used as the background music for a live aerobatic display of precision flying. I’ve been involved with planes and pilots most of my life.  In 2010, I was part of an aerobatic display team whose members asked me to compose and record an orchestral piece that would epitomize the beauty of flight, to which the team could choreograph and perform a thrilling aerial “dance” of precision loops and rolls at 800 feet for an audience often numbering close to 160,000 people! The concept was to give the impression of a live symphony orchestra performing outdoors against the backdrop of a vast airplane-filled sky… something that had never been done before. Unlike music composed for a traditional ballet which must be very precise, the shape and tempo of this piece needed to be somewhat loose and flexible, due to the fact that prevailing weather and variable wind conditions on any given day would affect the speed with which the planes were able to perform their aerobatic maneuvers. When all the elements coalesced, the result was, in a way, the ultimate film score, combining the power of a full symphony orchestra with a thrilling display of formation aerobatics. To this day, whether they’re flying P-51 Mustangs, Spitfires, or F-86 Sabre jets, the team uses this music whenever they perform. So when listening to this piece, close your eyes and imagine these magnificent airplanes soaring into the skies to demonstrate the poetry, power and the enthralling beauty of flight.

-- James Horner

National Endowment of the Arts