Film composer James Horner died at the age of 61 on Monday (June 22) after the small airplane he was piloting crashed near Santa Barbara, Calif.

Initial reports did not identify Horner as the plane's sole occupant, only that a plane registered to him was found crash-landed in Ventucopa, Calif., at 9:30am PST, and that the pilot was dead.

Agents Michael Gorfaine and Sam Schwartz and attorney Jay Cooper today (June 23) confirmed Horner was the pilot.

Horner was a film composer long associated with some of cinema's most influential names, from James Cameron to Ron Howard to Roger Corman. His first score was for 1979's "The Lady in Red" but had his biggest break with 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"Aliens" (1986) yielded his first of many Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score (and also Best Original Dramatic Score, from the '90s). The two Oscars he won in his lifetime were earned in 1997 from of a totally different Cameron-helmed film, "Titanic," for score and Best Original Song "My Heart Will Go On" sung by Celine Dion (an honor he shared with Will Jennings). He won six Grammy Awards, for songs and works from "Titanic, "An American Tail" and "Glory."

Horner was a composer, conductor, orchestrator, producer and/or performer on 100 other film and television scores, including those for "Cocoon," "Captain EO," "Field of Dreams," "The Rocketeer," "The Land Before Time," "Clear and Present Danger," "Braveheart," "CBS Evening News," "A Beautiful Mind," "Avatar" and "The Amazing Spider-Man." He was slated as composer on forthcoming films "Southpaw," "Wolf Totem" and "The 33," and was reportedly due to compose for Cameron's "Avatar" sequels.

"James' music was the air under the banshees' wings, the ancient song of the forest," Cameron said in a joint statement with producing partner Jon Landau. "James' music affected the heart because his heart was so big, it infused every cue with deep emotional resonance, whether soaring in majesty through the floating mountains, or crying for the loss of nature's innocence under bulldozer treads."

The Los Angeles native began playing piano at an early age and attended Royal College of Music in London as a child. He trained in music at University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles. He composed for several American Film Institute projects and taught at UCLA in the 1970s.

"To me, writing and composing are much more like painting, about colors and brushes," he told the L.A. Times in 2009. "I don't use a computer when I write and I don't use a piano. I'm at a desk writing and it's very broad strokes and notes as colors on a palette. I think very abstractly when I'm writing. Then as the project moves on it becomes more like sculpting."


After five years as a columnist and editor at Billboard, Katie Hasty joined HitFix in 2009 for music and film reporting out of New York. The Midwest native has worked as a writer, music promoter and in A&R since 1999 and performs with her band Numbers And Letters.