Music from Apollo 13

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            “Houston, we have a problem.”  These (slightly misquoted) words have become iconic for the laconic understatements of danger seemingly common to the impressively courageous folks who fly.  Apollo 13 was launched in April of 1970 for a third landing on the moon.  Of course, as we all know, an exploding oxygen tank put the crew in grave and imminent danger.  Their improbable, safe return was a legendary combination of steely courage on the part of the astronauts, and professional, technical brilliance and ingenuity on the part of the engineers charged with devising clever solutions that would avoid a disaster.  Indeed, “Failure was not an option.” The whole affair and its denouement was a glorious tribute to those who made the American space program one of the great achievements of humanity.

            The story has been told in part or whole many times since in many genres, but certainly the most accurate and gripping was the 1995 movie, Apollo 13.  The film won two Academy Awards, and Horner’s score was nominated for Best Original Score.  Before his tragic loss in the crash of his small airplane in 2015, he was one of Hollywood’s most respected and talented film composers.  Among his great scores were those to Titantic (including the song, “My Heart Will Go On,”) Avatar, Aliens, and A Beautiful Mind, to name only a few.  His music for Apollo 13 is simple, direct, and an eloquent evocation of the personal strength of integrity, knowledge, and bravery of those who made that program a source of national pride.  The style of his music for this film artistically and spiritually owes much to the musical language of perhaps America’s most respected composer, Aaron Copland.  It is the “American Sound” and evokes the deep aspirations of our better angels.

--Wm. E. Runyan

© 2018 William E. Runyan