For someone who has composed songs for more than 100 movies, including the Academy Award-winning score for Titanic, writing a 10-second snippet of music should have been a cakewalk for James Horner.
But the assignment -- to create the theme that introduced Katie Couric on last night's CBS Evening News -- was anything but, at least according to a profile in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.
The network brass wanted "urgent and serious, yet light." Couric, said Horner, wanted "wheat fields blowing rather than Manhattan skyline."
So did Horner succeed?
Well, yes and no. The cough-and-you-missed-it clip was light on the strident drums and bombastic horns typical of the evening news. The music blows away without leaving an impression.
Jerry Del Colliano, a music industry professor at the University of Southern California, says the theme is "critical to a medium that routinely bombards audiences with sound effects, music bumpers, promos and theme music."
The music fits Couric: firm yet polite but ultimately boring. It complements the "warmth" of the orange-gold graphics. In a way, Horner, 53, accomplished his musical mission.
"Setting a this-isn't-your-father's newscast tone right from the start is important," says Vicki Kunkel of Leader Brand Strategists, a brand management firm in Chicago. "The theme song sends the message that this will not be an in-your-face newscast but will quietly and confidently deliver the news with a sophisticated air."
Will viewers notice the snippet of majestic horns and strings?
"Older viewers shouldn't care," Del Colliano says. "An aging audience for evening newscasts and the proliferation of the Internet -- is anyone paying attention? ... The next generation listens to its own beat in more ways than music."