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Howard Shore's "The Lord of the Rings"

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. Hey folks,

    Listened to this again recently. It's no secret that I love this score. I find the themes beautifully memorable, harmonically interesting (if simple) and the development over the course of such long films is fantastic, due in no small part to the fact that it was written and recorded over the course of 3 years (instead of 3 weeks), and done so according to the literature, rather than the film. It does a great job of telling the story, rather than Mickey-Mousing or simply being an emotional pad.

    I am, however, curious about those with a more symphonic sensibility's opinion on it. It's quite obviously not as orchestrationally sophisticated as what Williams wrote, nor what many of the classical composers wrote, but I'm not sure that was its intent. It wasn't meant to sound like a bombastic Romantic opera, but like ancient music.

    Any thoughts on what made it great, or what about it that isn't, especially coming from a more symphonic background?
  2. It's a great score, great film score, great trilogy. I don't really have anything bad to say about it because I enjoy it alot. I think I read or there is a book explaining how it can be considered the best film score ever written or something like that... Honestly, I can't personally disagree.. the score is just so solid for the film... like spaghetti and meatballs. When I hear the shire's theme or the horde's theme, like I just know and feel whats happening like I'm there. I wish all films were scored in this manner still.

    I haven't listened to the whole score from start to finish (i have watched the films start to finish in order though)... I just wanted to say that I enjoy that score.
  3. One of my favorites, ever. I own the book by Doug Adams on it and I highly recommend it. The music that comes with it, with some mockups and alternate arrangements alone is worth it. It includes a Moria mockup for a cue that was discarded and it is completely different to what ended up in the film in tone, pacing and vibe. Because of the time they had they were able to test a lot of stuff. Probably the reason the soundtrack is so finely tuned to the film.
  4. I have never seen any of the films. Therefore I can't provide a rational and well thought point by point disent.

    When you ask about "more symphonic background" it makes me wonder about how I would feel about hearing the score
    without the film as if I was in a concert hall. I don't think it would hold my interest at all.

    I am sure with the films and all the visual splendor it works great, and obviously it hit a home-run with many people.
    But without the film, and the "meaning" that gets attached to the motifs, I am just not excited by the little that I have heard.

    Partially this is an aesthetic issue, as I cringe when I hear things like Celtic Flute. The other is without the images the music
    can feel "on hold". I like the interesting harmonic shifts from what I have heard, but there isn't the amount of musical information
    to hold my interest.

    I find it hard to listen to any cue longer than two minutes personally.
  5. #6 Rohann van Rensburg, Jun 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
    Interestingly I've noticed people often seem "divided" into categories when it comes to aesthetics. I find most synthy 80s stuff makes me cringe.

    I can understand that, though. It's not a very dense score, likely because he had to create 12-odd hours of music out of these themes which means one really needs to pay attention to pacing, especially as a component to a film.

    This is sort of what I suspected as well -- I'm not sure it's as gripping a piece, symphonically, as an actual symphonic piece. They've had a great deal of success touring this concert, but it's often with visuals or done alongside the film. It certainly tends toward the more atmospheric.

    That said, film music is often arranged into a suite. I imagine this might have more appeal, if any. But you raise an interesting point about how tied music like this is to the story. There are scores and soundtracks I quite like, despite not having actually experienced them as a part of their media, but it's usually not quite the same.

    EDIT: @Doug Gibson : Are there any scores you do like that you haven't seen the film for? Bernard Herrmann is probably one of the few whose films I haven't seen many of but who I hold in high esteem.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  6. Howard shore writes imo lovely themes as he did for the lord of the rings trilogy. Maybe he is not the biggest guy in doing massive developements on his material and going other places lets say in the style that williams did with his music. But still I think his themes serve the picture well and I like to listen to his music also without the picture. I mean his score for the lotr is bold, epic and just monumental and its a bit orchestration. As this movies are so long it takes a lot of time and there are lots of long notes. It is not a score of millions of notes per cue but the atmosphere is great and he has nice lyrical moments all over the place. Its not like the dark knight soundtrack where its really imo hard to listen to it without the movie because it really is so repetitive and doesn´t go any places just then repeating all over again and again.

    I think shores soundtrack for lotr was the last hollywood epic soundtrack in a good sense. Epic and modern but in a great sense for melody and harmony.
  7. Oh sure ! Many.

    It was more the "New Age" influence I was referring to.

    See to my ears, from what I have heard, it does not sound ancient at all. It sounds more like Orff and Carmina Burana's idea of ancient:
    A completely made imagined ancient time, that also draws upon more visceral music like rock and heavy metal.
  8. Yeah this is an important point; Hollywood scores were well on their way to their current state when these films came out. A late romantic, motif-driven, long form score was a welcome breath of fresh air in 2001, especially for something like Lord of the Rings. It was for me anyway, and since I also love Lord of the Rings, I love this score.

    Having said that, I find it sparse and somewhat boring... it's fine. I love it, but it's only fine. If I hadn't already been predisposed to loving the films and therefore loving the score, I'd probably feel the same as Doug:

  9. #10 Rohann van Rensburg, Jun 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
    I can see perhaps in the simpler structure of some motifs but I didn't recognize the influence of rock and metal, really. There's a distinct similarity to Carmina Burana with the Nazgul theme, but that's about as far as I've noticed (the more New Age influence seems to be more in the end credits songs like "May It Be" -- the Celtic passages sound a lot more like the folk music I'm familiar with from that region, but I could of course be off). I know he drew from classical greats and studied a great deal of traditional folk music (I think this shows up more motivically than in action scenes). There are a handful of aleatoric pieces in there, and there's a lot of vaguely eastern influence in certain themes. I'd love to know more about what you hear/see -- I just don't have an extensive enough background for this sort of thing. I can understand the lack of similarity between it and what was actually employed harmonically and instrumental in i.e. the middle ages or renaissance.

    Good point though, an imagined ancient time makes sense actually, considering this isn't a historical piece -- I do find the themes sound somewhat otherworldly. The world in which LOTR takes place is "ancient" perhaps in aesthetic but not so much in development and refinement of culture, etc. I'm always curious about what Tolkien himself would have thought of the music.

    If you ever get time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it as it coincides with the film, as I really do agree that it's probably the last great film score, but I get the impression fantasy isn't really your ballgame (that said, Tolkien's as influential and studied as he is for a reason -- his work extends far deeper than a simple fantasy tale, reading much closer to "grand narrative" mythology than anything in the modern fantasy world. How well this is represented in the films is another story). I mean you did see Avengers, after all.

    Well put. Definitely agree, especially the last thought. I understand the criticisms that it's sparse, but I think it told the story very effectively and more bombastic, fully-developed music would have both gotten tiring and wouldn't have suited the "simpler" fantasy aesthetic. It's interesting to think about it apart from the films as I never had that opportunity to hear it divorced from the story.

    I can understand this. As a film score, I agree it's probably one of the "greatest" to ever grace the screen, at least in terms of vision and scale, as well as what he accomplished with the themes he created. While I don't personally find it boring and listen to it somewhat regularly, I can understand that criticism. I'm often happy with more sparse and atmospheric, but it's easy to recognize it lacks the density of a larger symphonic work.
    Aaron Olson likes this.
  10. Thanks for the link. The iHeart Radio site was completely broken for me though. Couldn't click anything. Tried multiple browsers and devices. At any rate, I found they also have the podcast on Megaphone, so here's the link for anyone interested: https://cms.megaphone.fm/channel/soundtrackshow?selected=HSW5943867238
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  11. I listen to it on my iphone with the Podcasts app.
  12. I am new to this Forum so only saw this today. I thought this score was fantastically good, like the films which are almost a miracle of cinema if you consider the amount of work that was done and how perfectly designed, conceived and executed it all was. It is like about 6 Erroll Flynn Robin Hoods all rolled into one! It is interesting how Shore's score is deliberately simpler in development than John Williams wonderful music, which is to some extent (in his more "epic" scores) inspired by the great Erich Korngold operatic style. Shore is perhaps influenced by Herrmann in his simplification of motifs and themes, though he does create longer melodies like the beautiful hobbit/Shire theme which has its fullest statement at the end. If you think about the mind-boggling challenge of scoring something so huge, it makes total sense to use a tighter, less Wagnerian style simply to get the thing finished.

    Carmina Burana was mentioned - I always thought that has been hugely influential for fantasy film scoring, and wonder if anyone has noticed how this seems to derive from the very first use of this type of music in a fantasy film: "Excalibur." When that film came out, long ago, there simply had never been a scene in cinema like the one when Arthur and the knights ride out with the "Fortuna" movement from Carmina Burana playing. Or the tightly synchronized use of Siegfried's Rhine journey at the end, which, even though it was essentially a temp track, was very powerful - as effective as Kubrick's use of classics in "2001." "Excalibur," even though it has some weak scenes, still had some tremendous things in it and has been a big influence on both fantasy films and music.
  13. My favorite film score ever

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