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Howard Shore's An Unexpected Journey (Hobbit Part 1)


Jay
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Yeah, I also never percieved it as a lift from Hugo. Its just that both compositions are in a more classical idiom. We also get to explore some medieval/baroque sounding music in the following film, with Laketown. But halfway into Battle of the Five Armies we are well into the romantic style of Fellowship of the Ring, so there's a nice progression there.

 

There's also an evolution from a more instrumental score in the first two films into a more operatic score with voices going into Lord of the Rings, although all of the Middle Earth scores use voices extensivelly.

 

40 minutes ago, Kühni said:

But yes, AUJ has more in common, thematically and orchestrationally, with its three predecessors (WHICH REALLY ARE SUCCESSORS!) than it has with DoS and TaBA.

 

I actually think the latter two scores (and films) are tonally more like The Lord of the Rings in that the music helps in driving home a lot of the dark and elegiac aspects of the story. By comparison, An Unexpected Journey stands out as a score written in a much more bold and heroic vein, much like the film.

 

I think the orchestrational difference complements the films' exploration of new, uncharted territory in Middle Earth. The fantastic low brass of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra works well in accenting the foreboding element of those two scores.

 

I think, if the (speculative) difference between the dulogy and trilogy is to be explored, this would be a good point to start: I don't quite know what the tone of the second installment in the proposed dulogy will have been; but with the trilogy, we got three films and scores, each darker than the next.

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Me too.

 

I do think that I wouldn't like a dulogy as much as I like the trilogy, certainly in terms of fleshing out the musical "worlds" for places like Laketown, The Woodland Realm, etc.

 

I know that the tonal issue was very much on the filmmakers mind when they split the book three ways. The second film in the dulogy was to cover more than half of the Desolation of Smaug and all of Battle of the Five Armies, and I think the two tones won't have meshed very well, and even if they had - the shift as Battle of the Five Armies fades into Fellowship of the Ring would be all the more jarring.

 

 

Originally, Tolkien had concluded The Hobbit in a much happier fahsion fitting to the tone of the rest of the novel: Bilbo was to kill Smaug with Sting and no major character death was to happen. But he just couldn't help but infuse the story with the more archaic and brooding aspects that charactarized the rest of his writing, so as he was re-writing it, we gradually got to where we are, and ended up with the story taking a much more grounded approach following Smaug's demise. It's great, but it doesn't sit with the rest of the novel quite as well as one might hope.

 

As it is, the trilogy (in terms of the films here rather than the music) moved the tonal inconsistency to the first film, but from the last hour of An Unexpected Journey going forward it finds its footing and hurtles forward. I would have hated to see that chopped up and served as one film, or one score for that matter.

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I don't think the episode was written down in full, but the idea was that Bilbo pokes Smaug's bald spot with Sting (even in the finished book, this ending is foreshadowed in Smaug's dream), and than floats on the gushing blood all the way back to the hidden door. No Laketown is destroyed nor is a battle fought, and Thorin and Co. survive.

 

But Tolkien just couldn't help himself (just like with the Necromancer) and added a battle where the Goblins intercepted Bilbo on his way back, and the Woodland Elves, Beorn and the Northmen came to his aid. He later changed the entire end so Laketown is destroyed and the Battle of the Five Armies ensues. Since Tolkien realized that a full description of the battle would be too much for a childrens' book, he had most of it told to Bilbo in retrospect. Since this ending was an afterthought, many elements of it (Bard, the Black Arrow) appear without any set-up.

 

I think this explains the partitioning of The Battle of the Five Armies. It also explains changes made specifically to Thorin's storyline: In the novel, Tolkien treats the character of Thorin as a central character and certainly refers to him with a sense of reverence. But for some reason he is reluctant to provide Thorin with a single achievement to back up his reputation: he doesn't kill Azog, Bolg or Smaug, doesn't win any battle, and isn't even the instigator of the quest. So, for a film adaptation in which Thorin is a main character, you'd want him to have an achievement such as the slaying of Azog or the attempt at slaying Smaug.

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Tolkien cooked up some whacky ideas - its all part of the creative process. That he knew to drop them and rewrite something more appropriate is what matters.

 

In the Silmarillion, Sauron began as Tevildo, Lord of the cats (a Motif that survived in the shape of the Eye) who lost his powers when Huan tore off his necklace, which reduced him and his minions to the size of normal cats!

 

Strider was originally a Hobbit that got captured by Orcs and had wooden legs in place of his amputated limbs!

 

In terms of films, I think the craziest ideas belong to Del Toro: his designs for Smaug, Thranduil, etc are nuts! I much prefer what we ended up with.

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I still have a soft spot for the first score of the trilogy despite it not sounding too much like it sequels. I have always been somewhat disappointed that some of the colours and thematic ideas didn't travel to the other two scores. Things get awfully dark awfully fast in the Desolation of Smaug.

 

On 29.10.2017 at 10:15 PM, Chen G. said:

Tolkien cooked up some whacky ideas - its all part of the creative process. That he knew to drop them and rewrite something more appropriate is what matters.

 

In the Silmarillion, Sauron began as Tevildo, Lord of the cats (a Motif that survived in the shape of the Eye) who lost his powers when Huan tore off his necklace, which reduced him and his minions to the size of normal cats!

 

Strider was originally a Hobbit that got captured by Orcs and had wooden legs in place of his amputated limbs!

Tolkien cooked up very strange initial ideas but he usually toned them down in the process, especially when the legendarium moved away from the original fairy story elements (excising of Tevildo and Trotter as the stories changed hue and shape and meaning). But as you say Tolkien's was a normal creative process where he revised and revised until he thought the story good enough. On the other hand some scenes came to him fully formed and never changed on iota, again part of the writing process that does happily happen sometimes.

 

On 29.10.2017 at 2:50 PM, Chen G. said:

Originally, Tolkien had concluded The Hobbit in a much happier fahsion fitting to the tone of the rest of the novel: Bilbo was to kill Smaug with Sting and no major character death was to happen. But he just couldn't help but infuse the story with the more archaic and brooding aspects that charactarized the rest of his writing, so as he was re-writing it, we gradually got to where we are, and ended up with the story taking a much more grounded approach following Smaug's demise. It's great, but it doesn't sit with the rest of the novel quite as well as one might hope.

While it might not be tonally completely in line it was I think a tremendously effective and powerful way for a children's book to address such issues of fall and redemption and even death at the end with Thorin redeeming himself for his selfish actions in a rather archaic noble death in battle.

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36 minutes ago, Kühni said:

 

Again, that's not the "fault" of the first score. Whether by design or as a consequence of the re-arrangements of AUJ, Shore apparently decided or was told to go in another direction with DoS and TaBA. If you desire consistency between your scores, then the LATER installments need to take direction on what came before, not the other way round.

Well I very much agree on that Christian.

 

And I somehow think PJ might have had his hand in changing the direction of the music both in content and sound. There is to me a clear emphasis on a more main stream blockbuster scoring approach to the music of BotFA which at times becomes a relentless sledge hammer to drive home the action. Not to forget that it was recorded in a different venue with different strengths and same goes for the NZSO.

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12 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

 

But if the scoring team is to be believe, they did everything they could to make DOS and BOFA sound like the other scores!

Bless them. They tried.

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For the record I love all three Hobbit scores. None of them are as good as The Lord of the Rings but considering the absolute dreck that's related under the guise of "film music" at the moment they're masterpieces. 

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1 hour ago, Chen G. said:

I find it incredibly amusing that on the forum titled John Williams Fans, there is so much criticism being pointed at the man who is quite possibly Williams'  closest associate in the last decade or two.

 

The critcism is largely leveled at the Hobbit films not the scores. I would have not gone into enormous lengths to write essays on them if I didn't find them admirable. I also admit that they are not without their faults. Not everything aligns as perfectly for me as for you in these massive and impressive compositions.

 

And perhaps you do not know us well enough yet to know when we are being facetious. Which we often are. ;) 

 

And the films are a completely other can of worms indeed for me. In attempting to mature the story into the Lord of the Rings level of mythical signicance (which the Hobbit novel touches only at the fringes out of necessity which the author indeed wanted to revise) PJ got caught in the web of his own making as the story became unnecessarily complicated and he had to fabricate a lot of things in order to explain his changes to the narrative and to linking of the films with LotR. Messy is my word for it. Shore is one person whose contribution to the film fares better and better as time goes by.

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I meant Conrad Pope's contribution. And I was being a bit facetious myself.

 

I like the films, and not because I ignore their shortcoming, but rather in spite of them. I like the aggrandising of The Hobbit, because it: a) turns into something that I can enjoy more as an adult; b) makes it blend better with The Lord of the Rings. It fades into Fellowship of the Ring quite seemlessly.

 

I think there aren't so much fabrications that arise from this being a prequel. I think most of the major changes have to do with Thorin. Like I said earlier, Thorin in the novel doesn't really accomplish anything, so having him kill Azog and even let him at least have a go at killing Smaug - was a good idea, thematically. I may not like the execution of some of it, but on the whole I like the choice.

 

I am of the opinion that the only film that got the short end of the stick in the process of turning this into a trilogy was An Unexpected Journey. The other two - I like preety much as they currently are. Don't want no fan-edits.

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The only person I blame for what happened to the scores after the first is Peter Jackson.  Howard Shore and Conrad Pope did their best.

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9 minutes ago, Jay said:

The only person I blame for what happened to the scores after the first is Peter Jackson.  Howard Shore and Conrad Pope did their best.

Indeed. 

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And yet, Peter Jackson is the driving force behind a lot of fan-favorite musical choices. Where another filmmaker would just send the composer to "do his thing", with Peter Jackson each theme had to pass him. Some of the best themes from The Lord of the Rings weren't the first idea to come out of Shore's pen, but were the result of Jackson's wishes, e.g. the Rohan theme. Shore has often said that he felt like Peter Jackson was the Gandalf to his Frodo. The length of the recording process on these films is the result of Jackson's hands-on approach with the music. 

 

Really, only the score to an Unexpected Journey was fiddled with to a fault. The other two are fine.

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In the Movies? BOTFA is an editorial mess.

 

DoS is still my favourite. It has the most coherence out of the three, and a more satisfying conclusion than AUJ with Beyond The Forest. The conclusion is stronger in BOTFA, while the main body of the score is stronger in DoS.

I also feel it has a better mix. BOTFA is just ... not good mixing.

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11 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

And yet, Peter Jackson is the driving force behind a lot of fan-favorite musical choices.

 

Oh, I dunno about that; What specifically do you mean (other than the eagles music for AUJ)

 

Thanks for putting up an avatar, btw! :up:

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And I would say most of PJ's decisions hurt the music, like favoring the sadder part of the Kili/Tauriel love theme over the first part, or keeping Bard's heroic theme for the third film and replacing it in film 2 with that more downer one

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4 hours ago, Incanus said:

Before the dark times. Before DoS and BotFA.

 

Hey, I still say DoS is the best of the lot! Someone just needs to re-record it under the baton of Shore with a new mix.

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I actually find myself gravitating more towards The Battle of the Five Armies. Its just as dense and colorful, but its far more climactic and grand. By that film, The House of Durin theme is already well establish so it can "carry" the score, in a way that it can't quite do in The Desolation of Smaug.

 

But its a close call between all three.

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16 minutes ago, KK said:

 

Hey, I still say DoS is the best of the lot! Someone just needs to re-record it under the baton of Shore with a new mix.

KK you should know me better than that. I think DoS is the best of the lot.

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10 minutes ago, Incanus said:

KK you should know me better than that. I think DoS is the best of the lot.

 

I thought the naysayers had finally gotten to you!

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Warmth is the perfect definition of a lot of the string writing in that film. Take the music of the opening credits, for instance - so inviting. And then it turns on a dime and just keeps getting darker and darker leading into Lord of the Rings. The same applies to the Shire and Rivendell material.

 

The Dwarvish music, by comparison, can't help but sound foreboding and melancholic, and it really comes into its own in The Battle of the Five Armies: Easily the best use of "Grunters" in Mithril, and some of the lowest singing in the series in "The Darkest Hour" - gives Russian Oktavists a run for their money.

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  • 10 months later...
2 hours ago, Arpy said:

the doorway motif

 

By which you mean the Arkenstone motif?

 

10 hours ago, SUH said:

a slightly mournful quality

 

More than mournful, I would say the Erebor theme (and Thorin's) speaks more about yearning. Its really a patriotic story, and the theme captures that - with a mere six notes.

 

10 hours ago, SUH said:

He must have just been writing out the piece on some spare manuscript paper for the camera!

 

Yeah, documentaries do that sort of thing.

 

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@Chen G. 3:03 - 3:09 is what plays when we see the door on the map and then again at the end of the film when we see the thrush fly pecking on the door. 

 

I think it comes back in the later scores. I can't be bothered to find them now.

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