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The Music of Star Wars vs. LOTR [POLL]


Which series has better music: LOTR or Star Wars?  

62 members have voted

  1. 1. Which series has better music: LOTR or Star Wars?

    • John Williams' music for the Star Wars films
      24
    • Howard Shore's music for the LOTR films (Hobbit trilogy included)
      8
    • Both are great.
      30


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So yeah, this is a topic I see debated occasionally on the forums, so I thought this could be a formal place to do so and share your opinion. Feel free to share your thoughts below, and please participate in the poll above!
 

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ROTK represents the end of an era, for film music. Imo.

We can have opinions that are different than "John Williams' music is always better than anything anymore else has ever done".

For me, the LOTR scores in general work very well WITH the film, but listening to them removed from any and all context is unsatisfying. There are some moments which stand out from a purely musical pe

I haven't heard the Hobbit scores, but judging it strictly on the LOTR and Star Wars, both series most certainly boast great and earth-shakingly powerful scores.  In light of the poll question about which I believe is better, I don't feel it really gets better than Star Wars, but it seems unnecessary to delve into it.  I enjoy both for different reasons.  For whatever reason, I find light breezy summer days to be the perfect setting to stretch out on the porch and listen to LOTR.  So that's coming up.

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

So now that JW has finished his series, could we debate this on a purely intellectual level? Many people compare both works to Wagner's Ring Cycle, but which one wins in that regard, which one deserves to be called the best/most ambitious work?

 

I would have voted for LOTR had the Hobbit not been included because Hobbit does some senseless thematic things (Gandalf suddenly needing a theme and the Misty Mountains song disappearing completely), but then there's the Imperial March that only comes in in Episode 5 and Han only getting a theme in the spin-off...

 

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Really hard to say. I love the LOTR scores more than the SW ones (FOTR is my favorite movie of all time), but The Hobbit scores drag it down a bit.

 

I mean, AUJ is a step down from the Rings trilogy, but still a good score (although there's a part of me that is still disappointed that the best theme of the Hobbit series, the Misty Mountains theme, was not composed by Shore). DOS has some interesting thematic material and BOTF has some good action and emotional moments, but by then I guess Shore wasn't as inspired by the series as he was before. Certainly, conflicts with Peter Jackson on King Kong and AUJ, as well as the silly decision to record the scores in New Zealand with Pope conducting have contributed for that.

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I like Shore's work the best for the same reason I prefer that series of films: it affects me emotionally so much more. Star Wars is the more catchy (and invariably the more popular) and sing-song-y, but it doesn't always aim to move its audience. There are very few cues of Star Wars music that make me (or are designed to make me) sweat out of my eyeballs. Shore's work, particularly on the concluding piece, The Return of the King, but really throughout all six entries, is thematic and complex, but above all else it is melodramatic and moving, which to me is the point of film and of film music.

 

On a narrative level, there's no doubt Shore's work is the more intricate and cohesive of the two. Its not just that there are way more themes, or that the themes are cleverly arranged into sets and subsets of related themes (which is not something you can really say of Star Wars), its that Shore worked on the films with prescience, borne out of the fact that they were adapted from books which were all available to Shore prior to him putting the first note to paper, and that all three films in each trilogy were shot (by and large) in one go, and were all the craft of one visionary filmmaker. From film to film, Shore was able to write towards a conclusion, knowing it was coming and exactly how it was going to come about. There's also the influence of the timeframe: the Middle Earth series, from conception to completion, was made in 20 years, compared to over 50 in the case of Star Wars. Little wonder the one is more cohesive (as cinema and as music) than the other.

 

Yes, occasionally a certain leitmotif or colour got abandoned along the road, but on the whole its not a big issue. Williams drops old themes and writes new themes much more frequently, what with the Imperial March not being written until the second film, Duel of the Fates not written until The Phantom Menace, a motif for the Droids' appearing in just one or two of the entries despite the characters being the only ones present in all nine films, a Han Solo theme only written for a spinoff, several themes becoming repurosed (Ben's theme becomes that of The Force, the Rebel Fanfare becomes the Falcon theme, etc...) and so forth.

 

I also love the colours. Star Wars uses a symphony orchestra, and occasionally some choir and the occasional world instrument as an embelishment. Shore's palette is an immense collection of choirs, soloists and a huge array of world instruments.

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14 minutes ago, mstrox said:

honestly the two series and scores are apples and oranges.

 

I wouldn't be so eager to compare the two series as pieces of cinema: even though they do share a lot of similarities, they're also very, very different.

 

The scores are quite similar in their overall approach, and so I do feel a comparison is in order.

 

Having said that, just like with the films, I'm more than happy to enjoy Shore's work for what it is, and Williams' for what it is, even if I can pick a favorite.

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I've grown out of all Star Wars media but over the last few weeks I have rewatched LotR for the first time in a decade, this time with my kids. This experience reignited my love for the films all over again and I have been immersed in Jackson's trilogy and Shore's scores ever since, appreciating their special qualities on a granular analysis level. The score is utterly amazing!

 

So I'm sorry Maestro Williams, but I just enjoy LotR music more than Star Wars. Howard Shore's achievement is breathtaking on all sorts of levels, to the extent that I feel an almost spiritual connection to it. I can't say the same about Star Wars music.

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3 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home late to the sound of the climax of Return of the King. It got to me like nothing ever has before or since. Had to stop the car!

 

Everything about the climax phase of the score is spectacular, but the choral work on top turns it into something downright biblical. Those cues, they just floor me.

 

3 minutes ago, Jay said:

Both are great!

 

Yes they are. But I'm subjectivity much more affected by one over the other.

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A lot of LOTR feels pop-y and simple to me compared to the harmonic and instrumental language of Williams. Whenever I return to it, I get enough of it after a short while. Also, there are plenty of tracks within LOTR music that I am either terminally bored by, or cannot stand. This just doesn't happen with Williams' evergreen music, like it does not happen with Beethoven, or Bruckner, or Mahler.

 

As for what is more moving, I am moved more by music itself than any textual / visual dramatic context, so the superior melodist Williams wins.

 

Shore's Tri-Score is the next best thing in film music history, and there are probably hundreds of little things to enjoy about it, but cmon, taking down Star Wars? Star Wars is film music history. I disagree about LOTR having more diversity than it. Superficially---with the likes of the hardanger fiddle, and Moroccan music---maybe. But Star Wars visits Stravinsky, Korngold, R. Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Holst, Herrmann, Goldsmith, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Schoenberg, Verdi, Wagner, RVW, Walton, Rózsa, Waxman, Newman, Steiner, and perhaps even, like a boomerang, some of the music that it inspired in the first place (JNH, T. Newman, Goldsmith), as well as Big Band music, baroque music, and has it's share of musical artifacts of the like of Dies Irae, or the BACH motif recently... countless, countless generations of music sound through Star Wars. The list is much longer than in Shore's case, even though he, too, can boast some of these same influences.

 

As vehicles of onscreen drama, Star Wars wins again, although not by such a far margin this time. Shore's work is a work of a musically lesser, but perhaps more calculating composer. It's more even and better structured in aiming for an emotional effect, whereas Williams is more of a creative genius working scene by scene. A lot of what Shore does is what you and I would have planned  if tasked to compose something dramatically great. Williams?---bonkers!

 

To get into the obvious differences between assignments given to them would be a pointless detour, so I spare my and your time and omit it.

 

Williams simply has enough of a musical edge to sometimes make quite puzzling choices, and still come out on top.

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Yeah, I got the gist of your point. Just a weird adjective to use for such a rich, harmonically and structurally, orchestral work. It would be more applicable to the way Zimmer, or even Powell, uses orchestral colours, with lots of simultaneous chord changes and such.

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14 minutes ago, Thor said:

Yeah, I got the gist of your point. Just a weird adjective to use for such a rich, harmonically and structurally, orchestral work. It would be more applicable to the way Zimmer, or even Powell, uses orchestral colours, with lots of simultaneous chord changes and such.

Folks on the classical forums would say that it "sounds like film music". I obviously would not use such a description, but there is a certain niche, where James Newton Howard's and Alan Silverstri's music, Giacchino's MOH, or most of the LOTR sits, and golden age or Williams or a lot of Goldstmith's music does not.

 

But maybe I'm just a vertical complexity junkie. I fantasize about adding layers to a lot of Williams' music as well, and there never seems to be enough.

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Shore's music comes more directly from the heart, and goes more directly into the heart. I take that over a technically proficient piece of nothingness like Speeder Chase or Final Sabre Duel any day.

The SW sequel trilogy is a musical mess with all the temp love, and can't even touch Shore's Hobbit trilogy in storytelling quality. And while the Hobbit trilogy has a fair amount of tracking in the movies, the OSTs are clean visions, which is more than I can say about TLJ and ROS. You wouldn't hear a rerecorded Battle Of Pelennor Fields in the Hobbit, like you hear rerecorded ROTJ music in Battle Of Crait.

When music theorists crawl out of their holes and explain how something is a great piece of music because such and such, and D flat lydian harmonics counterpoint and stuff, it's usually an indication that it's just not enjoyable music on its own.

 

Also, Shore's music is A LOT more in tune with the films, and more emotionally intertwined with them. There is almost nothing in the sequel trilogy that makes me FEEL the movie. It's purely descriptive. Even after watching the films, 90% of TLJ and ROS feels cold. I feel Tauriel's theme more than I feel Rey's.

I feel like 75% at least of Shore's work lifts the movie.

Aside from a few moments, I don't feel like TLJ or RoS emotionally elevate the movie at all.

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Howard Shore at least had the benefit of knowing the whole story before he began. I can't say which is better, but for sure I listen to Star Wars and Williams in general more often. I've listened to The Hobbit scores far far less than The Lord of the RIngs scores. Wouldn't mind exploring them further when my hysteria over a new Star Wars score wears down. 

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I'll be the first to say, I don't really get the thread question...

 

LoTR is a profoundly greater series, but you're really asking has Howard Shore demonstrated compositional superiority in his career and is there a better score of his than Star Wars, ESB, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter?? If there is one out there, I'd like to hear it. LoTR certainly has some great moments at times, but I don't understand why it would be compared to Star Wars. That would be, in my eyes, giving up everything Williams has achieved in this sector for a much more forgettable talent.

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I think as a long, cohesive body of work, Shore's Lord of the Rings has the edge. I think the Star Wars saga's scores vary too wildly, edited to bits, attached to disappointing films, unreleased in complete form that they suffer for it. It's tough to choose because I think the two franchises have the greatest film scores, but Shore's refined presentations and scope of three, unified scores come out on top. 

14 minutes ago, publicist said:

And filmscorefandom‘s enduring ideal, the onslaught of epic choruses.

Listening to the scores for all the years since the films releases, it's really not the onslaught you describe. There is more nuance and quiet stretches that are allowed time to breathe. I feel as Attack of the Clones and The Last Jedi have this resting period where the scores can be quiet and reflective and not bombast at every turn. 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Arpy said:

I think as a long, cohesive body of work, Shore's Lord of the Rings has the edge. I think the Star Wars saga's scores vary too wildly, edited to bits, attached to disappointing films, unreleased in complete form that they suffer for it. It's tough to choose because I think the two franchises have the greatest film scores, but Shore's refined presentations and scope of three, unified scores come out on top. 

 

If you're gonna look at only the three first Shore scores, you've gotta compare them with the OT, and that one isn't edited to bits.

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On 12/18/2019 at 7:43 AM, First TROS March Accolyte said:

A lot of LOTR feels pop-y and simple to me compared to the harmonic and instrumental language of Williams.

 

On 12/18/2019 at 8:29 AM, Thor said:

 

"pop-y"? That's not the adjective I would use to describe the LOTR music.

 

You're right. I would probably use the word 'flat' or 'monotone', as the music drags on with similar dark colors with much less of a larger idea or form behind its construction: Star Wars had the extreme benefit of being a more musically-opportunistic medium that gave Williams much liberty to overturize, but I have great doubts Shore would've flourished where Williams did had he the same opportunity.

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The editing perhaps, but I prefer the Rings scores to the OT scores, even ESB, my favourite.

Just now, Borodin said:

 

 

You're right. I would probably use the word 'flat' or 'monotone', like there's less of an overall form and theme behind it. Star Wars had the benefit of being a more musically-focused movie that gave Williams much liberty, but I have great doubts that Shore would've flourished where Williams did.

You can't criticise the scores for lacking a theme - there's dozens in Lord of the Rings, and I would argue are just as strong as any in Star Wars.

 

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