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"On The Music Of Middle Earth"


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Came across this little video recently.  It's likely not new for any of you, but I hadn't seen it before, unless it was back during the days of the trilogy, in which case I didn't remember it.  Along

The Wagner scholars talk of the thematic families in his Der Ring des Nibelungen and Shore's music is equally built on the same principle, which I found quite a revelation when I began to read more on

He certainly does his job in terms of being menacing.

 

3 hours ago, SafeUnderHill said:

Howard Shore, Martin Freeman, Ian Mckellan and Ken Stott are the best parts for me!

 

To me, its the narrative as a whole, namely where it relates to the Dwarves. It has a lot to do with what I was going through in life when I first watched it that made me extremely invested in their plight. There's the "applicability" that Tolkien went on about! 

 

My favorite moments from The Desolation of Smaug are not moments between characters, but rather between the Dwarves and their lost home: the way they behold the mountain across the misty lake, and the silence as the hidden door is opened.

 

4 hours ago, gkgyver said:

And really, as far as storytelling goes, I think there are more important flaws in the trilogy than the little bit of romance. It gave us awesome music, for one, and secondly, I think it's not as silly as the Arwen stuff in RotK because it doesn't affect the main story. I have a much bigger problem with Arwen dying being literally the sole motivation for Elrond to reforge Narsil, than with that cute little side story in the Hobbit.

 

The Arwen-Aragorn love story is one of the more complex elements in Tolkien's writing. And, in his writing, as it is in the film, it is explained, but it does go over a lot of heads. I have the advantage that the Hebrew subtitles render some of the Elvish dialogue for what it actually means (which isn't the same as the English captions!), which explores this subject much more directly.

 

When you get to the bottom of this, it becomes all the more tragic. Its not just that Arwen chooses to forfeit her immortality and ends up dying. Its that, in doing so, she is separating herself for all eternity from her Elvish kin, namely her father, by virtue of the fact that they are immortals. That's the reason Elrond is so resistant to this relationship and, that's why, in the film, Aragorn tries to spare her this choice altogether by telling her "it was a dream."

 

I find that incredibly tragic. The appendix that tells this story in the book is possibly the most touching element of the entire work, for me, and I like that the filmmakers put it in there and tied it to the main narrative thrust.

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The problem isn't the Aragorn/Arwen love story. That's fine, and I think it works beautifully in the films.

 

But the problem was tying Arwen's fate to the Ring and making it the main motivation for Aragorn. When at the point in the films, the beat was that he was supposed to accept his destiny and "become who he was born to be." They were just dumbing things down for the audience, a faux way to increasing the stakes and make it more personal...defeat Sauron or the she-Elf dies. As if the threat of Middle-Earth being completely covered in darkness wasn't enough.

 

It's a relatively minor flaw in the film that nonetheless has always bothered me a little bit, in that it was completely unnecessary and partially robs the character of the nobility Professor Tolkien gave him.  

 

It's one reason ROTK only gets a 9.2 (vs. 9.5 for TTT and 10 for FOTR) on the Nickter scale.

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10 hours ago, gkgyver said:

I wouldn't discount Azog. 

The way he looked in BOTFA was amazing. 

 

This (he looked pretty great in DoS as well; a huge step up from AUJ). I know it's early days, but going by the Infinity War trailer they're going to have to do some serious work to get Thanos up to that standard.

 

If they ever revisit the LOTR/Hobbit films (yes, I'd allow it), they should really update AUJ Azog to look as good as he did in the next two films.

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5 hours ago, Nick1066 said:

But the problem was tying Arwen's fate to the Ring and making it the main motivation for Aragorn. When at the point in the films, the beat was that he was supposed to accept his destiny and "become who he was born to be." They were just dumbing things down for the audience, a faux way to increasing the stakes and make it more personal...defeat Sauron or the she-Elf dies. As if the threat of Middle-Earth being completely covered in darkness wasn't enough.

Yes in essence Aragorn was already fighting for Arwen along with the rest of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth as there would not have been a future for any of them if they lost. So the film makers underlined this and it came across somewhat strange. Especially when some viewers were taking it literally and wondering why was Arwen's fate/mortality suddenly tied to the One Rine somehow. I know some of my less Tolkien-wise friends were baffled when they watched the film and this scene came up.

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9 hours ago, TheGreyPilgrim said:

All right.  Shut up everyone.  Put this on.  IT'S THE FUCKING GREATEST.

 

 

 

3:48 onwards always makes me want to scream "FUCK YEAH!"

tenor.gif

 

Gosh, say what you will, ROTK naysayers, but there is just so much truly stirring music in that film. It does only what the very best of film music can do.

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1 hour ago, Incanus said:

Especially when some viewers were taking it literally and wondering why was Arwen's fate/mortality suddenly tied to the One Rine somehow.

 

The idea that Sauron's malice, more so than the Ring per se, can cause a person to wither, as it were, is actually taken from the story of Denethor's wife. Its essentially Tolkien's spin on issues of depression or stress.

 

Yes, I suppose it could have been articulated better to the audience, although I believe most viewers will just accept it for what it is. We do see the presence or radiance of evil, if you will, causing sickness in both Mirkwood and in Theoden, so its an established theme by that point in the narrative.

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11 hours ago, Chen G. said:

 

The idea that Sauron's malice, more so than the Ring per se, can cause a person to wither, as it were, is actually taken from the story of Denethor's wife. Its essentially Tolkien's spin on issues of depression or stress.

 

Wait...what?

 

So you're saying Sauron...the Necromancer, Servant of Morgoth, Ring Forger, Ring Bearer, Mace Wielder, Narsil shatterer, he before Arda, the (ironically named) Nameless Enemy, aka Mairon, Annatar, Artano, Gorthaur the Cruel, Thauron, Thu, the Enemy, the Great, the Deceiver, the Abhorred, the Great Eye, the Black Hand, the Dark Power, the Dark Lord, the Lord of Mordor, the Lord of Gifts, the Lord of Barad-dûr, the Lord of the Earth, the Lord of Wolves, and the Lord of the Rings is nothing more than a…a....


…great, giant, one eyed DEMENTOR!!!???


Rowling steals from Tolkien again!!!

 

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  • 6 months later...

How wrong would I be in saying Shore's Lord of the Rings is one giant, 10-hour symphony (suite? opera for extended philharmonic orchestra?) that would tell the story satisfactorily without any picture attached, just through the extensive use of character-, culture- and place-specific leitmotifs and textures by progressing, developing, melding or contrasting them without any real noticeable "Mickey Mousing"?

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Do you mean if someone just listened to the score and had never seen the movies AND never read the books AND hadn’t read up on what the leitmotifs were supposed to represent, but presumably listened to it as many times as necessary to be able to identify each leitmotif and how it progresses, etc.?

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5 hours ago, Holko said:

How wrong would I be in saying Shore's Lord of the Rings is one giant, 10-hour symphony (suite? opera for extended philharmonic orchestra?)

 

Shore always spoke about his work as a grand opera. He spoke of the solo parts as "arias", etc...

 

If it were something that could realistically be staged, I have little doubt he would have adapted it to an actual opera, a-la The Fly.

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30 minutes ago, Pellaeon said:

Do you mean if someone just listened to the score and had never seen the movies AND never read the books AND hadn’t read up on what the leitmotifs were supposed to represent, but presumably listened to it as many times as necessary to be able to identify each leitmotif and how it progresses, etc.?

 

Read the books, and maybe some guiding liner notes identifying the more important themes was what I had in mind.

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Well, FWIW, I’m pretty unfamiliar with the movies, but in my game group we listen to the three OSTs back-to-back as we play War of the Ring, and for me as I listen I do experience going on a musical journey through the story. The guys in the group will occasionally call out stuff like, “Oh, this [track] is when they’re in Moria,” or, “Sam fighting Shelob,” etc., which helps. I don’t think the music is a perfect match to Tolkien’s story, but I do definitely associate them, if that makes sense.

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20 hours ago, Pellaeon said:

Well, FWIW, I’m pretty unfamiliar with the movies, but in my game group we listen to the three OSTs back-to-back as we play War of the Ring, and for me as I listen I do experience going on a musical journey through the story. The guys in the group will occasionally call out stuff like, “Oh, this [track] is when they’re in Moria,” or, “Sam fighting Shelob,” etc., which helps. I don’t think the music is a perfect match to Tolkien’s story, but I do definitely associate them, if that makes sense.

As a symphonic opera, Shore's work does tell a story thematically. However, the context may be lost if you don't know the films or books, and the basis of their storylines. There is clear development and constant use of thematic and motif material though, so it is still like a story when listening to it, although you wouldn't know "Okay, this is when they meet that elf" or something.

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17 hours ago, Stefancos said:

In my mind Shore's music scores halfway the movies and halfway the books.

Absolutely. As the composer himself has stated many times he intended his music as a musical mirror to the book from which the films of course stem as well. Shore drew heavily on the literary inspiration and not just the visual and dramatic impulses of the films. One foot in the cinematic and one foot in the literary world. A good example of this are the extensive choral and soloist passages in the score where the singers are bringing Tolkien's poetry and words from the book to the screen in a subliminal way often somewhere between diegetic and underscore like the music of Lothlorien which seems to emanate as much from the dramatic situation as it does from the world itself sung by the elves, partly intoning Galadriel's words from the novel.

 

Another great example of this literary and cinematic combination and one of my favourite little Easter eggs in the lyrics are the words of the Seduction of the Ring theme that are quite literally paraphrasing Boromir's own words from the Council of Elrond in the novel where he suggests using the Ring as a weapon. These lines of dialogue aren't directly quoted in the film but they tempt him ever after in the music, first in the Pass of Caradhras and then at Parth Galen but then become the universal message when the Ring exerts its seduction on Frodo as well. It is such a fitting thing, echoing Boromir's secret wish and desire back to him, or rather to the audience, making such an intangible concept as the Ring's corrupting influence nigh concrete through music, the boys choir intoning false promises with purity of their sound.

 

Also in FotR in a neat musico-dramatic gesture when Gandalf reads the account of Isildur in Minas Tirith and the passage about Isildur's desire to keep the Ring these very same words are heard in adult chorus but the actual theme is missing as the wizard is just reading about the Ring's influence not experiencing it first-hand. These very intricate little dramatic considerations, intentional or unintentional, are endlessly fascinating and demonstrate how well Shore's music tied both the  literary and cinematic considerations.

 

And while knowledge of the story of the novel and the films does naturally allow you to enjoy this music on a different level from the point of view of the building and development of this massive architecture of musical storytelling, to my mind these scores stand on their own as great music. 

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Also, in keeping with the semblance of a grand opera, often these lyrics are from the screenplay and set against a character reciting them on onscreen: it happens when Theoden recites the ”Where now the horse and the rider?”, when Arwen prays over Frodo, when she speaks to Aragorn in his dream, etcetra...

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One of the big things on my mind was how in Star Wars, for example, we do have many themes and motifs, some character-specific, some more broad. They do progress and change, they're the backbone of the scores, but not necessarily always the meat.

LotR tells the entire story 1:1 by morphing and changing the motifs according to the characters' inner feelings, and/or the specific textures of the locations (Fellowship in Dwimorberg, for example), create and describe an entire culture (Rohan's iconic native Hardanger fiddle only leading the orchestra and the Rohan Theme in the huge cavalry charge in the open Pelennor Fields, not in the confined siege at Helm's Deep), or multiple work together to tell history in a few bars (Gondor - the two themes have a common A part, but the B part is where it's at - Decline retreads A but literally declines (A-B: This was Gondor, it used to be great - It's still Gondor, but not THAT great anymore - the description of kings spending more time looking at family trees rather than creating sons comes to mind), whereas Ascension's B is completely new and ascending (A-B - This was Gondor, it used to be great - It's now a new Gondor, and it's on the rise)).

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I think that the biggest difference is that Shore not only wrote many more themes, but that he wrote them in sets and subsets of related themes.

 

That means that even as he introduces a new theme in the Two Towers (say, The White Rider and the Fellowship), it doesn't feel like an afterthought, because its so rooted in the Fellowship material that we feel like we've heard it before. As a result, some of the associative power of The Fellowship theme rubs off unto these subsidiary themes.

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It's easy when you don't have to wait and see the movie(s) to start writing - you can just read the book and write all sketches based on it.

 

The use of tons of unique ethnic instruments and the sectioning of the orchestra not on how they make the sounds, but more what sounds they can make also adds to this.

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Well, since they were made simultaneously he also had all three scripts and assorted footage from all three, and he could always ask the director and screenwriters. So there's that aspect as well. That's why Shore could write and introduce a Gondor theme in Fellowship of the Ring, for it to only reveal its true significance in the last entry; whereas Williams couldn't and didn't write or introduce "Across the Stars" in The Phantom Menace.

 

And really, to be fair to Williams, I don't think any composer that wasn't Shore would have taken that approach, either: Remember, Horner was the original choice (Jackson contacting him as early as 1998!) and I think we all know what we would have gotten from that pairing.

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Big director-composer differences and clashes is what we would have gotten ;) 

 

Just imagine sprinkling Gondor hints for 2 movies, then finally getting into the hall and performing the first take of Lighting of the Beacons in major after thinking about it for 3 years.

 

 

I eagerly await the day when a crazy hotshot will decide to stage one, singular concert playing the full 10 (11? somewhere around that) hours as one coherent marathonic piece, with coffee infusions (maybe speed) dripping into the players all the way through.

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And restores all the instrumentation from the recording! Sections of the Lord of the Rings feature added winds, brass, timpani, etc which are rarely featured in live-to-projection shows.

 

Better yet - let one try and stage the whole 21-hour Middle Earth cycle.

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4 hours ago, Chen G. said:

And restores all the instrumentation from the recording! Sections of the Lord of the Rings feature added winds, brass, timpani, etc which are rarely featured in live-to-projection shows.

 

Better yet - let one try and stage the whole 21-hour Middle Earth cycle.

 

This would be incredibly cool  actually. To this I mean, with a full symphony doing it in a proper venue. Something like the Bayreuth festival. A real test of love and endurance.

 

Hold it in New Zealand, naturally, w/the NZSO. I’d go.

 

 

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And treat the chorus like they do in those big performances of Mahler's 8th or Berlioz' Requiem, ontop of that.

 

Just imagine The Cracks of Doom with a 1000-piece choir! If ever there was a score to deserve this treatment, its this one.

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4 hours ago, Holko said:

I eagerly await the day when a crazy hotshot will decide to stage one, singular concert playing the full 10 (11? somewhere around that) hours as one coherent marathonic piece, with coffee infusions (maybe speed) dripping into the players all the way through.

 

I once went to a festival where they performed Goethe’s Faust over the course of a week (a couple hours here, a couple hours there). That’s probably a better way to do it than a single sitting!

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On 6/29/2018 at 7:28 AM, Incanus said:

These very intricate little dramatic considerations, intentional or unintentional,

 

This is something I wish Doug would write another book about. :D  It's briefly touched upon in the interview on the Rarities CD, when Shore mentioned that (paraphrasing from memory) felt that "X" needed a thematic definition, whereas "Y" didn't, how it "instinctually felt right" to him. But I guess that, similar to what Goldsmith once said, explaining music in strictly academic or technical terms often doesn't cut to the chase. For The Omen, Goldsmith "heard voices", and that's how he approached the score. But I wonder if this is something that comes out of a person's character, or if it's something that one learns in music school. Or a combination of both.

 

My apologies if this sounded "off", it's 6:40 on a Sunday morning and I shouldn't be awake yet...

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 28. Juni 2018 at 1:57 PM, Stefancos said:

In my mind Shore's music scores halfway the movies and halfway the books.

 

That unsurprising, given he wrote themes away from the film, based on the books and concept art.

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