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Bear McCreary's The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power (2022)


Chen G.
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I dont know what one needs from a distinct voice, considering I can immediately tell when a score is done by Bear (and Michael as well, to be honest)

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I'm not familiar enough with Bear to identify his style properly but I hear a lot of Outlander in this, which is natural as I've heard seven albums of the latter. I'm not sure he's got one of those instantly recognisable styles.

 

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41 minutes ago, Richard Penna said:

I'm not familiar enough with Bear to identify his style properly but I hear a lot of Outlander in this, which is natural as I've heard seven albums of the latter. I'm not sure he's got one of those instantly recognisable styles.

I don't know if I could identify his style either, but going by the stuff I've heard (Battlestar Galactica, Black Sails, Foundation, God of War, RoP), my immediate connotations are BSG's Epic Taiko DrumsTM (not missing those) and ethnic folk traditions (Eastern in BSG, Carribean in Black Sails, Nordic in GoW). He certainly has an affinity for raspy strings (like the Hardanger, nyckelharpa and hurdy gurdy), as heard in Black Sails, God of War and the Southlands music.

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9 hours ago, Monoverantus said:

Now it's my turn to sort of agree, because, yes of course there's a difference between objective and subjective statements. However, whether "intellect" in music is worth more appreciation is still subjective. I'm a prime example myself, for being very indifferent to John Williams, though I recognise that he's on a whole other level than Howard Shore.


Of course whether or not intellect matters to you more than appreciation can be an opinion. I agree with that. I was speaking more of whether intellect was intellect, which I think is rather more black-and-white (although nothing ever totally is)

 

9 hours ago, Score said:

 

Well, his methods seem to consist in writing everything by himself in detailed sketches with all the indications needed by the orchestrators, and writing the whole day for an insane amount of hours. It doesn't sound too different from JW's work ethics. And 9 hours of music of that complexity to be written in a single go during 9 consecutive months is a huge task. I'm not familiar with McCreary's previous work, but I still don't see what is so wrong with his ROP scores, and even less with the methods he has used to compose them.

 

 

I think one of the sources of disagreement is that not everyone here seems to agree on what is "intellect" in music. 

 Here are my problems with his methods:

 

-in his blog, Bear talks about constructing each of the themes the same way, ostinato, A section, B sectionc, etc. I don’t think every character should be reduced to the same cookie-cutter structure. I find that cheap.

 

-his discussion of intervals bothers me; at first it seems fine when he talks about creating intervals that define his themes so that you can hear by the first interval who or what you are listening to. However, there are only so many intervals and when you write seventeen themes, you are eventually going to reach a point where you are simply asking “which interval haven’t I done yet?” He seems more intent on memorability than musical integrity or intent. Ambiguity also seems beyond him. Shore used many of the same intervals over and over but made sure that there was a subtextual reason for the similarity. Bear seems dedicated to making them all memorable and different at the expense of that, which as a composer and consumer both, seems like the easy road. Also cheapens the effort for me.

 

-I’ve already mentioned what I think of his many inspirations.

 

I also wonder why so many people keep mentioning phrases like “wrote it all by himself” “this many themes” “paper and pencil” “this much music in this amount of time” None of these are comparable to quality. The music is average at best. I don’t if it’s simply the horror of watching so many people foam at the mouth over it but it’s losing even its three-star luster day by creeping day.

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5 minutes ago, Roll the Bones said:

Wanting to write something memorable is an intent though..... :eh:

 

 

 

 

:P


I quote Gia Gunn: “What you wanna do… ain’t necessarily what you’re gonna do”

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I mean you are entitled to your opinion, but I dont think thats something that should be influenced by other people's opinions in either direction.

(The things that break it for you, just dont break it for me and thats fine.)

 

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7 hours ago, blondheim said:

I don’t if it’s simply the horror of watching so many people foam at the mouth over it but it’s losing even its three-star luster day by creeping day.

Bit dramatic, no? Let people like what they like; it's not healthy for it to influence your own opinion so much whether they do or don't.

 

I feel like you see yourself as some lone crusader for righteousness with regards to this score, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable - you speak of the music's quality in very absolute terms, as if you are the only one who "sees the truth" that it's mediocre or something. It's a bit Principal Skinner "no, it's the children who are wrong!"

 

For the record I actually do somewhat agree with some of your criticisms of the score, I just think you are making these flaws out to be far more fatal than they are (in my opinion, of course).

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8 hours ago, blondheim said:


I quote Gia Gunn: “What you wanna do… ain’t necessarily what you’re gonna do”

 

For me, the huge difference between Shore's work and McCreary's - aside from the gap in skill - is that Bear McCreary's approach is way too cerebral and too intellectual. 

Let me elaborate.

While Shore's work is immeasurably clever and complex, it isn't entirely by intent. He worked through this mountain, step by step, discovering and modulating along the way, until one day he was able to look back and see the whole he had created. He himself would say about his Tolkien music that much of it wasn't by absolute design, that he much more "felt this needed a musical Definition (theme), that didn't." And that as he went along with the films, he didn't very often go back and look at what he had written for this and that, but instead, he tried to remember back what he had written at the time, and then when he wanted to reference that, he wrote according to his memory what it was.

Shore's sextology, and more so LotR, grew very organically.

He chipped away at it bit by bit.

 

In McCreary's case, what he wants to do, is create an equal to Shore's work BY DESIGN. He approaches this like "okay, now I will write this immensely complex and monumental opus". That's not how these things work, though. You can't create a once in a lifetime work of art, that is genuinely accepted as that by peers and people, at will. Not even the greats did that. Or could do that.

And that's what rubs me so wrong about Bear McCreary and his blogs. He all but says he is writing the equal to Lord Of The Rings, but it's not backed by anything.

Genius isn't constructed, genius happens.

 

McCreary's intellectual approach doesn't connect with his ability, or lack thereof, to translate emotions into music. That's a major part of being a composer, being able to translate what you feel into notes.

 

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Or, as Tolkien himself put it: "the tale grew in the telling."

 

I agree with you that there is something that feels just a little too calculated about McCreary's score and how it's constructed. I still think you are too eager to find the most uncharitable reading possible of him and his work (where do you get the impression that he thinks he's equaling Shore's music?) but you are right that you can't approach a massive endeavor like this by making a master plan and then following it letter by letter without any deviation. And while McCreary isn't exactly doing that (e.g. repurposing "Nolwa Mahtar" from a one-off idea into a recurring theme) I do think it would be nice if he deviated from his rigid thematic structure a bit more than he's doing.

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I'm a week late to the aprty, but here's my analysis of the score of episode 5, from the Rings of Power by Bear McCreary. For me, the highlights of the episode were the Nampat chant, as Adar and his army march towards the Southlands, and then the great development of the Halbrand / Southlands theme, as he finally accepts his fate and purpose in the final sequence.

 

I hope I can watch the new episode sometime during the weekend, and I will post my analysis!

 

Hope you enjoy, and feel free to share your thoughts!

 

My Analysis of the Rings of Power - 1x05

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9 hours ago, blondheim said:

Here are my problems with his methods:

 

Thanks for expressing your point of view in a clear way. I don't want to play Bear's advocate, but I'd like to express in an equally clear way why I believe there is merit in his scores:

 

9 hours ago, blondheim said:

-in his blog, Bear talks about constructing each of the themes the same way, ostinato, A section, B sectionc, etc. I don’t think every character should be reduced to the same cookie-cutter structure. I find that cheap.

 

From what I understood, Bear wrote the themes first in the form of what we use to call "concert arrangements" when talking about JW: I'm thinking of tracks such as "Galadriel" and "Sauron" from the album. Then, he used the themes in the context of the movies' scoring as leitmotives. The device of using some standardized structure for the "concert arrangements" is not strange, as it is exactly what every composer who wrote concert arrangements did, including JW (and if you listen to those tracks, I believe Bear was over-simplifying the discussion in the blog - there is more to the music than what he wrote in words). What might be unusual is the idea of writing the concert version first, and afterwards the applications to the movies (assuming that I understood correctly what he did). However, I don't see how that would have had a bad impact on the film scoring; it was just a way for him to determine a set of musical features that he wanted to associate to each character, and to give them a form. As far as I can see, the scoring is quite differentiated: when you watch the movies, the themes for the various characters emerge clearly in their own identity. The elves, Sauron, Galadriel, the Harfoot, the Stranger, the people of Numenor... they all have their identity which can be traced to some specific devices that the composer used to characterize them. The fact that he used a similar formal structure in the concert arrangements does not impact that.

 

 

9 hours ago, blondheim said:

 

-his discussion of intervals bothers me; at first it seems fine when he talks about creating intervals that define his themes so that you can hear by the first interval who or what you are listening to. However, there are only so many intervals and when you write seventeen themes, you are eventually going to reach a point where you are simply asking “which interval haven’t I done yet?” He seems more intent on memorability than musical integrity or intent. Ambiguity also seems beyond him. Shore used many of the same intervals over and over but made sure that there was a subtextual reason for the similarity. Bear seems dedicated to making them all memorable and different at the expense of that, which as a composer and consumer both, seems like the easy road. Also cheapens the effort for me.

 

Also in this case, I think Bear was over-simplifying the description of his approach. His themes have many more distinctive features than just the opening interval. For example, the Numenor theme is not just defined by the opening descending minor third, but also by the musical scale of the whole melody, and by several choices in the instrumentation. The theme for the elves in Valinor is not only identified by the harmonic appoggiatura at its beginning (a descending major second), but also by the use of the choir and the harmony: I don't think it is a coincidence that he used, for the first harmonic movement, the same one that was used by Shore in his Rivendell theme (G - Eb chords in McCreary's theme, A - F chords in Shore's); whether intentional or not, this (and the use of choir) is a callback to the way elves were iconically portrayed in the LOTR movies. And so on. The opening interval of the melody is actually the last thing that I noticed when I heard those themes; I find them very distinguishable because of their other features. 

 

The fact that he was focused on achieving memorability does not seem to be bad, or cheap, to me: it's exactly what leitmotives should do, and also what Shore's (or JW's) leitmotives were very good at doing. And in the way the ROP movies are scored - besides the leitmotives - I found many well-done musical effects, not less advanced (and sometimes, more advanced) and interesting than Shore's both from the technical point of view, and from the point of view of application to the images. I'm not exactly "foaming at the mouth" :lol: , but I think McCreary is using a way of scoring that has significant merits that are not so commonly found in film music nowadays, and that is definitely worth of praise. 

 

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7 minutes ago, Score said:

What might be unusual is the idea of writing the concert version first, and afterwards the applications to the movies (assuming that I understood correctly what he did). However, I don't see how that would have had a bad impact on the film scoring; it was just a way for him to determine a set of musical features that he wanted to associate to each character, and to give them a form.

 

Its the earmark of an approach that can make the motives feel like labels and tags in ways that the mature leitmotif does not.

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He says the concert arrangements came AFTER the score had been written. Someone correct my if I am wrong. 
 

like he said the Galadriel concert arrangement is composed of 2 cues, 1 from Ep 1 and 1 from later in the season.

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I think in some cases the arrangements were clearly extended from episode cues, since I dont think the full Nampat chorus will ever play as long as it does on the album.

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59 minutes ago, TheUlyssesian said:

He says the concert arrangements came AFTER the score had been written. Someone correct my if I am wrong. 
 

like he said the Galadriel concert arrangement is composed of 2 cues, 1 from Ep 1 and 1 from later in the season.

 

I don't know about the actual CD tracks, but I was referring to this paragraph taken from his blog:

 

Quote

I wanted to build these themes into fully-realized symphonic structures. Each theme would usually consist of a signature ostinato (repeating musical figure, often serving as a backdrop), a primary A Theme, a secondary B Theme, often a developmental variation, and a Finale. Some of these themes evoke a narrative arc that represented the first season. But, others were more ambitious, imagining the narrative ahead. For these, I challenged myself to compose music that captured the dramatic arc for the entire series. “Elendil and Isildur” and “Elrond Half-elven” are examples of themes with this type of foreshadowing. When the narrative finally arrives at the climactic Last Alliance of Elves and Men, presumably several seasons from now, I wanted to make sure my melodies would still fulfill the story’s dramatic needs.

 

I interpreted (maybe wrongly) this as meaning that he first wrote some fully developed pieces with a structure, instead of just sketching the themes before applying them to the movies. 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Chen G. said:

 

Its the earmark of an approach that can make the motives feel like labels and tags in ways that the mature leitmotif does not.

 

Over the course of the last 20 years, the incredible number of themes in Shore's Lord of the Rings have become somewhat of a myth, to the point where the actual heart of these Scores have become obscured.

Yes, there is great actual music in LotR and Hobbit, and there are iconic themes, but at their core, the art in them lies how Shore shaped the music to have its own life, and how he manages to make his pencil a direct extension of his emotions.

Human emotions are complex, and Shore managed to create music that doesn't overtly sound sad, or overtly happy, or overtly terrifying, or overtly anything. He created music that matches the complexity of human emotions.

 

If Shore wrote a Tolkien piece named "Wolves", I'd probably be all over that. In Bear's case, I skipped through it in a minute because nothing interesting or remotely replayable ever happens.

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7 hours ago, Knight of Ren said:

I hope I can watch the new episode sometime during the weekend, and I will post my analysis!

 

My Analysis of the Rings of Power - 1x05

I finally managed to catch up with the show, and after doing my analysis of episode 5, I watched the sixth one, which was the best one yet! Epic, full of action and drama, with a great cliffhanger, and some excellent scoring on McCreary's side!

 

I hope you enjoy this new analysis, and feel free to share your thoughts!

 

Analysis of the Soundtrack of the Rings of Power - 1x06: Udûn

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So one of the CD exclusive tracks shares a name with one of this episode album's tracks - "In Defiance of Death".  Will it be identical content, I wonder?


Meanwhile, the Amazon-exclusive track "Find The Light" is the first 3 1/2 minutes of this track, so that means in the end both "Amazon Exclusive" tracks ended up being on the CD after all! (Assuming In Defiance Of Death" is the same as the episode album's track).

 

It also looks like the CD track "Riding at Dawn" will include "Cavalry" inside it, yes?

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41 minutes ago, TolkienSS said:

Over the course of the last 20 years, the incredible number of themes in Shore's Lord of the Rings have become somewhat of a myth, to the point where the actual heart of these Scores have become obscured.

 

Yeah. I'm perfectly fine with the kind of literature that "lists" the motives, but I don't think the intricacy of the scores can be deduced from it having 87 leitmotives as opposed to 52.

 

At its core, the magic of the leitmotif system is in a couple of things. One is the way the themes are organized: Bear's score, like most Hollywood scores that use themes for reminiscence, has the themes as a series of individual melodies. They may be linked to each other, but you can't subdivide them into sets and subsets of related and opposing themes: even in Star Wars you can't really do that beyond "good guys" and "bad guys."

 

In Shore's Middle Earth scores, as in The Ring, you can: there are multiple "families" of related themes: like, all the themes associated with the Hobbits are related to each other, and they opposite all the themes associated with Sauron and the Orcs, which are related to each other, and there are further thematic sets for Dwarves, Elves, etc...

 

That organizational principle comes very handy for a couple of reasons: one is that new leitmotives can be introduced fairly late in the game without it feeling like a hail mary because they immediately become attached to an existing set of musical ideas we're already familiar with.

 

Another, even more meaningful reason, is that as the leitmotives develop, they do so in ways that either draw them further from or closer to themes from other "groups": so, as the conflict with Mordor reaches a boiling point, Hobbit-y themes get Mordor-ized, and so the experience of the piece is not one of two opposing musical forces that stand in stark juxtaposition, but rather of multiple musical forces that influence and merge with one another.

 

In other words, the organization and development of the themes matters more than their sheer numbers.

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Today's score is finally on Prime, and before now the 'latest release' thing for Bear's page was showing episode 5's album, so Amazon did fuck up dropping this. I only highlight it because I genuinely thought all day that they were putting the last 3 albums behind an extra paywall in the hopes of at least some people taking out their 'Unlimited' trial.

 

I'm 2/3 through the episode and actually this one's rather good, and the score is amazing, although it generally seems to be much more in sequence than earlier episodes were and there's at least one short unreleased cue so far - not just microedits.

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Is there a thread specifically for Howard Shore's opening theme because it has really grown on me. 

 

At first I thought it was too slight to be interesting, but after listening to it many times, the short title music is full of Shore's LOTR touches. It's a simple melody, but gets played in a variety of rich and interesting guises in short order. 

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On 30/09/2022 at 7:21 AM, TolkienSS said:

For me, the huge difference between Shore's work and McCreary's - aside from the gap in skill - is that Bear McCreary's approach is way too cerebral and too intellectual. 

Aren't you the guy who was disappointed that RoP didn't sound like Boulez? Hilarious, by the way, ironic or not. 

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Nearly every criticism about this show has turned into an ironical farce of contradiction. Not all- there are serious concerns, but by and large the naysayers appear to be the most hilarious victims of Confirmation Bias I’ve seen in quite awhile. 

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21 hours ago, JohnTheBaptist said:

Aren't you the guy who was disappointed that RoP didn't sound like Boulez? Hilarious, by the way, ironic or not. 

 

The irony lies in you making fun of a quote about intelligence, while cutting out everything around it that actually makes and intelligent point.

 

Aren't you the guy who got banned because his first notable contribution to the discussion was incenting hate by alluding whoever questioned RoP's adoption of Tolkien's vision was torching villages in their spare time?

 

So, actually, the hilarity lies in you partaking in a discussion about intelligence in anything.

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2 hours ago, jpmatlack said:

by and large the naysayers uncritical fanboys appear to be the most hilarious victims of Confirmation Bias I’ve seen in quite awhile. 

 

Fixed that for you.

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9 hours ago, Score said:

 

 Shore put more effort in realizing overarching structures and connections between themes pertaining to different but related characters or situations, at the expenses of the average complexity of the building blocks (which are often very simplistic if taken on their own). McCreary focused more on the building blocks, i.e., the complexity of the themes, harmonies and orchestrations, without giving much thought to interconnections - at least, as far as I have noticed until now. 

 

Personally, I'm more favourable to McCreary's approach (which I find conceptually similar to JW's), while others here prefer Shore's approach.

Which approach is similar to Tolkien's? ;)

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On 28/09/2022 at 6:01 PM, TolkienSS said:

I can't read this, it just feels so ... corporate.

Who would have thought that the process of scoring a major television show is corporate? I thought it was just a bunch of hippies working for free.

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1 hour ago, Roll the Bones said:

Which approach is similar to Tolkien's? ;)

 

Neither, of course! ;)

 

1 hour ago, Richard Penna said:

A recent interview covering a lot of what was in his latest blog.

 

Interestingly:

 

- Elrond's theme was revised several times after they watched his scenes and weren't sure if Elrond had a theme.

- After episode 2 they didn't do spotting sessions. He just scored the episode and they gave some notes in return. Apparently they realised that they were in sync in terms of what the music needed to do and really didn't put any creative restrictions at all on Bear, so that pretty much all choices were down to him.

 

Detractors, check out around 44 mins in for a couple of minutes, and then I dare you to send Bear hate mail telling him how much you hated his score - he's pretty much asking you to! (although if anyone still accuses him of treating it as 'just a job', you're beyond hope)

 

 

I saw this earlier today and was about to post it as well. It's clear from what he says that he actually has put thought into the kind of thematic connections that detractors are accusing him of having ignored. I expect they will become clearer as the (multiple) series progress. He also made clear that he's trying to achieve a musical continuity between the series and the movies. 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, Score said:

It's clear from what he says that he actually has put thought into the kind of thematic connections that detractors are accusing him of having ignored.

 

There are definitely connections between the themes, but they're still individual units, and their relationship with each other is (at least musically) very static.

 

Totally different from the mature leitmotif. Its Bear's Der Fliegende Hollander to Shore's Siegfried.

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Please stop comparing Bear McCreary's unoriginal film score fare to timeless and masterful Wagner operas.

I know it's meant to illustrate a point, but it's far and beyond Bear's actual product.

 

The point is ENTIRELY not that McCreary doesn't put thought into themes. The point is entirely that he puts thought into them with the goal of creating an equal to Lord of the Rings with none of its organic growth.

He's trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with a paint-by-the-numbers Kit.

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26 minutes ago, TheUlyssesian said:

It's a typical bad guy chant right? "Death! Death! Death!" I wouldn't make anything more of it.

I'm trying to unravel the lyrics for Sauron/Nampat. If Nampat isn't a verb, as one'd expect, this gets quite a bit weirder.

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7 hours ago, Richard Penna said:

A recent interview covering a lot of what was in his latest blog.

 

Interestingly:

 

- Elrond's theme was revised several times after they watched his scenes and weren't sure if Elrond had a theme.

- After episode 2 they didn't do spotting sessions. He just scored the episode and they gave some notes in return. Apparently they realised that they were in sync in terms of what the music needed to do and really didn't put any creative restrictions at all on Bear, so that pretty much all choices were down to him.

 

Detractors, check out around 44 mins in for a couple of minutes, and then I dare you to send Bear hate mail telling him how much you hated his score - he's pretty much asking you to! (although if anyone still accuses him of treating it as 'just a job', you're beyond hope)

 

 

 

 

Ugh. I really don’t like him. If this is his “miracle” then I don’t think I’m a fan of his work at all. The opposite really.

 

As of that video, I’m officially a proud hater of Bear McCreary. Gawd, what a tool.

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

It's a typical bad guy chant right? "Death! Death! Death!" I wouldn't make anything more of it.

I didn't know Theoden and the Rohirrrim were evil....

9 minutes ago, blondheim said:

 

Ugh. I really don’t like him. If this is his “miracle” then I don’t think I’m a fan of his work at all. The opposite really.

 

As of that video, I’m officially a proud hater of Bear McCreary. Gawd, what a tool.

Shore and Williams would probably agree with him.

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