“Cold be hand and heart and bone. Cold be travelers far from home.” -Gollum
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here with a sword and scabbard to impale your Tolkien-starved heart.
Ever since the release of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and ultimately the extended edition on DVD, I’ve yearned for something new to whisk me back to the green rolling hills, black charred mountains, and coruscating skies of middle-earth. How propitious for me and fans alike, that it should come in the form of “THE LORD OF THE RINGS – The Complete Recordings,” and it’s every bit as seductive as the One Ring.
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS – The Complete Recordings” is an unprecedented release matched only by its predecessor, “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING – The Complete Recordings,” which came out in December of last year. Much of what can be said about the magnificence of the later edition holds steadfast in regards to its earlier companion.
This four disc box set features the entire score by Howard Shore as recorded for THE TWO TOWERS on three CDs and a 5.1 surround sound version on a single audio DVD. The collection retails for around $75 and contains a forty-five page book authored by Film Score Monthly stalwart Doug Adams. There are photographs from the film and the scoring stage, notated score selections, documentation of primary themes and motives, a track by track analysis of the music, biographies of prominent musicians, and photos and descriptions of featured instruments.
An exceptional web site has been set up exclusively for the various soundtracks for THE LORD OF THE RINGS (CLICK HERE). Of particular interest are “The Annotated Scores” for both THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS and THE TWO TOWERS sets which are available for download in PDF format. These tomes offer additional revelations not included in the original liner notes. Embracing each track of music are several paragraphs of nuanced information ranging from compositional decisions, symbolism, narrative relationships, and anecdotes. In addition are the complete text settings written by J.R.R. Tolkien and Philippa Boyens scribed in their respective languages accompanied by English translations by David Salo.
Among the most noteworthy features of these supplementary texts are the “Unused Concept” and “In the Making” text boxes which are indicated by a surrounding red frame and are peppered throughout the forty-one pages of material. They denote abandoned compositional ideas and changes to individual cues which were either altered in post-production or omitted from the final version of the film all together. “The Complete Recordings” preserves Howard Shore’s original ideas and intentions which are clearly documented by these annotations.
Listening to “THE TWO TOWERS - The Complete Recordings” transcends most film music listening experiences. It’s common practice to assemble film music on a CD to optimize the experience regardless of its context within the film. In this new set, you hear each cue unfold linearly with the narrative while preserving as much of Shore’s original compositional ideas as possible. The experience opens up new musical dimensions unleashing a wider appreciation of the craft behind scoring the film. It strengthens the listeners’ personal relationship with the story and characters and sheds light on creative decisions which altered the music from its original intent when released in the final version of the film.
Realistically speaking, however, there just isn’t a demand to sustain similar releases for other films which is one of the reasons the complete recordings for THE LORD OF THE RINGS is such a milestone.
Are these scores so wonderful as to merit the honor of having every recorded note released in a glorious four-disc box set with all the extravagance contained therein? Well, the answer is simply…yes.
Rarely does a score come along so daring and inventive that it sprouts a new branch of achievement on the film scoring tree. Howard Shore’s compositional prowess exposed in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy hasn’t caused the sprouting of a new branch. It’s planted a whole new tree.
These scores will be for generations to come what STAR WARS (1977) was for my generation. They will continue to catalyze flocks of new fans and future film composers, some of which I hope include my great-grandchildren.
A billion words have been spoken or written concerning Shore’s music for THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It’s an arduous task to add anything truly original which hasn’t already been uttered. Regardless, there remains one individual whom I could hear talk about this music for as long as I am able to hear the words.
I recently had the honor of talking with Howard Shore about the new release of “THE TWO TOWERS – The Complete Recordings.” It’s brief but even in brevity can be found the opportunity to exclaim…”Ain’t it cool?”
The Road Goes Ever On…
ScoreKeeper: The release of the complete recordings for THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is unprecedented. It’s easily one of the more notable commercial releases in the history of film music. At what point did you find out these CDs were going to happen and how did the idea of releasing these recordings originate?
Howard Shore: Hmmm. I think it may have been during TWO TOWERS in the studio…Peter and I talked about putting out all of the music that had been recorded during TWO TOWERS.
SK: There are so many compositional ideas in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Was there ever anything that you fell in love with that never made it into the score?
HS: (pauses while thinking)…No. Writing was a very linear process. I was writing while the films were being made. We were kind of working hand in hand with both.
SK: Is there anything else you’d love to do with THE LORD OF THE RINGS music that hasn’t already been done?
HS: Possibly a live projection project where we’d play the score live to the film.
SK: Wow! Is that currently in the works?
HS: It’s an idea. I’m thinking about it. It’s been done with other films. I did it on NAKED LUNCH (1991) with Ornette Coleman. We played it in Belfast, Ireland, and at the Barbican in London. In Belfast it was just the Ulster Orchestra and in London it was the BBC concert orchestra and Ornette’s trio. We did it live to a projection of NAKED LUNCH with separate tracks for dialogue and effects. It’s an interesting concert-sort-of-film-going experience. It’s like an enhanced movie experience.
SK: So would you try to do each complete film say like Wagner’s Ring Cycle and perform them each on a different night?
HS: (laughing) I haven’t really got that far. It’s just an idea. The (Lord of the Rings Symphony) is two hours and ten minutes. It’s a six movement piece. The complete piece is close to eleven hours. So really if you wanted to play it live, that would be a way to do it. It would really be a way to play the complete recording.
SK: When I came up with the question, I couldn’t think of anything left for you to do but there you go. That would be awesome!
HS: I think that’s the only thing (laughing).
SK: This project has taken up almost a decade of your life and you’ll probably continue to be actively involved with it in some capacity for the rest of your career. Do you think you’ll ever get tired of keeping up with it? Would you ever just want to be completely done?
HS: No! You know, Christopher Lee reads the book every year. It’s such a fascinating story. The qualities that Tolkien wrote into the story are some of the greatest human qualities: friendship, honor, courage, sacrifice. Just amazing qualities!
I think as human beings, you never really tire of those relationships because they’re just written so well. They’re described so well. That’s really the beauty in how he instills these great human qualities into that work. I think what makes it interesting is exploring those qualities and expressing them. I think the people who are interested in Tolkien’s work and in our work in making the film kind of goes together. We feel as strongly about it as well.
SK: I believe the music for THE LORD OF THE RINGS represents one of the, if not the, greatest achievements in the history of film music. No single composer faced so many seemingly impossible obstacles in one project and in the end so overwhelmingly overcame those obstacles. Is there anything about your work in this film that people may not know that you feel is important to share?
HS: I always had a real strong connection with Frodo and his journey. He was a hobbit who was given a large task to do. I felt very similar in the beginning. You felt the weight of the ring and you felt that you were set on this great journey.
Our story parallels the story of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Our fellowship was formed as well between the collaborators who made the film. We all went on the same journey. We all supported each other and helped each other and creatively encouraged each other to do their best work. I think the fact that our work parallels the story is part of the process. I think that is part of the journey really.
It’s only now, afterwards, in the same way the Hobbits returned to the Shire at the end, and looked, and the world had changed a little bit and they were slightly different. I think we’re feeling that as well. We’re looking back at our work and reflecting on it. The release of “The Complete Recordings” is really part of that process. It’s really a reflection on the work and what we’ve done. We’re kind of going through the same process like they did. I think that connection to the story is also part of our lives.
SK: What scene, in the entire LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, are you most proud of?
HS: I don’t know…I think the Shire scene was very natural writing for me. That scene and the fellowship scene came very early on and they’re really true expressions of how I felt about THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. And then, things really just grooved from there. The work that I did, which was almost four years of writing and orchestrating and conducting, are all based on the beginnings of FELLOWSHIP and then leading into TWO TOWERS. I was on the journey as well.
Now putting out all the recordings, I look back and I see and remember so clearly the steps along the way and the struggle to do the work and trying to do the most human expression of Tolkien’s story.
SK: When are the complete recordings for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) expected?
HS: I’m working on it now. I’m going through the four discs. I’m starting to go through the editing process – first of all, we’re just making sure that everything is accounted for – and then the editing into the CDs and giving the CDs their shape and trying to work out the best form for the tracks.
Then there’s all the technical requirements as well; the different formats we release in. We release them as enhanced stereo and different surround-sound formats. They’re all part of the process of making the box sets.
Then there’s also Doug’s (Adams) liner notes which are incredibly important. Being and working with Doug is incredible and he’s doing a brilliant job. The notes are just a fantastic…part of the process and he’s been able to review the scores in a way and write about them.
SK: I definitely agree. The liner notes enhance the sets so well.
HS: They kind of go together. He explains it in a way that’s knowledgeable but in a friendly way so that if you weren’t able to read the score you could still understand how the music related to each other and how the cultures related to each other and the objects and the characters. I think he’s done a great job.
SK: How long did it take to produce each individual box set?
HS: It took about ten months, I think, for FELLOWSHIP. TWO TOWERS as well. It takes awhile (laughing). It’s a lot of music, it’s a lot of art, it’s a lot of pages of score. I think we’re getting better though. Maybe with RETURN OF THE KING, we can get it done a little faster than that but I’d say on the average it’s kind of going at about that rate.
SK: Let’s say hypothetically that Peter Jackson decides to take on THE HOBBIT somewhere in the future. Would you like to revisit middle-earth with him?
HS: I’d love that. It would be wonderful. It would be so great to return to middle-earth and be writing music in that world again.
SK: Have you fantasized in your own mind the themes for THE HOBBIT?
HS: Yes. (laughing)
SK: (laughing)…I’ve got one final wrap-up question. I’m curious. Where do you keep your Oscars?
HS: There in my office in the studio.
SK: Well Howard, thank you so much for taking time out to talk with me. I think I can speak on behalf of LORD OF THE RINGS fans everywhere in thanking you for releasing these complete recordings box sets and I anxiously await THE RETURN OF KING.
HS: Thank you.
I’d like to thank Beth Krakower for her assistance with this interview and again to Howard for taking the time out to talk about these magnificent releases. I keep pounding home the notion that it’s such a great time to be a fan of film music. The idea that we’ll soon be able to own every note of music Howard wrote for one of the greatest cinematic events in history is almost too much for my inner-geek to handle.
What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.
We wants it…my precious!
Other Articles By ScoreKeeper:
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Bear McCreary (06.07.06)
Lalo Schifrin (06.18.06)
John Ottman (06.27.06)
Joseph LoDuca (08.21.06)
Alex Wurman (08.23.06)
Jeff Beal (09.08.06)
Chris Lennertz (09.29.06)
John Debney (10.15.06)
THE DAVINCI CODE (2006) by Hans Zimmer (05.06.06)
THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt (05.25.06)
NACHO LIBRE (2006) by Danny Elfman (06.10.06)
MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes (07.12.06)
PETITES PEUR PARTAGÉS by Mark Snow (08.29.06)
ScoreKeeper Reviews The Super Fantabulous ELMER BERNSTEIN'S FILM MUSIC COLLECTION!!
Who is Composing Which Scores This Summer (and Beyond)?? (05.09.06)
Elfman Removes his Credit from NACHO LIBRE? (06.12.06)
ScoreKeeper on John Williams’ New NBC Sunday Night Football Theme (09.01.06)
ScoreKeeper on Danny Elfman’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB Interview (09.05.06)
ScoreKeeper Considers the Film Music of Fantastic Fest (10.03.06)
ScoreKeeper’s Smolderin’ Potpourri of Cool Film Music News and Bits and Things!! (10.09.06)
ScoreKeeper Re: Marilyn Manson's Cover of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Tunes!! (10.26.06)
Basil Poledouris Is Gone (11.08.06)
Reviews THE DAVINCI CODE (2006) by Hans Zimmer (05.06.06) THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt (05.25.06) NACHO LIBRE (2006) by Danny Elfman (06.10.06) MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes (07.12.06) PETITES PEUR PARTAGÉS by Mark Snow (08.29.06) ScoreKeeper Reviews The Super Fantabulous ELMER BERNSTEIN'S FILM MUSIC COLLECTION!! (10.15.06)
Miscellaneous Who is Composing Which Scores This Summer (and Beyond)?? (05.09.06) Elfman Removes his Credit from NACHO LIBRE? (06.12.06) ScoreKeeper on John Williams’ New NBC Sunday Night Football Theme (09.01.06) ScoreKeeper on Danny Elfman’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB Interview (09.05.06) ScoreKeeper Considers the Film Music of Fantastic Fest (10.03.06) ScoreKeeper’s Smolderin’ Potpourri of Cool Film Music News and Bits and Things!! (10.09.06) ScoreKeeper Re: Marilyn Manson's Cover of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Tunes!! (10.26.06) Basil Poledouris Is Gone (11.08.06)