Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The BOBs

Markus, one of the blog's regular readers, has thoughtfully nominated us for The BOBs, the worlds largest international weblog awards. He's put a lot of though into the matter, so if you have a moment, please consider checking out his nomination page. And heck, feel free to vote while you're there!

Thanks, Markus!

I need to do a bit of writing right now--reworking a bit of material at the book's conclusion--but will try to address some of the many questions that have popped up over the weekend later tonight. See you soon!


Wanamaker Concert Review 2 [Updated]

This time Lindsay Warner of The Bulletin provides the impressions. A few weeks back I flipped through the score of Shore's Fanfare, but haven't heard the completed piece.

Would love to hear from anyone out there who personally attended. Drop me a line. 

UPDATE: A third review has surfaced, this one in the New York Times.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wanamaker Concert Review

David Patrick Stearns' review of Saturday night's Wanamaker Organ concert, which featured the world premiere of Shore's Fanfare, is up at philly.com:

"The new Fanfare by Shore came out of protracted, intense study of the organ's possibilities: Though Shore is said to have intended an hour's visit to Macy's to hear what he was writing for, he stayed for at least four..."

Read the whole piece here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Riddle #4

Bilbo's week
Flew much too fast
The clues must end
With this, the last.

Groups of birds
Move massed in flocks.
Groups of these:


Solutions tomorrow...


Reminder: Fanfare this Saturday

Remember Fanfare, Shore's new work for organ, brass (4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones (optional bass trombone) and optional percussion, will receive its world premiere this Saturday in Philadelphia, PA.

If you're in the area, don't miss it!

U of Eye

I'm so proud of my alma mater right now. Glad to see that the University of Illinois is still turning out LOTR fans/pranksters. Read here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Riddle #3

the   couple   at the table sat.
eagerly his fingers rapped.
"i've little patience. less than   none  ."
"i've less," she cried. "a   zero   sum."

the table set, they yearned to dine.
yet there they sat, 'til half past   nine
they waited while the world turned round
and autumn's leaves twice met the ground.

they stayed there calm for months and more
until their guests arrived on shore
old friends' familiarity
now sweetened by their rarity.

LOTR Symphony in St. Louis: Review

Ryan76 sends in his wonderful review of the St. Louis performance of the LOTR Symphony:

I haven't had a chance to see the LotR Symphony, I live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and in 2004, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed the symphony on the one weekend that I absolutely could not attend. Much stress, many tears, huge amounts of frustration. I had convinced myself that at some point the symphony would return to Dallas, or even better, that the Ft. Worth Symphony would decide to do it a the grand Bass Hall in downtown FTW. Alas, nearly four years later...no such luck. I was beginnig to think that I had missed my one opportunity and that I would somehow have to find a way to live with the notion that i would not get to see it (okay, I being a little dramatic). The scheduling of the Symphony in STL, the release of Kaitlyn Lusk's version of Into the West, and the opportunity to get a very good-deal on a flight and hotel suddenly changed my fate. So I decided that I would just "go for it" and travel to the "gateway to the west" (somewhat appropriate don't you think?), and finally see The Lord of the Rings Symphony.

The performance was held at Powell Symphony Hall on the 19th and the 20th. I purchased a box seat for the Saturday performance. Powell Symphony Hall was built in the 20s and has been very well-preserved. I could be wrong, but it didn't seem to have had any major renevations since the 60s. I felt like I was in an old church, or more accurately (or strangley I should say), it reminded of the theater where The Muppet Show took place, at least that's what I thought of as I climbed the grand staircase. In the lobby, there were a few props displayed (very few). Full size reproductions of Lurtz and a Ringwraith, as well as Strider's sword, Eowyn's sword, Gimli's axe and Sting. As I stated before, I had a box seat taht was somewhat to the right of center stage. It was an excellent seat, but I din't really see how any seat could be bad in that venue. The box held 18 seats and I was in the back left corner, the area was very spacious I thought.

The Powell Symphony Hall holds around 2,600 people, but once the show started, I might as well have been the only person there. iwas in a faraway place during the duration of the Symphony...2 and a half hours of complete bliss. The sound was amazing, I could hear everything so well, and so clear. I could see everything very well, and as always, I was so fascinated and impressed by the intense playing of the strings section...the equivalent of "shredding" on the violin. Now I know that most evryone that keeps up with this site has experienced the Symphony live and/or has seen the Creating the lotR Symphony DVD, so I don't need to go into the exact details of what actually made up the six movements. I myself have watched that DVD several times and in my opinion it doesn't do the actual live experience justice. It was a powerful, moving, emotional experience for me. from the first notes of The Prophecy...I got teary-eyed, but when the loan Irish whistle ushered in Concerning Hobbits, the tears were rolling down my cheeks. It was such a great feeling, and it conitnued throughout the enitre performance. The Ring Goes South, The Bridge of Khazad-dum, The Breaking of the Fellowship were especially powerful for me during the first two movements, but every note seemed to resonate through me, forcing an emotional reaction. If anybody near me was paying attention, they probably thought I was a little nuts, but I didn't care at all, like I said, I was in a different place. I was also very impressed by the vocal performances during the performance. They were all executed flawlessly, and the two boy soprano's were simply amazing.

I was suprised that after the intermission, Kaitlyn lusk accompanied conducter Ludwig Wicki on stage at the beginning of movements 3-6. i guess I assumed that she would be only performing the two "songs", but she actually performed all of the the vocal parts for the pieces from the Two Towers and Return of the King...and her vocals were breathtaking! Forth Eorlingas, The White Tree and the enitre 6th movement once again brought me to tears...but during Kaitlyn's performance of Into the West, I experinced the most moving and emotional sensation of the evening. I know i've already used the adjective...but it was powerful.

I found the art of Alan Lee and John Howe projected on a huge screen behind the chorus to be very well done and an excellent companion to the orchestra. never too distracting. Conducter Ludwig Wicki was energetic and fascinating to watch. It should be noted that not one word was said during the Symphony. Not at the beginnig, not between any of the movements, not at the end. Wicki was all business.

It was quite frankly the greatest concert experience of my life. This music is so incredibly important to me (as I know it is to all who contribute to this site) and to hear and see it performed live was something I will never forget. Saturday, September 20th was one of the happiest days of my life. A dream came true, and I find it hard to put the emotions I felt into words. I only hope that others have had or will have similar experiences. 

Two Towers Live Confirmed for Lucerne

The 21st Century Symphony Orchestra has now officially confirmed: The Two Towers Live will premiere in Lucerne, Switzerland on the four following dates:

Friday, 13 March 2009, 7.30 pm
Saturday, 14 March 2009, 7.30 pm
Sunday, 15 March 2009, 11 am
Sunday, 15 March 2009, 6.30 pm

Tickets will be available beginning September 30 at Art Production's official site.

Howard Shore and I both hope to reconvene for pre-concert lectures, if schedules allow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Riddle #2

re the update of september:
'twas incomplete, you'd Best Remember.
just two-thirds there – a partial view.
those two from me chase 2 of U.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Riddles in the Dark

Don't be blu,
Can't say much more.
'Tis always deepest,
Betwixt the Shores.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tolkien Linguist in St. Louis

Riverfront Timesspeaks with Paul Hahn, who helped prepare the St. Louis Symphony Chorus' pronunciation for this weekend's performance on the LOTR Symphony.

Choice quote:

What does the ring’s leitmotif sound like? 
[after whistling the piece] I read somewhere the composer has it rising-falling, as if it were breath because he wanted to convey that the ring was a living thing.”

Gee, wonder where he got that! :)

Click here for the entire piece.

Book Update: September, 2008

Since 2001 I haven't taken a many leisure-based trips. Generally I go somewhere to get some work done, then see a few sites if time permits. I don't mind that equation at all. After all, it's not as if my "work" is digging ditches.

However, it is certainly nice to invert the ratio once in a while. Last weekend's trip was more along these lines. I don't think I'd seen Howard and his wife since last spring in Europe—though we'd spoken often. So it was lovely to simply catch up and talk about the world of opera, recent films, old SNL stories, Shore's upcoming Fanfare for organ and brass… and of course a good deal about The Hobbit. (No, I'm not divulging!) And of course, every good weekend trip should involve a couple of improvised campfire songs strummed on a ukulele. (I'm not going to divulge about that either… wouldn't know where to begin!)

Interspersed here and there was a bit of work related to the book. Shore visited the publisher's offices a few days before I arrived, and of course had been going through the mock-up I sent him a few weeks earlier. He had a few solid suggestions related to one section of the book, which I'm now working on incorporating. But past the nuts and bolts, we also had a few large-scale decisions to make.

As I mentioned a little while back, some new opportunities have arisen related to the book. We now have the chance to tie it in to another major release. This has the potential to help us on all fronts: the legal side of things (licensing costs, to be specific), the marketing side… and (most importantly) the creative side. The downside was that we'd have to delay the book's targeted release date in order to allow this "other release" time to assemble.

I did some informal polling, both around here and elsewhere, and the vote was unanimous: delays stink… but delays that improve the final product are forgivable. Taking this to heart—as well as the improvements a delay would bring to the book—made the choice pretty clear. As of right now, we're no longer considering November, 2008 as a potential release date. We haven't pinned down a new release date because we're waiting to hear from the "other release." We should know soon.

However, what's very important for everyone to understand is that the book is not being shifted around in such a way that it will get lost in the mix. This is a step up with just a tinge of frustration—a tinge due to nothing but impatience. In other words, deluxe just deluxe-er… again… heck, even standard got deluxe-er this time! Once I've made the latest set of revisions (during which I'll probably try and track down a few more interviewees), Shore and I will plan out three or four upcoming four trips to his office. Each of those trips will be filled with a bit of research, a bit of planning, and a bit of filming. We may also do a little filming in Europe.

Oh, and if you're still not convinced, let it be noted that you're also likely to get significantly more unused music in your hands this way. Yes, I said "significantly."

I hope the above doesn't strike anyone as Pollyanna prose. I'm genuinely excited by these new possibilities… well, honestly the filming thing terrifies me ever so slightly, but I'll manage to screw my courage to the sticking place, I'm sure. I'm also ready to take a few knocks from people who have had their Christmas lists tossed into disarray by this announcement. It wasn't an easy choice to make. And I feel a bit of that frustration as well. I've been hammering away at this book since 2002. I used to gasp in amazement when I heard how long the Jacksons spent in Middle-earth in order to bring The Lord of the Rings to the screen. Now I grin in empathy. I'm about to push year six into year seven. And yes, I'll be hopping right on to The Hobbit. I'll easily spend over a decade in Middle-earth. But the point is: I want to show off what we've created! I'm impatient too! But I feel confident that this choice will make the Big Reveal even more momentous. I'm incredibly proud of this project, and it's only getting better!

Heck, if nothing else, I'll still get the obnoxious thrill of teasing you guys for a little longer. That's always a plus… ;)

Please, if you have any questions at all, post them here.

All best,


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

LOTR Hardangers: An Untold Story

I'll let Magpie introduce this one:

I was contacted by Andrew King who said he could provide me with a little information about some of the Hardanger fiddles involved with the LOTR score that his father had made. I was interested and he said he'd get back to me in a week. Well that turned into a few months as he tried to do some fact checking among those involved. Finally, a few weeks ago he got back to me with a short article.


The use of the Hardanger fiddle in parts of the LOTR score sparked a lot of interest in this Norwegian folk-version of the violin, with its unplayed 'sympathetic' strings under the fingerboard adding a ghostly resonance to the sound, and its characteristic patterned decoration.

If you were to encounter two of the Hardangers involved in the recordings however, you might be surprised. Neither was made in Norway, or by a Norwegian maker, nor are they decorated in the traditional style. Both were in fact made by my father, Mr J E King, an English luthier. Now retired, but still making, Mr King has produced a wide variety of stringed instruments for classical, folk and early music players, all with his own distinctive sense of design. An instrument-maker with an engineering background, he has an intuitive sense of the mechanics of sound-production, ensuring that his instruments have strong and distinctive 'voices'.

In the hectic schedule of rehearsal and recording, memory of the details of exactly what happened quickly becomes hazy. What seems certain however is that when the LOTR music-makers were looking for a Hardanger for The Two Towers, they approached English folk-musician Heather Brown with a request to borrow the instrument called 'Martha',... (READ MORE HERE)

The Fly

Excerpted from a piece for an upcoming issue of Film Score Monthly Online:


Much of the criticism lobbed at The Fly seems to have been written before critics made the trek to the opera house. Maybe it’s the result of an overzealous promotional campaign that pushed the star-studded behind-the-scenes roster rather than promoting an understanding of the work itself. Maybe more should have been made of the opera’s place in the Shore/Cronenberg canon – how the work drew from established tones and themes, yet pushed the pair into entirely new regions. Maybe there’s a lack of understanding when it comes to modern opera. I actually read one review that complained that the opera lacked a key signature! There were a couple of very intelligent reviews by critics who didn’t like the work, but still offered articulate insight. Tomasini’s piece in The New York Times was great. I disagreed with his conclusions, but it’s sharply written – and musically accurate! (A lamentable rarity on today’s critical landscape.)

But, methinks I risk protesting too much. The Fly speaks for itself. It doesn’t need me to defend it… though I can certainly tell you what I liked.

Tonal consistency has always been a hallmark of Shore and Cronenberg’s work together. Once they establish the tone of a piece, everything grows out of that tone. The humor, the horror, the joy, the pathos. This opera is no different. Shore’s harmonic language is very specific and very controlled in the work. It’s also very mature… consistently chromatic, very stepwise, rhythmically fluid, through-composed. It maintains this sound through all moods, though the orchestra forever paints it differently, sometimes embracing the winding vocal lines with warm triadic harmonies, sometimes battling the melodic fragments with cackling brass outbursts, sometimes complicating textures with counterlines, sometimes building dread with heart-beat cluster chords. There’s some wonderfully evocative text painting going on if one listens to the voices as contextualized by the orchestra. Shore has always treated the voice as an extension of his instrumental palette. Though the voices are out front here, this is no different. The static choral writing for the computer’s “voice” is particularly effective in this regard as it weaves its way through the writing to create a depth of texture… and yes, build even more dread.

The Fly has no intention of sensationalizing its subject matter. That’s not to say that sensationalistic treatment of lurid material discredits an opera. Look at Wozzeck! But Shore is not interested in replicating the ooky spooky aspects of the story. His score deals with greater themes. David Henry Hwang’s libretto demands no less. The Fly has always been used as a vehicle for deeper subjects. Even the 1958 Vincent Price played into the scientific paranoia of the early nuclear age. In the 1980s Brundle’s transformation was a metaphor for disease and the breakdown of the body. In the opera, Brundle is drawn between his mind and his flesh in a bid to better understand his own nature. Which is the true Brundle? There are also ruminations on the conjoined natures of life and death… birth being the first act of dying, death being the first act of a new state of existence. Twice the phrase “dying to be born” appears. But Brundle’s experiment only draws these questions into sharper focus. He never gets any closer to answering them. Shore’s is the music of these questions. It is not based on prominent recurring motifs or momentary retreats into the safety of familiar harmonic progressions. It searches and searches. Had the music offered any sanctuary, it would have been dishonest. That’s not what this is about. A beautiful tonal aria in the midst of all these unanswered questions would have dishonored the opera’s characters and intent.

The Fly is unforgivingly intelligent. It considers its own integrity as a piece of drama and music before it considers the audience’s comfort. In its refusal to pander it, it creates something so cerebral that it evokes an emotional response… even if that emotion is disquieting horror. Brundle’s tragedy is our own: an awareness of questions too big to answer. I don’t know that we feel bad for him in the end. Hubris guided his hand. But thanks to Shore’s challengingly effective writing, we can empathize. That’s exactly what art should do.

-Doug Adams

Howard Shore Piano Concerto

The spiffy new header frowns at me every time post something non-LOTR related, but this is too good to pass up: Howard Shore is officially composing a concerto for piano and orchestra at he behest of world-renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang. Expect to hear more in the coming months. This work will mark Shore's first effort in the world of instrumental concerti. Very exciting!

LOTR Symphony Coming to St. Louis This Weekend

Playback:stl has got the scoop!

Read here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Checking Out/Checking In

Hi everyone,

I've had limited Internet contact this weekend (I'm posting this on my phone), but will have a full LA report for you shortly.

On my way to the airport now. See you soon!


PS: Loved The Fly! Won't pretend my opinion is unbiased, but I feel the work has been utterly misunderstood by many. Again, more later...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gotta Fly

I'm Los Angeles-bound tomorrow evening. The next couple of days should be filled with CD reviewing, book editing... and apparently a bit of filming! I'll explain once things get rolling out there. I'm just now learning details myself!

If anyone is planning to be the at The Fly Saturday night, please come say hello!

Ok, then. Bags are packed... eyes are ready to close. See you on the left coast!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

LA Opera Podcast

The LA Opera has posted a podcast including a lengthy interview with Howard Shore discussing his work on The Fly.

It's a lovely, in-depth piece... definitely worth your 8 minutes!

Listen or download here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ongoing Discussion Thread [September, 2008]

Hi everyone,

How did it get to be September already? With time flying so fleetly, I'm not even sure when the last book update was. Nevertheless, here's the next one… let's just assume that I've kept them at evenly spaced monthly intervals… even if for no other reason than to assuage my guilt!

Much has happened since the text was locked way back whenever. We've now entered that zone where almost everything happens on paper, or as phone calls, or meetings, or lunches. This the business end where things seem creatively static, yet the real meat of the project is established.

The book project has now attracted the attention of a number of corporate entities. There is a potential to tie a couple of ideas together and perhaps make a bigger deal out of this release than was originally anticipated. While this complicates the business end, it wildly expands the creative end of things. I won't say more until I can (a song I'm sure you've all heard before), but we should all plan to have our expectations tweaked a little in the coming months. You'll see…

Not everything is pure business, however. Design elements continue to come in. You've probably noticed the blog header has been changing a lot recently. This relates to ongoing work on the book cover…. the standard edition cover, that is.

Let me try to be very, very clear about this, because it seems my past couple of explanations have confused many:

We're currently in the second stage of the cover design. It's a very linear process. The last deign lead to this design – this design will lead to something else as well. What you're seeing above is an adaptation of a portion of book cover proposal 2.2. It's not locked, it's not final, it's not even fully rendered. It's a version of a portion of a draft. ☺

That said, I LOVE this design! I don't think we're going to see much change, conceptually. The idea has always been to make this book feel like a granddaddy to the Complete Recordings… and I think that's being conveyed very gracefully here. (And while I appreciate all the suggestions posted elsewhere, legally I cannot and do not read them. Sorry, guys!)

When the cover is fully locked, I’ll plan to debut it here.

Inside the book, I am now in the process of vetting about two-dozen new music examples that never appeared in the liners. Some relate to themes that weren't discussed before, some will be placed through the Annotated Score so that ALL sections of the book combine words and notated music. Sue Sinclair, who engraved the music examples for the liners and created the short score compressions, has put together wonderfully detailed examples of passages throughout the scores. Those of you who like to sit and pick out notes of the piano should be thrilled! And even if you don't read music, these examples bring a wonderful graphical element to the book.

We're also hoping to include some of Shore's pencil sketches and conductor's scores from the sessions, complete with live-from-the-podium pencil scrawling. So if you're a behind-the-scenes aficionado, we should have something for you too.

And of course, this is all in addition to nearly one hundred thousand words… so I think we can comfortably assert that the word "Comprehensive" has earned its spot on the cover.

Next weekend I'm headed out to LA to work with Shore – and of course, to enjoy The Fly – so perhaps I'll be able to have another significant book update for you soon. Two updates in under a month! I'm on a roll!

Enjoy the new discussion board below. Talk soon!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reminder: Shore and Cronenberg AFI Event Tonight

1986 95 MIN RATED R
DIR David Cronenberg SCR David Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue, from a story by George Langelaan CAST Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Leslie Carlson

THE FLY is an extraordinary example of Cronenberg's particular brand of "body horror"; flesh transformed by disease. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric scientist, whose experiments with teleportation go awry, leading to one of the horror genre's most disgusting and gory physical transformations. Ultimately, David Cronenberg's version of THE FLY - based on a short story by George Langelaan and the 1958 film that starred Vincent Price -- is a dark romantic tragedy about the wasting away of a brilliant man who mutates into an insect as his loved one looks on helplessly.

AFI, in association with the LA Opera, presents a brand new print , in the CINERAMA DOME, to coincide with the US premiere of the opera The Fly. 

Placido Domingo conducts the LA Opera-commissioned opera written by Oscar(R)-winning composer Howard Shore (LORD OF THE RINGS), with libretto by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly). This also marks the LA Opera debut of Academy Award-winning production designer Dante Ferretti (THE AVIATOR, SWEENEY TODD).

Tickets still available here.

LA residents, if anyone attends this, let me know!
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