Shanley's "Doubt," starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, is set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. "I wanted to capture a feeling of that period," Shore says, "using folk instruments," including hammer dulcimer, recorder, Celtic harp and harmonium.
Shore, the "Lord of the Rings" composer who was overseeing the L.A. production of his opera "The Fly" while scoring "Doubt," used only 17 musicians. "It's a really intimate story," he says during a break on the Warner Bros. recording stage. "The dialogue is fantastic, and you want to work carefully with it."
And with the principal characters being a nun and a priest, the score often takes on a vaguely liturgical air. "I was trying to create an older, specific sound for the Catholic Church," he explains. There is already considerable organ and choral music in the score (traditional material, not written by Shore), so a cohesive fit was a must.
"Organ music is essentially string music," Shore explains, "so I have the strings playing in these long chords. I'm working off the sound of the church. Voices are used, but just for the color, their sound; they're not singing in Latin."
Shore -- who last worked with "Doubt" producer Scott Rudin on the Paul Newman film "Nobody's Fool" -- says "there are very strong thematic pieces that connect characters. The music is really used like another means of expression to tell the story. It's a pretty pure way to do it."