Friday, August 29, 2008

Post-Parisian Impressions

Downtown LA has a good article up on The Fly... including the creators' comments re: the Paris premiere a few weeks back. Read it here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


It's still not a lock, but I thought I'd update the blog's header to reflect the current cover book cover. Any strong objections?

Hark the Herald

The Calgary Herald has a short piece up on the Calgary Philharmonic's 2008-2009 season. It's not much, but the LOTR Symphony gets a quick shout out... even if the name's not quite accurate. (The Lord of the Rings Suite?) You'd think a Canadian paper would take care to get the details right regarding one of their own...

Ah well! Read the piece here.

Another Fly Poster

Another new Fly poster for those interested. Any one here planning on attending the upcoming AFI event with Shore and Cronenberg? I'm going to miss it by just a few days, but would love to hear what transpired.

Friday, August 22, 2008

News Roundup 2

Just a little more news, if you can stand it:

Just posted at the American Film Institute website:

AFI's Directors Screenings presented by Audi

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). More information.

A Q&A with David Cronenberg and Howard Shore will precede the screening.

Tickets available here.

And I just loved this intro to a piece on New Zealand-based band Cut Off Your Hands:

The list of musical success stories from New Zealand isn't exactly a long one. There's Split Enz, who became Crowded House, the Datsuns, Flight of the Conchords and... well, the score from Lord of the Rings was rather nice but that was composed by Howard Shore, and he's Canadian.

News Roundup

Hi everyone,

Sorry for my scarcity this week... I've barely been home and am running on about 10 hours of sleep amassed since last Friday. If I owe you a phone call or an email, I promise I'll get to you soon.

The rest of the world, however, has been ticking right along. So enjoy the mass media update:

Black Book has posted a nice little piece on The Fly, primarily coming from the Cronenberg point of view.  Click here.

Variety's Jon Burlingame has posted two pieces this week, both of which mention Shore. Seen here is a genuinely wonderful examination of the increasingly blurred line between film composers and concert composers. I tend to cringe when this subject is broached, only because most journalists miss the mark and end up writing about composers' quaint struggles to abandon fluff and risk it all with the big boys. Burlingame is too smart for that. His piece respects film music and concert music alike, and asserts that a smart composer can bring something of worth to any field. Bravo, Jon!

Shore gets less text in Burlingame's piece on videogame scores, but it provides a prime opportunity to mention the composer's work on Soul of the Ultimate Nation (a.k.a. S.U.N.). This is a fantastic score that plays like a sci-fi version of LOTR. Fans should make efforts to track this one down... which isn't always the easiest endeavor.

And finally, the press invites for the LA Opera Premiere of The Fly went out this week. Take a gander (contact info is blocked out, sorry!):

...Oh yeah, and in Music of LOTR book news... I'm going to spent my weekend picking through music example graphics and requesting new ones that are based on material that never made it to the liners, but which the book will need. 

But first... it's power nap time!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Fly Parts

My poor French skills are preventing me from determining whether or not this is legit, but Telerama has posted several clips from Shore's The Fly. Click here for your first extended listen to select passages from the opera. Enjoy! (And if our French-speaking readers determine that this is horrible copyright infringement... don't tell me! :) )

Saturday, August 16, 2008

LOTR Symphony in Malaysia

Looks like the Malaysian press is ready to join the LOTR bandwagon. Nice to see The Star highlighting the Symphony in a piece on the Malaysian Philharmonic's upcoming season.

Jim Ware Reviews The Fly

It took a good month and a half, but here--finally--is an intelligent, musically-literate review of Howard Shore's The Fly. Leave it to one of our own to pen the first comprehensive look at this massive work. Thanks to Jim Ware for taking the time to share his impressions with us.

David Cronenberg's 1986 'remake' of The Fly has been among my favourite films for many years. I recall first watching it at the age of eleven and being truly repulsed and disturbed at its conclusion. The film introduced me to the decidedly warped imagination of David Cronenberg and by extension the music of Howard Shore.

The opera version of The Fly has been in development hell for what seems like an eternity. The only undeniable facts during this period were the involvement of long-time collaborators Howard Shore and David Cronenberg. It seemed slightly surreal to be taking my seat in the Theatre du Chatelet in July of this year to witness the final performance of the Paris run. At this point I wasn't sure what to expect; I had heard brief snippets of the music but not enough to form any opinion of it.

On the surface The Fly did seem well suited to becoming a stage production - both the size of the cast and the number of locations are limited - but how could the teleportation effects and Brundle's hideous physical meltdown be reproduced?

During the lengthy development of this piece, both Shore and Cronenberg have been very quick to distance it from the 1986 film; in reality it shares a number of major elements, not least of which is the plot. Aside from a shift to the 1950s and a few minor adjustments it is identical in structure and content: the inside-out baboon is there, as are the arm-wrestle and Veronica's aborted abortion. All of the film's characters survived the transition, and some of them receive more character development than they did in 1986. If those references to the film weren't enough, David Henry Hwang's eloquent (and often very funny) libretto quotes significant amounts of the film verbatim.

The shift of setting to the 1950s results in a very different look and brings increased analogue gizmo potential. The digital screens on the telepods feel a little anachronistic, but otherwise the staging is successful; the single set of Brundle's laboratory is repurposed into a hospital, a 50s dive bar and other locations with subtle assistance from the performers. 

The story has been divided into two acts, the intermission occurring as Brundle teleports himself - apparently successfully - between telepods to a chorus of 'long live the new flesh' (very Videodrome). Both acts play as continuous pieces with few strictly defined scene changes. Other alterations include the telling of the story in flashback as Veronica is interviewed by police and a twist at the end, which I will not spoil here.

Fans of Howard Shore's majestic and lyrical work on The Lord of the Rings should proceed with caution - this is a very different insect. The opera opens with an excerpt from Shore's 1986 film score but this does not proceed as the listener might expect; dissonant brass takes over after a few bars to set the tone for the rest of the opera. Dissonance and atonality abound, and the music is almost universally grim throughout.

In terms of orchestration it is reminiscent of Shore's work on The Aviator (minus the castanets) - there is a similar emphasis on heavy brass and complex contrapuntal writing. There are several sequences in the opera that can only be described as montages with overlapping orchestral, choral and solo lines building to a climax - the most impressive examples of these are the teleportation sequences. In these, Brundle's computer is 'voiced' by the chorus which chants numbers and statistics in a style oddly reminiscent of Einstein on the Beach

This was not the only element of the opera reminiscent of Philip Glass - The 'Particle Magazine Party' sequence towards the beginning of the first act is underscored with a series of whirling arpeggiations. This is one of the lighter parts of the opera and the libretto pokes fun at the supposed inadequacies of scientists. 

Other stand-out sequences include Brundle's rejection of Veronica - underscored with Shore's trademark bowed cymbals and uneasy aleatoric strings - and another post-arm-wrestle 'montage' as Stathis, Veronica and a scientist discuss Brundle's mysterious insect hairs while Brundle copulates wildly with Tawny in the background.

Brundle's deterioration is perhaps the most moving sequence. The writing here is emotional but bleak, reminiscent of Shore's Looking for Richard. Brundle's physical meltdown is showcased with some appropriately gruesome latex costumes. They do not receive a huge amount of time on-stage but it must be a feat of endurance for Daniel Okulitch to wear such heavy latex and perform on a fully-lit stage.

At over two hours in length the opera is longer than the film and the pacing seems to suffer as a result. The first act leading up to Brundle's transformation feels overlong, but Brundle's final deterioration in the second act is rather rushed. This is a minor criticism; it remains a compelling piece throughout. At its conclusion the audience responded enthusiastically with none of the negativity reported at previous performances.

The Fly is recommended with reservations. It is more accessible than several of his other Cronenberg scores (Naked Lunch for example) but the unremittingly bleak tone and modernistic style may discourage some. If you can overlook that, it is a rewarding musical experience that will undoubtedly stand up to repeated viewings and listenings in the future.

-Jim Ware

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pixel Party #3

The 33 gigs of LOTR images have arrived, been sorted though, and are now implemented!

This is probably the last of these I'll post, since pretty soon my mocked-up layout will give way to the actual art direction. That said, get ready to don your reading glasses one last time...

It's amazing how insignificant 100,000 words looks all scrunched down into nothingness. That's ok, the bags under my eyes still tell the tale.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Return of the Scores

Those of you having a difficult time with John Jennette's Scores of the Ring website over the past days will be happy to know that he's just posted in the Ongoing Discussion thread, and everything appears to be back to normal.

Click here, and enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Time to Fly

Though it's not yet a lock, it looks as if I'll be in LA the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14... both enjoying The Fly and doing a bit of Rarities Archives work with Mr. Shore. Anyone here planning on attending the performances that weekend? I may be able to arrange a preview or two for curious attendees. Drop me a line at the email link at top right.



Not exactly breaking news here, but hey, it's been busy!

Months ago we talked about Howard Shore's upcoming work for organ and brass. Seems Ticket Philadelphia has now officially spilled the beans. See below:


The soaring Grand Court of the famous Philadelphia department store—home to the thunderous Wanamaker Organ—will be transformed into a magnificent concert hall.

The Philadelphia Orchestra combines its resources with those of the Wanamaker Organ, the world's largest playing pipe organ. The organ has 28,482 pipes ranging from the size of a pencil to giants towering 32 feet tall. Performed for the first time is Jongen's Symphonie Concertante. One of the most famous organ-orchestra pieces, written for the Wanamaker Organ and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1926, but to date has never been played on the instrument it was intended for.

This event is co-sponsored by Macy's and by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, and is a benefit for the Friends. The event is part of Macy's official 150th Anniversary Celebration, and includes a new composition composed by Howard Shore. Shore wrote the music for 'The Lord of the Rings' films.

Patrons purchasing tickets at $500 and above are entitled to a lavish pre-concert open-bar and hors d'oeuvres party amid the Gilded Age splendor of the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall. They are also entitled to a Curators Tour of the Wanamaker Organ at Noon the following day, with light refreshments and wine in the Wanamaker Organ Shop at Macy's. Holders of tickets of $1000 or higher will receive a tax deduction for amounts above the $500 'base price' of the ticket.

Tickets priced $200 and above are in prime seating areas in the Grand Court. Tickets priced $250 and above will have a direct Main Floor view of the orchestra. Lesser-priced seating is along the Grand Court upper balconies on floors two and three. Seating is extremely limited and demand for this rare event is expected to be exceptionally heavy—please purchase your tickets promptly.


Read more or purchase tickets right here.

Wasn't someone on the message boards planning on going? Does this mean we'll have another report to look forward to?

Friday, August 8, 2008

LOTR Symphony in Kuala Lumpur & Sao Paulo

It was hinted at long ago, but can only now be confirmed: The Lord of the Rings Symphony is on its way to Kuala Lumpur!

What's more, it's also headed to South America, with a performance scheduled in Sao Paulo next autumn. See the right sidebar for details.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Text Lock Mock-up

The text lock mock-ups arrived from the printers today. You may note that we've stuck with the same cover that we used for early versions of the liners. I'm still not sure if it will last to the final version of the book, but it seemed a good place to start.

Sizable volume, eh?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ongoing Discussion Thread [August, 2008]

Better six days late than never, right?

August 6 also officially marks the date upon which I've sent the locked text mock-up of the book to Howard Shore's offices. FedEx should have it there tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope it's met with approval!

Our discussion continues below.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Deluxe Just Got More Deluxe

Exciting developments today, none of which I can expound right now. But know that the wheels in motion Just got mucH bigger.

Details when I'm able. :)


Friday, August 1, 2008

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: Text Locked!

By John Takis

In late September, 2004, I received my first e-mail from Doug Adams. I’d recently posted, on a messageboard we both frequented, my plans to attend a LOTR Symphony concert in Chicago (I was living in St. Louis at the time). Doug was hoping to record a forum discussion with Film Score Monthly contributors, and wanted to know if I was interested in participating.

I only knew Doug by reputation at that point, but I was a big fan of Shore’s Rings scores. Unfortunately, the scheduling didn’t work out. Nor was I able to make the pre-concert meeting where Doug gave interested fans a “sneak preview” of the book he was writing. I did, however, get to talking with Doug at the post-concert party. (I can claim the distinction of being one of the few people who can say they were introduced to Doug Adams by Howard Shore!) That conversation led to more e-mails, and ultimately an offer to “proofread” the early draft of the book, and to provide some general feedback.

Well, here we are, almost four years later. To borrow a phrase, what a long, strange trip it’s been! The incomplete draft to which I first put red pen seems many leagues away. Since then, there have been Complete Recordings, Annotated Scores, an ever-expanding timetable and the growth of an entire online community. Finally, last month, a package arrived. A short trip to Kinko’s later, and my pen was ready to bleed ink once again.

Many long hours ensued, a good deal of them spent on the phone. Journeys were undertaken. Midnight oil was burned. Pizza was ordered. Dictionaries, thesauruses, style manuals and numerous other volumes were thumbed and re-thumbed. But all things have their proper end. It is my pleasure to confirm that, as of 10:41 p.m., EST on 7/31/08, the complete text of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films by Doug Adams is – barring the odd footnote tweak or directive from on high – officially locked.

What does this mean, you may ask? It means two things. First: that the manuscript can now be submitted to The Powers That Be for final approval, so that the publisher can bring the book into the official layout phase. Second: as the first person who is not Doug Adams to have actually read this beast in its finished form, I have asked (and received) permission to share some of my thoughts here on the official blog. These thoughts come completely unsolicited, and as they involve a certain amount of apparent flattery (it’s all accurate, as far as I’m concerned), I’m sure it will embarrass Doug to no end to be posting them on his own webspace. But he’s already agreed, and I’m holding him to his word, so…

Where to begin? I’m tempted to throw out some choice clichés. “Prepare to be amazed!” perhaps, or, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” But that wouldn’t seem quite adequate. On the one hand, the readership of this blog is likely to be familiar with Doug’s writing, in the form of the CR liner notes, the Annotated Scores, etc. You have seen something, in other words. On the other hand, the significance of this publication should not be undersold – there has truthfully never been a book like this. A film score analysis on this scale (let alone one with the full force of the composer and production company behind it) is simply unprecedented in the world of mainstream publishing. And while much of the content has been seen before, in one form or another, that content has been significantly reshaped and transformed into something greater than the mere sum of its antecedent parts. I am reminded of a passage from The Silmarillion where the Valar, having just performed the Music of the Ainur, are given their first glimpse of Eä, the newly formed world:

And many other things Ilúvatar spoke to the Ainur at that time, and because of their memory of his words and the knowledge that each has of the music … the Ainur know much of what was, and is, and is to come, and few things are unseen by them. Yet some things there are that they cannot see, neither alone nor taking counsel together; for to none but himself has Ilúvatar revealed all that he has in store, and in every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling …And so it was that as this vision of the World was played before them, the Ainur saw that it contained things which they had not thought.

In short, as well as you may know these scores, as closely as you’ve read the notes and kept up with the blog, be prepared for things which you have “not thought!”

I also want to stress the painstaking care that has gone into the preparation of this text. The process of refining each chapter and sub-section so that they work together as a coherent whole was attended to in almost microscopic detail. This was no simple cut-and-paste job, with the odd “deleted scene” spliced in. And while it will, of course, be possible to read “in” this book, paging to the section that happens to interest you at any given time, it will be equally possible to read the book all the way through, cover to cover, without feeling as though you are traversing a patchwork landscape.

In terms of new content, allow me to list a few of the things you can expect to see… A new introduction and epilogue. More “Behind The Score” moments and notated examples. Further musical observations, and yes, a few never-before-chronicled themes. More quotes from Howard Shore, with added insight into the maestro’s creative process. A slew of graphical bonuses. Even some very subtle Easter eggs for the careful-eyed. And I haven’t even touched on the Rarities Archives (which are shaping up to be just mind-blowing) or the exciting concepts being tossed around for the probable Deluxe Edition. It all adds up to a package no fan of the scores will want to do without. When all is said and done, the CR liners and Annotated Scores – while perfectly adequate to their intended purposes – were only a warm-up. This is the main event.

Before I wrap things up, there’s one more thing I want to say, as someone who’s had the opportunity to observe Doug working up-close. Throughout this entire process, Doug’s attitude has been one of extraordinary humility and respect: respect for the filmmakers, respect for the fans, respect for Howard Shore, respect for the integrity of the story and its characters, and – above all – respect for the language and spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien. I can’t tell you how many times, niggling over some particular detail, spelling or turn of phrase, the most important question was, “What did Tolkien do?” … or how many sentences were parsed and reworked and parsed again until they were best in accordance with the vision of Middle-earth’s author, or director, or composer – or all three! I’m certain the book is not perfect; it will not please everyone, and mistakes will no doubt be found. But it won’t be for lack of care. Doug’s been very aware that he’s not just stepping into a void here, but into a tradition of attentive craftsmanship, one which he’s taken great pains to honor.

Doug will be the first to tell you that he thinks of himself as a musician, not a writer. But the true test of a writer is to write, and the bottom line is that Doug has written one heck of a book. His passion and dedication are apparent on every page. I consider myself extraordinarily privileged to have read it … and I can’t wait to share the experience with all of you.
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