Today will be a busy day here at Book Central. Important conference call/meeting in the late afternoon where we're scheduled to make some pretty heavy duty decisions. I'll keep you informed! In the meantime...
Interview at Barnes and Noble, Lincoln Square, NYC, on October 3, 2009
between Doug Adams and Howard Shore
A Barnes and Noble staffer, Bart, introduced them saying he evidently didn’t need to from the applause, very simply welcoming them and noting that there would be signings of the new Howard Shore Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 cd or of the Complete Recordings afterwards. And that, of course, cell phones be turned off and not to use flash, if pictures were taken.
HS: Hi, Doug… nice to see you!
DA: Hi, Howard… good to see you, and hi everybody else!
I thought this was a good spot tonight that we are in a book store. Because of course, your music of The “Lord of the Rings” is essentially a film score on one hand, but on the other hand a musical reflection of Tolkien’s writing.
DA: So it’s sort of a dual purpose creation.
HS: Yes. And for those of you who maybe don’t know our relationship, but I’ve known Doug for many years from his writing and I asked him to do a piece about “The “Lord of the Rings””… what year was it, Doug, was it ’01?
HS: …’01 when we were doing “Fellowship of the Ring”, and I thought that Doug would be somebody good to write, you know, about what was going on in the making of these films. And so we met and he started writing about it and so from ’01 to… I guess it’s been eight years, now, right?
DA: Almost nine years this coming [inaudible]….
HS: … almost 9 years Doug’s been documenting the recordings… a lot of the recording in England. And it’s just been…. He followed that process through. I then gave Doug a lot access to the archives, to my archives, and to all of the recordings. So Doug has finished a book on the music of “Lord of the Rings”, and we are in the process now of just finalizing it and getting ready for a final publication of it which we are hoping to do in April.
DA: Right, right.
HS: That we will have it ready by April. We are doing a concert in Royal Albert Hall of “Two Towers”. We’re hoping the book… we’re pretty confident the book’ll ready by then. It’s an incredible book. I wanted to give you some background on our relationship.
DA: I am here for some background, yes. This was something we have been working on for a long, long time. We mentioned this the other night: that one of the big goals of this that it [the book] was something that appealed to people on an emotional level because the amazing story is the heart of all this, but also serves the purpose of being somewhat analytical on a musical basis as well. It’s like your music. If you put this in Tolkien’s terms, it’s a very comfortable way to reach people.
HS: Yes. Doug…. your notes are in the box sets, or rather The Complete Recordings. So for each one of the releases you get a little hint of the book in those liner notes. I think Doug wrote, I think, 50 pages for each of the Complete Recordings. And then the book has grown out of that. I think when you were making reference to was the music being, you know… I read recently, because I am reading this… I am studying Tolkien related things, and studying “The Hobbit” because I am getting ready to go back into Middle-earth and for a long time, for years, and to work on “The Hobbit” and it is a lovely thing to do. And so I have been reading Tolkien analysis and one point I read recently was the length of time… I knew that… Tolkien took 14 years to write “The Lord of the Rings”, but I read recently that he didn’t have a complete plan when he started to write it. And he just wrote from section to section. He would finish something and then he would go on. And you see him doing that even in the appendices, he is still trying to make… he is stretching his arms out, in the appendices he is reaching out into even different areas, into the past and what could possibly go on in the future…. And I found that, I had the book to write to, but I wrote very linearly, step by step! If I thought too much of the whole story and where it was going to go, it was really too massive an undertaking to think that you were going to write that much music. I mean, the whole score is probably close to 11 hours. So I was writing in this kind of day to day process of almost 4 years. And Doug went through my notes and through my notebooks and all my early sketches and everything. I mean I have read Doug’s book several times now and find lots of… and understand the logic of what I did in relation to what Tolkien wrote. Because I am writing a piece based on his work. And his work had such incredible structure and form and great story telling to it and descriptive character to, you know, how he described his world. That that inherently comes through in the music that I wrote because of what he would do. So Doug made the logic of my work to understand what… maybe you could talk a little bit about the motifs and that kind of thing…
DA: Sure. I think actually that is one of the things that makes this score so unique. Other film scores have been built off of leitmotivic approaches, where you have a small bit of a theme, or a long theme associated with different characters, different events, places, objects, all sorts of things. But I think that this is the first time, well, a) that it has long list of these themes. You have 90 themes all of which interact with one another and have their own individual arcs that you can follow throughout the three films. But it is also true that this was the first time that a score like this didn’t compromise those themes at all. You know, there isn’t a theme that is usually associated with the Ring except when it works for Gollum or for some other character, it works for Faramir also, for example. They are very specific; they aren’t compromised as to the use. And I think again that came from… You know, Howard when he set about to schedule himself time to work on these films, he spent really about a year on each one of these films. Which is very unusual for film music. Often the composer will be on for just a few weeks.
HS: Yes, a year and three months; three months for the Extended Versions. Quite right!
DA: Right! So these thematic structures so carefully reflect what Tolkien created in terms of cultural relationships and even the time line of Middle-earth. Themes that are more ancient to Middle-earth tend to be more chromatic, as they get more toward the modern times, the Third Age of Middle-earth, they are more based on pentatonic writing, and things like that. So a large part of what the book does is put all these pieces back together and show how you can take this group of thematic ideas and characterize them together for the Shire music and then how is the Shire music perhaps related to the music of the Ring or the opposite the music of Isengard, and things like that.
HS: And also how it develops, how the Shire changes.
HS: When they return to the Shire in “Return of the King”, and how the music has changed and the hobbits are more sophisticated or more worldly and how that is reflected in the score.
DA: Right, and all this material has that shape to it, from the heroes’ music, the villains’ music, the Ring itself undergoes an incredible metamorphosis in the course of three pictures.
HS: You what was important and what was really unusual in film making, is that because the story is so complex… “The Lord of the Rings” is considered the most complex fantasy world ever created. One of the classic, one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and read by people, millions of people all over the world, translated into… I don’t know how many languages, forty languages, all over the world. And people re-read it every year, leaning more about it. Christopher Lee told me he reads “Lord of the Rings” every year and he met Tolkien. And he read it 1953 when it was released and he has been reading it ever since! We were talking about this with Billy Boyd the other night at the Paley Center and when they were shooting scenes, people had the book and they were… if Peter Jackson didn’t have a scene set up correct in terms of the description in the book, Christopher Lee would say, You know (laughs) you have instead of where there should be an outcropping here we are standing beside a fern glen and we have to have that. We really tried to recreate the things in the book as carefully as possible. But I guess the point I was trying to make about the music was that Peter said to me, because the story is so complex, you wouldn’t expect that everybody who went to see the film had read the books or even knew the story. I mean people go to a lot of films and they don’t know anything about it, so we wanted to make a film that had clarity to people who didn’t know the story. And one of the ways we did it was through the use of thematic ideas and leitmotivs because it provided clarity to the story telling. So if you are in Rohan and Elrond comes with the Sword and gives it to Aragorn and you hear a piece of music relating to a theme from Rivendell you understand the source of the Elvish power of the Sword. So it helped, I think, to inherently underneath the story provide this clarity to it through the use of the themes and the leitmotifs.
DA: Right, right. I should mention that as part of our research project I would head up every summer, I think, or spring and we would watch the films together and this was as Howard was composing. And he too would have a copy of the book that was always with him and each year as I would visit it would be a little worse for wear…
HS: a little more dog eared!! (They laugh)
DA: a few more dog eared pages each year…
HS: I still have it. And I am still reading parts of it actually, it’s true, because, well now I am going through the appendices much more carefully than I had at first, because of “The Hobbit”. I am carefully going through a lot of detailed things that I might have gone quickly through.
DA: Where are you in your process for “The Hobbit”, right now?
HS: Reading! Yeah! (General laughter)
DA: A good place to start.
HS: Yeah, I know. I do a lot of reading. I mean the book is deceptively, … it’s not deceptive… I mean the book is dense. “The Hobbit” is really a dense pick [bit?]. Like all of Tolkien’s writing, on one page there can be a world of things going on. He’ll say this happened and this happened. You have to stop and say, Wait… I mean, that happened … what?... what? That’s huge! (Laughter). So wait a minute, let me just process that! So I find when you read his work, you can read it in layers and layers and getting more detail from it all the time.
DA: When you originally came up with the idea of using themes to add clarity to the story telling… One of my favorite aspects of your thematic writing in this project is the way that themes also… They don’t necessarily show the delineation between ideas but the connections between ideas. You know, Rohan and Gondor are clearly different places with different types of tones, and yet there is something similar between these two worlds of men. There is a lot of thematic connections like that.
HS: Well, they… Tolkien, because he is writing north, south, east, west, he is trying to show you a whole world that existed thousands of years before our culture. Five to six thousand years ago, he said. The complexity of the writing really is in the contrasts. I think in most fantasy worlds they will just show you one aspect of a culture. And what Tolkien did, which I think added a great depth to the story, he would show you not one but two parts of a culture. He wouldn’t just say in Middle-earth there was a world of men and it was called Gondor, he says that also a world of men called Rohan and these two cultures are different cultures. The one is a little more sophisticated the one is a more rural culture and they have different histories and they relate to each other differently. And he does the same thing with Elven culture, he shows you Rivendell and also Lothlorien and he shows you the differences between them. And of course this is what builds the story and gives it so much depth. Because of the broadening… He doesn’t just show… there isn’t just one source of great evil power in “Lord of the Rings”. There isn’t just Sauron, there are people that he has turned, like Saruman. And of course then you have Gollum. It is probably not coincidental that Gollum is schizophrenic and is two personalities. So he is showing you two parts to the character.
DA: Right. And then you go passed that to show Gollum’s relationship to the Ring itself. There are some thematic connections there.
HS: Right, right. Exactly.
DA: I suppose we should also mention that we have some additional music that will be coming with the book. You mentioned that we spent a little bit of time in the archives. We dug out some pieces of music that didn’t make it into the final film. Some fascinating earlier versions of themes as well, so people can sort of hear that process that you are referring to.
HS: Yes, we did a disc; it’s part of the book. It’s called The Rarities. It’s like a rarities, archives, disc… And some of it is mock ups of pieces. Before I do recording with the orchestra I would do what I like to think of as story boarding. When you make films very often story board artists will just sketch the different viewpoints of the camera, so it gives you a way… sometimes when you put them all up in a room like this and you can just walk along the room and you see the whole film unfolding on the wall. Sort of like flip-cards. And so I would do the same thing with the score and it was a way to really detail the writing to the film with Peter and to be able to have a conversation with him. And a lot of that really had to do with the use of the themes, the use of the motifs and how we left little hints along the way and where we did that. And sometimes it was also just in the use of forces, too. Because you will see great contrasts, just as much as Tolkien made contrasts in his writing we tried to do similar things sometimes with just pure… just sound. Sometimes we would drop all the sound out and you would hear one instrument playing or one voice or a boy soprano singing in Isengard. When Gandalf is on Orthanc with the moth you just hear this one pure sound and then as the camera, as you tunnel,… you go into the fiery pit it opens up into huge forces of metal clanging and huge orchestral outbursts. And so the mockups were ways…, sort of sketches of things, of how the themes were being created, how the music would be recorded. And some of those are on the disc and those nobody has really ever heard. I mean they are really rare things. And they are usually never really released.
DA: The fascinating thing is that they have a beauty unto themselves. It’s a slightly different version of what we are used to hearing for the Shire Theme or a slightly different version of the Rohan Theme but there is still enough of a relationship to what we think of as the final version that there is musical beauty to them.
HS: Right, right. So these all came out of the archives. The other disc that we have tonight, The Collector’s Edition, was also an archival release. It is a series that I have started. This is the first release. These are pieces that I realized, that I probably had at least 30 or more scores that I actually had never released. Just in the speed in which I was going I didn’t always master and release all the music I was writing. So I have now gone back and I have taken certain select things that I have that I think are of interest and put them out.
DA: Well, this first Collector’s Edition disc there is a little bit from your film writing and a little bit of writing that you just have done for yourself as well, right?
DA: So which scores are people going to hear represented that they might be familiar with.
HS: I think there are scores from some work in the 80s. I think the most interesting one for film music is the first piece. It’s a score I did with Martin Scorsese to “After Hours”. Actually most of the record is electronic…. There is a lot of electronic music on the record which I haven’t released a lot of. Some of it is very homemade type of things that I was doing in the 80s, experimental things. But “After Hours” is very bright and colorful, and melodic and you little bits of Italian opera in it. It’s all done with samples. There is a kind of humor in it. The cd has a lot of life to it, I thought, in terms of humor and how the instruments...
DA: Yes, it is a very sprightly cd, a lot of it. And you’ve got, for lack of a better term, the Coffee Suite on there as well. I don’t know the genesis of that one. Where is that originally from?
HS: Well, I think it is just a nice contrast to the music [of “Lord of the Rings”]. People became much more aware of my work from “Lord of the Rings”, so they kind of relate everything you did to this music. Which is really… This is music that I created for this particular story. And it isn’t really at all like a lot of other things.
DA: It’s own beat.
HS: You hear a little bit of an elements of that in my work before writing this piece. There are little fragments here and there. But I am in this edition… I don’t really say where everything comes from.
HS: I think that’s part of the fun of it. I was releasing it…. It’s under my own name. And I don’t really say even necessarily that it isn’t film music. But I think that is the surprise of the series that things will be coming out on it and you might not always know where the music is coming from.
DA: It’s a fantastic cd. It’s really surprising.
HS: I have more coming. I have more of them. (Laughter) And we have the opera, too, I am working on to release that, I think maybe next year.
DA: We should also mention that we are here ostensibly for the Radio City performances this coming weekend.
HS: Yes, next Friday and Saturday.
DA: Yes, moving that from… it music has been in the film, it’s been adapted into the six movement Symphony, and now it’s returning to the film but in a different form. So there is some adaptation required there.
HS: Years ago I did a movie called “Naked Lunch” in the 90s and then around 2000 did live to projection concerts with Ornette Coleman and we did it in Belfast, Ireland, with the Ulster Symphony and at the Barbicon with the BBC Concert Orchestra. And Ornette played live to the orchestra and I conducted it to the screening of “Naked Lunch” with the dialogue. It’s not a silent film. And so when I did the Complete Recordings, when I released all the music for “Lord of the Rings”, there are 10 cds. They came out over three years starting in I think ’05 maybe, that was the first one. So 5, 6, 7… it took three years to put them out. I had never actually heard the music in this form. I had never sat down and listened to three hours in sequence of music I had written for “Fellowship of the Ring”. Just as when I read your book, I think, oh my god, it’s true! (Laughter) All that is there! That was what I was saying about Tolkien; it wasn’t a grand plan. So you look back on it. An illustrator once said to me about writing, and people ask me about writing: do you get hung up or do you have good days and bad days… And what this illustrator said to me is: Just keep the pencil moving. And I thought, “Oh right, I know exactly what he means!” And so I follow that every day. Writing is only writing when your hand is gripping the pencil. And actually in music, you know, you write sketches with a pencil, and if you do that even only a few hours a day it is amazing how much music you will actually write. So if you are doing that for many hours in the process of creating these scores, eight or ten or twelve hours a day, whatever, it’s such a linear process. Because music is a linear thing. It’s all those staves with everything going this way (gestures a line from his left to right). So if you are writing, and it’s playing and it’s going, you don’t even… are not always looking back… I kept note books and stuff to refer to… the thematic,… but sometimes I was going so quickly that I just referred to the theme in my mind and I think that was part of the development. I didn’t always remember or take the time to go back…. To meticulously go back, and oh, yes, that went exactly like that or this chord went to this, or this progression happened in this way, or this melody went… so I just wrote a new version of it and it kind of progressed! So that was part of the work too, how the thing just evolved.
DA: We can argue that your intuition served you well on that.
HS: Well, I think… and I had good collaborators and it was a stressful project, I must say, to write that much music in that much time… you know, three years nine months was not a long time to write and orchestrate it and to record it. The recording took months to do. And there was the editing and the working with the artists and producing the recordings. The recordings probably took maybe 25%... probably 75% creating it and 25% recording, working in the studio to realize what you had written.
DA: Well, I think the Complete Recordings that are here tonight are a wonderful representation of what was achieved over this immense project.
HS: Yes. I finally heard everything in these recordings. And I thought I wonder what it would be like to play the piece. Just do a concert and hear this whole piece in its entirety. Because previous to that all that I was playing was the Symphony, which is a two hour piece based on ten and a half or eleven hours of music. I had conducted it many times, but it’s only two hours, and it is six movements, two movements from each part of the trilogy. The actual “Lord of the Rings” book is actually six books, so these movements related to the six… But it was the whole story, so it was edited a lot. So until the Complete Recordings and the idea of doing the concert and playing all the music and then I thought, well how do you play all the music. It’s going to take 3 hours to play. And orchestras don’t like to play for three hours. (Laughter) They don’t. Because there is a certain logistic to it. I have commissions to do new pieces and I have… time and music relates very much together. Everybody wants to know how long everything is. And as a composer you are not always going: I don’t know how long it’s going to be, I’ll figure that out. But all the commissions are all based on time. “We don’t have time! You’ve got to do… It’s a concert… is it a fifteen minute work, is it two hours, what is it?” and there’s union rules and all that. So there’s a certain logistic to actually performing live music. So the way to do the three hours, was by using the film and playing to the film and putting an intermission in it made it like a complete evening’s work. So that’s how it evolved. And so if you come to the concert you will hear the complete score to the film, on a huge digital screen, 60 feet, I think it is. And there is over 300 musicians, and the Swiss orchestra, expert musicians, playing. Ludwig Wicki is the conductor, he worked for years, and I worked with him in Switzerland developing this piece, and how he learned it and how he synchronized to the film. And the Collegiate Choral, an incredible vocal chorus and the Brooklyn Youth Choir, and Kaitlyn Lusk. They are all really kinda expert in doing this work and they performed it around the world many times. So it looks to be a really great concert.
DA: It is a truly amazing experience. As close to a live performance of a film if there is such a thing, then this is what it is. Part of it is on the screen and part of it is being brought life right before your eyes and ears. It’s a pretty remarkable feature.
I think I am getting the high signs we are going to open up to some audience questions, should there be any?
Q: How did Peter Jackson choose you as right for it? And how do you feel about movies that just use music, you know, songs and they don’t give it to a composer because that is the trend now?
HS: What was the first part of that question?
Q: How did Peter Jackson choose you?
HS: I just got a phone call actually from Peter and Fran Walsh and Barrie Osborn from New Zealand. You know, when you work in movies I think people know your work. So they knew pieces that I… they knew something about my work from other films, I think, and they thought I would be a good person to work on this film with them.
Q: And what do you feel about just using songs versus the kind of music you do?
HS: Well, I think that there are many ways to tell a story. If that works, if that is a good way to tell that particular story, then that is fine; it works.
Q: I love the documentary that came with the music from “Return of the King”; I watch it many times and I don’t watch too many documentaries over and over again. But this one…
HS: Yes, Elizabeth… is that Elizabeth’s documentary?
Q:…I get a lot out of it. Where you are with Rene Fleming and you show how you do the process of the music. Is there any way that is going to be expanded or more of that coming out?
DA: Next week end.
HS: The documentary? That is an interesting question, because we are showing a longer version of it on Sunday at Angel Orensanz… Maybe Joshua knows? How do you find it, Joshua?
Joshua Mehr: We’re screening it at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on Sunday, October 11.
HS: Yes, next Sunday, a week tomorrow.
JM: If you go on to www.theradiocitylotrconcert.com you can find out all the information… around 11 or 12 o’clock.
HS: It was made by Elizabeth Cotnoir and I think it is about 18 minutes, and then she expanded it to about 30 minutes. The longer version is actually quite nice. I just looked at it myself this week. I hadn’t seen it in a long time.
Q: The whole leitmotivic approach to writing. The more you got to know the story and characters and got a better scope of things, do you ever go back and realize that maybe one of the leitmotifs you assigned wasn’t appropriate and how much of that was part of the process?
HS: Right, no I don’t think I did go back, but I did… but the way that they were used was really an intuitive process. Like the Ring has three motifs, Gandalf doesn’t. And I didn’t know why until later. Really! Like to me writing to the story is kind of an emotional response. I know there is an intellectual part of it. But I wasn’t intellectualizing too much. But I realized… I just knew that when I saw a character on screen I didn’t want to hear a thematic idea connected to it. And I realized that because Gandalf is kind of a messenger, a link between all these things. I did write a piece for Gandalf the White, but not for Gandalf the Grey, like in “Fellowship” there is no thematic piece that’s relates to him. So why some things had certain themes to them was just a part of the story telling, for clarity. Maybe Gandalf didn’t need to be clear as to who this person was. But I know at the Council of Elrond, Peter said to me, when Boromir stands and speaks you should play a fragment of Gondor because we don’t know who the character is and you are going to want to use that piece later on in “Return of the King”, six hours, you know, four hours later. Peter knew that, the screen writers knew that, so he would point out important moments. That is how we batted them back and forth
DA: It can also be said that the themes developed in tandem with the characters. The Gollum that we saw in Fellowship, we didn’t really see too much of his menacing side yet. So the theme associated with him there is more of his pitiful side, the sorrow of this creature that has been corrupted. As he became a more menacing character, new thematic ideas were introduced. So it isn’t so much a case of abandoning ideas; it’s just moving them forward along with the story.
HS: It was also little subtle things I would do with the orchestration. Like with Gollum in “Two Towers” I used a cimbalom as part of his sound. It’s a middle European instrument that is related to the dulcimer. The dulcimer is an older instrument, a folk instrument, and I used the hammered dulcimer and used a bit of it in the Shire in “Fellowship of the Ring”. And it has a nice Celtic sound to it. You also use it in American music, too, in early American music. And so the cimbalom is a darker sound; it’s a bigger instrument; it’s got more overtones. I thought it was good to develop that dulcimer sound for Gollum because he was originally a hobbit, Smeagol; he was a river hobbit who then found the Ring and became Gollum over years. So that was a way to relate that sound… of the hobbit sound to this darker character. Things like that. A tricky little orchestration things were used. The whistle became… the tin whistle which was a folk instrument became James Galway’s beautiful silver flute in “Return of the King”.
DA: I think that is why we talk about this being such a unique leitmotivic approach because there isn’t that stuck in the mud essence, where you establish this in reel one in “Fellowship”: this is the Boromir [?] motif by this instrument for the next twelve hours of film, it’s allowed to change with the story.
HS: It kind of evolved through the film. And I thought that hammered sound was good for Gollum, because he was kind of twitchy and this is an instrument which you play with beaters and it’s got this vibrato to it and I thought it matched this character well, the sound of it. I usually write purely compositionally at first, and then I do the orchestration later. I don’t usually think in terms of the instruments until later, and then I think about how to realize the composition, you know, how to play it basically, and what instruments are going to be used, how big it will be or small.
Q: Going back to the Symphony, has there been any talk of releasing the Symphony or the live recordings in cd form?
HS: We are going to do a recording of the Symphony. Yes, we have been talking about it this year. I kind of waited on that because I had all the original Recordings coming up. But the Symphony we’re going to do: we have two ideas for doing it, one in England and one in Switzerland and so I think maybe next year we are going to move forward on it.
Q: Are these two, the choir and orchestra, to record your music, and do you know this early if maybe “The Hobbit” is going to be the same London Orchestra?
HS: Yes, it will be in England, the recording. The London Philarmonic did most of the recording and it was an orchestra that I met in the 80s. They recorded “The Fly”; it was actually the first score that I did in England and then I did many scores with them. And they are a very wonderful English orchestra; they play Glynebourne and they play at opera festivals that they have been doing for many years. So they play in the pit and they also play concerts and they have had many great music directors over the years. Incredible orchestra. So they are really the sound of “Lord of the Rings”. They did the bulk of the recording, most of the recording. And the choir… London has a wonderful tradition of boys’ choirs, so I used an incredible boys’ choir, the [London Oratory] School Schola choir in London and the soloists all came from that, the boy sopranos. And then Terry Edwards is a well known English choir director and he assembled all the choirs and did a lot of conducting of choirs himself. He and I worked together for years with the vocal artists.
Q: Mr. Shore, can you explain working with Tim Burton on “Ed Wood”.
HS: To explain it? Just to comment on it? Well, that is a period that I really love actually, “Ed Wood”’s world of the 50s, and Lugosi… And it just sort of dropped in my lap really, the project. Henry Mancini was actually going to do that film, but he got sick. He wasn’t able to do it. I dedicated my score to him. And it was just a lovely project… it was really the perfect thing for me because I love that period and it was such a fun world to work in. You couldn’t do anything wrong. Whatever you did, was great! (Laughter) Because that was his… No matter how bad anything was, it was fantastic. It was just a fun thing to work on, and Tim Burton makes a great creative environment to work in.
Q: I have two questions about your approach to composing. Do you typically start with melody or harmony? And also do you use any notation programs such as Sibelius or Finale?
HS: Right. I don’t use the computer to write. I write in pencil and I do the orchestration in pen. But a copyist will put it into Finale or Sibelius. And then I’ll correct… I’ll go through all the scores. Because the parts are now all printed… nobody likes a copy in hand anymore, they like to print it out from computer programs. I actually started as a copyist; when I was in school I did copying by hand, like New England Conservatory theses and stuff like that just to make a few extra bucks on the weekend. I’m pretty adept at writing and I always wrote when I was a kid. And in terms of writing, it depends on what kind of piece I am working on. Like, I am writing a piano concerto, so I work at the piano. But I don’t usually work at the piano. I am a woodwind player. A lot of music I am just thinking about in my mind. But because I am writing so specifically for the piano, I want to feel it and touch it and just absorb it. Writing for orchestra, orchestration and all that, I just do that in my head from years of recording, from being on the podium. The way to learn orchestration is to conduct because you stand in front of the orchestra and you hear everything and you learn everything from conducting it. And for film, I would say it’s not really melody or harmony; it’s more…. There is a rhythmic feel to it. You know when I look at a scene… if I write during film music, I look at the scene and then I just set tempo and meter just from watching how the scene works. Cause film is editing and movement of actors and how speech, dialogue is delivered. It all has to do with tempo. So that actually becomes the first thing. It’s just the feel of how you would write for that.
Q: How much time it…
HS: Well, time is just a linear thing. One of the reasons I like film, about writing music for it, is because I thought of them both in the same way. They are both linear processes. Because film is that 35 mm strip running through a projector,… or maybe not any more, but it used to be. (Laughter) It is just this linear thing, and if you turn that sideways, just think of those lines of staves going like that (gestures), those five parallel lines. It is a very similar type of thing. Music and film how they both relate so well. And actually it’s lovely to see this live concert. You see that so well! And I think that’s the beauty of it. Music is just playing and just filling the room and the imagery is going. And everything’s moving. And you really don’t see that when you see a film because once you record the music, it’s almost as if you stopped it. It’s like a photograph. It’s no longer really moving. Now it’s just… and then it’s put in the film and so you hear it in the film but it’s like you’ve taken something; there is a sort of static quality to it. And it always plays exactly the same. Whereas in the concert, the liveness of it; it’s like it’s happening right in front of you! It’s really an amazing thing! It’s not really like anything I can think of… It’s not a concert; it’s not watching a movie, it’s really a unique kind of strange experience.
DA: It’s its own thing! It’s interesting at these performances, you always find that more than anything else you can get yourself into the mind of what the performers must be experiencing. At very still moment in music they are still tapping down the tempo inside their brains (gestures a repetitive tapping) and it has that forward momentum. That passing of time to it, all the way. It’s amazing.
Q: Did your relationship with Peter Jackson change after you worked on “King Kong”? Will that affect your approach on “The Hobbit”? And also, will the music of “King Kong” be featured on your upcoming cd series?
HS: Yes, I think it might. Eventually I will get around to it. And you know, things change over time. “Lord of the Rings” is an incredible collaboration; it’s the result of many people working together in an amazingly collaborative way, and all working towards a common goal. By doing one project like this, doesn’t guarantee that everything is going to be like that. And actually as you see with film, time changes how people work together and situations change. You can’t always match the identical process that you had in something that was really successful like “Lord of the Rings”. “The Hobbit” is being directed by Guillermo del Toro, Peter is producing it and writing the screen play, so it’s a new group of people, some older experienced people, but it’s not the exact same people making the movie. So it’s kinda interesting I think. And looking at creating two films in the image of the trilogy that we made and do it in the same process, so we come up with films that have the same quality.
Q: I was just wondering if you had seen or at least heard the score to the stage production of “Lord of the Rings” in 2008 and what you feel about it. Have you heard the music of one of the composers… what was his name?
HS: You are talking about the musical? A. R. Rahman was one of the composers, yes. I saw it in London actually. I went with Peter Cobbin who was the engineer at Abbey Road who had worked with me; we worked together for years, almost four years recording, doing our version of “Lord of the Rings”. So one night we bought some tickets and we sat in the audience, and we just sat back like theater goers to watch this… I mean I really liked it because I didn’t have to do anything! (Laughter) I could just sit there in a dark theater and watch somebody else try to do “Lord of the Rings”! I thought it was cool, like wow! This is great! It succeeded on some levels and it didn’t on some others, but I must say that just sitting there for two or three hours in the theater was completely fantastic. We had a great time.
DA: I think we need to move over to signing mode! Thank you very much, Howard.