Our good friend Timdalf took the remarkable time and effort to transcribe last month's Orensanz presentation. If you've got a free block of time (it's long!), please free to read the results below. I still think this was our best presentation of the Radio City weekend.
In book news, today began slow and got increasingly busier. We should have a few announcements soon, I think. We're slowly but surely making the transition back from business to the creative end of things. I'm always happier in the latter world! Anyway, I'll try to address posts and emails tomorrow since I ran out of time today.
Enjoy the reading, and thanks, Tim!
Interview-Discussion between Howard Shore and Doug Adams
Angel Orensanz Foundation – October 11, 2009
(Due to technical difficulties the initial minutes of the conversation was not recorded: some damn fool of a wizard forgot to turn on his mic for several minutes! But using some video also taken that morning some of the omitted material is included. So after the gaps in the first page, this transcription unfortunately begins some minutes after the discussion had started. About 40 minutes of continuous discussion up to the Q&A segment is transcribed below. Then the Q&A segment begins and runs to the end. There were some words in the recordings that were hard to decipher, so occasionally, very occasionally, guesses had to be made.
Doug and Howard take their seats on stage to applause.)
HS: Thank you very much, indeed, for being here. Thank you Elizabeth Cotnoir for that extensive piece you created [referring to her 35 minute bio pic “The Journey’s End” that preceded this discussion], but especially Doug Adams.
DA: Well, we have done about five of these talks over the past week, so it’s at the point where we’re worried that we don’t repeat ourselves and we also want to make sure that you don’t think we’re [inaudible]. So I think we are going to talk today… obviously about how all this came to be. We just saw “The Journey’s End” so we might be nice to back up a bit and talk a bit about the journey itself. I think we’ll talk a bit about the upcoming “Music of the Lord of the Rings Films” book today. But we would really like to give a chance to allow you guys to ask questions and open that dialogue up a bit.
[gap in the recording]
DA: …ten years ago I think it would have been unimaginable. We began our private art form and we are seeing it in Radio City Music Hall is unbelievable, and I imagine a very rewarding, thing for you.
HS: Yes, I didn’t think when I started out that we would… I actually thought that we would do that production of the concert maybe once; I just thought of doing it in Lucerne. Joshua Mehr is here today from Columbia Artists. and we worked together with the artists for years now doing the Symphony. Then the projection concert…. And I actually thought it was something too difficult in different cities, but Joshua thought it could be done. I thank you Joshua for that.
M. Shore acknowledged the extensive help that Joshua Mehr the producer for CAMI (Columbia Artists Management, Inc.) provided for not only the Radio City Music Hall concert-film nights but throughout the ancillary events: the panel discussion at Paley Center for Media, at Barnes and Noble, the Tolkien manuscript exhibit at Fordham near Lincoln Center and this set of talks at Orensanz.
HS: …for me that wrote it. As a composer you are always keenly aware how well things are actually being performed, but I can tell you the performance was just fabulous. If you know the recording, that he [Ludwig Wicki] does it so precisely. It’s all about the music, but he has to synchronize it with the film. I actually didn’t think it could be done very much, the great length, the score for “The Fellowship” is three hours and we had extra forces in the chorus yesterday. But to perform the piece “The Fellowship of the Ring” even at a minimum of 225 musicians and last night I think we had 368, so the choirs were increased. The choir we recorded with had 80 mixed choir and last night I think we had 150 and we had 40 children and 110 children last night, so a lot of people joined in and wanted to participate. So I didn’t think you could really do it, simply because of the sheer forces, the size of it and the technical considerations. But now Ludwig has done “Two Towers” which is incredible. And now he is working on “Return of the King”. Each score to learn it for him takes a year and he spends an enormous amount of effort learning it really the way a ballet dancer…. the only way to learn it…. because although he is conducting it is also a body movement, he also has to physically feel the music and how the music fits to the film to be able to do that. At a certain point the intellect has to turn off and it just becomes a physical expression of the music. And to learn that really takes a long time. When he’s done “Return of the King” he will have physically learned to express ten and a half hours of music through his body and to convey it to the musicians. It is a really amazing achievement.
DA: Incredible. What’s involved from your end, from your team, to take the music as it was composed for the film and to have it ready for performance, to play in a live performance.
HS: You saw a little bit from Elizabeth’s film of the scores,… I was working on the scores…
[gap in recording]
HS: …added scope to it. So the pieces that I did for the recordings of the scores were quite long, but they were only maybe maximum five to six minutes long in terms of the recording session from one piece to another. Then Sue Sinclair who works with me in Tuxedo, New York, in our studio, you saw it in this film; it’s in Tuxedo, New York. You saw a bit of that. I live in the forest. It’s kind of a nineteenth century… I kind of write in a nineteenth century world and in pencil and paper and pen and then there is a really high tech element to it and I sort of go in that car between the two. And I am going from one century to another through the forest over the hills past a lake over to the studio which is in this little town and the studio has very high tech equipment for editing and listening and video-conferencing and everything that is required to work on films that are very technologically rich. You have to be equipped to be able to work on it. So I would write the scores in an older fashion and then the production would be staged from the building and the synchronization of the music that I was writing would be done in the building as well. I would look at the film and I would do mock ups, demos, regular recordings in New York, and a lot of work done on the Internet. But the scores are in small pieces, so to do the concert last night they actually all had to be edited, stitched… everything had to be put together into two rather large scores, so when Ludwig played the piece last night, he had one big book on his podium, and that was right up to the end of the Council of Elrond, the forming of the Fellowship. It created an amazing intermission, it couldn’t have been planned better; it was quite fortuitous that it worked out so well. I think in Two Towers we do have an intermission, but it is not quite as beautiful as the one in Fellowship, but we had to find a place to pause. So there is a certain logistic to doing a concert like this with orchestra, there are personal considerations, there is the length of the score, the parts, the cueing, and creating Ludwig’s working from a visualization system. Because we don’t use any sound, other than the sound of the film. There was no audio cueing for the conductor last night. I didn’t want to do that. I like to conduct with just hearing the orchestra, and I like to do it all visually. It’s actually an older style, something that was really created in the 30s, in the 1930s, when sound recording became possible for film. When they did scores in the 30s, the way they synchronized it, is they would run a projector with the film, 35 mm, and they would take a grease pencil and mark up the film with a grease pencil and if you drew lines, diagonal lines, on the film, say from left to right, and if you ran it through the projector that was interpreted as a just a solid line going across the screen. And when it got from left to right the music came in. So it gave you a visual warning for when the music started. So that is how actually film music was recorded for ever, from the very beginning, that’s how we tell. So we used that system last night, it’s just an additional system. We don’t use grease pencils; the computer is doing the exact same thing. That’s from the 30’s. They used to have to punch the film, the 35 mm film, just with a mechanical puncher and that would create those pops in the screening of it and that would also give you a visualization, sometimes for a tempo. So Ludwig has learned that system. He wasn’t familiar with it when I first met him. I introduced him to it. So I tailor made the program for him. Really, if you think [of it], like the ballet. I showed him how to do…, to conduct and do it as a ballet, from learning it visually. And I think maybe that’s a good analogy. Because I think in ballet your body is physically being moved through the space, but your eyesight [is involved]; it is very much a product of what you are visually seeing, the other dancers, how you relate to the other dancers, how to move. And the dialogue is very important because you could, in a sense, learn to do it, this whole piece that he did last night, just from listening to it. You could learn the dialogue and the effects. You could learn how it all sounds. And at some point you could probably take the Auricle cueing away and you could do it from just the sound of it. You would know exactly where you were. So to create the scores takes about a year of work to put them all together, and to edit them. When I do the recordings, the scores are changed. Because I am orchestrating them and I am also conducting them. During the recording, from the podium I will change the music as I am hearing it being performed. Sometimes I will do it based on the quality of the performance. If I don’t have the brass…, because there is a human quality to the performance. It’s not always going to be exactly the same. So on certain recording sessions, if I have certain players and they are not necessarily playing as strongly as they might, or as another group might, I might adjust the dynamic. Or I might add a weight to certain sections; that I will do that right from the podium just to create the sound in the room acoustically because I know it’s being recorded for the film. But then to go back and do this concert last night I have to go back to those scores and see what the changes were from what I wrote to what I actually recorded from the podium and what is in the film, and then I make adjustments to the scores. And Ludwig was here from Switzerland this week and we met twice last week, still adjusting for this concert. Because there is so much music, that he was going through it and he will say, “You know here, I think maybe here you used the contrabassoon.” And I would look at the score, and it didn’t say contrabassoon, but I took out my podium scores, which I archived, and sure enough from the podium I just indicated to the copyist who was there, I said, “Just take this part, and put this in the bassoon, so the contrabassoon could play this part you will get this octave, so you get this lower sound.” So we were still tweaking it, still making adjustments to it! You know something, last night I made two notes about the score! You know. At the Ford of Bruinin, I thought if the brass could play a little longer before the water came up; it wasn’t like that in the film the sound was stronger, but in the concert they could play a little longer before the water… and then I also thought I might look at the voicing of the brass when Gandalf is transported off when the eagle arrives and he is taken off Orthanc, and I thought there was something about the voicing that I wanted at least to look at, that I wanted to think about making it better and have a little more of what I hear in my mind.
DA: There is that old saying in the arts that a work of art is never finished it is just abandoned at some point. But the abandonment seems to be a few years off now. But we have also spoken a lot this weekend, this last week as a matter of fact, about the different themes and how they all work together. I thought it may be interesting today to step back and look at the overall sound of The Lord of the Rings. Often people who are familiar principally with your work on the Ring think this is just how what he sounds like as a composer and this is a fine match that just worked out well. But this is a very specific voice that you have developed for this project. I want to look at Crash, Silence or these other scores that are a highly different sound world…
HS: It’s true. And having written this piece, people think that everything I write is like this, which sometimes can cause problems, they think what good is that, because they don’t want… they think everything you are going to write is going to sound like this. Or they will think that… And then if you write something different, they are surprised since they are not used to it. And of course I did write some things that are not like this. I wrote this piece when I was in my late fifties and I have been writing music since I was ten, so it took over probably forty years to create this piece. And it just gave me knowledge about orchestration, conducting, recording, the orchestra, years and years and years to learn to be able to write it. There have been pieces leading up to it. I guess Looking for Richard has a range of ideas in it and the shape of the piece I wrote. Elizabeth wrote a Latin text and it uses choir and orchestra. And there are probably other …, something else that has operatic qualities, like the finale in Silence of the Lambs the way that it relates to drama. I started working with the idea of opera and using not that I was working with choral groups so much, but that I was working with the idea that is inherent in opera, the dramatization of dramatic media. Which is essentially is at the root of what film is. The Lord of the Rings musically is a piece that uses those techniques, it’s using opera techniques. And it is written in an older style. I talked about the recordings of the 30s and the music was rooted really in the tradition, the golden age of music, of opera, the music of the films of the 30s and 40s. And this was really Peter’s idea, to do that. And actually when I started working on the film… You know, you really don’t know everything, but you learn it as you are going along. I didn’t know Peter that well. And I didn’t really know that that was the way that he was going to do the film. It seems obvious now. But I had done a lot of films… I have worked on maybe 50, 60 films, and I don’t think I had ever really worked with drama in this specific creative way. And you mentioned Silence of the Lambs and there are operatic gestures, in Clarisse, there are certain gestures in it that are very operatic dramatic gestures that are of an older period, but they are just fleeting, they just happen for ten seconds. When I realized… it took me a while to realize that Peter actually wanted me to do the whole film like that. It was a little bit of push and pull. Because I started the scene… I was watching the film last night… When I first went to New Zealand and I came back and I read a lot for months and months, four months, maybe, of just research and I looked at different things that I was interested in, from art and from other stories. I had to learn so much and catch up. It mostly involved a lot of reading. And I wrote a theme for the Shire, and I wrote a theme for the Fellowship and I never changed those. I wrote those pieces; I played them for Peter. I never really adjusted them. I developed them. But I felt strongly after four months of research that I could put everything aside and I could express a simple idea about the Shire that became the theme… and express the idea of the Fellowship growing and how the group grew, how the idea grew in the orchestra and is essentially the piece that you hear at the end of the Council of Elrond. You hear snippets of it through the first part of the film of the Fellowship. And so I wrote this piece and Peter heard those pieces, but I hadn’t scored any of the film. I started in the Mines of Moria because Peter called me and said, “Let’s show some of the film at the Cannes Film Festival!” which is kind of unusual – to use an original score for essentially what was a preview really of the film. He wanted it to be done as well as possible, and I agreed that would score the Mines of Moria, a 26 minute piece. It is precisely what you hear in the film. He said, “Let’s record it here in New Zealand.” And so I went to New Zealand and I started working with him and I had a house on the bay, and I would write there and I would meet with Peter and we would discuss different ways of approaching it. And that first theme entering the Mines was written over and over, I just rewrote it so many times to actually have it, to understand how he wanted to use it. It seems natural now, but it actually took a while to understand the shape of things. And then I kept going through the Mines. So essentially working with thematic ideas, again it was an idea of Peter’s to use it for clarity. And I wasn’t used to that in films. Because actually working… Directors are very different. Working with David Cronenberg is actually the opposite of working with Peter Jackson. David Cronenberg films are very ambiguous, he wants it to be that way; he doesn’t want to tell the audience; he doesn’t want totally clarity in his films. He wants the duality there. Look at films like He wants you as the audience to figure it out, to do the work. He expresses the ideas in a much different way. Peter wanted real clarity, because he felt the story was so complex, and people who had not read the book, and were not versed really well in Tolkien lore and language and his mythology might really have difficulty understanding the story, and knowing who these people are. And I watched the film last night and I think the beauty of The Fellowship is clarity of the story telling. I am still actually amazed at it, how well it’s done. Peter makes it look so easy. He told the story of “The Fellowship of the Ring” in three hours with such beauty and such clarity. And I really didn’t even understand that type of filming because as I say it’s not really a modern technique that is used in “Fellowship”. They don’t make films like that, and most of my experience was in films that were not trying to be so specific, so clear and defined. And to get into that frame and to understand it and understand how to use themes and use motifs was through Peter’s urging really for total clarity in the story.
DA: Fran Walsh provided the foreword for the book we have been working on, which we will talk about a little bit. In her foreword it is mentioned that I believe it was the music for Dwarrowdelf, that when she heard that for the first time that was the first time she realized we could have an all time classic piece of music on hand, the entire score. She had her eyes opened, and thought this could be the real thing. You talked about your process in making films is not all is revealed as you are getting into it. Was there ever a specific moment, pivoting, when you could say, Oh I see what this is, I see where we are making, or what we have made. Or is it retrospective, you look back and you understand what it is…
HS: I think it is more looking back. When you are in it, you are so close to it. And of course you didn’t have You just worked It was interesting to work in Moria because you just put one foot in front of the other. And I always felt like Peter was Gandalf, he was leading us through, and sometimes I was Gandalf and he was Frodo and roles kept reversing, and sometimes I would encourage him, but he was often the leader. And you just felt like you were putting one front of the other. And I said to him, “You just feel like Frodo, you have this strange task, you do know where you want to go, I didn’t know the way, but you had the mission and you had to do it, and you felt a great responsibility to do it well. You had this weight of the world pressing on your shoulders. You felt the pressure of it, but you had good comrades, you had Sam, you had Gandalf, and you had Merry and Pippin, and Aragorn. You had them as real people, because it was a very close collaboration. And only through that could you really do this. You couldn’t do this kind of work if people were not really trusting and encouraging of the process. I always say that the sum was greater than the parts, because of Tolkien’s work; you had this great classic great book that we all loved. And we were all fans of his work, as anybody here. So we wanted to create it faithfully, truthfully and from our part, as we could. We had this great responsibility of doing it because it had never really been done. And luckily we had also good collaboration with the people who are making the film. Because any one of these little things could have been a huge issue that could have derailed it. And making a film like this is very… Last night you know Galadriel says, “You are on the edge of a knife.” Making a film is like that, you could fall any way, and it could have not been… Luckily it held together and there were so many… I have been part of other productions that were very successful, bands, Saturday Night Live, and you see how groups come together, people come together in a certain way, from different parts of the world for “Lord of the Rings”, but there was this common thread, which was Tolkien’s work. So you felt a responsibility of making his work come alive as opposed to… it wasn’t as though there were all these individual people doing it, it was this group trying to make something beautiful of what he created. That has sometimes galvanized people, so there is a greater thing. And everybody rises to the challenge. And you can succeed… it doesn’t always happen the way this did. Every production tries to do it, but it doesn’t always happen. There is an intangible thing to it. You can’t create it. It just happens or it’s not going to happen. Part of it was making this in New Zealand had its own karma to it; it wouldn’t have really succeeded if it had been made in another part of the world perhaps. People think this is a Hollywood movie, but it was the furthest thing from a Hollywood movie. It’s not a Hollywood movie at all, it was completely made in New Zealand, the costumes, the sets, the weapons, everything… they had nothing to start with. If you made this movie in Hollywood you would have back lots, they have costume departments, they have everything. In New Zealand they had nothing, they really started from scratch. I think when Peter made “The Frighteners” he had one computer. Now they have gone and built this movie making world to make this kind of film with this kind of beauty to it.
DA: We were speaking of overwhelming responsibilities and this might be a good transition into talking about art and collaboration on this book that we have been working on for a number of years. In 2001, when Howard was speaking about different projects he was working on at the time and of course I knew that all the worlds of Lord of the Rings was coming up, but out of journalistic integrity I was trying to keep what we were speaking of, but at the end of the conversation I said, You know we have this Lord of the Rings coming up and he said, Yes, I am aware of that, and he said, I am not sure exactly what it will be, but perhaps we can follow the process and we could create something at the end of it. I think this was in May of ’01, it was early on. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. What’s this going to be? The summer went by and I did not hear very much. Fall came around, and I think it was the end of October, early November and I received a cd in the mail from Abbey Roads Studios which was a confusing in itself because I usually don’t get such things, with a little note from Howard, saying, For your ears only. Let’s talk about this when we get a chance and see what we can do. But shortly after that in January of the following year I took my first trip out to his office in Tuxedo and we met and looked at the score, and the conducting scores and he said, Why don’t we get back together in a few months and we can watch the film together. And that sort of became an annual process. We would visit a couple of times a year and we realized that we were gathering so much material – and I am not even sure who initially proposed it – but it seemed the way to present all this was in a book form. You couldn’t really present this much material any other way. So that is something of the story since ’01, ’02 that we have been working on for a number of years. The initial work on the book right at the time…. Some of it became transformed a bit when the Complete Recordings came about. And then we spent a couple of years really assembling everything into the book. It was a pretty remarkable process. Howard always talks about it having “good bones” to build upon: you’re working with wonderful films, and working with the wonderful writing of Tolkien. And I think it was the same for me being able to come to a project that was so immaculately assembled with such a beautiful wealth of music it my job a foregone conclusion that I really didn’t have to nudge things around to be able to analyze them properly. Everything was laid out very very [well]. So that is what we have been working on for the better part of a decade now. And we hope to have it out in April if everything… if all the legal angels are in our favour. But as part of that process we have also assembled one more “Lord of the Rings” album that features… Howard’s talked about some of the compositions that he would change over the course of time. Or his initial drafts of themes still in electronic form. So we have assembled a number of these which actually fit together quite beautifully. It is an archive; we call it the Rarities Archive. So you can certainly go through and pick out to hear what this part of the Fellowship theme originally sounded like, etc. But you can put it on the whole disc and it has a nice emotional shape to it as well. And I guess that’s why I’m here.
HS: I thought that there was always going to be so much press, so much writing about it, that I asked Doug to really be… to document it in a music way. I didn’t think anybody would be really able to understand it or to do that. So luckily he agreed to do it. I gave him access to everything, the scores… slowly actually (laughs)… (DA: A matter of earned trust! Laughs) Yes, it took him a while, but he got access to everything and my notebooks, and he organized it, what I wrote, in a way, since I only knew it from the scores. He created in the book a wonderfully readable version of what I created in his own thoughts and his own writing. He connected it to the film, to Tolkien’s work; he connects the themes to each other, the motifs, in a way that I wasn’t totally aware of when I wrote it. Music to me is primarily an emotional language, especially in working with this kind of subject. And I didn’t approach it in a really intellectual way. The Tolkien book was created, I think I said in the documentary [over] 14 years, but I talked to the Marquette University [archivist] -- they have an exhibit at Fordham University -- where they have the Tolkien archives. He said he actually worked on it over seventeen years, but he took a year off, so he estimates it took 16 years to write “Lord of the Rings”. And I spent maybe four years writing it. And I also realized after the fact that Tolkien didn’t always know where he was going, and sometimes he would get a road block and he would have to stop. And if you look at the archives at Fordham you see him trying to figure out the chronology, he is trying to figure out where the story goes. Lots of charts that show the month and the year on the right and then show Aragorn or Sam and Frodo’s journey; he is trying to figure out how they related to different months, where they were, when they weren’t together in “Two Towers” or “Return of the King”. So he didn’t always know… I realized he was going step by step as well so I felt kind of better not having a grand plan. What I was doing was following his plan which I realized, of course, has a logic to it. But if I thought too far ahead it was too overwhelming. In Elizabeth’s documentary I hold up that score to “The End of All Things” and I make light of it, but actually it was always the most daunting part of it, was thinking that at some point I am going to have to write the music to the destruction of the Ring and whenever I thought about it I thought: Uh [oh…]! I couldn’t think too much. So I trained myself not to get ahead of myself. So would I literally just work phrase by phrase, a little bit; I just put little pieces in front of my desk. This piece is created and a kind of daily process, almost like a yoga process where you just do this thing every day and you just build it up, build it up and kept writing it. I didn’t know always how it was all going to work. What Doug figured out was how it all worked together. As I say I was Tolkien’s story, it was a very intuitive process for me. Gandalf the Grey does not have a thematic statement in “Fellowship of the Ring”, but actually Gandalf the White does have thematic pieces related to him. Gandalf the White is a more significant facilitator in the story, and here too, but, I don’t know, for some reason I felt he was always a leading character and other cultures and characters in the storyline would resonate more musically in the clarity of it But I think people understood Gandalf. He wasn’t such a mysterious character, you didn’t need to understand so much about him. He was always showing you things. So the things he showed you the music related to those things. So it was just a part of the storytelling, intuitively, whether things would have thematic themes for clarity or not. What Doug did in the book, which is so wonderful, he organized it and put it together. When I would approach it, as I have many times now, I am still learning things about it. What you saw here in the film here was mostly the recording sessions and things were being created during the recording sessions. Not really so much in the Fellowship, but they were later on as the films were being edited. So some of it was written… I got very fluid at the end. “The Fellowship of the Ring” took a year to write and I mostly had the film to work with and connected it to the film. And in “Two Towers” I had to be writing; I was still writing as I was recording. And in “Return of the King”. But by those films I had worked my way so easily into the story so that it became very intuitive. So the writing, say, the destruction of the Ring just happened one night. I was working in London and I had to write it, I think I was recording it. I hadn’t worked on it for a while but I had to finish it and orchestrate it. And I just did it. At some point you have to stop and have your work finished. But it became very intuitive.
DA: I think this is probably a good spot to see if anybody in the audience has any questions.
Q: I have two questions. First of all I would like to know what were your major compositional inspirations, your compositional influences. And the second question, could you go into you compositional process when working with thematic materials a little bit. You have a theme and now you have to develop it musically and integrate it with other thematic material.
HS: I kept a notebook, but it wasn’t always with me. Sometimes I would be writing… I mentioned this to Doug just recently, that I would develop a theme by not always going back to my notebook. I would just try to remember them. And by trying to remember them, I inherently would develop them. Because I didn’t always to back to them and see oh, I exactly did that. So it was a very fluid thing. In the Mines of Moria in “The Fellowship” Gandalf says, “They’re coming,” and you hear the Fellowship theme as they’re going through the mines and you see the orcs climbing the walls. You hear the Fellowship in three. It wasn’t a conscious thing. I don’t know why. But that day I just thought maybe I had written it that way. I was writing so much music that I changed meter there and it actually worked I thought well, it was so different and it made it exciting to hear it in that particular rhythm. So by not always referring back to my notes so specifically it kept evolving and changing.
Q: And the other one was about your influences.
HS: Well, they are really vast. The music that I wrote for the story I wanted it to have a sense of history. To feel that it was an antique piece. You are describing a world five or six thousand years ago and so I chose a language for this film that was really steeped in the mid-nineteenth century music. I used many modern influences flourishes, avant garde music from the 50s. There are all sorts of things in it. Even improvisation. But the language is always based in the mid-19th century language, really an opera language because I wanted to tell this story. Wagner’s works, and Bruckner, and Puccini, and Verdi, all composers that I love, they were using music to express ideas of story telling. They were using music to express thematic ideas. They were also saying, you could feel something in music. You have to understand that music before that period was more of pure form; it wasn’t trying to express an instance of emotion and that is a lot of music. The music of Bach is of pure form, you might be able to feel some things when you hear it, but he was not trying to express those ideas in music. Except maybe if you were on a high plane. That period is a way of using music to express story telling.
Q: I was just wondering if you could tell us anything about the music you are working on for The Hobbit?
HS: I can’t really tell you too much. We are really just… The idea has been around for a long time, The Hobbit. Peter and I talked about the Hobbit when we were making “The Lord of the Rings.” The idea has always been around and if the idea is around, you are kind of working on it. Writing music is a very internal process. You have to think it and feel, and then you begin the process writing it down. But it has to be in your mind. So in a way we have been thinking about it for years. It’s like the destruction of the Ring. And then there is a point where you actually have to write. It’s on paper exactly what you are going to create. So the process has started. I have met with Guillermo several times and looked at his wonderful notebook and drawings. We talked about the piece. Peter and I have talked about it and Fran. So the process is going on. And we are getting close to the actual shooting.
Q: I noticed in the documentary that you primarily use paper and pencil. Is there any specific reason that you don’t use a computer for composition?
HS: No, I don’t use a computer for composition. The pencil works well. (laughter) And I talked to an illustrator once, and I said, how do you do all these illustrations, they are so beautiful. You produce so much work! And he said, Just keep the pencil moving. And that was such good… Sometimes it’s just that simple To me the act of writing music is actually writing it, so until you are gripping the pencil and you actually putting notes down on the stave you are not writing music, you might be thinking about it. Having a computer or playing, to me, it is not writing it. That is playing it. A lot of people like to play it. I like writing it, I like dealing with the intervals. I learned to write when I was ten. I studied counterpart and harmony and then extending my studies. I really am still a student. So I have to go through that process. I do the counterpoint and harmony in pencil and I do the orchestration in ink because there is less drag and your arm, your hand suffers less. But that is what I was saying earlier about 19th century or 20th century, once you do the sketches and the orchestration it all goes into modern technology. So the copyist will take my sketches and put it into the computer and you saw in the documentary, those are computer print outs of what I have written in pencil. And then once they go into the computer I start using the technology to touch up the orchestration, I’ll mock it up and then I go into a more technological world for recording.
Q: What role did Tolkien’s poems and songs that are written in the text of the books themselves have on your inspirations? When you read them do you hear them in your own mind?
HS: They were really important and I had a lot of concern that we would be leaving them out. The idea came very early on. I said to Phillipa one day in New Zealand, I said, What are we going to do with the poems that are in the book and the songs. They are a very important part of the story. And she thought they could get into the screenplay in a certain way. I said, Maybe if we used singing, choruses and I could work the languages into the story through the music. She thought it was a good idea. It was just simply that. Because the piece that I wrote is essentially a choral piece. It was a way to put into a film the poems and the songs through music. You could work better in the technology of film where you don’t have time really to pause like Tolkien did and sing a song or read a poem or have two pages of a lyric. So it was just a way to put that back into the story through music.
Q: Other than the lyrical content that you mentioned from Tolkien, he often gave verbal descriptions of what something sounded like. So, did you often use anything that he did that worked into your composition?
HS: Well, yes David Salo talked about that a little bit. We worked really a lot with David. Mostly through the text on the Internet. We used the Internet a lot when we were working. People were at a lot of different locations in New Zealand, New York, London and people were moving around in a lot of locations so we worked with David a lot on translations and David would write out in international phonetics the sound for me so I would know how to set, because I was setting his translations to music into the score. And when we did the recording we worked with Roisin Carty she was from Ireland, and she was a very expert in the pronunciation, and she would work with the choirs, the children’s choir and the adult choir, and the soloists very specifically with each language and she would teach them the sound of these languages and I also knew from reading, and I also saw a film documentary on Tolkien where he talked about the sound of the languages and that it was very important to him. David Salo did as well, but the sound was what he was really after. The ear, and that relates to my work very much, because what I am doing is very much about the ear. So he being a philologist and a master of these languages actually created these new languages because to his ear they sounded more specific to his stories and created them through that. So we wanted that very truthfully to create them in the recording. And even choirs and singers last night were all taught international phonetics to sing in Quenya, Sindarin. They are doing as well as we can train them to do it.
Q: You mentioned that Tolkien was the guiding light for the project in putting people from various countries and disciplines and art forms together. I know that Christopher Tolkien is the living embodiment of his father; I was wondering if you had any comments from him about your work, or know how he feels about it?
HS: We didn’t a lot. I met Royd Tolkien; he was with us through many parts of it, and he was tremendously enthusiastic. The Estate recently resolved the thing that had been going on, you have probably read about it, and I thought it was wonderful to see the quote from Christopher saying how happy he was that The Hobbit was being made. I think that over the years that we worked on it, I think we may have gained their trust and they saw the effort that went into it and the beauty and the dedication to it. I think they must have felt that maybe we will do it honour, and do a good job, so I feel a little closer to them now after that.
Q: Howard, do you expect to be working with Doug in the future and collaborate on The Hobbit?
HS: I hope so…
DA: Yes. (laughter)
HS: We are going to continue. We formatted the book in a certain way. I want to do with Doug a really beautiful edition, so we are now actually working…. Doug has finished the book and now we are just working on the great layout of it. And we are trying to make the most beautiful edition of it now really. And that was what the delay really was. We were working on it for so long, and we were so close and we were trying to have it ready for these concerts in New York, but we were rushing things; we were pushing it a lot. I just felt that we could for the April concerts… if we could have a few more months we could do it such great service after all the work Doug has done. And it is more than just the layout and the beauty of it and the binding and the cover and all these things…
DA: We have spoken about the idea of not letting down the responsibility of the project: Tolkien’s writing is so incredible, the films had to come to that level, Howard’s music had to come to that level, and all that we have created in the form of a book has to come to that level as well. And Howard said we were pushing very hard to have things ready for this weekend, but ultimately we saw that we could come up with something that would be more in fitting with the tradition if we pushed that date a little bit. So we backed ourselves up a little bit and I think we will have something that will be significantly more beautiful. As far as future collaborations: the time lines seemed that they would dovetail well with The Hobbit and that is something that we will be looking at in the very near future.
Q: You spoke a little bit earlier about when you had musical ideas and you got them down. At that point do you already have in mind what instruments you think would be appearing or does that come later?
HS: No, actually it is a very linear process. I deal with just pure relationships, counterpoint, harmony, no color. I am really just looking at those two elements of music, tempo, meter, the real basics of music and how the pure, pureness effects how… because it’s a scoring process: the themes are created first, I write a lot of music away from the film, and now in the scoring process you are matching thematic ideas and it is very basic way to the picture. And then there is a second process after that which is orchestration which is really just asking yourself how do you realize this, how do you play this music, who plays it, why are we using those instruments, what other instruments beyond the orchestra could be used to express the cultures. There are a lot of instruments from all over the world, instruments from the Far East, from Africa, China, Japan, India, Celtic instruments used, Norwegian instruments used for Rohan, so that’s more orchestration. And then the next part is the performance which is the realization of what you wrote and that is with the film in the recording studio… and I conducted my scores. So there are things expressed in the studio as well, because there is a human aspect to it. All of this music is acoustic music; there are no electronic instruments used anywhere in the scores. So it is really a product of the environment of the room, the acoustics of the room, the music is created in a very specific room, so the room is really part of the orchestration, the physics of the room, the set up of the orchestra, the relationship of the instruments to each other. You saw some of that in the documentary when you saw Sir James Galway in a certain relationship to the orchestra, a kind of a concerto relationship. It’s all those things of the recording process. And then there is editing the recording and producing the recording and that creates the film score. And then the piece you heard last night, I remarked on that earlier, was another sort of process, to create a concert version of the score.
Q: This question is for both of you. What got you interested in film music very specifically.
HS: You can talk about that one.
DA: Well, I was a child of the 70s and 80s and grew up in that of big period Spielberg and Lucas films and all that sort of thing. And when I was pretty young my dad went out to get me the LP, the old 33 and a third of the story of “The Empire Strikes Back”. And he bought the wrong one! He came home with the score from it and he kept offering to take it back, you know “my little six year old…” And I said I’ll keep it, I like this. And I think this was my introduction, and a lot of people my age, to the sound of an orchestra. I seriously doubt if I would have heard much in the way of orchestra concert live or things like that. I think I heard it in film, and at that time you could still hear original scores on television. And that is largely what inspired me to go into the world of music as both a musician and a writer, journalist. And that was my introduction to it, through the compositions of the Williams’ scores of that period, learning Howard’s scores when I was still in junior high. That is why I started listening to Beethoven, and Mahler and Puccini and things like that, because I saw that what Howard was doing was the modern day equivalent of what his predecessors had done. And I still stand by that. I think this is really,… there is always the tendency to look at what is modern day music and say, This is all well and fine, but the old masters wouldn’t have done such a thing. Well, I believe, if I have my dates right, today is the ten year anniversary of first frames of the film that were shot. (applause) And here we are, this another event, as we were talking backstage the other night, they had worked at Radio City for a while. They had been there in the 80s for the screening of “Napoleon” and that this just dwarfed all of that. And that was something that people will remember, and how many kids in the audience last night are going to go home [saying], I know Howard Shore, let’s see what Mahler has got, let’s see what Beethoven has got. And we have the next generation that is coming up from this. I am sure Howard’s memory dates back further than mine but it’s a similar type of thing, you hear what’s modern and take it back and find that beautiful continuum.
HS: My interest has always been music. And I thought of film as a way to express ideas in music. I didn’t really know too much about film music when I started writing it. I had tried a lot of other things in music. I played compositions and I had lots of ideas, but I had very little access to musicians and recording studios, and performances. And so, I was on the road and I did radio dramas, radio comedies; I did television for years. So then I just progressed into films in the late 70s because with all the things that I had done, seemed like I had more ideas, I didn’t really have…. I felt that the music and all that I was doing for films,… I had expressed those ideas, learning how to do that, I thought films was a way to express more radical ideas in music. I came out of a very expressive, expansive period of music in the 60s which is where I come from. You know, coming of age then, so by the 70s I was really using films to express a lot of ideas that I couldn’t anywhere else. You can hear that; I did 12 films with David Cronenberg which are the backbone of all of the ideas that I had for music in films. And because David worked with a lot of ambiguity in his films, it actually allowed me a lot of scope. Films like “The Fly”, “Dead Ringers”, “Crash”, “Naked Lunch”, even early ones like “The Brood” and “Scanners”, allowed me a lot of scope to experiment musically in the studio because of the new technology, computers, electronic music and all things, so it was just a way to express ideas through music. I wrote and opera last year and that was another way to express other ideas beyond film. When I was younger I did some acting and directing. And film music, with something like “Lord of the Rings” was a way to combine my love of theater and drama with music. That’s kind of my background. We thank you all…