Today officially marks the two-year anniversary of the birth of this blog. In many ways if feels as if this blog is still practically a newborn finding its legs, in others, it feels like a savvy old friend that's been around for eons. But new or old, this blog has inarguably charted the most interesting year's in the development of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. As we've followed the strange, winding path that fate has set before us, we've overhauled the book one concept at a time. And with each conceptual emendation, the book has become something far more luxurious, more amazing than we could have ever imagined. While the blog's loyal readers may occasionally envision a project stuck in the gate by misfortune and happenstance, we involved in the production see a constant evolution -- a slow bloom that we now accept as a gift. And that's optimistic folderol...
As I've mentioned before, our later summer delay created a window that we chose to exploit in every way possible. I now look at that delay as an absolute miracle, because it allowed us to send a few more inquiries out into the world and create a dream team otherwise unavailable to us. Today I'd like to introduce you to the first and most significant member of that team.
Gary Day-Ellison is a London-based graphic designer with a wealth of experience in the industry. His list of credits and associations is far too detailed to number here, though you should check out his website. Suffice it to say he's a bit of a living legend. Lord of the Rings fans will best know Gary through his work on The Alan Lee Sketchbook, and this Children of Hurin calendar. And of course I have to laugh, since Gary also has prior experience working with Douglas Adams properties! But project after project you'll note the strong, clean, artful ideas that Gary brings to every endeavor. And so did we.
As of a few week's back, Gary has generously agreed to enter our fold. He is now officially hard at work designing The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. We've been bouncing ideas back and forth for a while now, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Gary's guiding concept has been that what Shore's music did for these films -- this story -- so must the layout do for this book. The design must bring the content to life and allow it to resonate off the page. Even so early in the process as we are, I am seeing this book reborn with an elegance, flow and function that I never could have imaged. I got into this project years ago because I believed analysis could be art, and Gary, I thank you for showing us how to achieve this.
By the way, Gary, too, is a blogger. He's generously agreed to postpone announcing his involvement until we here have had our fun, but I imagine he'll eventually have more details at his own little corner of blogspot, so be sure to bookmark his site.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate our second year on the web than by introducing you to the gentleman who will be designing the physical piece you'll soon be holding in your hands. Gary's actually been following the blog for a while now, silently looking over our shoulders to get a sense of this community. Please welcome him warmly! It is a sincere honor to have an artist of his caliber in our midst.
I suppose the bitter irony of the type of blogging we're attempting here is that the more there is to write about, the less time there is to write.
As you've probably gathered from the infrequent posting, I'm in just such a schedule right now -- a choking, thrilling, suffocating, inspiring period where so much is happening and developing, I'm hardly able to take stock.
We at Book Central did a meeting a week or two back in which we decided, "Well look, we've got all this work to do now. And that work both demands time, and provides it. So why don't we all just admit that we can't stop tweaking things and have at it!"
And so we did. To that end, we sent out a few more invitations and have welcomed some new guests into Book Central -- and have maybe even made a little history along the way. Introductions will be coming in time, but as we approach this blog's two-year anniversary (which I believe is this Sunday) I thought it'd be nice to remind you... we're still working! Your patience may be wearing thin after so long a wait, but as I've commented several times this week, this book is now the ultimate "fail up" endeavor. Every time something's gone sideways on us, it's ended up profoundly improving the book in the long run!
I'm in the middle of two awfully busy weeks, but thanks to you guys, I've had plenty to post! This transcript/translation comes from Sabsi, who deserves out gratitude.
By the way, yesterday's good news all came to pass just as it should have. Still waiting on permission to make an announcement -- as is the other party involved. Things are really going to get cooking next week. From one good day comes several rewarding months! You'll see...
It’s been ten years since Lucerne-based conductor Ludwig Wicki founded the 21st CSO, an orchestra that’s performing mainly [she says exclusively, but that’s not correct] film music. The anniversary-concert at the KKL yesterday evening was attended by two particularly great film composers: The creator of the music of the „Winnetou“-movies, Martin Böttcher, and Canadian composer Howard Shore, who wrote the „Lord of the Rings“-scores, composed a fanfare for the 10th anniversary of the Lucerne-based orchestra and is delighted how Ludwig and his orchestra perform his “Lord of the Rings”-scores live to projection. The interview with 48-year-old Ludwig Wicki was recorded at a café in Lucerne right before the concert. The first thing we were talking about was how classical musicians were contemptuous of his attraction to film music:
LW: When I was studying at the University, I didn’t dare to tell anyone that I’d like to do film music. It started when I was 15 years old, I had a gramophone record of the music for “Winnetou” and I wrote the notes down – and I just loved Morricone, but I also loved Verdi and classical music. And I noticed at the university that, whenever one started to talk about film music, it was regarded as being just tacky light music, so I suppressed this passion. But ten years ago I met the right musicians, Markus Wieser and Christian Müller, and they helped me to get the orchestra going. We realised that there were actually many musicians who weren’t disdainful toward film music and the audience, as we can see, agrees.
Q: So, you gave the musicians a chance to act out their suppressed passion.
LW: (laughs) Yeah, exactly! It’s a lot about emotion and that’s really great...
Q: Yeah, and one can’t imagine the Winnetou-movies – the scenes in which they are riding towards the sunset for instance – without music. That just wouldn’t work.
LW: No, it wouldn’t. And it was great to see the smile on people’s faces when we were rehearsing that piece. Somehow, they all reacted to this music in particular. So, it’s great to get the chance to perform it yourself. We all heard the music on our gramophone records, but getting the chance to actually play it yourself wasn’t possible in the past.
Q: Now, you are also performing a particularly epic work, Lord of the Rings, three movies, each runs for about two and a half, three hours. Howard Shore, the Canadian composer who wrote scores for about 70 movies like Silence of the Lambs, Aviator and Se7en and won three Academy Awards – how did you come into contact with him?
LW: Of course I knew his work and I knew Lord of the Rings, but I wasn’t a huge fan of theses movies. I really enjoyed the score though. A percussionist of the orchestra gave the [Creating the Lord of the Rings-]Symphony-DVD to me and so I called America till I found the right management. Pirmin Zängerle and myself lined up a concert for his 60th birthday “Howard Shore In Concert/The Music of Howard Shore” and invited him. He accepted the invitation and I think he really liked how we performed his music, so we stayed in touch and played the Symphony as well. That’s how the whole idea about performing the Lord of the Rings score live to picture started.
Q: The movie runs for about three hours, you have to perform for three hours in synch to the picture and you played in New York at Radio City Hall in front of 10.000 people. How does that work technically? You have two sound tracks one above the other, they have to be in synch perfectly. How do you do that?
LW: For Return of the King[??, I think he means FotR], we had an orchestra of 90 people, about 100 members of the choir, 50 boys, soloists,... so there were more than 200 people on stage. It’s really important to react fast, for you can’t be as flexible as in a normal concert. I get some help in doing this from a program created for modern complex Hollywood-movies, Auricle. There’s a screen on the conductor’s stand which doesn’t just show the movie but also particular signs that show me what to do. For example, Fellowship is divided into 27 pieces, a green stripe tells me when a new piece starts. Other stripes and punches also show me tempo changes and provide information about the beat. It’s difficult to play exact to the second with 250 people on stage, so I have to pre-estimate the musicians’ reaction to be in synch with the movie. I always have to have one eye on the screen, on the sheet music and the musicians and coordinate everything, so that’s a real challenge.
Q: You said that you loved the music, but weren’t a huge fan of the movie. Has that changed by now?
LW: Yes, absolutely! It was Howard’s idea that did it. He wanted the music to come to the fore... Incidentally, an Italian TV channel aired the Lord of the Rings yesterday and my wife was watching it and I heard it and thought: ‘Hmm... I know that...’ and it was fun to watch the Lord of the Rings in Italian, but really beautiful musical cues with choir just don’t work as good as they could: They edited the music, reduced and cut it and the sound effects are too dominant. For the live performance, they [the sound effects] were reduced, so the music is more like a symphony, which makes the movie friendlier somehow. And it’s fun that at every concert people are laughing at certain scenes, you wouldn’t expect so much humour in these movies, but there is. So, I’ve seen them quite often now and I have to say, I really enjoy them by now.
Announcer: That was Ludwig Wicki, conductor and founder of the 21st CSO, that’s celebrating its 10th anniversary. Canadian composer Howard Shore congratulated his way and composed a Fanfare for the orchestra, which sounded like this at its world premiere at the KKL yesterday:
21st Century Orchestra Fanfare, the anniversary present to the orchestra from Canadian composer Howard Shore.
[Note: I guess neither Winnetou nor Martin Böttcher ring a bell. - The Winnetou movies are a couple of German movies from the sixties based on Karl May’s novels about the friendship between a Native American (Winnetou) and a white man. They are still quite popular over here and Austrian television stations air them at least once a year. - Martin Böttcher wrote the score for the Winnetou movies and a couple of German crime series’, so he’s pretty famous here in Austria/Germany/Switzerland.]
I believe this completes the New York transcriptions, if I'm not mistaken. A huge thanks to Timdalf for assembling these. I can't imagine how long he had to listed to my whiny voice to do this!
Tomorrow we're back in the saddle with some book announcements. Stay tuned!
Doug Adams interview with Fictional Frontiers’ Sohaib
Prior to the Concert-Film Showing
Lobby of Radio City Music Hall - October 9, 2009
S: We are back on Fictional Frontiers with Sohaib. We are in Radio City Music Hall, Friday night, for the event that I have been waiting for the last couple of months, and that’s the viewing of “The Fellowship of the Ring” with a live orchestra. And here with me for a minute or two – he is in a mad rush… I mean, the New York crowd is always late, so I am not that concerned – Doug Adams the author of “The Music of the Lord of the Rings [Films]”. Doug is going to talk a minute about the score and what it means to him, because, Doug, in my opinion it is the standard for major scores for epic films a la “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Gone with the Wind” and the only other score that I can think of that I can put in its category is the “Star Wars” saga. Talk a little bit about “The Lord of the Rings” scores and what they mean to you personally.
DA: Boy! What they mean to me personally…!? I wouldn’t be here tonight without all this. This is pretty remarkable. I just flew in a little while ago. And it’s one of those days when everybody is irate at the airport and I have seen more people running around here screaming tonight than I even saw at the airport. So this is definitely a fired up crowd! “Lord of the Rings” has really, for the better part of the last decade, defined my creative life. I have been able to see all this from behind the scenes. Watch it come from these recording sessions in town halls to the middle of Radio City Music Hall, which is just an amazing arc. I think it’s unquestionably up there with the all time great film scores if not right on top of the heap. Something like this is completely unheard of. It is wonderful to see film music get this type of recognition! It’s just wonderful to see that it has touched this many people. It’s really incredible.
S: What separates the “Lord of the Rings” scores from, say, other films, because to me you can’t really separate the films from the scores?
DA: I think, yeah, there was the thought in the production that these scores could add something of structural significance to the films. We always knew that Howard Shore would provide something beautiful, something emotional, that would pull all of our heart strings, but I think what it really became was something that… It’s as much a film score as it is an adaptation of Tolkien’s writing. Everything that is in the book is in the score! And that is not an approach that most people take [in writing film scores]. Film music by its nature has to be a sort knee jerk thing so for someone to come at it with this level of pre-planning and architectural concern is unbelievable. And look what it’s done! Here we are!
S: I wish our listening audience could see what I am seeing here tonight! We haven’t even seen the production or the performance yet! Two quick questions before we head in. One, your work on the book that you have been working on for so long… talk a little bit about that. You know, where we can pick it up and where we can hope to see in an incredible work, which as you say, has been part of your life for the last decade!
DA: Right! Well, it’s exactly as I have been saying. We have been trying to approach this score on both an emotional and an analytical level, so you get this sense of the real structure of it and all of that is filtered through the incredible writing… not my writing, Tolkien’s writing! (laughs) So that people can have that emotional connection to something that is a very intelligent piece at the same time. We are looking to get it out, hopefully in the first half of 2010… we’re making a couple of deals… in fact we will go right back into production when this ends up on Monday, so we will be right back onto it after we get out of here. We hope, with any luck, to have it available in April for “The Two Towers” performances at Royal Albert Hall. That’s not a sealed deal, but that is our hope at this point.
S: And we are obviously going to mention your blog after this segment airs. But last quick question: The Hobbit? You know a lot of our listeners are “Lord of the Rings” fans and a lot of our friends are from TORn, The One Ring dot Net and they are going to kill me if I don’t ask you about “The Hobbit” scores. I know Howard is working on them right now and any tidbits of information you can give our audience so they can… so they don’t come after me, basically, in a nutshell! (laughs)
DA: I think if I start by divulging too many Hobbit secrets someone is going to come after me with some blunt instruments pretty quickly! He’s definitely already on the project. He’s working on some of the music that you will hear in the film itself, in other words, the diagetic music, the source music. Things that the characters will hear as well. These obviously need to be recorded before the filming begins. So he is looking at those right now. He is working very intimately with Guillermo, who we should wish a happy birthday to, I think. He has been going through Guillermo’s scrapbooks to get the ideas out of there, some visual sense. So he’s started his process. He is reading the book over and over and over. I was here last weekend and I didn’t see him go anywhere without a little bit of Tolkien tucked under his arm. So it’s coming together.
S: Well, that’s comforting to our listeners. I am going to let you go in. And, Doug, you are going to have to come back when the book is released next year.
If you speak Swiss German, you'll love this excellent interview with Ludwig Wicki, conductor of the 21st Century Orchestra. And even if you don't speak Swiss German, you're bound to enjoy Howard Shore's 21st Century Overture, which begins at approximately 7:25!
This podcast was released yesterday by Swiss Radio DRS1. To be fair, it's not the cleanest performance of the Overture -- I think this was a rehearsal. But for those clamoring for a taste... well, have at it!
Thanks to Livio for pointing me in the right direction!
Our resident workaholic, Timdalf, has provided yet another transcription, this one from the Barnes & Noble event on October 3. Good grief, it's already been over a month!
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.
Another transcript courtesy of Timdalf! More to come...
Howard Shore and Doug Adams
Radio City Music Hall, New York, October 10, 2009
Transcribed from 10 YouTube uploads… Howard and Doug talked for about 25 minutes, of which about 21 are transcribed below.
(They enter from stage right to applause and cheers and take up seats on two bar stools in front of the empty orchestra.)
HS: So this is Doug Adams… (more applause and cheers)…and I’m Howard Shore. (louder applause and cheers). Thank you. Doug and I will talk a little bit about tonight, but Doug is the author of the book “The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films”…
HS: … soon to be coming out when…
DA: In imminent release.
HS: Yes, and he has been working on it for many years, I think since 200… [lost bit between YouTube uploads] … my archives and all of the scores and everything, so he is really more expert in this music than I am! (laughter)
DA: Well, expert or not, I think we are all going to enjoy equally tonight’s… I think it would be good to begin with a little discussion of what exactly we will be hearing here this evening.
HS: Tonight Ludwig Wicki is conducting, and he is conducting his orchestra from Lucerne, Switzerland, the 21st Century Orchestra, and we have the Collegiate Chorale which have performed “Fellowship of the Ring” with the late Robert Bass wonderfully at Carnegie Hall, [break in YouTube uploads] and soloist Katlyn Lusk who has sung the piece many times in many places around the world, and she is really just an incredible interpreter of this music.
Ludwig Wicki I met years ago. He wrote me a detailed letter about a concert he wanted to give of my music in Switzerland. And I gave him permission to do it and I said, “OK, go ahead and do this.” And I gave him pieces to do because he was so passionate about it and then I went to Lucerne, Switzerland, for the concert. And you always go hoping it’s going to be great, but you feel about somebody doing your music,… a little apprehensive. So I went to Switzerland and the concert was incredible. He didn’t play any “Lord of the Rings” music; he played music from other scores of mine, mostly film scores, from “Se7en”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and “Nobody’s Fool” and all these different scores. And he recreated them so incredibly, so when the idea for the projection concert came up, Elizabeth Cotnoir, my wife, said “You should really talk to Ludwig about it, because he interprets your music so beautifully, so faithfully to the way it was constructed.”
[break between YouTube uploads]
…recordings to film. And it uses what we call “streamers” and “pops”. They used to do it on 35 mm film, and they would grease pencil the film for when the music would come in. And they put punches in the film that would give you warnings of tempos and things like that. And that’s exactly what’s on this screen. It’s really a method from the 30s, for synchronization. It is a visual method. His ears are open and there are no click tracks or anything like that, and the orchestra is just playing following Ludwig. And partly it’s a method that you learn where you are hearing the film and you are hearing the dialogue and you learn it like you would a ballet, really, the way he conducts it. And it is so beautifully synchronized in this way to the film and always making music.
DA: It’s an incredible act of coordination. I keep telling people that it’s something like rubbing your head and patting your stomach in front of thousands of people for four hours straight. So it’s not at all an easy task. I guess we can talk a bit about the construction of the score. Many of you have probably seen the Tolkien manuscripts that… [lost bit between YouTube uploads] …are there from dates to lunar cycles to runes to different languages and all of this structure has to be evoked at some point in the score. It can’t just be a series of moods. I know when you first got the film one of the things you carefully did was just to pour over Tolkien’s writing to get that sense of a structure and how that could be related musically.
HS: The score that I wrote for the book took almost four years. Tolkien’s writing of, creating “The Lord of the Rings” took sixteen years. That was how long he worked on it. And really the score has good structure and good form because of his writing really. Because I am creating an image in music of his… his creation, so I inherently have the good bones that he created in his work.
DA: You came at it largely from a cultural standpoint, in terms of the thematic approach. We should mention that this is remarkable for a film score, remarkable for any sort of creation, to have this many leitmotifs that are consistently developed throughout the course of the film. If we look at “The Lord of the Rings” as one three-filmed story, there are over ninety different – some of them long themes some of them short themes – but all of them start from a very specific point and develop to a very specific point.
HS: Right. The leitmotif idea really came out story telling. It was a way to give clarity to the story. “The Lord of the Rings” is considered one of the most complex fantasy worlds ever created and Peter Jackson, who made the film, had such a huge task to do as well. Because he wanted to take a story as complex as this and tell the story (like “Fellowship of the Ring” which is two books of “The Lord of the Rings”), but he had to tell that story in a little less than three hours on screen. And so the idea of using the music to clarify cultures and to understand objects in the story was something that he always felt was a good way to tell the story. And also he felt that the music should be part of the story telling fabric of the films. It’s an older technique really of something that was practiced really in films more from the Golden Age, from the 40s, the early 50s. It was a way of using music in a very specific way to show what’s going on in the film. So for me it was a great gift. I had this great book; I had a great director who had a wonderful sense of the imagery and wonderful story telling. And I worked collaboratively with the three screen writers, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens. And the three of them kind of supplied different parts of the equation. Like Peter had a great sense of the epic and the spectacle and the visual in a wonderful sense. And Fran had more of a sense of the smaller things, the relationship between Sam and Frodo, and Gollum’s schizophrenia, and Phillipa was an expert in Ring mythology and taught me a lot about what inspired Tolkien to create “Lord of the Rings”, how once the books were published how it had such an influence on 20th century culture and on our lives. And in my research you go back to Wagner and his work and how he showed us how to use leitmotifs and thematic material in telling a story. So there are connections to this type of story telling.
DA: Although in flavor your type your writing here is closer to…. [YouTube gap]
HS: …and later on I started to delve into Wagner’s works… (a loud noise comes from the speakers sounding very ominous — laughter – Howard and Doug look around in wary puzzlement.)
DA: This has suddenly become the funniest pre-concert lecture we have ever had. So there is the idea of these opera parallels and one of the main goals of the score was to bring clarity, to bring subtext, but also to bring text back into the film. So we have the chorus singing all these languages that were created by Tolkien.
HS: Do you want to talk about the languages?
DA: Sure. Well, we have a collection of languages. Most of these were entirely created by Tolkien: two Elvish languages, Sindarin and Quenya, and we will hear bits of those. I believe they are some of the first we hear in the score under the opening narration.
HS: It’s Quenya which is the more ancient form of Elvish. It’s equivalent would be Old English. Sindarin is a more modern Elvish. And you also hear Dwarvish in Moria…
HS: …all sung by men, over here on the right side. And the women sing in the beginning of Rivendell, I think. I had a huge palette really to orchestrate with. I had this symphony orchestra; I had folk instruments as well. You see some of them over here (points to his left), hammered dulcimer, I used a musette, the mandolin, the penny whistle is a very old instrument, Celtic, the tin whistle you’ll hear playing the Shire theme; I had the male and female adult choir, the children’s choir. Other languages that were used: Adunaic,..
DA: Black Speech in there, too…
HS: And thematically working with the screenwriters so carefully we were able to leave little clues along the way of things. You will seen an important scene tonight in the Council of Elrond when Boromir stands and talks about his city, his world, and you will hear a solo horn tonight play a little fragment of the Gondor theme. And so Peter would say, “This is an important moment. And you want to leave hints of things to come.” And so the theme of Gondor is really developed further on and really becomes important in the third part of the trilogy in “Return of the King”. You hear little fragments of things in this film and you hear little fragments of themes for Gollum that develop into his dual personality. Little fragments. And also this being the first film, this is a way to really create the world of Middle-earth and the cultures. So it was very important to express the ideas with clarity from the very beginning.
DA: I think we would be remiss… [YouTube gap]
HS: You want to talk about the Ring themes?
DA: Yes. Three themes represent the Ring in this score. The first theme you will hear, which is near the very beginning of the film is The History of the Ring. And this is heard every time the Ring changes hands, when it moves through the Prologue and eventually goes from Gollum to Bilbo you hear it. And when Bilbo drops it on the floor and Frodo picks it up you can hear it. And this sort of marks the Ring’s passage through Middle-earth’s history.
HS: The passage of time. And the Ring goes from one person to another. Yes.
DA: And an even more potent Ring theme to me is The Seduction of the Ring.
HS: The History of the Ring you usually hear played with strings, with the violins playing. The Seduction of the Ring theme you hear it from the boys. I used a boy choir in London that did the recording. But tonight you hear the Children’s Choir, actually a mixed choir. And I split the children. Part of them are here (gestures behind him to his left) and part of them are on the other side. And they sing this very pure phrase for what we call The Seduction of the Ring, and it’s really this sort of … it’s part of the tyranny of it, really, but it’s done with these children. This really pure sound which gives it more of a….
DA: Seductive quality! For those of you who will understand bits of the text, it’s promising to solve all of the problems… Boromir sees this Ring, and he could solve all of Gondor’s problems if he only claimed this Ring. So it is the Ring really luring you, and saying, “This will take care of everything, just put me on and we will solve everything.”
HS: And then there is the Evil of the Ring. And I used an African instrument, a rhaita, a double reed instrument, you will hear it played by the oboist tonight, and it’s a very brutal type of…. a very strong melodic phrase, very reedy.
DA: It is sort of similar to the History of the Ring, just some of the intervals bent a little bit further this direction or that. So it’s got a similar… and you will hear that throughout the score: similar shapes moved in slight changes of direction to represent something else. And I guess that goes back as well to Tolkien’s writing where there are so many connections between everything he writes, it’s just the details that make up all these differences. Speaking of which I suppose we should speak about the difference between… we mentioned the Elvish music, the Elvish texts which have a very feminine sound, very choral and some light metallic percussion chimes, things like that.
HS: Tolkien, Doug… The beauty of the work is in the contrast that he shows. He doesn’t just show you one world of Elves; he shows you two. You will meet both cultures tonight. You go to Rivendell first, which is a more learned, a more sophisticated world, and compositionally the structure is a little more architectural and very flowing fitting the architecture also of the creation of the production of Rivendell. Whereas Lothlorien, which you enter after Moria, is a much more mysterious, a more exotic world and the orchestration is very different in how the music is constructed, so I am trying to show contrast between Elvish cultures. And later on in the story you also see contrasts between the world of men, of Rohan and Gondor, and even Eastern cultures. So between Isengard and Sauron so the contrasts add so much to the beautiful depth and complexity of the world, because he doesn’t just show you one thing, left, but he shows you left-right, north-south, up and down. So you get a more fully formed picture of Middle-earth.
DA: …after the intermission. That is all male voices, deep drums and all these very brutal sounds and the low pitches of the orchestra.
HS: The male voices… Tolkien said that the Dwarf culture was mostly a male culture, that the women looked like men. And you see Gimli…. You don’t really see the culture because it’s been ruined, but you get…
DA: …you mentioned some of the hobbit instruments as well. The hobbits have a very light Celtic sound, the bodhrans, the frame drums, back there, the celesta, and things like that. The opposite of that would perhaps be the Isengard music which is music of metal and wheels and violence.
HS: I used all metal for Isengard, because Isengard is, part of it is the industrialization of Middle-earth which you are describing: the creation of weapons, of metal, and in contrast to the Shire which is everything green and good and beautiful. And so the Isengard music is all disfigured. I wrote it in 5/4 and it has this sort of lop-sided type of beat to it, three and two type of feeling and you even see it when they run a little lopsided, orc fighting uruk-hai so that rhythm felt right. It’s a very brutal sound, using this metal percussion. There are also Japanese Taiko drums here, there’s Tibetan gongs….
DA: And the mistreatment of a piano as well!
HS: …there’s anvils and metal plates for Isengard and this piano is used in a very percussive way. The percussionist wraps a chain around a… he puts on a garden glove and wraps a chain and sand bags the petals and he strikes the inside of the piano to create this real dynamic sound.
DA: So it’s an amazing collection of material. Were we to be here tonight without the screen, without the dialogue, we would still get every element of the story musically. It’s all still represented here. Which is one of the true wonders of the Often in film music it becomes a collection of moods, things are happy now because you see the hero, things are dark and dissonant because… But this is more thoughtful, more cerebral. There is an element of keeping up with Tolkien, I suppose.
HS: Yes, well, he created this structure to it and you are creating something in his image, really.
DA: You are getting ready to head back into the world of Tolkien, I suppose. The Hobbit film is coming up.
HS: Well, The Hobbit is…
(Cheers and applause interrupt here)
HS: ….“The Fellowship of the Ring” and when you see the beginning of this story you will see the connection to The Hobbit. You will even see in the Prologue, I believe, little scenes from The Hobbit, like Bilbo, because it makes references to it. And when you enter the Shire it says, “Sixty years later…” The Hobbit ends, and then sixty years later is the beginning of “The Fellowship.” And we want the films to relate and feel that you have entered these worlds in these other two films.
DA: So it’s a returning to home for you, in some ways, or at least it’s a fond place to spend some time in Middle-earth.
HS: Yes, I am looking forward to it. It’s a wonderful project.
DA: Well, I believe I am getting the sign that we need to be moving on. But thank you all for being here, and have a wonderful time. Thank’s everyone…
HS: Many thanks to Ludwig Wicki, the 21st Century Orchestra, the Collegiate Chorale, thanks so much.
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…
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