Monday, January 3, 2011

Ongoing Discussion [January 2011]

What a year it has been, what a strange mood I’m in, why it’s almost … well, you get the point.

Here at the outset of 2011 – ok, the third day since, per usual, I’m a bit behind – I, unsurprisingly, find my mind drifting back to 2010. The year began with an incredibly intense period of work, the likes of which I’d never known. Honestly, it was difficult, at times, to remember the end goal. It didn’t feel like we were working toward a book, necessarily. It just felt like each day began with a series of tasks – puzzles, or riddles, if you will, that had to be completed before sundown. It wasn’t art, it was survival. OK, that’s a tad dramatic, but the point is that the focus became so minute that I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees, or the book for the pages.

We knew what we were working toward, but somehow, seeing that first book on my porch in midsummer, all I could feel was shock. “How did this become a physical thing? How did the contents of my hard drive end up on my porch?” Sometime back in December I found myself in the music library of my old graduate school. There I stumbled onto the lengthy composition I wrote to complete my Master’s – the music school equivalent of a thesis paper. The feeling was much the same: “Why is this outside of my house?” This composition, however, had been quietly gathering dust as a single engraved document, wedged deep into a musty college library. Ah, the comfort of obscuro academica. The book … not so much. It was announced. It was expected. Good or bad, it was going to see the world ... and, in return, be seen by the world.

As I sat in my office looking at the thing, a recurrent nag popped into my mind, a phrase that had shaken me awake all throughout the production. “What IS this thing?” At its heart, this was a book about music from a movie from a book. I used to pitch the project by crowing, “No one has ever tried this before.” But the truth was, I didn’t really know that. Maybe it had been tried dozens of times, but no one wanted such a beast!

Flash forward. Long story short, it seems people did want this. The book has been a huge hit for us. Our sales are approximately eight months ahead of projected schedule, but much more importantly, people have responded to the piece. Howard Shore's music is, I hope, better understood now. And, really, that was always the goal. The process of creating this book -- my efforts, as they were -- should never have been more than a sideshow to the main event. It was Shore's music that compelled me to keep working. That's not some ephemeral declaration of purpose, it's a very real statement. I wanted to celebrate his work and his achievement. I wanted to show how he allowed art and intellect to coexist so gracefully, and how he brought a world to life with pure sound.

The second half of 2010 was a dizzying spin wherein the preceding was happily realized. I don’t know that I’ll ever experience anything quite the same in my life. Fear, realization, relief, and excitement all commingled and rang on a grand scale. And after a year of big moments, of course, my personal life paused for a quiet change that’s the most profound of any. I don’t broadcast my personal life too terribly often. Just my nature, I guess. And really, if you have a public life of any sort, you do have to draw the line somewhere. Broadcasting each morning’s breakfast dilutes one’s content pretty darn quickly. I ate a bowl of Captain Crunch this morning. There, now try taking the rest of this post at all seriously! ☺ Anyway, thank you all for your kind words and support. You made both Jill and me feel pretty wonderful.

Now here’s the thing, as much as 2010 felt like a high watermark it was, in reality, just the gate swinging open. 2011 will see the second run of the book – later this month in fact. We also have some exciting plans that we’ll put into play once the second edition supplies begin to dwindle. We assume that will occur in another year, give or take, but at the rate we’re going, who knows! The LOTR performances will enter a brave new stage as full trilogy cycles begin to appear around Europe. And the US has a few surprises in store for it as well. You'll see!

And of course, in the meantime, we’re gearing up to re-enter Middle-earth and begin work on The Hobbit films. I believe I’ve said this before, but we used to joke that the crew on The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films was like the last team left in Middle-earth. When we were done, we were supposed to reach for the light switch and lock the door behind us. And, of course, as soon as we had wrapped things up, a burly band of Dwarves came marching over the horizon. Anyway, I’m particularly excited to return to the research and hinting that launched this blog in the first place. You didn’t think I was going to make things too easy on you, did you?

The number one concern I heard voiced at appearances this year regarded this very blog. Would it disappear with the book now complete? Nonsense! There’s more to report on than ever.

So here’s to projects completed, projects ongoing, and projects just beginning. And, appropriately enough, a toast to Professor Tolkien as well, on this, the anniversary of his birth in 1892.


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