Monday, May 23, 2011

Cello Concerto

Those of you who have watched the recent NFB Documentary have already heard that Howard Shore is composing a Cello Concerto for Sophie Shao.

For those interested, Guild Hall has just announced that the work will premiere in her "upcoming season." Keep your ears open!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

NFB Documentary: "A Composer's Dream"

The National Film Board of Canada has produced six short films to celebrate the lives of the recipients of 2011's Governor General's Performing Art Awards: Yvon Deschamps, Margie Gillis, William Shatner, Howard Shore, Leslee Silverman, and Paul Thompson.

It gives me great pleasure to present "A Composer's Dream," featuring Howard Shore.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mystery Post

The much-delayed mystery is revealed HERE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 6

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 6
By Guillaume Schneider

UPDATE May 15: Two videos now embedded!

Part 1 is available HERE.
Part 2 is available HERE.
Part 3 is available HERE.
Part 4 is available HERE.
Part 5 is available HERE.

I was one of the first people in line. As the doors opened and we steadily walked toward the other end of the stage, the applause surrounded us and made me feel like someone important. No wonder I had never felt so inclined to smiling before! Knowing the amount of work that lay behind us, I had the very strong desire to make the audience understand what this music represents and to offer them an unforgettable experience. And this they got.

After the darkness settled, Ludwig Wicki showed the first beat and entered his "concert mode." Let me explain: Not only does he fulfill his difficult task of maintaining various rhythms with a flawless timing throughout the performance, he also manages to entertain us! During the few moments without music, he would look at us and make a sudden huge smile, sometimes even a funny grimace, out of nowhere. Believe me, there is no better way to motivate someone! Equally amusing, he liked to say the characters’ lines synchronously to the movie which reminded us of the fact that he truly is a veteran of the Live to Projection cycle. I’m not sure he would ever watch the trilogy at home again…

Having a croud staring in your direction for 3 hours is definitely exhilarating! I was hoping to get our first entrance right, but it turned out it is impossible to keep up with the fast rhythm of the "Kah-tahb-ree" part when people on your right are singing at a different pace than people on your left. It drove me crazy, even more the second time because some of us started much too fast. So in the end we missed this part twice, even though we made it sound right! Something of the utmost importance we had been briefed about concerned our entrances: if you are not sure about the pitch, don’t sing it and catch up later. This I did apply in ROTK for some low and dark parts, including "Andúril – Flame of the West" and "The Passing of the Grey Company" when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli travel to the Dwimorberg. I have to admit I disliked those short parts with few different notes.
The following performances would trigger the same emotional reactions, especially the very last one. Once we heard the last note echoing through the hall, I knew our journey had reached the end. Apart from the worn out voice, I felt proud of what we had achieved as an ensemble. The standing ovation we received was beyond anything I had experienced before and I was one the verge of clapping, intending to express my gratitude and joy, until I remembered the rules. Giving back the music sheets and leaving the Philharmonie and all these great people behind was tough. It is in these situations that you understand why people like Howard Shore, Ludwig Wicki and Doug Adams committed their lives to music. As a fan and a chorister, I am grateful for it.

You never know when an unusual opportunity enters your life again and oddly enough, I prefer it that way. We were told the Live to Projection cycle would skip Munich next year, and yet I feel confident it won’t be the last time we see Elves and Hobbits in town. Now that it’s over, I can’t deny some nostalgic moments. I have flashbacks at times, images of a still freshly formed choir appear, followed by a filled hall and an acclaiming audience. During this whole project I constantly thought about parallels to the current shooting of The Hobbit. How must you feel after concluding a titanic movie impatiently awaited by millions of people? Just singing a few times was so fulfilling …

Eventually, some moments will fall into oblivion, but thanks to my parents who took pictures of the performances, this venture will be engraved in my memory for a long time. Be assured that if ever the One Ring comes to Munich again, I will be there.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

Via HowardShore.com:

This weekend:

Howard Shore honored with Canada’s
Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (GGPAA) are Canada’s most prestigious honour in the performing arts. They are the ultimate recognition from Canadians of artists whose accomplishments have inspired and enriched the cultural life of our country.

Since 1992, these Awards have celebrated Canada’s best for lifetime artistic achievement, voluntarism in the performing arts and outstanding achievement in the previous performance year.

Fellow Recipients:

Yvon Deschamps
Jean-André Élie
Margie Gillis
William Shatner
Leslee Silverman
Paul Thompson
Dennis Villeneuve

Click HERE for tickets and info.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Macarthur Chronicle on Sydney FOTR

Mordor, he wrote: SSO and The Lord Of The Rings
9 May 11 @ 04:43pm by STEVE MOFFATT

From the rustic playfulness of the Shire to the vicious hammering Orc factories of Isengard, Howard Shore’s Oscar-winning music for Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings film trilogy covers ground with a symphonic sweep.

Celtic modes and rhythms are perfect for the Hobbits, while faintly Arabic orchestral phrases seem just right for the Elvish lands of Lothlorien.

The Dwarves are given lots of bass and angular rhythms while the elusive Gollum - very much in the background in the first episode, The Fellowship Of The Ring, which featured in this concert - seems unsubstantial as he slithers in the dark damp depths.

Then there are the landscapes - the majestic mountains and menacing caves, still rivers and turbulent rapids - all needing some musical brush strokes.

Finally, of course, there are the characters themselves. Frodo and his three Hobbit companions, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins and the other heroes and villains, all needing to be scored.

Like the films, the soundtrack was a massive and complex undertaking and you only realise how ambitious and successful it is when you hear it performed live as a three-hour piece with orchestra and choirs.

The audience’s attention is still locked on the big screen at the back of the Opera House’s concert hall stage, but the music is an equal partner, rather than a barely noticed complement to the action.
[Read on]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

FOTR Sydney Review

Thanks to SimonJD for sending this in!

Sydney FOTR report: The Sydney Symphony under Ludwig Wicki's expert baton and accompanied by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Sydney Children's Choir gave a stirring, precise and uplifting performance of the score to Fellowship live to projection this weekend at the always breathtaking Sydney Opera House. I was fortunate enough to attend Saturday night's performance and I have to say that as good as the recordings are there is nothing (repeat nothing) like hearing the music live in such a setting. When I finally ;) got my hands on your book last year, Doug, I was able to listen to the music with new ears again but it was the performances I was already so familiar with. So Saturday night's performance was a very special gift, especially I has never been able to get to a LOTR Symphony. Two things really stood out, the energy that the orchestra put into the performance (that aleatoric music is a real cardiac work out for the strings) and the glory of the choral pieces. The choirs were well prepared, carefully microphoned, and sounded spectacular. The acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall are tricky (great venue that has many flaws) and these were managed very well to balance the vocal/ sound effect rack with the live performances of the orchestra, soloists and choirs. What else can I say but bring on TTT in 2012.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FOTR: Insanity Alert

Secondary dealers are currently offering FOTR: CR for $479.99 on Amazon. Let's watch how high the price soars before people realize that it'll be back in stock in the near future.

I'm hoping both to see the price careen over $1000.00 and, more importantly, for NO ONE to be taken in by the scam. Spread the word. Please don't let anyone spend unwisely!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ongoing Discussion [May 2011]

Now is the month of Maying, when merry lads are playing! Fa la la la la!
Each with his bonny lass, a-dancing on the grass, fa la la la la!

The Spring, clad all in gladness, doth laugh at Winter's sadness! Fa la la la la!
And to the bagpipes’ sound, the nymphs tread out the ground! Fa la la la la!

Fie! Then why sit we musing, youth’s sweet delight refusing? Fa la la la la!
Say, dainty nymphs and speak! Shall we play barley break? Fa la la la la!

I always wondered if Tolkien’s Elves were originally conceived of as being more along the lines of Sir Thomas Marley’s “dainty nymphs.” There’s an Elvish playfulness –perhaps a capriciousness? – in The Hobbit that’s not seen elsewhere in Tolkien’s writing. “Tra la la,” indeed!

This isn’t me dropping musical hints, by the way. I don’t know how the Elves will be portrayed in the film adaptation of The Hobbit, and I don’t know how Howard Shore will approach them musically. Don’t read into much into the above. Rather, Marley’s lyric, which includes both “Maying” and “fa la la,” perfectly encapsulates my mental state – or perhaps my ocular state: one eye forward, one behind.

I’m at a delicate cross-road just now. Part of my work is firmly in the world of The Lord of the Rings. There are upcoming performances, lectures, and permutations of the book to be shepherded into reality. The next six-to-twelve months look to be pretty Ring-packed. In fact, if you travel the right circles, I may be hard to miss for a while. You’ll see, you’ll see.

At the same time, we’ve begun very cursory discussions on The Music of The Hobbit Films … or whatever we decide to call it. What’ll be the same? What’ll be different? Switching back and forth between the two worlds is exciting, refreshing even, but it takes a little more concentration. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not digging ditches or breaking my back with an over-stuffed schedule. I'm not complaining. I’m just trying to clarify my thought process as much as possible … and trying to keep everything straight so that I don’t bungle anything too badly!

This winter’s spate of lectures was wonderful in that it helped me to work directly with audiences over an extended period of time. When you’re writing in an office all day, it’s easy to ignore that relationship. When the audience is in the room, you can see so clearly just how and to what they respond. Of course, every group is different, but it’s still an energizing and revealing process.

I feel a little bad the Luzern (and Wheaton) lectures were all uploaded to the blog in such a compressed time period – they were an awful lot to digest over a week. But May looks to be a pretty crazy month, and I wanted to post the files as soon as opportunity allowed. That’s the great thing about the digital age. Those lectures now await you at your leisure.

I can’t believe I still haven’t posted any reactions to Luzern’s Symphonic Film Music or Chamber Music performances. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that someday I’d hear the Se7en performed live. Or Ed Wood with a real Theremin! (Basil Bohni and I did a pre-concert lecture for this concert, and were joined by the Theremin player. I was able to finally speak the sentence, “Will you please play the Theremin for us now?” A life-long dream realized!) And the austere Bartokian harmonies of The Brood set aside the oft-sumptuous Seven Pieces … and The Departed … and The Fly … and, and, and!

By the way, rumor is they’d love to hold this festival again in 2013. If you haven’t already, start saving now. Nothing is official, and who knows what will happen, but if they do host, we all need to be there! Ludwig Wicki has shared some of his Howard Shore wishlist with me – some of the pieces he’d hope to conduct next time out. If he only gets half of them … wow! …

So it’s back to the coalface for now. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m hoping to have an announcement or two in just a few days – maybe a week or so. You should also be seeing some heavy duty press releases as summer rolls in – and more as it rolls along.

Oh, and I think I should have my contract for The Hobbit soon. It’s quite likely I’ll announce when that comes in!

See you on the boards,


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Music of the LOTR Films at WBShop.com

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films is now available at the official Warner Brothers online shop. Gift-box options are available.

Nothing much to report, I just thought that was kind of cool!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mikko on Tampere

The Fellowship of the Ring Live Projection in Tampere, Finland, Friday 29th of April

As I mentioned in the Ongoing Discussion I attended the FotR Live performance last Friday with 5 of my friends. It left us all in awe. I have now digested the performance for a few days and feel that I can put a couple of thoughts to words.

We arrived at the Tamperetalo music hall a good hour before the concert and were all excited, even those of my friends who were not as deeply versed in the music as I. The crowd was just starting to gather in the spacious lobby of the music hall and we went exploring to see what kind of presentation the Finnish Tolkien Society had there (it was announced that they would be presenting some of their activities and work). We did find out that they were indeed selling their publications and magazines but even more importantly they were selling Doug's book and one of my friends was curious and interested enough so he bought a copy. Obviously my fervent advertisement of this musicological marvel had paid off. :P

And then we heard the ringing fanfares echoing in the lobby (the lobby chimes) that beckoned us into the concert hall and we quickly ushered ourselves in, not wanting to miss a thing.

As we found our seats I had a good look at the orchestra and choruses congregating before us on the stage and I felt giddy with anticipation. Lights dimmed, the screen showing the LotR logo flickered. Our conductor Erik Eino Ochsner and the lovely and talented Kaitlyn Lusk arrived on the stage with a round of applause. My friends, at that moment I thought this would be a night to remember. With a subtle gesture from the conductor the magic began.

The familiar strains of Lothlorien theme trickled into the hall in women's chorus, the strings sighed the ancient, sad and ominous History of the Ring theme and opened the 3 hours spectacle with pitch perfect precision. Almost needless to say I enjoyed every moment of it. The interpretation of the music was near perfect, oftentimes so much that I was entirely lost in the film, forgetting that there was a live performance going on and yet was constantly reminded by the excellent performance that this was the time for the music to shine. As Shore himself says about these events: “Sitting in the crowd for the first time watching and listening, I felt as though I saw the music more clearly and heard the film in a completely new way. It was a wholly novel experience.”

And indeed it was just that for me.

To recount themes and how they are used is a bit futile here as most people know the music intimately and inside out. I spotted a few of the alterations Doug and others have mentioned that Shore has made to the score, namely adding certain passages or augmenting moments with choir originally intended for them but left out of the film. They both bridged silences and also gave this performance a unique feel of an independent concert work. But I will add about the themes that I too saw the music more clearly, identifying the specific moments of thematic interaction or use that had faded from my memory since I had not seen this film in a couple of years. This gave again clarity and added respect for the details in this music in a completely new way. To hear the most intimate passages now in the forefront when they would usually be in the background of soundmix was something of a revelation in places, small operatic gestures Shore so often refers to came all the more apparent and more powerful. The careful back and forth movement in the dialogue scenes, the entrance of a theme on a specific moment all seemingly effortlessly captured by the music and the performance.

And this performance as I said above was near perfect, the orchestra, instrumental soloists, Tampere Philharmonic Choir, Pirkanpojat Boy Choir and the boy sopranos Eetu Halme and Kalle Pääkkönen all contributing at the highest level. Kaitlyn Lusk's solos were especially magical and her talent so obvious, bringing me nearly to tears during Gandalf's Farewells in Moria and Gandalf's Lament in Lothlorien. The boy soloists were truly impressive and I was rooting for them through the whole piece. An inevitable problem with live performances became evident during the evening, namely the balancing of all the performing forces in the mix. Conductor Ochsner maintained an admirable balance of sound throughout but a few times the orchestral din threatened to drown the choral and soloist passages or the instrumental solos. But all in all everybody gave a powerful performance throughout, all textures and vivid colours coming together to form a grand tapestry of enchanting sound.

To mention the most memorable moment in this concert is near impossible as they came thick and fast one after the other. The above mentioned solos of Kaitlyn Lusk, the Amon Sûl scene with its pounding Ring Wraith music, aleatoric fanfares in Give Up the Halfling, the proud french horn solo of Gondor's theme, The fulgurous choral fury of Moria, all the appearances of the History of the Ring theme, the bucolic and nostalgic Shire themes, Watcher in the Water again with the deliciously aleatoric bubbling and mayhem, Isengard theme's numerous outings, The Nature's Reclamation soloist moment, Boromir's noble and tragic end. The list goes on and on. The amount of orchestrational details that came alive and audible in the live perfomance gave the familiar music a new cast and had an electrifying power to it. With the added bonus of the film playing in the background I was at the edge of my seat most of the performance. It was a supreme emotional (but curiously also intellectual) experience that testifies of the keen and lasting spell of the Ring and its music and the power it has over us time and time again.

So three hours (plus an intermission full of giddy praise and awed discussion) later we were leaving the concert hall behind in an elated mood, stepping out to the warm spring night and all six of us made a promise that if The Two Towers Live projection came to town (hopefully next year) we would definitely be there.

To repeat the oft coined phrase, certainly a night to remember.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Luzern Lecture V: Howard Shore & Doug Adams

A few days before the final Luzern lecture I received a note from Howard Shore: “Can I join the lecture via Skype?” Thanks to the fast-moving KKL crew, we were able to set up all necessary technology in a short period of time, test it out, and confidently tease the audiences that a “very special guest” would be joining us on Friday.

Howard and I often remark that no matter how many times we have to speak about the LOTR score, we always find something new to discuss. Of course, we have to cover some familiar territory in order to properly contextualize the conversation for the audience, but by and large we find a new road each time we set out.

This time our conversation navigated such diverse topics as Naked Lunch, The Social Network, David Cronenberg, and yes, The Hobbit. (I wonder how it will feel, years from now, to revisit this interview and hear Howard talking about his still-pristine copy of the book.) We also were able to take an unusually – and refreshingly – broad look at LOTR, since I’d spent most of the prior week parsing details and minutiae.

The video here primarily consists of still pictures captured by a number of people, but there's a little bit of full-motion video interspersed, so keep your eyes on the screen!

I suppose this post also serves as my semi-official Luzern wrap-up. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be there at the beginning … to see to first of what we can only assume to be many LOTR cycles to come.

My deep thanks to everyone that made this possible.


The picture below was sent in by a generous reader. Did anyone here attend the Tampere performance? I'm sure we'd love a review!

Kaitlyn Lusk, Erik Ochsner, and the Music of LOTR book, post-concert in Tampere

Real Virtuality Review

Real Virtuality has published a two-part review, the first half of which covers The Sounds of Star Wars, the second half of which reviews The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. If you're not 'reviewed out,' give it a read!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Whom Do You Serve?

Luzern Lecture V -- the grand finale -- coming this week!
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