Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shore Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival

Excerpted from THIS Hollywood Reporter article:

"Shore will be given the Frederick Loewe Music Award for his work on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. He previously received the same award in 2005’s for composing the score for The Aviator. “Howard Shore is a master composer who has consistently delighted audiences of the more than 80 films that he has scored,” Matzner said. “In Hugo, the labyrinthine setting of a Paris railway station, where a young boy lives alone, doing what he must to survive, and the discovery of an aging filmmaker gifted with a second chance provide the perfect inspiration for Shore’s haunting score."

The Palm Spring Film Festival will run from January 5 to January 16, 2012. Click HERE for more information.

Hobbit Production Diary #5

Monday, December 26, 2011

Coeur Volant Lyrics

Howard Shore's official website is now running the lyrics to Hugo's "Coeur Volant" in both French and English. Also note that the song, as performed by Zaz, is now available as a single on iTunes.

If you'd like to learn more about Howard Shore's work on Hugo, please be sure to check out our three Clockwork articles.

“Coeur Volant” (Performed by Zaz) 
Music and lyrics by Elizabeth Cotnoir, Isabelle Geffroy, Howard Shore 

Animer, à la vie, les songes, les couleurs,
voir la lune, les étoiles, tout se retrouve à nouveau.

Serpentant les ruelles,
dans l’oubli, dans la peur,
petit génie aux doigts de fée,
fixant les heures,
ouvrant ses ailes,
un cœur qui pleurait, qui s'envole
l'amour a soigné ce qu'il manquait.

Elle était inconnue, curieuse et puis amie
un clin d'œil en offrande
petite sirène aux yeux de nuit
sa clé a porté le rêve vivant
un secret qu’ils partagent à présent.

Il était magicien d'images de poèmes
dompteur de rêves,
caché dans l'ombre,
seul avec son jeu brisé,
son cœur cassé
les choses en morceaux se réparent a nouveau.

Rêve …
N’oublie pas les rêves!
Rêve …

“Coeur Volant” (Performed by Zaz)
Music and lyrics by Elizabeth Cotnoir, Isabelle Geffroy, Howard Shore 

English translation:

Open to life’s dream and colors,
Watch the moon and the stars.
All that is lost can be found again.

Winding in shadows,
Fearful and forgotten,
A little genie with nimble fingers
Fixing the hours.
Wings opening,
His broken heart takes flight.
Love heals everything.

She was a stranger, a helper, now friend.
A little mermaid with eyes of the night,
Her key brought the dream to life.
His secret now shared.

He was a magician of pictures and poems.
A dreamer of dreams,
Hiding in shadows,
Alone with his broken playful things.
Then his broken heart flies.
Things in pieces can mend.

Remember to dream…

© 2011 South Fifth Avenue Publishing (ASCAP), Sony/ATV Songs LLC (BMI) o/b/o Sony/ATV Music Publishing France Sas / Play On 911 (SACEM), and Paramount Allegra Music (ASCAP) All rights reserved.

Plan 9 Interview

This wonderful piece was sent in by Earl, who has set up his own website to house it, but has given his permission for us to run it here. It's a fascinating view at the creation of the diagetic music in The Lord of the Rings Films. Enjoy -- and thank you, Earl!


December 2011 marks 10 years since the release of the first of the films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and although many stories have been told concerning those who worked on them, both on camera and off, not much has been said about Plan 9 and David Long. 

And so it was my great pleasure to be able to interview them on the occasion of this anniversary.

Just as The Lord of the Rings was a tale that “grew in the telling”, so too has this interview grown to become one of the most comprehensive accounts, if not the only one thus far, of Plan 9 and David Long's work on the films. 

It was a pleasure conversing with David Donaldson, and I thank him along with Steven Roche, Janet Roddick, and David Long for being not just approachable but also generous with their time and information. 

Onward to the interview... 

QUESTION I Many stories have been told about the collaborations on The Lord of the Rings. One of them says that Peter Jackson had shot Bilbo's birthday party scenes to "Flaming Red Hair," a piece of music that you both composed and performed, and that he thought the tune fit in so perfectly that he decided to use it for the film. Is this how Plan 9 came to be involved with The Lord of the Rings

PLAN 9 Some Background: The 4 of us all knew Peter and Fran for quite a few years before LOTR and worked on a number of their earlier films in various capacities. David Long was part of the band (The Muttonbirds) who Peter chose to play the end credits track on The Frighteners and Plan 9 (Steve Roche, Janet Roddick and David Donaldson) had scored Peter’s mockumentary Forgotten Silver. Although 3 of us work under the name Plan 9, the work we did on LOTR was very much a 4 way collaboration between Janet, Steve, myself and David Long. For the purpose of this work we called ourselves the Elvish Impersonators. The 4 of us have been making music together for over 25 years now. We all originally played together in a band called the Six Volts. Here’s us on a kids tv show in the 80s: Around the time that the films were green lit it occurred to us that there are many instances of songs and music in the books that are specific to the various peoples of Middle-earth and that there might be a place for us to create what we termed “cultural” music. This would mostly be source music ie. audible to the characters on screen and in some cases would be required on set for the shoot. We would endeavor to create distinctive and authentic feeling folk music for each race, be they Hobbits, Elves. Humans etc. We approached Peter and Fran about this and they commissioned us to come up with some ideas for the Bilbo’s birthday scene. I think we originally came up with 6 demos and once the more eccentric ones (Chopsticks played on Banjo, Uilleann Pipes etc) had been whittled down Peter and Fran settled on the 2 songs that were developed into Flaming Red Hair and Flowers for Rosie. We didn’t originally go as far down the Celtic route as it ended up but the brief became something along the lines of “the songs need to be really catchy on the first listen and we need to know these are the good guys straight away”. I believe they shot to both songs but by the time the scene was cut they only needed Flaming Red Hair. Once they started editing the film and Flaming Red Hair had sat in place for a while I guess it was doing the job well enough and it just stayed there. Following the contact we had with the production re the cultural music we were then employed as temp score/music editors, right from the animatic/preproduction stage of the trilogy. 

QUESTION II How did the track title "Flaming Red Hair" come to be?

PLAN 9 The original title was “Flaming Red Hair, (On Her Feet)”. 

QUESTION III Many people do not know this, but you had also composed a song called "Flowers For Rosie" for Bilbo's birthday party scenes that was eventually never used. Can you tell us something about this?

PLAN 9 As I’ve said above, they wanted to make sure they had enough music to cover what they might want to shoot, so wanted a second song as backup. Flowers For Rosie is another Celtic type piece using the same band lineup: Hurdy Gurdy, Rommel Pot, Jaw Harp, Bodhran, Fiddle, Whistles and Indian Harmonium. I seem to remember we also did a piece for Hobbiton Market that didn’t get used. 

QUESTION IV The complete scores for The Lord of the Rings, including all of your work on the films, have now been released on the Complete Recordings, but "Flowers For Rosie" still remains unreleased. Is there hope that fans will one day get a chance to listen to this track?


PLAN 9 We would be happy for all of our LOTR music to be released but it is not up to us. We would have liked our music to be released on the original soundtrack album. I think it was a New Line decision to release just the score. 

QUESTION V Your version of "A Elbereth Gilthoniel", titled "The Elvish Lament"/"The Passing of the Elves", is interesting compared to the rest of the score in that it is an almost exclusively vocal piece. How many singers were on this track, and were there any instruments used?


PLAN 9 The Elvish Lament was sung by Janet and Steve, The women’s voices were achieved by laying up numerous parts by Janet and the male parts layered up with Steve. The original demo was sung by Janet but they had wanted a male voice as lead in the film version. We auditioned and recorded several really good male singers but in the end they wanted the demo version they had grown to like. There is some very light musical backing, from memory it is Bowed Double Bass Harmonics and Bowed Banjo making up a shimmering bed. 

QUESTION VI Talking about instruments, Howard Shore determined which instruments would represent each culture in Middle-earth and wrote music pertaining to those cultures using these specific instruments. Did you follow a similar process for the cultural music you composed?


PLAN 9 One of our starting points was to imagine the musical instruments for each culture. We began by investigating the types of materials available to make their instruments. Hobbits seemed likely to have wood, animal skin and gut strings where the Elves may have had more access to different metals. From there we considered the elegance and design sensibilities of the Elves and how that might potentially influence the look and therefore the sound of the instruments. We felt the Elves more intellectual outlook could mean they had studied the science of harmonics and so used them in their composition. As we weren’t necessarily thinking the Hobbit music would be particularly Celtic sounding initially we ranged widely in what instruments and style we used. We were slowly reined in and in conjunction with Peter and Fran settled on the style and sound of the Hobbit music. The Elvish music was informed by different musical scales. We listened to a lot of different European folk music and the scales it was built upon and devised our own scale which had it’s own special ascending and descending scale. The correct Elvish Pronunciation was taught to us by video from David Salo and the dialect coaches who were here in NZ during the shooting. 

QUESTION VII Moving on to The Two Towers... how did you approach composing the music for "The Lament For Théodred" sung by Éowyn, a piece that was significantly different from your overall work on The Fellowship of the Ring?

PLAN 9 Eowyn’s Lament has a different sound to it because it is sung by Eowyn, one of the Rohan, a race of people. We were aware that all the different cultures needed to have a distinct character and sound to their music. In addition we had to compose the melody to the pictures that had already been shot. The actress had chanted the lines and we devised the melody for the main voice and then for the chorus of women supporting her. It was re recorded by the actress, Miranda Otto, plus a small group of female singers during post production. 

QUESTION VIII You also contributed to the sound design for The Two Towers and The Return of the King. What aspects did you work on?

PLAN 9 Our musical sound design work was mostly based around the influence of the Ring on the different characters. In film 1 the Ring was voiced by Alan Howard. For film 2 and 3 Peter and Fran wanted to try and give the Ring a more seductive voice as it started having influence and control over the characters. They were aware of Janet’s distinct vocal talents and wanted us to use her voice to give the Ring more variety in how it interacted with the characters it came into contact with. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to help give the Ring a strong character. As well as layered and effected vocal elements including wordless voice and ‘black speech’ we augmented these with textures and atmospheric layers. A lot of time was spent bowing, scraping, effecting and producing all sorts of “instruments” to get the required results. The start of film 3 with Smeagol and Deagol fighting is a good example of this as is the final confrontation between Frodo and Gollum leading to the Ring’s destruction. We also created some musical sound design for the Ents and the Dead Marshes. It was our dream job really. 

QUESTION IX Finally, for The Return of the King, you composed the music for "The Drinking Song" sung by Merry and Pippin in Edoras. You'd also composed music for another version of "The Drinking Song" for The Fellowship of the Ring sung by Merry and Pippin in the Green Dragon Inn. What influenced the tunes for these perfectly hobbity tracks?

PLAN 9 As the words for the songs came first it influenced how the songs could go. As they were drinking songs they needed to flow and scan easily and be able to be sung by the cast members. Working in conjunction with Fran we just followed our noses on those ones. 

QUESTION X It's been 10 years since you worked on these films. Surely every moment of the entire experience was tremendously rewarding. But is there any one memory of your time working on The Lord of the Rings that you specifically cherish?

PLAN 9 We worked about 6 months a year for 4 years on LOTR in our different capacities: temp score and music editing, cultural music creating and performing and as musical sound designers. It was like doing a degree in filmmaking. We watched and were part of those films right from their drawing board stage through to release. We absolutely loved being part of it. A lot of our work didn’t make it to the release cuts as the areas we tended to work on weren’t necessarily forwarding the story so tended to get cut as the films got too long. That’s filmmaking. They have however tended to turn up on the Director’s cut. It’s great that a number of people have noticed our input into those 3 films. I can’t think of one instance that stands out. It was a pretty special time. 

QUESTION XI I've asked you 10 questions to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the release of these films. But I'm going to sneak in one more that looks forward now... ... a prelude to The Lord of the Rings is in the works. Are you involved in The Hobbit at all? And if so, are you at liberty to tell us what your contributions will be this time around? 

PLAN 9 I’m not at liberty to tell you of any possible involvement we may have with The Hobbit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cosmopolis Poster

Here's the newly released poster for one of Shore's upcoming 2012 projects: David Cronenberg's adaptation of Cosmopolis. Click the image for a larger version.

Be back here tomorrow evening ... I feel we'll have something to discuss!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Golden Globe Nomination for Hugo!


The Artist -- Ludovic Bource
W.E. -- Abel Korzeniowski
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo -- Howard Shore
War Horse -- John Williams

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clock Work [Part Three]

Clock Work
Part Three
The Sound of Silents by Doug Adams


Filmmaking’s beginning was charged with the energy of endless possibilities. The era of the ‘silent’ film lasted from the 1890s to approximately 1929. The historical record places the first matching of music and film in December of 1895, six years before Meilies’ A Trip to the Moon.

Says Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Orchestra (an ensemble that specializes in the recreation of film music from this era): “Although A Trip to the Moon had no recorded score, it – like many Méliès films – did have a script for narration, which was provided with the film and expected to be read aloud during the screening. Before film developed a narrative style, theaters often used a narrator or lecturer to describe the action to the audience and put it in context, and some early films don't make much sense without it. (For instance, [in] A Trip to the Moon you'll remember an interminable discussion among academics in wizard hats in the opening scenes. The narration explains what the professors are arguing about.) The tradition of a narrator died out in Europe and America, but in Japan it continued into the 1930s, where it developed into a beloved performance art called ‘Benshi,’ and Japan resisted talking films much longer than the rest of the world as a result.”

By 1908 however, the musical potential of film was enough to draw the attention of Camille Saint-Saëns, who wrote an original score to The Assassination of the Duke of Guise (L'Assassinat du duc de Guise). While the music was successful enough to earn a permanent place in Saint-Saëns’ body of work, it was largely regarded as an experiment. Music for film was rarely original. The variable resources available to these films meant that the accompaniment was generally drawn from classic Late-Romantic concert hall music, and either reduced to piano or small ensemble performance. Usage, too, varied greatly. Sometimes the music accompanied the films themselves, though just as often it backed reel changes – or it was simply played outside theaters to draw audiences in.

Continues Sauer, “There was considerable variability in the accompaniment, and probably not much music synchronized to the action the way we’d think of it today … In many storefront nickelodeons, the only music was from a gramophone blasting unrelated music out into the street to draw in business.” He continues, “According to some manuals of theater operation, if there was a pianist, he was instructed to play to entertain the audience during rewinds and reel changes, not during the film itself (perhaps leading sing-alongs or playing classical or popular pieces). Rick Altman [author of Silent Film Sounds] has an ad for a theater touting a blind pianist, which only makes sense if he wasn't playing to the films. But this seems to have varied widely regionally. There weren't universally established practices, and it seems likely that in other theaters, pianists were playing to the film. Audiences didn't know what to expect, and likely accepted whatever was presented to them until a ‘there-should-be-music-that-supports-the-film’ ethic became established in the early teens.”

Much of Méliès’ financial struggle was due to the unauthorized reproduction of his films in the United States. Thomas Edison, looking to corner the budding film market in the States, copied and distributed Méliès’ films across the country without remunerating the filmmaker. In addition, Edison held nearly every film-related patent in the U.S., which held investors – and the industry itself – largely at bay. In 1908, the same year Saint-Saëns’ first film score was debuting in France, Edison formed the Motion Picture Patents Company, a nine-studio conglomerate that essentially muscled all other investors out of filmmaking.

Méliès’ career in film met its end just as another era in film music was dawning. His final project, The Knight of the Snows, was released in 1913, just as live underscore (or photoplay) music became common accompaniment for films. Only a year prior, Max Winkler had begun to explore the commercial potential in film music retail. Winkler worked at Carl Fischer in New York, and began to make available collections of (in his words) “butchered” classics that could be used to accompany films. In 1913 Sam Fox published his own collection of short compositions by John Stepan Zamecnik – the Sam Fox Moving Picture Music volumes. These pieces were arranged by their intended purpose, and went by such titles as “Western Scene,” “Indian Attack,” “Goodbye Music (For Parting Love Scene),” or “Burglar or Sneaky Music.” Fox had been a successful music distributer, having been the exclusive publisher for John Phillip Sousa, and Zamecnik was a violinist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra who had studied composition under Antonín Dvořák. The pairing seemed financially beneficial to both, and so it would be.

In October of 1915 a federal decision was passed in the case of United States v. Motion Picture Patents Co. where it was decided that the conglomerate went “far beyond what was necessary to protect the use of patents or the monopoly which went with them.” Their actions were declared an illegal restraint of trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act and by 1918 the MPCC was no more.

Film production proliferated in the United States, as did dedicated theaters complete with elaborate organs and house orchestras. It is estimated that, at this time, 40 percent of film showings were accompanied by theater organs, 25 percent by solo piano, and 25 percent by orchestras of varying sizes and instrumentation. (Ten percent of films remained unaccompanied.) However, the largest, most prestigious theaters all had orchestras, so while only a small percentage of the nation’s showings included orchestral accompaniment, the majority of the filmgoing public was exposed to orchestral rather than organ or piano music.

Musical practices still varied, though codified procedures were beginning to emerge. Many performances were improvised or complied from existing classics. Says Rodney Sauer, “The early movie theater orchestras saw their job not only as entertainment, but also education. Many musicians considered European classical music to be the height of musical culture, and they would perform excerpts of the classics as a way to bring up the musical knowledge of American audiences. The number of symphony orchestras did increase substantially from 1915 to 1930, so they may have had some effect.”

As for the ‘improvised’ scores, Clark Wilson, a member of the American Theater Organ Society, and a specialist in silent film accompaniment, describes that, “there should be little, if any, wholesale improvisation utilized in a good picture. While much ‘off the top of the head’ playing might work for a fast-paced short comedy in which there is no time to develop complex musical themes, such will not be the case for a feature or serious film. Let’s call what we are about to deal with limited or ‘controlled improvisation’ that we include around a solid set of selections drawn from a library of good music …

“Iris Vining, the legendary organist of the flagship Granada Theatre in San Francisco (and later the Fox Theatre, Atlanta) and one of the top film accompanists of the age said the following to her peers in the December, 1924 issue of Exhibitors’ Herald: ‘Don’t do too much improvising. Your audience … will appreciate good music well played. To too many organists, playing is just so much aimless wandering interrupted now and then by a fight or a fire.’”

Other performances depended more heavily on original music pre-composed specifically to suit the needs of the films. Says Sauer, “Many of the musicians, as well as the repertoire, for the early movie theaters came from vaudeville and melodrama theaters, which were two distinct traditions. From vaudeville came percussionists who had played for live comedians – supplying rim shots, drum rolls, and slapsticks – and they tended to play directly to the action of the film. From the melodrama came small orchestras, who preferred to play to the mood of the scenes, using full classical or popular pieces of music that were not strictly tied to the action. A particular theater's approach to music depended largely on what the musicians were doing before they started playing for movies.”

During this same time period, worsening economic and political situations in Europe were causing many composers to look the U.S. for employment. In 1914 Max Steiner, a young Viennese composer who has studied with Brahms and Mahler, came to States seeking work on Broadway. Hugo Riesenfeld, a violinist and composer who once played in a quartet with Arnold Schoenberg, likewise came to the States from Vienna. Although Riesenfeld also did a stint on Broadway as the concertmaster for Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera Company, he was already working in film by 1915. Just a few years later, he scored Joan the Woman for Cecil B. DeMille. In 1921 Ernö Rapée, a Hungarian-born composer, created a score for The Cabinet of Caligari by compiling concert works by such composers as Schoenberg and Stravinsky. In fact, the Caligari score may have been the first time these composers’ works were performed by an American orchestra. In 1924, Rapée would publish Motion Picture Moods, a collection of short, film-appropriate compositions not unlike the Sam Fox volumes.

Composers acclaimed for their concert hall works contributed to the young film music industry as well. In 1923 Arthur Honegger scored La Roue; in 1925 Darius Milhuad scored The Beloved Vagabond; in 1929 Dmitri Shostakovich scored Novvy Vavilon.

1926 and 1927 brought two new revelations: In ’26 William Axt and David Mendoza’s score for Don Juan (staring John Barrymore) became the first film score to be recorded. And in ’27 the dam broke. The Jazz Singer brought a whole new dimension to films. For the first time synchronized sound recording was a part of the filmgoing experience.

To take advantage of the new technology, Hollywood flooded the market with musical films. They were expensive and difficult to produce – the orchestra needed to be live on-set for the full shoot. Overdubbing was not yet a part of the process, so it was not unusual for the full ensemble to be required to put in 14 to 16 hours days just to record a two-minute song. But with the new audio gimmick in place, movies were doing record business, and were flush with cash. In 1929 Max Steiner left Broadway, ostensibly to orchestrate Rio Rita, but the allure of the Hollywood musical kept him firmly on the West Coast.

Soon Hollywood was churning out musicals at such a rate that audiences tired of them. Attendance sagged slightly, but was dealt a heavier blow in 1929 when the stock market crashed. However, it was far from a death knell. Prior to the market crash, film theater attendance averaged around 90 million tickets per week, nationwide. During the crash, that number dropped, but never dipped below 60 million. Likely, audiences were anxious to take their minds off the grim realities as hand.

Yet while Hollywood marched on, some belt-tightening was necessary. Live musical accompaniment was one of the first luxuries to be disposed with. The recorded music that had been so popular during the musicals’ brief reign was now applied to dramatic underscores. Performers were hungry for work. Film studios began to build music departments around stables of composers. Film scores were now seen as group efforts with teams of composers creating themes, and then trading them off to one another to create variations and developments. Simply by circumstance a new sound began to emerge. It was rooted in the traditions of European Late-Romantic music, informed by vaudeville and melodrama theater, and polished with the glittering patina of Broadway musicals.

In 1933 Max Steiner composed King Kong. It was one of the first full-length films to be extensively scored. It used the new Hollywood sound, but a single composer created it. It was, in short, a revelation. With its combination of tone, technique, and structure, Kong established film music practices that are still in place today.

King Kong was also a feather in the cap of its producer, David O. Selznick, second cousin twice removed to Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. In The Hugo Movie Companion, Brain Selznick writes, “My grandfather’s first cousin was the famous film producer David O. Selznick, who made the original King Kong, as well as Gone With the Wind, Duel in the Sun, and many other classic movies. He and my grandfather grew up together, and even though they both died before I was born, my grandmother’s house was filled with books about David O. Selznick that I loved to read. Perhaps this is why I’ve always loved movies.” The last act of the film version of Hugo, of course, deals directly with the importance of films and their history. Just as Scorsese’s film pays homage to the history of cinema via both its plot and certain recreated techniques, so does Howard Shore’s score honor the photoplay music that came before it.

Clock Work [Part Two]

Clock Work
Part Two
Howard Shore Discusses Hugo with Doug Adams


Hugo’s third act reveals that Isabelle’s “Papa Georges” is, in fact, Georges Méliès, one of the forefathers of modern cinema. Here the film’s clock imagery comes into full focus. Hugo Cabret believes that the world and the people that inhabit it are, in essence, one big machine. His place in that machine, just like his place in the train station, is to keep it running – to fix what does not work.

As Hugo sets out to ‘fix’ Papa Georges – to show him that the world did not forget his contributions and that he is not a failure – Howard Shore’s score reveals its own clocklike sense of rotating gears and cogs. The seven themes introduced in the film’s first reel pull together to reveal the subtle connections between each of them. The musette-based themes for Hugo and Isabelle begin to join together to complete one another’s phrases. The theme for the Station Inspector is shown to open with the same three pitches that tick back-and-forth in the clockwork theme. The automaton theme, which begins as a literal representation of the metal figure in Hugo’s makeshift home, turns away from the ondes Martenot and settles on two other instruments related to Shore’s sextet. Guitar develops the figure into a theme for Hugo’s father, who builds and repairs machines, and is the central hub of young Hugo’s world. After Hugo’s father is killed, the guitar theme rotates again and is, at times, applied to Monsieur Labisse, the one person in the train station who seems to know his place and purpose – the only part of the station’s ‘machine’ that it not broken. On the other hand, solo piano, an instrument originally associated with the mystery theme, applies the developed automaton music to the magic of Méliès’ filmmaking, then more specifically to Mama Jeanne’s appearance in the finished films. Here the theme moves beyond the literal to represent a sort of surrogate humanity – the soul of ‘projected’ imagery.

As the musical world of the first half of the film compresses and focuses, two new themes pivot into the spotlight. The first relates to Georges’ halcyon days as a magician, and his first experiments with film. In the story Hugo brings René Tabard over to Méliès’ home. Professor Tabard is a devotee of Méliès’ work and Hugo hopes to prove to Papa Georges that his work has not been forgotten. But Hugo, Isabelle, and Tabard are intercepted by Mama Jeanne, who asks him to please not bring up the past – it will upset Georges too much.

Shore’s nostalgia theme makes it first appearance here. Like Hugo’s theme before it, the nostalgia theme is a gentle French waltz. However, where Hugo’s theme climbs upward with youthful energy and spirit, the nostalgia theme moves primarily by bittersweet descents. It’s not a sad look back, per se, but it’s a settled theme – a fond reminiscence. Says Shore, “It’s a piece that describes Georges and Jeanne’s relationship. It’s woven through the whole last part of the film, but you don’t really hear it until that hallway scene.”

Tabard agrees to leave, but in departing mentions that he remembers Jeanne from Méliès’ films. She is flattered. Recalls Shore, “The kids say, ‘Oh, Mama Jeanne, you were in the movies?’ and she says something to the effect of ‘That was a long time ago.’ A new theme starts right on that line, and that becomes the magic show theme. You hear that when Georges does the levitation trick – it’s all throughout that flashback to his show.”

The magic show theme comes complete with a collection of attendant side figures, many of which are previewed in the armoire scene. As Georges’ past is fully revealed, these same figures return in a sequence that is one part homage and one part recreation of the dawn of filmmaking.

The sextet, Shore’s ensemble-within-an-ensemble consisting of ondes Martenot, musette, gypsy guitar, piano, bass, and drums, is very much like the ensembles one might have encountered in an early period movie house. The use of the tack piano and selections from Saint-Saëns and Satie is in keeping with the tradition of compiled scores drawn from past classics. But it is in acknowledgement of Papa Georges’ history that Shore nods most deeply to the past. Shore’s theme for Méliès’ magic show is surrounded by a number of short motifs, all of which recall the bright, cheerful vigor of photoplay music. “I was going for that theater sound,” Shore describes. Mixer Simon Rhodes worked with Shore to create a very specific timbre that would sound at once modern and period specific. Says Shore, “Simon Rhodes is so good at what he does. He goes well beyond just recording the music. He understands the color and the sound, and what I’m doing, musically, with these new pieces. He created a sound for the last half of the CD that really captured that theater quality. It was very subtle, but so beautiful.

“It was a pretty big orchestra, but it was done small. We didn’t really want to use just the small group, so we used the full orchestra, but they didn’t play that loud. That was part of the key to it – the dynamics. We kept the dynamics under control and that gives it its intimacy – the small sound. A lot of times the orchestra would be playing piano or mezzo-piano, but there would be so many people playing at that low volume that it would sound full and gorgeous – a big, full sound, but without the weight and the loudness.”

Hugo’s metaphorical clock is reset at the end of the film. The story’s ending is a beginning, with each character now renewed and functioning properly – effectively “fixed” – and ready to look into the future. Shore brings the score’s themes together again in “Coeur Volant.” The song fixes Hugo’s theme in the center of its wheel, but places the score’s secondary themes at its edges, each rotating, intermeshing at its appointed turn. Papa Georges has been restored to his proper place in history; the Station Inspector has found love with Lisette; Hugo has a family and a purpose; and Isabelle sits down to commit his story to paper. The ending is a beginning as the clock is wound anew.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Critics Choice Nom for Hugo

Howard Shore's score to Hugo has been nominated for a 2011 Critics Choice Award for BEST SCORE. Congrats and best of luck!

The full list of score nominees is as follows:

The Artist -- Ludovic Bource
Drive -- Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo -- Howard Shore
War Horse -- John Williams

See all the nominations HERE.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Howard Shore in FilmMusicMag

Dan Schweiger has just posted a new interview with Howard Shore in which he discusses Hugo, A Dangerous Method, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit ... the whole panoply!

Howard Shore: "I’m actively composing now on The Hobbit. I love Tolkien, and I love Peter’s work. He creates such incredible films, which makes it even better for a composer. These films are endlessly interesting to me. I never tire of them, because the Rings films are fascinating worlds to work in. But scoring them doesn’t get any easier, I have to say! You would think after The Return of the King that you’ve done everything. Now there are two films ahead and it’s just a mountain to climb really, but it feels good. The Hobbit is quite inspiring."

Read Schweiger's full piece HERE.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ongoing Discussion [December 2011]

We've been looking at Hugo a lot during the past month, and we will continue to do so during the coming weeks. However,  I didn't want to allow A Dangerous Method to pass without some scrutiny. I spent the better part of last spring preparing Of Rings and Myths -- and have, in fact, been working through a few self-imposed revisions just this last month -- so Wagner has been very much on my mind this year. I knew Shore was working on Dangerous Method at the same time but, other than the Idyll, I didn't know which bits of Wagner would be quoted in the score. When I finally heard the album, I was happily encouraged by just how many common selections we'd made in terms of the motifs.

I'm not sure how many Wagnerians there are on the blog ... though Timdalf certainly fits the bill! Anyway, I thought it might be fun to pick through the motifs that appear in the score. I found the use of the Wagner in this score to be quite clever, since it's often well digested into Shore's writing. For example, the album's first track ("Burghölzli") would appear to begin with an appropriately re-formed setting of Wagner's motif for Mime's obsession.

Some of the Wagner quotes seem to relate to the spirit of Wagner's drama while others relate to the undercurrent and meaning behind the leitmotifs; they're not all simple answers.

So please, have a go at it! And by all means, invite your favorite open-minded Wagner scholars to stop by and contribute. I'm anxious to see what you all pick out!

I'm currently working on a bit of research that's one part related to Hugo, one part inspired by Hugo. I'll talk about that more when the next installment of Clock Work runs. As I've noted on the boards, I'm remaining tight-lipped on all things (well, most things) Hobbit-related until 2012, but when speed picks up on that front, expect it to pick up quickly.

Back soon with more Clock Work.


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