Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LOTR in Concert: Oakland Discount

One more post before I finish packing. If you're planning to attend the Oakland performance of The Lord of the Rings in Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring, but haven't yet purchased your tickets, here's a great way to save a few bucks!

Act fast; the offer expires this Saturday.

The Lord of the Rings In Concert: The Fellowship Of The Ring 
Saturday, October 22 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.Oracle Arena, Oakland Middle Earth Has Never Sounded So Good! The Lord of the Rings In Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring is the groundbreaking first installment of Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning film trilogy.  
Featuring Howard Shore’s complete Academy Award® and Grammy®–winning score performed live on-stage by more than 250 musicians with the film projected on an immense 60-foot screen.  Entertainment Weekly calls it "High Class Geekery" and The San Francisco Examiner exclaims "It's The Concert of the Decade."
Save $5 on tickets with code 1RING!*Get tickets at Ticketmaster or call 800-745-3000.
Not valid on VIP seating. Valid on new ticket purchases only. Limit of 10 tickets per person. Valid on full priced tickets only. No double discounts. Valid online or at the Oracle Arena Box Office only for performances on October 22. Offer expires October 1, 2011. 

Happy Anniversary ... And Back on the Road

It was one year ago today that The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films saw it's debut upon the world's stage in a London music shop. It's hard to believe it's been a year. It's also hard to believe it's only been a year. The book, in various versions, has been my constant companion for so long, it just feels like something that's always been around. In my mind, at least, it has a rather timeless quality.

Or that could just be some lingering jet-lag. Speaking of which ...

I'm hitting the road again. Tomorrow evening I'm off to LA for a two-day jaunt. I'll be signing books at the Orange, CA Barnes and Noble on Thursday night at 7:00, and I'll be lecturing at Fullerton College the next morning 10:00 a.m. In between, I'll be speaking with ... essentially every media outlet in the greater Los Angeles area. It's like being on a reality series that's divided up in 4 minute chunks between 10 different stations. For a few hours, at least, I'll be hard to miss!

I'll leave LA behind on Saturday, then I'm off to Kentucky to prepare for Of Rings and Myths, which will premiere on Saturday, October 8 at 8:00 p.m.

From Kentucky, I'll head back out west for stints in Portland, Seattle, and Oakland ... and maybe more, who knows. I'm still finding out! It's a constant whirlwind of The Lord of the Rings In Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring press until Oct. 14. Then I'll just head home and collapse in a heap.

Until then, however, I'll try to keep you updated on the travel. Keep your eyes on the Twitter and Facebook feeds, since they're usually the easiest to update quickly.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate the one year anniversary of this great ongoing adventure! Thank you always for joining me. See you soon!


Thursday, September 22, 2011


I still think it's funny that TheOneRing.net knew about this before I did! That said, yes it's true, I'll be on the west coast at the end of next week promoting The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films and The Lord of the Rings: In Concert -- The Fellowship of the Ring. There's more to come. West coasters may be seeing me around during the coming weeks. Stay tuned ...

From Barnes and Noble:

Author Event, Special Event In connection with "Lord of the Rings in Concert" at the Honda Center, author Doug Adams will join us to sign his book, a comprehensive look at Howard Shore's score featuring an Exclusive Rarities CD of unreleased LOTR music -- must for all LOTR fans.

Thursday September 29, 2011 7:00 PM Orange Orange Town &Country, 791 South Main Street Suite 100
Orange, CA 92868, 714-558-0028

Saturday, September 17, 2011

LOTR Symphony Review

Yes, it wasn't just a few days ago that I was decrying reviews as remnants of a lost age, but I thought this one was so strong that I can help but post it. I can live with my hypocrisy if you can! This piece by Jonathan Weilbaecher originally ran HERE. It's always gratifying to see a non-music-based site tackle a review like his with such enthusiasm, so please be sure to click over and reward theflickcast.com's hit count.

Film Score Friday: ‘The Lord of the Rings Symphony’ by Howard Shore by Jonathan Weilbaecher, Sep 16 2011
There are a few quintessential film scores in every generation. Amongst the first of the new century is the music from The Fellowship of the Ring, Howard Shore’s epic, sweeping and moving first score in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At the end of the day, all three scores work together to tell the single story of the Lord of the Rings, weaving in and out of complex themes and structures more like an opera than a traditional film score.  
This epic master work has recently found new life with the release of The Lord of the Rings Symphony, a six movement piece that spans the entire trilogy. The music is structured into two movements per movie, emulating the two books in each volume of the trilogy. Each movie getting between twenty and forty minutes of their best musical moments, woven together like a single cohesive musical experience. 
So the first question on my mind as I hear about this release is how it sounds. Many times when there is a re-recording of a release, it doesn’t have that certain spark of the original recording, the music is all there, but it is just not quite the same. Thankfully, for this release the music is almost perfection, and several cases I even prefer the new recorded cues to the originals I have listened to for years.  
So yes, the music translates wonderfully to this new arrangement, and the heavy inclusion of choirs and vocalists is a big reason for it. The film’s music had the luxury of finding the most talented singers and musicians for the original recordings, and the people who played and sang on this release stands toe to toe with them. Even the end credits songs, which each have iconic and different singular sounds are covered with skill. I can easily see my self lightening to this album when I want a quick Lord of the Rings fix, it is that good.  
Normally I do my three favorite tracks, and my least favorite. With only six tracks on this release and none worth pointing out as a worst, I am instead going to just go over each movement: 
Movement One - The beginning, the mood setter, and the track with the most heavy lifting to do. One of, if not the, most iconic themes of the trilogy is that of the Hobbits. In the movies this theme is introduced very quickly as Bilbo explains Hobbits to the audience. When you start movement one, you are not yet sure how good the whole thing will sound. The music from the prologue is presented well, but it isn’t until the Hobbit music that you realize that you are in good hands. The best part is that it isn’t just a carbon copy, this version even has some of it’s own texture, which really brings it to life in this setting.  
Movement Two - This is the longest single movement from the album, and it is almost entirely brilliant. It starts with the elves and the etherial sounds of Rivendell, moves triumphantly to the Fellowship theme, and continues to wow as the second half of the first film is played out beautifully. There are two moments in this movement I want to focus on, the first being the single best version of the Fellowship theme I have ever heard.  
It is big, heroic and never fails to give me goosebumps. The second moment is a smaller moment that never stood out to me before on any soundtrack release. When the fellowship passes by the Argonath, statues honoring the kings of old, the music is just stunning. I know I picked up on it in the movies, but never on a soundtrack release, until now.  
Movement Three - Moving on to the second film now, movement three has some more amazing music. When you first hear the theme for the people of Rohan I almost lose it every time. The way it builds from the pieces of the fellowship theme, and a great version of the orcs music is just perfect. In context of the symphony I think it actually plays better, in fact I think it sounds better too. This movement also has some really great Isengard themes as well, really selling the point that this moment in the symphony represents the lowest, most hopeless point in the journey.  
Movement Four – This music represents the turning of the tide, when hope rode back into story. It begins with the elves marching to be at the side of man one last time and then transitions into my favorite moment in the entire symphony. The music that accompanies Theoden’s ride out to the Uruk-hi and Gandalf’s epic return is easily the most moving music Shore has ever written.  
Again it is the context of what music plays around this cue that elevates it even more. Also of note in this movement is a wonderful version of Gollum’s Song, the original version has much more of a nordic vide to it, and this version is sung a little more traditionally. I think this actually improves the song.  
Movement Five - We have finally come to music from the last of the films. There is a lot going on in this movie, and on the soundtrack the score does kind of jump around a bit. More so than either of the other two films, and the rearrangement of the music into this symphonic package really brings out the best of it. My favorite moment in this movement is the music for the lighting of the beacons, a thrilling, if a little hooky, moment from the movies that plays beautifully in this movement. Also a tiny moment from Faramir’s ride to Osgiliath is buried in here and is a perfect counter to all of the battle music that populates the rest of the track. 
Movement Six - The film might have twenty five endings, but the music for the last portion of The Return of the King is so good that I would have sat through twenty five more. The movement starts with the music from the final confrontation of good vs. evil. Frodo and Sam are on mount doom, Aragorn is leading the men of the west to the gates of Mordor, basically sh*t is about to go down. Seamlessly the music lays of the final battle, hitting on most of the iconic musical moments for the perfect amount of time.  
From this epic finale it then plays off with almost the entire music from the prolonged end of the trilogy, even the song Aragorn sings at his coronation is here. It is beautiful, every note, all the way to the very end with a version of Into the West and a wonderful cue that lives at the very end of the credits, fittingly closing the book on one of the greatest musical achievements in modern history.  
So yeah, I loved this symphony. It is perfect, amazing, beautiful, or just about any adjective you can use to describe something great. Even if you own the original soundtracks and the complete recordings (as I do) you will want to make sure to pick this up.  
Final Score The Lord of the Rigs Symphony: 5 out of 5

Friday, September 16, 2011


While the expansive west coast tour of LOTR in Concert: FOTR gears up in the States, Switzerland has been busily preparing for the return of Return ...

On Sunday, April 8, 2012 the 21st Century Orchestra and Chorus under Maestro Ludwig Wicki will perform LOTR in Concert: ROTK at Luzern's KKL. It's a one-night-only performance at 5:00 p.m., not unlike the one-off performances that fell a few weeks before the Radio City performances in past years.

The Orchestra's official site only includes the 2011 calendar right now, but keep your browsers pointed HERE for announcements and tickets.

I don't know that I've ever seen our right sidebar of performances any fuller than it is right now. Very exciting!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dangerous Disc

 Ok, one more bit of news this week:

Howard Shore's score to A Dangerous Method will be released in the UK on September 16. The US release will be close on its heels, but nearer to the film's release in the States. The album includes Shore's original score, and concludes Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" as arranged for piano by Shore and performed by Lang Lang.

Tracklist is below. UK orders can be placed HERE (and listen to the samples while you're there). US, as noted, is forthcoming.

1. Burghölzli
2. Miss Spielrein
3. Galvanometer
4. Carriage
5. He's Very Persuasive
6. Sabina
7. Otto Gross
8. A Boat with Red Sails
9. Siegfried
10. Freedom
11. End of the Affair
12. Letters
13. Confession
14. Risk My Authority
15. Vienna
16. Only One God
17. Something Unforgivable
18. Reflection
19. Siegfried Idyll (Wagner)

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Concert: Of Myths and Rings

In May of this year, I was contacted by Howard Shore's office with a rather unique request: Can you write a concert?

Wait, let me back up.

Before I came into the picture this inchoate concert was the brainchild of James Cassidy, conductor of the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. Cassidy had envisioned a concert that would encompass both of the great musical Rings, one Wagner's, one Tolkien's/Shore's. He had brought his idea to Shore, who was intrigued. This, of course, had been a topic of conversation for a number of years. Jonathan Dean had given some Wagner/Shore talks back in the early 2000s, and added some thoughts for the Music of LOTR book. Alex Ross had written a piece for the New Yorker. One of New York's very first choral performances of Shore's Rings music featured a sort of back-to-back with Wagner. But these fascinating comparative glimpses were just this -- cursory glimpses into a rich vein of subject matter.

So that mid-May phone call came in. Can you write a concert? A Wagner/Shore concert? Can we do something that is both deeply informative and narratively resonant?

"Sure! Yes!" I said, remembering that whenever asked if you can do something, you're supposed to say "Sure! Yes!" and then figure it out later.

"Sure! Yes!" I think you're supposed to repeat it, too.

So over the next few weeks and months I once again buried myself in Ring lore. It had been a while since I'd been back in research mode and it felt ... good, actually. Great, even. I love this part of any project. I re-read every Wagner text I had at hand, and ordered a few new ones to boot. Heck, I even reviewed certain bits of my own book, just to put myself back in the proper headspace.

And, of course, there was the music -- nearly twenty-four glorious hours of it -- which I studied with the written scores. We wanted a two-act performance, each half around forty-five minutes in length, so some judiciously thoughtful pruning was required.

"Pruning" is a scary word. It's essentially an act of adaptation, which, when you're dealing with such classic material, is quite a gamble. Too much of this, or too little of that, and you're sunk. In this case, however, "pruning" was the key.

I decided this would work best as a performance for orchestra, chorus, soloists, and narrator. Wagner isn't Shore and Shore isn't Wagner, but they were both influenced by the same sort of mythological histories, and they responded in somewhat similar ways. Sometimes those similarities are musical, sometimes textual, sometimes extra-musical, etc. If these things were going to be addressed in a performance, you'd need a narrator. And, if the narrator is going to make these points, the audience needs to hear these points. This is a performance, not a lecture. So this means you can't have Act One be purely Shore or Act Two be purely Wagner. The composers need to coexist structurally. And once they're doing that, the "pruning" spells itself out nicely, because your structure is dictated by the relationship between the two composers' music. How does Wagner handle conflict, musically speaking? How does Shore? How does Shore handle love? How does Wagner? How about death? Rebirth? Nature? Greed?

This was the trick to the storytelling. Don't try too hard to compress. You simply can't push that much material into that size box. Instead, shift focus; move your frame around. "Pruning" led to a comparative structure, and the comparative structure led to what I feel is the perfect balance of the two composers. Act One will be primarily focused on Tolkien and Shore with splashes of Wagner tossed in here and there. Act Two is the direct opposite: Wagner with dashes of Shore for variety and clarity. The weighty/lengthy pieces were referred to as the "Selections," the shorter (but still substantial) bits were "Inserts."

Here's our musical rundown:

Act One
Selection 1: Shore: The Prologue
Selection 2: Shore: Concerning Hobbits
Insert 1: Shore: The Pity of Gollum
Insert 2: Shore: The History of the Ring
Insert 3: Wagner: The Ring Motif
Insert 4: Wagner: The Forging Theme
Insert 5: Shore: Isengard (Five-beat Pattern)
Insert 6: Shore: Rivendell
Insert 7: Shore: The Fellowship Theme
Insert 8: Wagner: Siegfried's Horn
Insert 9: Shore: The Gondor Theme
Selection 3: Shore: Khazad-dûm
Insert 10: Wagner: Birdsong Motif
Insert 11: Shore: Nature's Reclamation
Insert 12: Wagner: Loge as Fire
Selection 4: Shore: March of the Ents
Insert 13: Shore: Mount Doom Theme
Insert 14: Shore: Andúril - Flame of the West
Insert 15: Shore: Fellowship, Gondor, and Rohan
Insert 16: Shore: Sam at Cirith Ungol
Selection 5: Shore: For Frodo/Mount Doom/Crack of Doom
Selection 6: Shore: Days of the Ring

Act Two
Selection 7: Wagner: Entrance of the Gods Into Valhalla
Insert 17: Shore: Ringwraiths
Selection 8: Wagner Ride of the Valkyries
Selection 9: Wagner: Magic Fire Music
Insert 18: Wagner: Siegfried's Strength Motif
Insert 19: Shore: Descending Thirds
Selection 10: Wagner: Forest Murmurs
Insert 20: Wagner: Dragon Motif
Insert 21: Wagner: Siegfried vs. Fafner
Insert 22: Shore: Five-beat/Fellowship
Insert 23: Wagner: Brünnhilde’s Love (Siegfried Idyll)
Insert 24: Shore: The Grace of Undómiel
Insert 25: Wagner: Brünnhilde the Valkyrie & Siegfried's Heroism
Insert 26: Shore: Shire Theme (flute setting)
Insert 27: Wagner: Siegfried and Brünnhilde the Woman
Insert 28: Shore: The Death of Boromir
Selection 11: Wagner: Siegfried's Funeral Music
Selection 12: Wagner: Finale

And between everything is the narration that keeps track of the story elements, and the development of the leitmotivic material. But it's the music that carries the show, not the words. All is in service of these two composers. Obviously, it's quite a balancing act!

As I say, this was huge fun for me. It was a chance to dig into this music once again and find something entirely new to talk about. It was also a chance to program music that's rarely heard like this. In the case of Shore, this will be the first time some of this music has been heard live without overlaid sound effects and dialogue. And Wagner's Ring score is notoriously difficult to bring into the concert world because it's so interwoven with its lengthy plot. I don't know that some of these pieces have ever been done outside of the opera hall in this manner.

Of Rings and Myths is on the Kentucky Symphony's schedule for the evening of Saturday, October 8, 2011. Handling the vocal end of the evening will be the KSO Chorale featuring soprano Kara Shay Thompson and tenor Ric Furman. I'll take the role of narrator for the night and James Cassidy will conduct the gathered forces. Tickets and additional details are available at the KSO's official website. (I'll also be signing The Music of the Lord of the Rings that weekend in conjunction with the concert -- details to come.) If this performance is the success we hope it will be, we'd very much like to see the show tour as have previous Rings shows. This is a fantastic way to bring this music to orchestras that aren't equipped for the multimedia experience of the LOTR Symphony or the Live to Projection performances. And per our usual, the goal is to create something that's satisfying to fans of both Rings, musicians and non-musicians, young and old.

If you're in the area, please come join us! If not, this one may be worth a road trip! More to come ...

Fellowship in Concert: Melbourne in 2012

It's over a year away, but Fellowship in Concert (the official rebranding of the Live to Projection series) will play Melbourne, Australia on Thursday, October 4 and Friday, October 5, 2012.

Sure, it seems a long way off now, but since most readers here have an eye firmly fixed on December 2012 already, it'll go quickly!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ongoing Discussion Thread [September 2011]

Chicago in Review

I love the Chicago Symphony. It’s not only my “home symphony,” it’s one of the best in the world. I’ve watched this ensemble my whole life, and have performed with many of the players over the years. I love the heritage and the well-honed, sharp-toothed sound they bring to everything they play. When it was announced that Fellowship would play at Ravinia, I knew immediately that Ludwig Wicki would evince a completely unique sound from the orchestra. Howard Shore’s music has such a particular sense of voicing. His Rings music is really built on intersecting blocks of sound. In many ways, that’s the key to the ancient/modern sound. The blocks themselves have a Germanic sense of weight and gravity, but the interaction has a sort of smooth, delicate French/Italian flavor. It’s the “orchestration by ranges” approach we discus in the book. The CSO is such a lucid orchestra, and Wicki knew exactly how to use that clarity in service of Shore’s precise, contained sound. It’s was a remarkable pairing!

Ravinia presents the best that festival atmospheres offer. A concert like this brings out families, dates, wild-haired hippies, buttoned-down businessmen. It’s quite a diverse sea of humanity! Nearly 20,000 people attended over the course of the two performances. Our supply of books sold out approximately 10 minutes into the second night, so I spent the rest of the evening signing programs, ticket stubs, wine bottles, and arms! I’m glad the people that weren’t able to get their hands on a copy of the book were good natured about it, and I hope they’ll head off to Amazon ASAP!

I was actually shocked at how many people lined up for the book … including many people from the blog and from Twitter who came to say “hello!” The Tolkien gang from last spring’s Wheaton lectures was there as well, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the appearance of my translator from Poland in 2009. He was in the States for a trip to New York, but had seen the concert in Chicago advertised and decided to reroute his schedule. If that’s not a testament to the power of this music, I don’t know what is.

September should be a good month around these parts. I'll be back with a couple of announcements later down the line, and of course, you all know about Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony being released on September 13 (available right HERE on Amazon). And if you'd like to hear the performance a few days early, Bavarian Radio Klassik will be broadcasting the entire work on Sunday, September 4 at 4:00 (local German time). Details and links will be located on the BR-KLASSIK home page.

Before I wrap this post up, please enjoy a couple of video from the Chicago Fellowship performance. Many thanks to Guillaume for sending these in!

See you soon for more announcements!

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