Thursday, April 24, 2014

Extensions and Interviews

Two lovely bits of news today--which I'll combine in one post, since I'm still battling the remnants of jet lag ...

First, Peter Jackson has formally announced via his Facebook page that Howard Shore has scored the additional scenes in the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug. The added material both looks and sounds great!

Second, tonight is the Howard Shore concert in Dublin, Ireland. Below, please find a great interview that Andrew McKimm sent in. Click the image to expand it, or see the full text below.

I'm off on another plane shortly, but I'll be back soon!


From Dead Ringers to Lord of the Rings An Interview with Howard Shore  

In December 2001, I remember watching the initial frames of the first Lord of the Rings movie with immense trepidation. I wanted desperately for the film to live up to my experience of the book but was preparing myself for yet another sword-and-sorcery disappointment. My fears were completely allayed when the cart bearing Gandalf and Frodo crossed the bridge into Hobbiton and Howard Shore’s Concerning Hobbits theme started. It’s a still-magic film moment when the viewer is pulled out of their seat and transported straight into Middle-Earth. It is an instant of innocence and wonder like being re-born or getting one’s childhood back again. When I spoke to Howard Shore recently he told me that such a reaction is precisely what the filmmakers had been trying to achieve. “That was the goal, that’s what we were attempting – the feeling that you were going to be in a story that was truthful, honest and loving”. These last words also seem to sum up the composer himself. His voice is suffused with a beguiling gentleness and sincerity. Rather like one of his own soundtracks. He appears entirely humble – aware of what he has achieved yet still with his mind resolutely set on the future. Very hobbit-like. Shore is perhaps the only film composer for whom the mantle “Symphonic” truly fits his work. Interviewing him felt like being able to pick up the phone and talk to Johannes Brahms. Mr. Shore will be in Dublin next week to introduce a programme premiering both his latest orchestral works and also The Return of the King movement from The Lord of the Rings Symphony. He is no stranger to Ireland but this will be his first visit to Dublin. I asked him was I correct in detecting a Celtic flavour in much of the music for the Shire. Concerning Hobbits is first presented on tin whistle and fiddle after all. “With The Fellowship of the Ring we were trying to design a piece of work that would seem as if it had been written five or six thousand years ago. Celtic music is very old - the ideas and sounds take you back in a historical sense to the very origins of music.”

The Concerning Hobbits melody is central to the movies and perfectly captures themes of wistful innocence, hope, heroism, and loss.

Did it take him a long time to compose such a crucial and instantly memorable tune? “I had travelled to New Zealand early in the film’s production and was inspired by the imagery that the team were already conjuring up. When I returned, I spent time walking in the oak woodland close to my home and I tried to imagine what it was like to actually live in the Shire.” Shore laughs with a quiet realisation. “I had probably been trying to do that ever since I first read the books in the 1960’s! After that the theme came rather quickly.” He adds: “While I’m writing, my environment is very important to me – ideas are germinating in the woods. I always feel connected to Tolkien through his love of nature.” 
Much of Howard Shore’s melody-writing, particularly for the elves, is riven with a fragile longing for a purer world, one that seems unattainable or in danger of being lost. These ideas are pure Tolkien. Does he feel as an artist that this is a vision that he shares with the late professor? “While I’m working on the movies, I’m always trying to connect with Tolkien’s ideas, his sensibilities, the world that he created. I try to always mirror in music the images and words of the films. His books are always open on my desk while I’m writing”. The Lord of the Rings soundtracks represent a watershed in Howard Shore’s life as a composer. From the 1979 onwards he has written the music for almost all of fellow-Canadian director, David Cronenberg’s movies. Although lacking the hummable tunes of the Rings movies, anyone who has seen 1988’s Dead Ringers or Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs will attest to how effective and creepy his music is. “I used music in a very specific – a more psychological way - to work around the edges of the screen, to deepen the story-telling. I wanted to balance all of the arts in a very cohesive way, to immerse the viewer in the drama.”

How did he then trade in a Dead Ring for the One Ring? “All through the 90’s I became an avid opera-goer and started attending the Met on a regular basis. I fell in love with Italian Opera. With its abundance of writing for both solo and choral voices, its use of Tolkien’s invented languages, the music for The Lord of the Rings could be more accurately described as an opera than as a symphony. Film composers owe a huge debt to Wagner and his development of the leitmotif (a recurring melody that is associated with a certain character, object, place, emotion, or idea).” Shore’s Dublin concert will include the Irish Première of Mythic Gardens - A Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Howard Shore has been writing music since he has been 8 or 9 when he took his first steps with counterpoint exercises. His work ethic and approach to writing the music to such gargantuan works as the Tolkien films is inspiring. “Even at my age (67) I still feel like a student, looking at scores and studying them. I try to write each day. It’s just a pencil moving across a page. Some days are better and some days are not so good. When I look back on my progress after a certain period of time has elapsed it’s staggering to see how much music one can produce. At times I felt like Frodo with the Ring, having the responsibility to write the music for a book that has been around for over 60 years and which has such a tremendous resonance with so many people who care so deeply about its ideas. Music is a journey. To quote Bilbo: ‘The road goes ever on…’ ”.

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