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The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores (Book and Rarities CD) Hardcover – CD, Oct 5 2010
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About the Author
Doug Adams is a Chicago-based author and musicologist. In 2001, Adams was invited by Howard Shore to observe and document his work on Peter Jackson's motion picture trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. This book is the culmination of almost a decade of writing and research, during which time Adams attended recording sessions, examined the original scores, and was given total access to the composer's archives.
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Top Customer Reviews
Let's begin with an appreciation of the sheer magnitude of the film score under discussion. At the outset, we must note that there is very little in the history of music that can easily be compared to Howard Shore's score for Peter Jackson's film trilogy of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. When you consider that the films are most accurately viewed as one continuous story, with the similarly continuous score totaling more than TEN HOURS in length, you realize the true scope of Shore's opus. In the world of cinema, there is little to compare it to. One can draw some parallels with John Williams' work on the STAR WARS saga, although its entries are far more individualistic and spread out over a longer period of time. Certain composers for television have written more total hours related to a contiguous body of work; but the musical architecture of, for example, 200 episode scores from THE X-FILES is so vastly different as to defy direct comparison. Even in the world of classical music, it is likewise difficult to find points of reference. For sheer length, narrative scope, and leitmotivic complexity, we can turn to history's *other* great musical ring cycle, Wagner's DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN ... and that's about it.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Let's begin with an appreciation of the sheer magnitude of the film score under discussion. At the outset, we must note that there is very little in the history of music that can easily be compared to Howard Shore's score for Peter Jackson's film trilogy of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. When you consider that the films are most accurately viewed as one continuous story, with the similarly continuous score totaling more than TEN HOURS in length, you realize the true scope of Shore's opus. In the world of cinema, there is little to compare it to. One can draw some parallels with John Williams' work on the STAR WARS saga, although its entries are far more individualistic and spread out over a longer period of time. Certain composers for television have written more total hours related to a contiguous body of work; but the musical architecture of, for example, 200 episode scores from THE X-FILES is so vastly different as to defy direct comparison. Even in the world of classical music, it is likewise difficult to find points of reference. For sheer length, narrative scope, and leitmotivic complexity, we can turn to history's *other* great musical ring cycle, Wagner's DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN ... and that's about it.
Nor (as Adams ably demonstrates) is *length* all there is to it. No doubt any number of composers would have risen to that challenge, with varying degrees of showmanship and craft. But would any of them have entered into the same ambitious spirit of world-crafting as Tolkien himself? Shore did. His music goes beyond the traditional role of a film score to become a veritable musical representation of the peoples, languages, cultures, and histories of Middle-earth. Point by point, Adams reveals to the reader how Shore's choice of instruments, performance styles, method of orchestration, incorporation of texts, and even recording venues and techniques all contributed to express something deeply meaningful about the characters, races, locations, and events that comprise Tolkien and Jackson's stunning epic. To give just one example: Adams explains how Shore used a distinctive range-based style of orchestration, rather than relying on the traditional divisions of instrument families - creating a unique soundscape that would feel both cohesive and somehow ancient.
Adams further breaks down how instruments and thematic elements migrate between characters and cultures, constantly forging chains of interconnection. Take Gollum, for example. The primary instrument associated with the character - the cimbalom - is a relative of the dulcimer, one of the key instruments of the Shire; thus reinforcing the creature's twisted hobbit origins. Furthermore, the chords underpinning Gollum's pitiable theme have a surprising connection to the crucible of Mount Doom, where the character's destiny is bound. This sort of thing is largely invisible to the average filmgoer, but operates on a subconscious level to enhance the drama - and when considering the music on its own terms, it makes the listening experience infinitely more fascinating and enriching. Far from being a "cold" dissection, this sort of analysis will reward you with the ability to listen to the music with fresh ears ... it will come alive in ways you might never have imagined! This, to me, is the hallmark of good analytical writing.
At this point, you might say to yourself, "But I know nothing about the technical side of music! How on earth am I going to follow all this?" Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, "I crave hard-core analysis - how do I know this isn't dumbed-down for mass audiences?" It's hard to be completely objective here, but in my professional estimation as both a reader and writer, Adams has pulled off something of a minor miracle. By treating the ANALYSIS AS NARRATIVE, the author allows the musical theory on display to unfold with surprising clarity and lucidity. Certainly, basic musical literacy will only enhance your ability to understand and enjoy this text. But you don't have to worry about a lack of "conservatory" training - I'd venture to say that anyone who enjoys listening to music with an attentive ear will benefit much from this book, regardless of their educational background.
You might also say to yourself, "I read the liner notes Adams wrote for the Complete Recordings box sets, and I read the Annotated Scores that were posted online - what more is there?" In response, you should first know that the aforementioned texts were extracted and abridged from the larger book-in-progress. They were portions of the whole, serving a valid purpose in their own right ... but they are no substitution for the total package. Here, you will find a more flowing and expansive text, with more space to discuss the big ideas, and a wealth of detail that was necessarily left out of the more restrictive earlier formats. You also get significantly more context in terms of Shore's creative methodology. and the history surrounding the composition and recording of this monumental work. Shore himself contributed a special foreword for the book, and the introduction was penned by LOTR screenwriter and producer Fran Walsh.
And there's more! The number (and readability) of musical examples has been greatly increased throughout, and includes full-page manuscript pages as well as samples of Shore's original sketches. The complete choral texts and translations are here - a real treasure for Tolkien linguists. As an officially licensed project, the book also includes numerous full-color film stills, and - more impressively - an amazing selection of sketch artwork from Tolkien artists John Howe and Alan Lee (who also drew an original piece for the cover). Book designer Gary Day-Ellison (whose portfolio includes work for that *other* Douglas Adams) had full access to Howe and Lee's sketchbooks for this project, so much of their artwork appears in print here for the FIRST TIME, making it doubly essential for enthusiasts. And speaking of the book design, it's simply beautiful. There is a gorgeous aesthetic on display throughout, making the pages a delight to the eye as well as the mind.
Finally, there is the CD which accompanies the book: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RARITIES ARCHIVE. This album of previously unheard material includes theme mock-ups, unreleased versions of cues from the films' theatrical cuts, and other alternate or unused compositions ... all capped by an intimate conversation between the author and the composer. It's a thoughtful musical program that is amazingly coherent as a disc-length listening experience - a testament to the long hours Adams spent poring through Shore's personal archives. Such glimpses into the creative journey are exceedingly rare; even more rarely are they so very rewarding. If "Sammath Naur," an alternate vision of the trilogy's climax, doesn't make your throat catch and your eyes mist up, you may want to check your pulse!
It should be clear by now that I am an unabashed fan of this music, which I think is some of the best ever written for film. Not everyone agrees, of course ... but if you are a devotee of the art of film music in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to at least investigate this book. No study of a film score has ever been published on this scale (in truth, only the rare score could hold up to this kind of rigorous scrutiny), by someone with Adams' musical background and credentials, and with his unprecedented access to resources - extending to the composer himself, who was generous and enthusiastic in his support of this project. If you, like me, celebrate the art form, you should rejoice that a book of this nature exists. It is masterful; a true milestone ... and, I devoutly hope, the harbinger of good things to come.
Surely, the same must be true of great music. The music of The Lord of the Rings films is among the most intricate and nuanced I have ever heard. And yet, composer Howard Shore, in his own foreword to the book "The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films", states that he takes an intuitive approach to composing. It was up to his friend and constant shadow, journalist Doug Adams, to unearth a treasure trove of details after nine painstaking years of research. His book is surely a labor of love.
When I first purchased the three complete film scores as boxed sets, I also downloaded the companion PDFs for each one. They were chock full of fascinating details about those lovely melodies, and all alluded to an upcoming book with even more material. It is here at long last, and I eagerly dove into it the moment it arrived in my mailbox.
Having seen (five times) all of the "making of" videos from the boxed sets of The Lord of the Rings films, I already knew how much painstaking love and passion went into translating J.R.R. Tolkien's great work into films. The approach was not to dramatize a work of fiction, but rather to uncover a lost civilization and bring it back to life. Howard Shore did the same with his music. He states in Doug's book that he wanted it to feel as if someone had discovered it in a vault.
The book is everything I hoped for. After the introductory remarks, there is a table listing out 91 different themes, or "motifs", which form the building blocks of the music. Apart from a few key individuals, such as Gollum, Éowyn and Aragorn, most of the themes are dedicated to entire races or countries. There are monster themes and nature themes, and even themes for Middle Earth as a whole. And there are themes for the Ring.
Next, spanning some 120 pages, is a discussion, one by one, of each of the themes. After an introduction to the theme, there is frequently a "Thematic Relationships" section, detailing how the different blocks of music tie together. For instance, since Gollum is a sort of twisted hobbit, it is not surprising that there would be a few twisted, hobbity elements in Gollum's music. Likewise, the Ring's music ties in with that of Mordor and the Wraiths.
Some themes also have an "In Theory" section, which has staves of music linked by colored boxes and arrows, along with a more detailed analysis of ways in which the various notes may be rearranged, shifted or stacked to form another theme. I sang in choir back in school, and took a semester of basic music theory, but some of this stuff is well beyond what I can really grasp. However, I can frequently make out the melodies from the abundant snippets of music, and this added to my enjoyment of the book.
After the thematic overview comes "The Annotated Score", covering another 135 pages or so. This looks like a track-by-track discussion of the entire boxed CD sets, with a basic plot narrative and a discussion of the themes included in each melody. For instance, "Théoden Rides Forth" incorporates the "Rohan Fanfare", the "White Rider", and "Nature". I have every intention of sitting down with this music and going through it from start to finish, with the book in my lap. It will take many hours.
Even better, along with the track discussions are the lyrics of all of the melodies, rendered in Quenya, Sindarin, Adûnaic, Black Speech and other Tolkien languages. Plus Old English, employed in the Rohan music. I especially loved reading this.
The final part of the book include notes on the recording sessions, and a track-by-track listing of the bonus CD, which itself comes in a little pouch on the back cover. I enjoyed listening to the CD as well. It includes some concept music which never made it into the movies, variations on familiar themes, as well as a roughly ten-minute interview of Howard Shore by Doug Adams.
One very helpful feature of the book are the footnotes. Doug doesn't explain every musical term, but he does cover a fair number. This includes such gems as "aleatoric", "anhemitonic pentatonic" and "plagal".
In back are thematic and choral text indexes.
Finally, there is the gorgeous artwork. The volume is sprinkled liberally with sketches and photos of Middle Earth and its inhabitants. One of my favorites spans pages 208 and 209: The White Mountains rising above the Plains of Rohan.
I learned on the CD that Howard is looking forward to working on The Hobbit. I sincerely hope the movies get made. It would be tragic if Howard couldn't complete his epic of Middle Earth. Perhaps in 2022 or so Doug will be able to publish a new companion volume: "The Music of The Hobbit Films".
But it is not until the music is taken away from the films and listened to on its own that really begins to enchant. Themes weave their way in and out of the music adding their mood and color. The simplicity of the fiddle for the Hobbits grows into the full orchestra and choir behind the bold Fellowship Theme and then dissolves into the strange, mystic and inscrutable eastern instruments that bring us to the world of the elves.
There is so much to discover in this music and as lovers of films, music and film music we have been blessed with the work of Doug Adams who eloquently takes our hand and leads us into rich and complex music of Shore's Middle Earth. His liner notes first appeared in The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (The Complete Recordings) and then subsequently in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (The Complete Recordings) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings). Now this book brings it all together in a beautifully illustrated and designed volume.
If you loved these films and want to understand a whole new dimension to the artistry that went into them, then buy this book. If you enjoy film music and want to get a better understanding of the art form, then buy this book. If you love good music or care about great art then buy this book.
Congratulations Doug. Bravo Maestro Shore.
If you are a film soundtrack fan in general or a LOTR fan specifically, you'll gain much knowledge and entertainment. The staves provided let you play along with the melodies up to full orchestrations in places to analyze song structure and themes. Fascinating bits are on most pages--for example, how Shore built melodies and leitmotifs throughout using three notes or three times three for nine notes - for nine Nazgul/riders, nine in the fellowship, even nine Ainur before Melkor fell!
The rarities CD is lovely as are the publishing, artwork and layout of the book. You can see why author Doug Adams worked on this volume for ten years and why the publisher backed his research with a magnificent volume to set it in.
Enjoyable for music listening beginners and filled with details for advanced music students also. One of the most amazing film books ever written, explaining and helping enhance the power of the music. A must have.