Artists to Watch
Be the first to hear about the hottest emerging artists. Featuring ten new artists each month, Artists to Watch will help you stay in the know when it comes to up-and-coming artists. See all of this month's picks
* A Review of boxed set * Download on MP3/ IPod Player * Price
I think any music lover, and especially those who love classical, will want to take a look at this boxed set and The Fellowship of The Ring, Complete Recordings for the same reason. It is fabulous.
The boxed set, come in a square box that is roughly length of a hand. It opens with the DVD audio version on the left. A book placemarker over the remaining set to the right. There's a beautiful 43 and 45 page booklet, respectively (That is, Fellowhip, Two Towers-- in order) and not as noted as a 48-page. Nevertheless, it has some annotations about the orchestral construction and Mr. Shore's ideas on themes as it relates to the characters, places and events of the particular movie. There isn't a complete notation on all tracks. In the Two Towers booklet, 2nd to last page, Mr. Shore says more info can be sought from [...]
The Two Towers. (There are wonderful reviews of The Fellowship pieces already on the customer review page.) What I found in terms of themes is fewer than in Fellowship. The music, orchestration is coordinated with the film, but a lot more aggressive. This is not a bad thing. You can easily feel the story being told when as each track is playing-- no annotation necessary. I found Track 1 of disc 1, luring me in immediately. The opening theme is repeated periodically, but not as often as in Fellowship. Disc 1, according to the booklet, is Smeagol/ Gollum's descent. But any of the tracks as that same exalted beginning slowly (deteriorating?) to a slow, almost maudlin tempo nothing demonstates this more than track 7 or "The Banishment of Eomer".Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
162 of 171 people found the following review helpful
There is some good in this world!Nov. 7 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It is 2002. Howard Shore just finished scoring David Cronenberg's "Spider" and David Fincher's "Panic Room" before he stepped to the podium of the Kodiak Theatre to pick up his first, well- deserved Academy Award for "Fellowship Of The Ring". Film score enthusiasts all over the world wondered whether his success at the Oscars would affect the upcoming second part of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, "The Two Towers". After all, it wouldn't have been the first blockbuster to get destroyed by its success.
All worries were unfounded because luckily, Howard Shore is still one of the composers who prefer artistic integrity over success.
But the big question remained: after recording not only a tremendously successful score, but also an enormous work of Wagnerian proportions, how could you take that up a notch? It's simple, you don't. Two Towers is not a sequel to Fellowship, it is its continuation. This answer is deceptively simple, but understanding it is the key to understanding and fully appreciating The Two Towers. These scores can't be reduced to the term "film music", they go far beyond that - they are a mirror image of the story, they are subtext. With Fellowship Of The Ring, Howard Shore laid the fundament for the trilogy, he established the sound and many of the most important themes. And just like each film builds on each other, the music constantly evolves, develops its material, confronts itself and introduces new themes where needed.
So, for those who aren't familiar with the complete score, if there is one thing you should not expect from Two Towers, then it is any radical departure from Fellowship. That doesn't mean Two Towers is not different, though. The film is darker than part one, much more grim and complex. The score reflects that in so far as it is alot more introverted, with amazing subtlety, some really gutwrenching moments, and that makes Two Towers radiate a maturity that really rockets this score over the roof.
This has something to do with the shift of perspective. Where Fellowship Of The Ring dealt with the world of joyous hobbits and magical elves, Two Towers focuses on the decaying world of men, their desperate war against Saruman and Frodo's dreary journey through marshes and woods. Some lighter hobbit material provides a couple of comedic breaks during Merry and Pippin's storyline with Treebeard and the Ents, who are represented by a very particular sound texture of wooden percussion and a specific motif, which unfortunately mostly cut from the film, but which can be heard here in full form.
All in all, there are over a dozen new themes and motifs to fill in the blank spots for Rohan, Gondor, Fangorn, Gandalf The White and Frodo. Very noticeable, and very appropriately, in the score is the extensive exploration of the Isengard material, whose 5/4 pattern is very invasive, spreads throughout the score and tries to take over other thematic material. Orchstration and composition of the theme are expanded as well, it's not as isolated as in Fellowship anymore, it feels alot more active.
Connected to that is Gandalf's resurrection. In "Gandalf The White", which heavily features unused music, the White Rider theme is introduced, which sounds like a beautiful, soaring contrast to the Isengard motif.
Frodo and Sam's journey, as soon as they encounter Gollum, is slowly getting dominated by his music. The Pity Of Gollum theme, already present in more conventional form in Fellowship, gets some serious workout, and not only that; Howard Shore expands it and defines a distinct Gollum sound, together with the cembalon. This hammer dulcimer is the weapon of choice for Gollum's evil "Stinker" motif, one of the many new themes for Two Towers. It can be heard prominently in "Lost In Emyn Muil" and on bassoon at the end of "The Tales That Really Matter".
As I'm typing this review, I realise how impossible it is to adequately describe the unbelievable complexity in this score with so few words. This isn't even comparable to Fellowship Of The Ring, this is a quantum leap in scope. Already the first track "Glamdring" lets you know that this score is going to be alot more epic, but at the same time it's so personal and emotional.
What constantly blows my mind is how seemingly effortlessly Howard Shore shifts and swerves between various feelings, atmospheres and styles. From comedy to deepest sadness, from 20th century harmonies to deepest 19th century opera, the whole palette is amazing. Not to mention the spectacular choir work that is even more prominent and complex in Two Towers. With all the great solo performers, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Sheila Chandra, Elizabeth Fraser, Ben Del Maestro and Emiliana Torrini, Two Towers is not only a top notch orchestral work, it is even stellar in the vocal performances, which has also something to do with Howard Shore writing pieces especially for their voices. With so much mastery in composition, orchestration and execution, it is almost a by-product that the music matches the picture. But you shouldn't forget it, since that, amongst other things, is indeed what makes Lord Of The Rings extra- special.
Now about the presentation of the music. "The Two Towers" has three separate, intertwining storylines, and that's also how the music can be heard here. Not only does this serve the storytelling idea of these Complete Recordings, it also highlights Howard Shore's outstanding ability to build bridges between dozens of themes and bring them all together for some mindblowing climaxes, like in "Theoden Rides Forth" and "The Tales That Really Matter". These sets aren't called "Complete Recordings" for nothing, so be prepared! They give us the music how it was recorded, and that's not necessarily how it appeared in the film. There were plenty of edits in the film versions, and music that was left out even from the extended film has been moved to its proper place for this set, so be prepared for some brand new listening experiences!
Just like the Complete Recordings for Fellowship, this one also comes in a thick box with a 45 pages long booklet full of liner notes by Douglas Adams, a Shore expert, who provides an insightful, sometimes astounding analysis of the score.
Lastly, allow me to lose a few words on the price, which some are complaining about, and also about the existence of these Complete Recordings. All the useless, commercially driven releases affect the real gems in a very negative way because those are then also automatically branded as commercially driven.
I for one love it that we have the possibility to listen to every single note that Howard Shore recorded for the films - music for which he went through stress, worry, and god knows what emotions. For TTT, he's worked himself into the ground over a period that lasted well over six months with the firm will to create something worthy of remembrance, he had barely any sleep in those times, just to do Tolkien's book justice, to translate it into unbelievably complex music and to give us a bone- chilling experience - and I think that deserves at least an ounce of gratitude.
Our younger generation slowly has to get used again to the idea that quality isn't cheap.
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful Music, Painfully PricedNov. 15 2006
Paul R. Potts
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I wrote an extensive review for the Fellowship of the Rings complete recordings, and most of what I wrote for that set applies here. This is wonderful music. Although it suffers a bit from being the middle movie (the themes feel less new, although there are new themes), I love hearing Miranda Otto's funeral lament in Old English and the full version of Gollum's Song, which is a wonderfully cathartic piece.
The box configuration is identical, including the impractical rubber "nub" for the audio DVD. The box is pretty, but it will not stay closed properly on the shelf, the glued-down paper wrapping will tend to snag and tear on the inside corners when you pull out the contents, and the box itself is prone to coming apart at the seams rather easily.
The DVD is still of somewhat dubious value, because of lack of widespread support for higher-bit-rate audio formats, and the fact that it is copy-protected, making it difficult, although far from impossible, to do anything useful with the audio data, such as put it on your portable player. You will probably want to put it in a more protective case. I would recommend removing the DVDs from their rubber nubs and placing them in those soft sleeves, and stashing those in the boxes.
The price really is a bit alarming; the list price of FOTR Complete is $59.98, and Amazon sells it for close to that ($2.10 off is not much of a discount). But although you are getting the same number of discs in an identical format, TTT Complete is listed at an astonishing $75.98, although Amazon's price is $60.99. Ignoring for a moment the audio DVD, that prices out at over $20 per CD for the music content, which is really, really high.
Unfortunately this leaves us fans in a bind; I want to support the release of this complete recording set and convince those that put it out to release ROTK in the same format. I really love the content of these extended editions, but not the packaging and presentation. A box with a lid resembling the Extended Edition DVD boxes would have been more practical and allowed the use of a larger format for the booklet, which has painfully small print (and the music notation is almost illegibly tiny). It also could have held a more robust case including a place for the audio DVD.
So the question then becomes (since I don't advocate theft), "do I send a message that this is just too expensive and go without it" or "do I grit my teeth and shell out over $60?" Personally, I caved in, although the fact that I spent so much on this boxed set slightly taints my enjoyment of it every time I listen to it or squint at the booklet.
I'm steeling myself for a list price of $99.98 for ROTK, which might mean a street price of $80. They'll do it, because they know they've got you. And unfortunately, they are right!
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Truly a Work of ArtNov. 15 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
There are a couple of different ways you could approach the music of Howard Shore's complete "The Two Towers" film score. The simplest would be to just pop one of the CDs into your player, lean back and let this gorgeous music wash over you, carrying you away to Middle Earth. Or you could use the excellent 45-page program guide to help you explore the music more methodically.
As with the complete "Fellowship of the Ring", there is an excellent write-up on each of the major themes appearing in "The Two Towers". Some of the language can get pretty technical, such as this excerpt from page 29: "The keening rhaita and swelling mixed chorus return, bolstered by weighty brass writing, thicker accompanying textures, many aleatoric, and increased orchestral doublings." It was very helpful of the publisher to define "aleatoric" in a footnote. As for the rhaita, you can see a picture of it on page 41. It looks like some sort of woodwind instrument.
And that's another thing I like about the booklet: it is sprinkled with pictures of instruments, performers as well as characters and scenes from the film: Eowyn standing in front of the palace at Edoras, the wind whipping through her dress; the ents marching off to war; Merry and Pippin discovering the goodies in Saruman's flooded larder at Isengard.
For those with extensive orchestral musical training, there are little snippets of sheet music for each of the themes. Those of us who struggle with sight reading will appreciate this touch: the discussion of each theme includes a disc and track number, plus a time index, so you can hear it for yourself. Want to know what "The White Rider (In Nature)" sounds like? Try Disc One, Track 13, index 2:11. Very nice, especially if your player lets you scan tracks in a hurry.
Another item of interest is the section entitled "Nine Notes to Rule Them All" on page 24. It seems that the number nine plays a prominent role in the music of "The Lord of the Rings".
One thing I would have liked to have seen were lyrics to the songs, especially the ones in Old English. But at 45 pages, I suppose the program guide was already getting pretty bulky. Reference is made to a book called "The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films" as well as a tie-in web site, where we can learn more about the choral texts.
If you had asked me just a month ago what my all-time favorite film score was, I would cheerfully have answered "The Star Wars saga, all six movies". Indeed, the techniques composer John Williams used there resemble those for Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" score to a great degree. Both are based on something called "leitmotif", pioneered in the 19th-century by the likes of Richard Wagner and Carl Maria von Weber, wherein various characters, places and ideas have distinctive musical themes. There are motifs for the Fellowship, Eowyn, Gollum, Mordor, Rohan and the hobbits -- more than 80 in all, I've read.
A master composer can weave these themes together skillfully to convey different moods, to the point that it's possible to follow the plot of the story just by listening to the complete score. I can do this both with "Star Wars - A New Hope" and with "The Fellowship of the Ring". Because of the complexity of the music for "The Two Towers", I'll need to study it more thoroughly first, but even as I'm writing this I'm following the basic plot points. At this very moment, Gollum and Smeagol ("Stinker" and "Slinker") are having that wonderful "schizoid" self-conversation, where the Smeagol personality temporarily gains the upper hand ("Leave now, and never come back!") And now a gleefully cackling Smeagol is bringing the "nice hobbits" a brace of coneys, just before the Mumakil show up.
Another commonality between John Williams and Howard Shore is their use of real or made-up ancient languages in chorus, be it Sanskrit in "Star Wars - The Phantom Menace" or Tolkien's Elvish languages, Sindarin and Quenya, not to mention Black Speech for Mordor music and Old English for the Rohan themes. Now that I have the complete "Lord of the Rings" scores for the first two movies, I've revised my opinion: Howard Shore had done what I long thought was impossible -- he's surpassed John Williams in the sheer audacity and scope of his work. I can hardly wait for "The Return of the King" to round out the experience.
While an asking price of $60 is admittedly a bit steep, I was cheerfully willing to pay it. It most certainly was an incentive to take advantage of Amazon's "early bird" discount.
Finally, I most certainly concur with a previous reviewer's comment about the rubber DVD nub. Most of us, I suspect, are used to pressing down on a center locking button, then gripping the edge of the DVD and carefully lifting it free. Not here. Pressing down on that horrid piece of rubber only makes it grip the DVD more tightly. I found myself gritting my teeth as I twisted the DVD free, striving valiantly not to smudge it or, even worse, bend it unduly. The same is true when returning the disc to its place, trying to find that precarious balance between not mashing it down too hard versus having it pop free again and fall on the floor, face down.
Excessive bending can do fatal damage to a DVD, as I discovered much to my chagrin with the "Return of the King" movie boxed set which likewise had very tight DVDs. After six months or so, two of the discs showed signs of "DVD rot" and would no longer play properly. I had to replace the whole set. Fortunately, the maker had fixed the problem by then. Hopefully, the same will be true with the music.
Realistically, though, I probably won't be playing the DVD much. My only surround-sound stereo is my computer, and that isn't always practical for playing music. The CD audio is excellent, and certainly good enough for my needs.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make an MP3 version!!June 30 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I understand that rare items are priced high, but $800 for this? I don't think so. The Return of the King complete recordings set comes in an mp3 version for $23.99; I think they can do the same with The Two Towers and the Fellowship. Come on, Amazon. You're killin' me here.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Insane and shameless prices!!!!!!!!!Oct. 14 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Can anyone comment as to the insanity of these asking prices? What? is there a shortage of discs in this world? Did the world distribution of this soundtrack suddenly become annihilated? There are plenty of exquisite classical scores like Meditation or the Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana that can be found practically free. So what makes Howard Shore's work so "priceless"? Come on people, don't give in to such nonsense and buy at such high prices. A few years ago people complained of $75 for a new set and now the best you can get is $200 for a used set and well over a $1000 for a new set??? (That's almost as nonsensical as government spending). I am against pirating for I believe the producers of the work should get paid ( a fair amount); but if there is some deliberate scheme to limit access to this soundtrack, that seems just as unethical as piracy.