A black screen and an eerie, haunting elvish song are enough to change the world of cinema forever. In 2001, The Lord of the Rings, directed by peter jacksonwas introduced to the big screen. JRR TolkienThe world of is as complex as it is breathtaking. It brings together hundreds of characters, landscapes and languages, but what many call a masterpiece wouldn’t be what it is without the Canadian music composer Howard Shore. Shore’s music for The Lord of the Rings has won the most prestigious awards, including three Oscars, two Golden Globes and four Grammy Awards. Just as Jackson’s Trilogy got its extended version after the theatrical release, the complete version of the Shore soundtracks also came out a few years ago. The duration of the full version of The king’s return album is 3 hours and 49 minutes, against 1 hour and 12 minutes for the first version, which proves the extent of Shore’s work.
The Shore soundtrack is the first glimpse we get of Middle-earth at the very beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. The prologue opens with the score One ring to rule them all. The choir performs the theme of the Elves of Lothlórien as Galadriel begins to tell the story of the Ring. To create this mystical and dark score, Shore used a sarangi, a ney flute and a monochord. Combined with the Quenya chanting, this resulted in the perfect sound for Lothlórien.
So how did he create such a special work of art? The composer used the leitmotif technique, which consists of associating musical themes with specific characters, places, objects or actions in a film or series. In an interview at Louis Van in 2021, said the composer, ”The use of themes and leitmotifs was used for the clarity of the narration. Tolkien’s world is considered one of the most complex fantasy worlds ever created (…) Not everyone who sees the movies may have read the books and understood all the different characters, cultures and objects. Music was used to help clarify this complex story.‘
Shore’s mission with this soundtrack was to educate people. Indeed, he had the difficult task of recreating the same elaborate story that Tolkien had begun to tell some 86 years before. The music had to explain this world to people who didn’t know Tolkien’s work, and it also had to satiate the appetite of Middle-earth fans.
One of the most recurring themes of the trilogy is About the Hobbits. When we hear it for the first time, we are transported to the green and idyllic lands of the Shire. In order to create the design that will represent the charming and warm hobbits, Shore used instruments such as the mandolin, the Celtic harp and the tin whistle. In doing so, he composed the famous folkloric, peaceful and sparkling theme that we all know. This leitmotif is extremely important in the trilogy. It repeats itself in situations where darkness seems closer than ever. At the end of The two towersSam’s monologue ”Even darkness must pass”‘ is accompanied by a nostalgic, melancholic and slow reprise of About the Hobbits. As he says, “There’s good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” the score reinforces the feeling of hope as it reminds the viewer of the Shire.
You can also hear it in The ring goes southwhen the community leaves Rivendell: the brass recover the About the Hobbits theme and gives it a more noble side, until it finally becomes the emblematic score of the fraternity. This score perfectly represents the innocent hobbits, forced to leave their home in order to accomplish this major quest.
The Ring is the raison d’etre of the mission of the brotherhood. Its existence leads our favorite characters on a perilous mission to Mordor. The Ring corrupts, deceives. His shadow hangs over Middle-earth. Her motif had to represent her dangerous beauty. The violin acts like the Ring: it slips through our heads. It’s addicting and tempting.
To describe the Uruk-hai and the Isengard, Shore selected sounds and instruments that could be associated with a world of industrialization. Their leitmotif had to be menacing, frightening and shocking. Shore created a heavy, rhythmic six-note track to accompany the enemy. These notes are mainly composed of Japanese Taiko drums, blacksmith anvils and metal chains.
For A knife in the dark and Flight to the Ford, the Nazgûl are described by a dark and heartbreaking theme with the use of loud vocals and brass. Although they are also the enemy, their score differs from that of the Uruk-hai. Indeed, as we mentioned before, the Uruk-hai were ”made” in Isengard, they are inferior to the Nazgûl. These, on the other hand, were ”gtrue kings of men‘‘ as Aragorn explains. Therefore, their power and danger are represented by an intense chorus in a crescendo theme song.
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is considered one of the best battle scenes in cinematic history. And again, Shore played a huge role in the success of this epic moment. As King Théoden delivers a stirring speech to his men before the charge, the Rohan theme gradually grows louder, with more and more brass and percussion. The Rohirrim’s charge grows with the music and reaches its climax until their swords meet the armor of their opponents.
The Lord of the Rings The soundtrack is also backed by many songs and choruses. The composer has collaborated with many singers, such as Aivale Colewhose voice became the symbol of the heartbreaking scene of Gandalf’s fall from the bridge of Khazad-dûm during his fight against the Balrog. Ben Del Maestroa young soprano, also contributed to the emblematic themes of Forth Eorlingas and The Last March of the Ents. Her angelic voice brings emotion and even more depth to these crucial and epic scenes.
In The king’s return, Renee Flemming is one of the main vocalists to join Shore. Undomiel’s Grace plays out during Arwen’s vision in which she sees a child with Aragorn and realizes that this future is still a possibility. Flemming’s clear, pure voice perfected this scene.
At the end of the third film, when the eagles save Frodo and Sam, Flemming’s voice is heard, which once again appears as a bright light in the shadows.
The song To the west, interpreted by Annie Lennox was written by Howard Shore, Francois Walsh and Annie Lenox. This song received a Grammy as well as an Oscar. Played in the credits of The king’s returnthe instrumental of To the west can be heard in the track Eagles and in The Journey to the Gray Havens. It is a melancholic piece that appears when despair greets hope and marks the end of this journey.
Shore’s music is entirely part of The Lord of the Rings. It is so recognizable that even if you hear it by chance on the radio, you are automatically taken back to a specific moment, a specific character, or even a single sentence.
Shore was able to translate Tolkien’s writings into a musical score. He used the different languages created by Tolkien, and he incorporated them into his themes. He also has characters perform songs and poems from Tolkien’s work. Aragorn’s song at his coronation or Éowyn’s lament at Théodred’s funeral prove that the music is not there only to embellish the story. This East the story. This is probably why Shore’s work is so unique. Yes, there are hundreds, thousands of wonderful and iconic soundtracks. However, Tolkien The Lord of the Rings is not just a fantasy tale. It’s a vast world where every tree, every detail, every place has a meaning and a story. Each character has ancestors. And these ancestors also have ancestors. It’s such a complex story that it seems endless.
Using this logic, Shore’s music isn’t just a great score. It is also a whole vast world that uses many languages, dialects but also some of the rarest musical instruments. Shore wanted the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings feeling ancient, like it was just discovered along with the story itself. And that’s what he did. These films are inseparable from the music and the music is inseparable from the films. Even books are now inseparable from this score. They are related to each other. It was an incredible feat for Shore to be able to have such an impact on a work created decades before.
With the upcoming release of The Lord of the Rings: power rings on Amazon Prime Video in September, fans aren’t just expecting to return to Middle-earth. They want to listen Middle Earth. And, with Shore confirmed to return to Middle-earth, we’re sure to hear more haunting tunes that will become an indelible part of T.the Lord of the Rings vernacular.
From family ties to shaving habits, you’d be surprised what we do and don’t know about Aragorn.
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