NYCC 2014: Composer Howard Shore talks LOTR

Composer Howard Shore has spun more than seven dozen rich and complex movie scores including Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” (2011) and David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995).

But unlike working with Scorsese and Fincher, Shore’s work approach on composing the music to Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies is a little different.

Whereas Shore works around the text in other films, the text is vital when composing the layered compositional themes to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

“When I’m writing, one of the things I really like to do is read,” Shore told Douglas Adams and attendees of the 2014 New York Comic Con Thursday afternoon. “So this just gave me the opportunity to spread my interests.”


Tolkien laid out a roadmap in his works, says Shore.

“The other thing that Tolkien does is he shows you a compass,” he said. “So I tried to show the orchestration, the colors of it.”

Shore does this by studying Tolkien’s language.

“The idea being when I read the book, so many times, all the beautiful verses and songs were like poetry and I felt like they needed to be in the story,” Shore said. “As you watch the story, you’re hearing Tolkien’s words.”

These words are reflected in the lighthearted, happier tunes of “The Hobbit” or the darker, more Eastern European themes of lands within “The Lord of the Rings.”

“I was trying to show the origins of music with things like the flute or voice because it begins to describe the roots of a culture,” says Shore.

His composition was an evolving process, he says. The first “Lord of the Rings” theme he composed was the themes for the Shire and Fellowship after he visited New Zealand. The compositional theme to the destruction of Mordor took him three years and nine months to write.

“Music is written from a more personal heartfelt,” he says. “If you don’t feel anything, you can’t write.”

Shore’s complete “Lord of the Rings” trilogy will be performed by 250 musicians live from April 8 to 12, 2015, at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Shore won Academy Awards for his work on “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”


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