The Chord of the 'Rings'
Shore's complete "Fellowship of the Ring" score was released last month in a deluxe four-disc set: three CDs containing all the music he wrote for the film's extended version, plus a DVD offering the score in Dolby Surround Sound. Speaking by telephone from his home north of New York City, Shore, 59, commented on his use of leitmotifs (recurring musical themes), which has led many to compare his "Ring" music to that of opera's most famous "Ring" composer, Richard Wagner.
"I'm actually more interested in Italian opera than in Wagner's work, though I do think it's wonderful," the soft-spoken composer said. "I wasn't purposely trying to make connections between us. But I think if you write 12 hours of music based on ring mythology in a mid-19th century style, there could well be similarities."
Nonetheless, the "Lord of the Rings" soundtracks have inspired the kind of painstaking study usually reserved for massive works like
Wagner's "Ring of the Niebelungs." The "Fellowship" boxed set includes a 45-page booklet by Film Score Monthly's Doug Adams, with musical examples and analysis keyed to specific tracks and time cues. (The "Two Towers" and "Return of the King" boxed sets are scheduled for release by early 2007.)
Keeping track of it all
Adams gives an example of the kinds of musical transformations that occur throughout Shore's three scores. "The first three notes of the Shire theme rise stepwise up a major scale to forever call the hobbits back to their verdant homeland, while the Ring's Seduction theme rises three steps up a minor scale to bend all races to its will." Shifting in rhythm and harmony, this motif also reappears in music evoking the fellowship that joins forces to destroy the ring, the elves' magical realm and other elements of Tolkien's mythology.
Asked how he kept track of the more than 80 motifs that weave their way through the three scores, Shore laughed. "Just a good filing system! As I was writing the piece over close to four years, I would jot down the motifs and put them all in a folder." The real challenge, he said, came in depicting the many different cultures and immense time span of Tolkien's fantasy world.
"Tolkien created such a vast universe: Middle Earth of 5,000 years ago. I was trying to create a sense of history, to bring in Tolkien's languages with the chorus, to show the beginnings of culture, in a way. That's why voices are so important in the recording."