Director Peter Jackson had already spent five years working on “The Lord of the Rings” when he asked composer Howard Shore to write the music — and commit the next three years of his own career to “The Fellowship of the Rings” and its two forthcoming sequels.
“We wanted a composer who would devote themselves to the project with the same degree of detail and commitment,” Jackson says. “Often composers will come and see a cut of a film, work for six or eight weeks, and deliver the score. We wanted a composer who would spend a long time on the films — someone who would collaborate with us.”
Shore was Jackson’s, and co-writer Fran Walsh’s, first choice. “We liked music that he’d done for previous films,” he explained. “He captures a dark mystery, and he also has a real ability to connect with your heart.” In early cuts of “Fellowship,” Jackson and his editors had used music from Shore’s scores for “The Client,” “The Fly,” “Crash” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Jackson asked Shore to create music that would “feel as if it belonged to the world (of J.R.R. Tolkien). We didn’t want anything experimental. We didn’t want modern music with this sort of ancient story. We wanted the music to have a multicultural feeling, to reflect the diverse world of Middle-Earth.”
And because Tolkien’s complex mythology included poetry, songs and multiple languages, all of those became part of the score, too.
Singing in many tongues
Backing Shore’s 100-piece orchestra are choirs singing in six languages (English and five Tolkien-inspired tongues) throughout the 2½-hour score.
Shore — who has composed for some 60-plus films but has never been nominated for an Oscar until now — believes that Jackson responded to the operatic approach in many of his past film scores as well as his appreciation for the Tolkien classics. Shore’s willingness to commit to an unprecedented and concentrated period of time on a single, massive project, encompassing three films and nearly four years of work, sealed the deal.
“Look at the palette of it,” says the Toronto-born, New York-based composer. “Here was a chance to use a 200-piece orchestra and choir. You were able to use every bit of experience that you had learned in 20-odd years of scoring films, and (the films) would just soak it up endlessly. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
Shore and music from the “Rings” soundtrack, which just went gold domestically, will go on tour this summer, with dates at the Hollywood Bowl and other major concert venues.