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A world where ‘nothing is as it seems’

Howard Shore: A History of Violence

The disappointment he suffered from having his “King Kong” score dropped doesn’t diminish from Howard Shore’s accomplishments for David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence.”

Shore and Cronenberg, both Canadians, have collaborated on 11 films over nearly three decades including “The Fly,” “Dead Ringers” and “Naked Lunch.” “Through the years, we’ve tried many different things,” Shore says from his studio in Tuxedo, N.Y. “Even ‘The Fly’ was considered very avant-garde in 1986. I remember writing it like a grand opera, really. The producers didn’t have a clue; they just wanted a horror movie score.”

For “A History of Violence” — which examines the upheaval within a small-town Midwestern family after a diner owner (Viggo Mortensen) kills a pair of armed hoodlums and becomes a local hero — Shore composed a traditional orchestral score with what he calls a nice depth of field.

The mood ranges from friendly, open Americana to grim, powerful orchestral crescendos. “It’s a film where nothing is what it seems,” he says. “The music also has that quality: the ideal family in the beginning, the Midwestern location, nice folks. You’re trying to draw the audience in, trying to bring them into that world.”

Despite the gunplay and the increasing violence involving Mortensen’s character, Shore says the music “is not specifically action-oriented, for what’s onscreen. It has more to do with the characters and their relationships. It creates an arc to the story.”

After spending nearly four years in Middle-Earth, writing 12 hours of music for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy that won him three Oscars and four Grammys, was it a relief to create music for real people again? “You’re really starting fresh,” he says, “right at the beginning.”

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