New book explores ‘Lord of the Rings’ music

Doug Adams takes on Howard Shore's Oscar-winning scores

“Lord of the Rings” fans can’t get enough. First there were the movies, then the expanded movies on DVD, then the expanded soundtracks, and now an entire book on Howard Shore’s Oscar-winning scores for the J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations.

Released last week, Chicago musicologist Doug Adams’ “The Music of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Films” ranks as one of the most detailed examinations written of one composer’s immersion into classic literature.

Heavily illustrated and featuring dozens of musical examples, the 400-page, $60 hardcover also includes a CD with previously unreleased music, early demos of the composer’s ideas and a 10-minute audio interview between Adams and Shore.

Adams contends that Shore’s complex choral and orchestral tapestry is unique.

“He created a parallel version of the novel in his music,” Adams said, “an 11-hour score with a single shape to it. You have a sense of history, of culture and race. He managed to squeeze all of this into the music without real compromise.”

Adams added that director Peter Jackson gave Shore wide latitude to help define in music the hobbits, elves, dwarfs, humans and other cultures of Middle-Earth. Shore created about 90 different themes throughout the trilogy. “He wouldn’t go anywhere without the book under his arm,” Adams said. “He would refer to that thing like the Bible.”

Many of the texts that Shore used for his choral passages were based on Tolkien’s invented languages, and the book includes all of those lyrics and their English translations.

Adams said he tried to write the book to be accessible to all “Rings” fans, not just those who understand music. “By putting all of our analytical material into narrative form, suddenly it makes sense to everyone,” he said. “If you know what we’re talking about in terms of story, musical details just fall into place.”

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