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Songs of Dwarves and Dragons
Having composed the memorable score for "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, including his Oscar-winning score for the final film, Howard Shore's musical excursion into Middle-earth continues with "The Hobbit" Trilogy. His music traces the characters' thoughts and emotions, and enhances each step of their adventure, from their terrifying odyssey through the Woodland Realm, through the perils of Lake-town, and onto the Lonely Mountain, where, he says, "I'm looking forward to introducing you to Smaug. There are many new themes and leitmotifs introduced in this film, in particular new pieces for Smaug, as well as Lake-town, Mirkwood, and the Woodland Realm, to mention just a few."

"Howard Shore's music soars and enriches way beyond its connection to our images, a unique sound like no other," Jackson says. "He has truly created an epic musical world of his own." Shore, whom Jackson calls "the 16th member of this Company," adds, "I do a lot of compositional work on the themes at first and then let the influence of Peter's visuals take over. But my inspiration always begins with the book and the screenplay. I constantly refer to the words of Tolkien as my guide. I want to make a connection to his ideas that resonate deeply with me and be able to express them in music."

In addition to composing the film's score, Shore collaborated with Boyens and Walsh on its choral components, taking cues from the languages of Tolkien to inform their style, timbre and tone. For Boyens, "Those sounds are so uniquely Tolkien. That's what Howard brings to this, and how he helps bring so much authenticity to this world." As with the first film, the choral pieces were recorded by the London-based choral ensemble London Voices, directed by Terry Edwards.

In a unique arrangement, while Shore composed from his Tuxedo, New York, home, Jackson was able to work on the film's post-production schedule while also attending scoring sessions in Wellington, where renowned orchestrator Conrad Pope conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. "I love the sound of his music," he effuses. "It manages to be at once thematic and very big, while working in its own distinctive way. It also clearly evokes all the characters that you see."

Shore relates, "Peter and I discuss in detail the use of music in each scene and what we hope to achieve and convey. We continually work together throughout the production shaping the scenes from moment to moment until we find just the right balance."

Jackson had previously enlisted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for a brief sequence in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," and wanted to bring them center stage for this film. "I'm so thrilled that we have finally been able to unleash them on the entire score," he says. "The passion and joy of every member of this amazing orchestra can be heard. This is a score that wears its heart on its sleeve."

Included on the soundtrack is the original song, "I See Fire," created for the film by Ed Sheeran, the 22-year old Grammy-nominated British singer/songwriter and multi-platinum global phenomenon. "Ed Sheeran is as big a fan of our movies as I have ever met; he also happens to be a brilliant singer/songwriter," Jackson says. "When I contacted Ed in London, he was on a plane the next day, and this song is his immediate emotional response to the film. It's perfect."

Sheeran was thrilled with the collaboration, stating, "Not only is Peter one of my favorite directors of my favorite films, The Hobbit was the first book I ever read as a child, so it means a lot that I get to produce music for the motion picture."

The film's score was recorded at the 100-year-old Wellington Town Hall. To engineer the historic structure's transformation into a scoring stage, Jackson enlisted Abbey Road sound engineer Peter Cobbin, who brought a collection of his company's microphones with him to New Zealand. Jackson felt the benefits of these 60-year-old valve mics immediately. The director notes, "Pete strategically positioned these mics to record not just the instruments, but the sound of this beautiful space, and managed to capture the way these century-old timbers carry, reflect and embrace music."

For Cobbin, the 3D presentation provided an interesting twist. "Peter wanted the music to envelop the theater, so it involved a bit of juggling to balance the music with the entirety of the film's sound design," he says.

For the sound designers themselves, the second film in the Trilogy presented a host of new characters and creatures that would need an aural presence, including giant Spiders, the skin-changer Beorn, Orcs using Black speech, the Necromancer and the Dragon Smaug. "Peter had a pretty strong sense about what he wanted in each case," Boyens details. "He has a great ear and wants even the most fantastical beings to sound real and original. In some cases, the sound is also driven by the performance of the original actor."

Among the Oscar-winning artists creating "the sound of Middle-earth" are mixers Michael Semanick handling music, Mike Hedges on dialogue, and Chris Boyes on sound effects. Sound effects supervisor Brent Burge and dialogue sound supervisor Chris Ward, along with sound designers David Farmer and David Whitehead, complete the final mix team.

For Semanick, the joy they take in their work is none more apparent than a scene at the start of the film, between Gandalf and Thorin. "They lean in close to each other and the sounds around them fade while the music sweeps you back to the burglar Thorin needs to help take his people back to their home," Semanick says. "It's the kind of transition that tells you, 'Here we go! We're off on another adventure!'"

The experience of plunging back into the story with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Company of Dwarves, has been no less a journey for Jackson and his team of actors and artists, and hopefully, he says, for audiences as well. "To have everyone from eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds tell you how much they enjoyed the first film and can't wait to see what happens next really inspires you and lifts your game," Jackson reflects. "The gauntlet has been thrown down, and now, you want to keep ramping up the excitement, tension and adventure until the very end. It's been fantastic fun stepping back into this world and bringing audiences along with us on this incredible journey."


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