Book Reviews · Non-fiction

The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films

If you’ve been following The Unapologetic Bookworm for a while, you’ve no doubt noticed that I am a massive fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in particular.

In addition to loving the original novels, I’m also a fan of the movie adaptations. I especially enjoy the musical scores (for all six films), which I listen to on a fairly regular basis. Because of my love for Tolkien’s work, and the music that was inspired by it, I was really excited to finally have the opportunity to read The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films, by Doug Adams.

In the The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films, Adams showcases the process Howard Shore went through while creating the scores for the trilogy of films. It was a process that not only included re-reading the original novels, but also researching “how this story had affected our culture” (Adams 2).

The first “main” section of the book is devoted to an exploration of the musical themes Shore created. As the author discusses the various themes, he shows how they reflect the cultures of Middle-earth. He also discusses the theory behind the creation of many of these themes, as well Shore’s use of nine-note phrases and cords (related to the number of Fellowship members and Ringwraiths), which can be found in several themes.

The second part of the book focuses on the completed songs that make up the films’ scores. Adams presents the songs in the order in which they appear in each film, summarizing the events that take place in conjunction with each piece of music. He also explains how Shore wove his musical themes into each song, and how those songs accompany (and in some cases foreshadow) the events of the story. Also, because there are a number of choral pieces in the films’ scores, Adams provides the reader with the lyrics and (when necessary) translations from the languages of Middle-earth to English.

In the final section of the book, Adams gives the reader a glimpse at the actual recording of the scores. He includes some information about the locations where the songs were recorded, as well as the musicians who were involved in bringing the sound of Middle-earth to life.

In addition to providing detailed background information on the process Howard Shore went through when scoring all three The Lord of the Rings films, this book also includes sketches by artists John Howe and Alan Lee, both black-and-white and full-color photographs from the films (and of the composer), and excerpts from the musical scores themselves.

Also included with this book is a CD entitled The Lord of the Rings: The Rarities Archive, which includes alternate and mock-up versions of a number of songs, as well as a conversation between Doug Adams and Howard Shore. While I enjoyed listening to the alternative versions of the songs, my favorite tracks on the CD were the ones where Shore talked about composing the music. It was really cool to actually hear him talk about that process.

I found The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films fascinating, and really enjoyed having the opportunity to study some of my favorite movie music in depth. There is actually a tremendous amount of music in Tolkien’s original novels, not only in The Lord of the Rings, but also in The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. (In fact, in The Silmarillion, the world is actually sung into existence by the Ainur.) I really liked having the opportunity to see how Shore made use of Tolkien’s original lyrics for the trilogy, and how they were translated into the various languages of Middle-earth for the films.

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and you’re also interested in musical composition, then I highly recommend taking the time to read The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films. It’s a very interesting book, which I think will appeal to fans of the trilogy’s film adaptations…especially to those with an interest (or background) in music theory.

Happy reading!

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