If you go to the movies, even casually, you have been moved by his work. Assisting directors, he makes audiences laugh and cry and with over 80 scores, three Oscars and more than 50 other awards to his name, Howard Shore is a master movie composer. He has collaborated with David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme and David Fincher to name just a few. But it is his work with Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy that has won him his widest commercial acclaim.
With a nine-city tour of The Lord of the Rings in concert: The Fellowship of the Ring to kick off Wednesday in Glendale Arizona, TheOneRing.net spoke with Shore (in London) by phone about the unique event that combines a film screening with a live performance of his score.
TORn: Is there an excitement about these live performances?
Howard Shore: It is very exciting, I am very much looking forward to it.
TORn: What is the genesis of this whole project?
Howard Shore: I starting working with the conductor, Ludwig Wicki a few years ago in Lucerne, Switzerland, and we started the concerts in Lucerene with his orchestra the 21st Century Orchestra. So Ludwig has been creating the sound of the film in Lucern and then he has been doing the complete trilogy in Lucerne and also in Munich, which is close by, with the Munich Symphony.
And the Munich Symphony is the orchestra who is playing all the concerts coming up in October so its very good, a fantastic orchestra he is working with and has worked with.
Then we have the Pacific Chorale, which is a fantastic chorir and the boys choir from Arizona is very, very good so we have a great assemblage of artists to play the piece. Kaitlyn Lusk is doing all the solos and she has been singing the music from the trilogy, oh for many years. Started singing with the LOTR Symphony.
Its a very new experience really, when you see the film and are hearing the music live, it is an enhanced film going experience and you hear the film in a really new way and you see the music. its a very heightened feeling to it.
The screen is very large; its 60 feet and the orchestra forces with the choir and the children’s choir are 230, so the vibration of the orchestra, that size of orchestra and the choir in the theater, and the colors of the film take on a different glow, the story becomes very heightened. Its a very interesting type of experience. Its really quite new.
A few years ago, I think in ’05 or ’06, I started to release all of the recordings I did for the three films and I put them out in box sets. Each year I put out another set. It actually took three years to put out the 10 CDs — all of the music that was recorded in a box set called ‘The complete recordings’.
As I put this together and listened to, say the three or close to three hours of music for Fellowship of the Ring I realized I had never really listened to it in that way. I had seen the film many times but I had never heard the music edited together. When you are recording you are doing scenes and parts of the films at times. This is a way that I first heard it in its complete form and I thought, ‘Oh it would be wonderful to do a concert of that.’ At that point I was doing a concert of the symphony and the symphony is a two hour (experience).
I thought it would be great to hear the complete Fellowship of the Ring with orchestra and chorus. Once I had the idea of that, it came up about possibly doing it with the film. I had some experience doing that with Naked Lunch the David Cronenberg film. I did two concerts with Naked Lunch, one with the Ulster Orchestra in Dublin and also with the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.
So I had some experience of doing live performances of music with film and I thought it would be interesting to try that with Fellowship of the Ring and I thought maybe it could be done once or twice. But I asked Ludwig Wicki, who I had worked with before on some records of concerts in Switzerland, if he would be interested in doing it. He really created it with his orchestra and it took about nine or 10 months to really to edit the score into two large sections that could be played live. The film runs with an intermission to give the orchestra a break.
TORn: Does he have a different approach to the film?
Howard Shore: We use the recording as a guide and that is how he approaches it and he tries to recreate the sound of those recordings as much as he can live. Its very exciting. He does just a fantastic job, beautiful. Not only is he a great conductor in the music sense, but he brings out the work of the orchestra in such detail live, its very exciting. But he also has great technical skills in the way he synchronizes the music to the film.
You don’t have complete freedom because you are in synchronicity to the film that is playing. You want to create the score live but you also want to synchronize it to the film. The synchronicity to the film is very specific for Fellowship of the Ring and for all the films. The moments, the gestures are very carefully done on stage.
TORn: Do you look back now and think differently about the scores?
Howard Shore: Well I think as a composer and a music orchestrator, I think you probably always do that a bit. There is always a bit of that but I am very happy to hear the live performance. I am happy to have the work performed. Only by performing it do you bring life to it each time and I am interested in the different performances of it. Its a natural part of composing music to have different interpretations of your work.
I have seen it in London and in Lucerne. I don’t go to a lot of concerts; most of my time is spent composing. I am trying to stay close to my work but the few times that I have seen the work – I have seen Ludwig conduct it in New York at Radio City, which was very exciting and wonderful and particularly exciting in London. He conducted the London Philharmonic which is the orchestra I wrote the piece for. In London the performances were at Royal Albert Hall and the original performers did the concerts. That was really exciting to have the London Philharmonic and the London Boys Choir, that was fantastic.
TORn: Are you surprised by the longevity and popularity of these scores?
Howard Shore: I think it all goes back to Tolkien’s writing and his work. The books have been published and people read them all the time, they read them every year. I think the interest is in Tolkien’s work and I think the films have created something that people love and they want to keep viewing them and seeing them. There is a lot of depth in the storytelling and in the film making. I think that accounts for its longevity.
TORn: When you hear the music or see a performance do you still feel a connection to Tolkien?
Howard Shore: Always. The book is the single most important part of the work and what he created in the book is something we all, as filmmakers all felt really strongly about and wanted to create as truthfully and honestly as possible in our own work, our own writing, our own composition. So, I still feel very close to it and as you probably know I am still reading a lot of Tolkien every day.
TORn: What can viewers expect new from these live shows?
Howard Shore: The experience of the performers. In playing this music, its been so many years now, how they developed the very fine points of it. I think anybody who is interested in the films and in the music will love the live performance. To hear it created live with such detail is really wonderful. Ludwig recently conducted a live performance with his orchestra, the 21st Centruy Orchestra in Luscerne and that has just been released this month. (You can find it right here.)
Ludwig and Kaitlyn Lusk do all the live performances. So the group that is playing now has been playing this music now for four or five years and have great experience in performing it. To me, as the creator, the composer, I feel like its in great hands.
TORn: Before we go, I must ask, how are things going on The Hobbit?
Howard Shore: Well, we are just in the middle of the work. We will have a lot more to talk about a little further on but we are really getting into the middle of it now.
TORn: Do you think we can look forward to a Hobbit score performed live with the film someday?
Howard Shore: I guess we will see how everything progresses.
TORn: Thank you for your time
Howard Shore: Thank you. It was nice speaking with you.
More information about the tour can be found at www.lordoftheringsinconcert.com.
The tour schedule is as follows:
• Oct 12 Glendale, AZ
• Oct 13 San Diego, CA
• Oct 14 Las Vegas, NV
• Oct 15 Anaheim, CA
• Oct 18 Portland, OR
• Oct 19 Seattle, WA
• Oct 21 Fresno, CA
• Oct 22 Oakland, CA (2:00pm)
• Oct 22 Oakland, CA (8:00pm)
• Oct 23 Sacramento, CA