Director Peter Jackson in the gallery of the Wellington Town Hall during the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's recording sessions for 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'. Photo / Hagen Hopkins.
Director Peter Jackson in the gallery of the Wellington Town Hall during the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s recording sessions for ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’. Photo / Hagen Hopkins.
Russell Baille from The New Zealand Herald gets the low-down on the recording process at Wellington Town Hall last month. He was present last month as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra laboured mightily with orchestrator Conrad Pope, Peter Jackson and senior audio engineer Peter Cobbin to bring composer Howard Shore’s musical vision to life.

My favourite quote from Conrad Pope:

“It always pays to have great performers. Whenever you are in front of an orchestra you are in front of almost 2000 years of musical experience if you think about it. So you are taking that expressiveness and you are unleashing that. If you have a digital thing it is only one person. That is why it’s so remarkable to have that kind of power in this orchestra here.”


Maybe he’s rushed off them. Or he’s just been doing too much thinking on them.

Whatever it is, there they are – the famously, conspicuously bare feet of Sir Peter Jackson.

On this Friday afternoon, said feet are poking from a couch which is set up, not at Park Road Post or Stone Street Studios or any of the Wetas out in Miramar, but in the Ilot Theatre within the Wellington Town Hall.

The sofa might be his director’s chair today, but here he’s taking a back seat. A mug of tea permanently wrapped in one hand, he’s here to keep an ear on things and talk to Canvas. Spread out in front of him are the workings of a recording studio control room. Up front is a screen repeatedly showing the opening scenes of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Jackson’s part II in his second Tolkien trilogy.

Occasionally, as the film’s prologue cuts to the movie’s title, the room fills with a great rumbling of sound topped by a minor-key shriek of strings which sound almost Chinese in its foreboding motif.

“That is a little bit of a Smaug theme in the title,” murmurs Jackson after I’ve sunk into the couch alongside him, leaving my own footwear on. He explains composer Howard Shore, who also did The Lord Of The Rings scores, created a theme for Smaug the dragon – seen briefly enacting a scorched Middle-earth policy in the first Hobbit movie – inspired by the prominence of dragons in Chinese and Indonesian culture.

Plus a touch of Psycho.

“Smaug is not Jaws or a monster,” says Jackson as the music tails off. “Smaug is a psychopath. Smaug is literally a cunning, intelligent psychopath who is laying in wait for these guys. So it’s sinister clever kind of music.”

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