Thursday, September 24, 2015

Flashbacks on "Lord of the Rings" Canadian composer Howard Shore

By Nancy T. Lu
The name Howard Shore came up for recognition in two categories at the Grammy Awards 12 years ago: best score soundtrack album for a motion picture for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and best song written for a motion picture for "Into the West," track from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

When Shore, the Academy Award-winning Canadian composer of the music for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, was writing the score, he found the J.R.R. Tolkien classic "very inspiring." 
The winner of an Oscar for best original music elaborated during his Taipei visit in 2003: "I had the book on my desk all the time. As I was writing a theme, I read it over and over again. I kept an old copy of the book in front of me and I carried it around for three years." 
But to this music man's knowledge, some people have read the classic every year for 50 years. According to him, Tolkien took 14 years to write the classic fantasy trilogy.

Peter Jackson, the director of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, looked all over the world for a collaborator in the music area for his big movie project. When he found Shore, the Toronto-born but then New York-based composer had already written music for 60 films, including "The Fly," "Big," "Mrs. Doubtfire" "Silence of the Lamb," and "Ed Wood." At that time, the former sax player of a rock group called Lighthouse was known for his early and long collaboration with David Cronenberg. 
The then 57-year-old Shore revealed while in Taiwan that he worked on the complex music consisting of 30 to 40 thematic pieces for "Lord of the Rings" for three years. He spent only a few months writing music for other movie projects.

Of filmmaker Jackson, Shore said: "We worked very closely together on the music. We did it theme by theme. He was with me in the recording studio. He was incredibly helpful. We struck up a good friendship."

Shore presented the "Lord of the Rings" Symphony in Taipei a few days before the Taiwan premiere of "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in December 2003.

The multi-media concert, heard and seen only in New Zealand before Taiwan, put more than 200 persons, including lyric soprano Jenny Wollerman, mezzo-soprano Sarah McOnie, a boy soprano from New Zealand, 100 musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra in Taipei, the 100-voice National Experimental Chorus, and the 30-member Kuting Elementary School Chorus, on the stage at the Taipei International Convention Center. 
John Mauceri, a name associated with musicals as well as pop and modern music, conducted the symphony in Taipei. He performs regularly at the Hollywood Bowl.

The spectacular production of the Columbia Artists Management Inc. featured 100 illustrated images from the three-part "Lord of the Rings," namely "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

The symphony with six movements, not to be mistaken for the soundtrack of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, saw Shore bring together with creativity some elements of the opera, symphony, choral music and even folk music. 
In trying to realize world music, Shore visited Taipei before the world premiere of the symphony. He wanted to explore the possibility of including traditional Chinese musical instruments during the Taiwan premiere of his symphony.

"He decided during his visit that he wanted three taiko drums, a yangchin (a plucked string instrument), an erhu (a two-string Chinese fiddle) and a Chinese flute," pointed out Wong Chi-ping, the director of the Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra. "We, therefore, fielded six of our finest musicians to the Taipei concert event."

"The symphony has been based on the film music and it takes listeners through the emotional world of the three movies," Shore explained. "If you know the book and the film, the music takes you right back."

Of the music heard in the Taipei concert years ago, described as "a classical symphony where not one of the 100 players or instrumentalists and 100 singers was dispensable,” Shore said: "I wanted the music to feel old. The primary focus of the music is the 19th century. But a lot of the 20th century has been put into it, too."

He remarked that the choral section of the symphony with six movements is "in the tradition of the grand opera of the 19th century." But "it is also modern," he added.
Although the London Philharmonic Orchestra has recorded his music, noted Shore, "it has a new freedom to it if played away from a recording studio and in a concert."

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