THE SOUND OF MIDDLE-EARTH: MUSIC AND SONGS
Howard Shore‘s sweeping music for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy garnered multiple honors, including three Academy Awards®. Infused with the memorable threads of that musical opus, his evocative score for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey expands into a musical expression of a great adventure at a more innocent yet also dangerous time. “I have looked forward to returning to the imaginative world of Middle-earth for quite a while,” says Shore. “I read all of the books by Tolkien, including The Hobbit, when I was in my twenties, and his deep love of nature and all things green resonates deeply with me.”
Shore and Peter Jackson discussed at length the use of music in each scene and what they hoped to achieve. The music is never more lyrical than it is in Bilbo Baggins’ beloved Shire, where the composer employed folk instruments, like the penny whistle and dulcimer. The theme of his home accompanies Bilbo throughout his adventure, but evolves with the character as the experience changes him.
With Gandalf, the music evokes the call to adventure and the changes that are coming to Bilbo’s life. Shore also developed thematic music for the Dwarves, a fierce yet melancholy melody, with Thorin’s musical signature being a lonely French Horn that recalls Erebor, their lost homeland.
With a return to Rivendell and the Elves comes Galadriel’s theme, illuminated by a female chorus and string harmonics. The music echoes the ominous developments at Dol Guldur in the meeting of the stately White Council. As the journey progresses, percussive rhythms mark the Goblin caves, and beneath it pounds Gollum’s principal theme of wretchedness.
“I find that choosing the musical palette is a lot like casting,” Shore comments. “It is important to match the sound of the music to the essence of the characters, as well as the story.”
The film also brings to life some of the songs from the novel. As readers of The Hobbit know, the Dwarves express their mood and history through singing. “There are a lot of songs in the book,” notes Fran Walsh. “They very much speak to the identity of these characters. So we wanted to include some of them just to add that flavor of Dwarven culture.”
“Blunt the Knives” is a lively example of Dwarves in chorus, a song they sing as they throw Bilbo’s dishes around Bag End, leaving the Hobbit frazzled. Music for the song was written by Wellington-based composer Stephen Gallagher. Later in the evening, Richard Armitage as Thorin begins the haunting and soulful “Misty Mountains,” in which the Dwarves recount the story of their once glorious past and how it was taken from them. The music was composed by David Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick and David Long.
The end credits feature “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” performed by Neil Finn, the Kiwi musical artist behind such seminal bands as Crowded House and the Split Enz. He also co-wrote the song with Donaldson, Roche, Roddick and Long, developed from the Dwarves’ own song, “Misty Mountains.”
The score was ultimately recorded at the famed Abbey Road studios with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which, Shore says, “has a unique and beautiful sound that is well suited to bringing the world of Middle-earth to life.”
Jackson sees a parallel in the creation of those films. “The Hobbit is a story of a journey, a quest that takes the characters over a year to travel ‘there and back again,’ and, in a sense, making these movies has almost been like walking step-by-step, stride-by-stride with our company on their own quest,” he reflects. “I feel very fortunate that, as a filmmaker, I have access to both tried and true film techniques as well as technology that is still evolving to even greater heights. I always want to have the audience immersed in the films I make. I don’t want people watching a film on screen—I want them to actually feel like they’re going on this adventure into Middle-earth with me.”