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The Music of the Lord of the Rings: Rarities Archive
by Howard Shore

The Music of the Lord of the Rings: Rarities Archive

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The Music of the Lord of the Rings: Rarities Archive (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: Rarities Archive
Composed by Howard Shore
Howe Records (2010)

Rating: 8/10

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  Tracks 1, 2, 4

 

 

“From the very first piece Shore wrote for the films (a synthesized mock-up of Shire material) through to a full nine minute alternative score for the Ring's destruction, this CD is a veritable treasure trove for fans of The Lord of the Rings music. ”

The Rarities Archive
Review by Peter Nickalls

THE LORD OF THE RINGS - RARITIES ARCHIVE CD is included with the newly released THE MUSIC OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS FILMS book (see my review here) and contains 21 unreleased music tracks, composed by HOWARD SHORE as well as a conversation between Shore and author DOUG ADAMS. The final chapter of the book provides fascinating commentary on the music found on this remarkable disc.

The CD is comprised of mock-ups, alternative tracks, unreleased theatrical versions and even trailer music, all of which provide a fantastic insight into the process of creating and developing the music for this epic trilogy. From the very first piece Shore wrote for the films (a synthesized mock-up of Shire material) through to a full nine minute alternative score for the Ring's destruction, this CD is a veritable treasure trove for fans of The Lord of the Rings music.

Despite being comprised of some fairly disparate elements, the CD manages to convey a sense of journey, largely because the tracks are divided chronologically into the three films. We start at the beginning with "Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All (Alternate)" (1) which has a less thematic and more atmospheric feel than the final film version (the opening is very similar to the corresponding track on the theatrical Fellowship soundtrack). Soft string clusters and melancholy choir gradually crescendo towards a theme reminiscent of 'The History of the Ring'. A new version of the 'Gondor' theme also sounds before the familiar 'Footsteps of Doom End-Cap' and 'Ringwraith' theme announce Sauron's arrival. The notes which accompany the CD explain that this track was dropped because it was decided that the Prologue's music should 'present the audience with a more absorbable collection of material at the story's outset'. Whilst this seems understandable, it is refreshing to hear a more mysterious version of this piece with a good deal of non-thematic material present.

"The Shire/The Hobbits (Mock-up)" (2) is the first of seven mock-ups on this CD, created by Greg Laporta on the Synclavier (an elaborate sampler/synthesizer). Considering most of these mock-ups were produced over 10 years ago, the quality is fairly decent, although some of the solo instruments - particularly the Irish whistle in this track - sound very computerised in an over-quantized / strict tempo sort of way. Lashings of reverb cannot disguise these facts and it's amazing to consider how far sequencing and virtual instruments have come in the last decade, listening to these tracks. It is also testament to Shore's level of trust and faith in the project to allow Adams access to these pieces which would never normally be made available to the public.

"Out From Bree (Theatrical Version & Alternate)" (3) is an example of a track from the film, never released on any recording until now; the first two minutes are from the Fellowship's theatrical version (a different piece was used in the extended version which featured on the Complete Recordings) but the last two minutes are not used in any film version; they contain what would have been the first introduction of the 'Isengard' theme. It's all fairly typical Shore writing and the majority of the material will be familiar to most people. This is also true of "Flight to the Ford" (4) except for the bizarre staccato choir section (Shore labels it a 'choral incantation'), which was rather reminiscent of a random phrase builder in a choir sample library - except of course, for the fact that the text has actually been penned by Philippa Boyens and translated into Sindarin by David Salo.

"Moria (Mock-up)" (5) comes across as one of the weaker tracks in this collection. This might have to do with the synthesized sounds or the fact that the music is very different from what was used in the final score, but I suspect it is in fact due to the repetitive and dull rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment. It is reassuring to hear that even someone like Shore doesn't always nail it the first time!

Whilst "The Fighting Uruk-hai (Alternate)" (6) and "The Argonath (Alternate)" (7) contain little new material as such, the decisions to scrap them in favour of different approaches is interesting to read about. Further explanations are offered with the first two tracks from The Two Towers section, "Gwenwin in în ('Arwen's Song' Alternate/Mock-up)" (8) and "Arwen's Song (Complete)" (9). The first of these is an alternative piece for "Arwen's Song", in mock-up form and complete with a synthesized vocal line (barely audible in the mix). It is a beautiful and haunting piece, the simple texture belying the complex harmonic modulations which Shore navigates effortlessly. The second track (9) is an extended version of the final version of "Arwen's Song" which we hear in THE RETURN OF THE KING during the Houses of Healing sequence. This was originally meant to accompany the vision Arwen has of her future son, Eldarion in The Two Towers. I watched the Eldarion scene with "Arwen's Song" playing, but much preferred the poignant minor harmonies of Renée Fleming's "Evenstar" which replaced it for this scene.

"Emyn Muil" (10) is another alternate version, evoking the desolate landscape instead of focusing on the characters' journeys, whilst "The Rohan Fanfare (Mock-up)" (11) is one of the better sounding synthesized tracks on the album, notable for the fact that most of the music found its way into the finished scores. Meanwhile "The Eaves of Fangorn (Alternate)" (12) presents an exciting and different interpretation of this memorable scene, although again, the material will be familiar to most. The final Two Towers track, "The Ent Theme (Mock-up)" (13) features more regular rhythmic patterns and different instrumentation, compared with the final version. Shore's writing here is refreshingly dissonant, if not quite atonal, although the track itself is somewhat repetitive.

The first piece from The Return of the King section is "The Return of the King Trailer" (14) which Shore wrote specifically for the theatrical trailer of the film. It includes music from The Two Towers and the Gondor theme and is surprisingly restrained for trailer music (at least, compared with the 'epic' music we have come to expect from blockbuster trailers these days). It is unusual in today's age for the composer of the film to score the trailer and even more unusual to find it on a CD, making this track a rare gem indeed.

"The Gondor Theme (Mock-up)" (15) is another of the weaker mock-ups, featuring a rather elementary drum beat and major harmonies (instead of the minor ones used in the finished score) which detract from the heroic, grandiose nature of the theme. Following on, "The Muster of Rohan (Alternate)" (16) was composed for a different edit of the Dunharrow scene with an expanded Rivendell theme and a more sombre tone for the music accompanying the marshalling scene. As the track continues, Shore expertly builds to a dramatic climax, with brass fanfares blasting out fragments of the Rohan theme.

"The Siege of Gondor (Alternate)" (17) is a much shorter and more simplified version of its counterpart in the Complete Recordings; Adams describes this piece as a skeletal structure on which the completed track was based. It is intriguing to compare the two and see how Shore expands upon musical ideas and orchestration in the final version. Next, "Shieldmaiden of Rohan (Theatrical Version)" (18) is another track heard in the film but never before released on CD. An enjoyable track and another demonstration of Shore's masterful brass scoring, this piece contains an epic version of the Rohan theme but lacks the choral drama of its Complete Recordings counterpart.
"Sammath Naur (Alternate)" (19) - the longest track on this CD at nearly nine minutes - was written for an extended version of the One Ring's destruction as the battle at the Black Gate rages on. It contains material from the final version, including Renée Fleming singing what the book describes as 'the Ring's purest celebration', but following this there is also new choral writing which wonderfully captures the drama of this climactic sequence.

"Frodo's Song ('Into the West' Alternate/Mock-up)" (20) has very little to do with the piece sung by Annie Lennox, save for the fact that it was one of several concepts for The Return of the King's final song. This piece is quietly beautiful, with a live vocal humming the Shire-based melody accompanied by soft synthesized strings. This is another case - like with "Arwen's Song" and "Evenstar" - where we could ask ourselves, were it not for our familiarity with "Into the West", would this piece seem equally suitable for the final song of this trilogy? I would argue not, as "Frodo's Song" seems less powerful and not as direct melodically and lyrically, especially as the text would have been in Sindarin, unlike the English lyrics sung by Lennox.

The final piece on this CD is entitled "Elanor (Alternate)" (21), which was meant to accompany Sam's return to the Shire with a final Fellowship theme statement. Here, the CD reveals something of a cyclic nature, as unlike in the Prologue where a more thematic approach was taken, it was decided to go with more 'emotionally resonant' - rather than thematic - music for this scene.

Tracks (22) and (23) contain an audio discussion between Shore and Adams which includes anecdotes about how Shore began composing some of the music (he created sketches in pencil on four to six staves, before scanning the pages and sending them off to be mocked up) and a section on how the thematic approach to the music reflects Tolkien's own storytelling.

HE LORD OF THE RINGS - RARITIES ARCHIVE CD and its accompanying chapter in THE MUSIC OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS FILMS, offer a fascinating insight into the creation of these scores, and demonstrate what an incredible journey Shore embarked upon more than a decade ago. However, rather than a chapter at the end of the book, it might have been more useful to have the references to these alternative versions and mock-ups within the main body of the text, so that readers could immediately make connections between the different versions of pieces and themes (similar to the 'Unused Concept' sections in the PDF Annotated Score booklets). I would also have been interested to hear more alternate themes - if they had been composed - for the different cultures and characters as there is not a huge amount of new thematic material present. Ultimately though, Adams must be applauded for carefully selecting these pieces from masses of unused musical recordings, in order to bring us one of the most fascinating, unusual and revealing film music CDs of all time.

Rating: 8/10

 

Peter Nickalls is a recent music graduate from Cambridge University and is just starting out as a composer for media. Visit his website: www.peternickalls.com

 

More on this title :

Read THE MUSIC OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS FILMS (Book) Review by Peter Nickalls here

Behind the Score:  The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films

 

 

 


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All (Alternate) 5:57  *****
2 The Shire/The Hobbits (Mock-up) 2:00  ***
3 Out From Bree (Theatrical Version & Alternate) 4:04  ****
4 Flight to the Ford (Alternate) 4:04  ****
5 Moria (Mock-up) 1:45  **
6 The Fighting Uruk-hai (Alternate) 1:47  ****
7 The Argonath (Alternate) 2:18  ****
8 Gwenwin in în ("Arwen's Song" Alternate/Mock-up) 2:02  *****
9 Arwen's Song (Complete) 2:11  ****
10 Emyn Muil (Alternate) 3:24  ****
11 The Rohan Fanfare (Mock-up) 3:09  ****
12 The Eaves of Fangorn (Alternate) 5:29  *****
13 The Ent Theme (Mock-up) 2:01  ***
14 The Return of the King Trailer 2:35  ****
15 The Gondor Theme (Mock-up) 2:19  **
16 The Muster of Rohan (Alternate) 6:44  *****
17 The Siege of Gondor (Alternate) 3:13  ***
18 Shieldmaiden of Rohan (Theatrical Version) 2:01  *****
19 Sammath Naur (Alternate) 8:53  *****
20 Frodo's Song ("Into the West" Alternate/Mock-up) 2:23  ****
21 Elanor (Alternate) 1:30  ****
22 In Conversation (Part 1) 5:06  *****
23 In Conversation (Part 2) 4:28  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 79 min.  

 

 
   

 

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