October 10th, 2010

Théoden (Lord of the Rings)

"Three hundred lives of men have I walked this earth and now, I have no time."

  • Last year was my first journey to Radio City Music Hall to see Howard Shore's original score for the theatrical version of The Fellowship of the Ring performed with a live orchestra and choir to the film. This was part of a three-year cycle, and on Friday I attended again, this time for the theatrical version of The Two Towers.

    One of the very few disappointments I had with the performance of Fellowship was that there were often moments where the score had been dialed out of the film in favor of sound effects, most noticeably when Frodo puts on the Ring at Weathertop and the continuation of the "Fall of Man" motif after Boromir tries to take the Ring. Whilst I understand why those choices were made for their respective films, with the sound effects track so minimized as it is in this presentation, there was no reason not to restore those moments. Well, it seems that Howard Shore read my mind, because most of the music cut from the theatrical version of The Two Towers was restored. These were most notably:
    • The horn blooms and spooky choral muttering for Frodo's immersion in the Dead Marshes.
    • Gandalf's introduction with the "Gandalf the White (In Nature)" motif is longer; not as long as the segment from "Forth Eorlingas" on the OST, but longer than "Gandalf the White" on the CR.
    • Gandalf's acid trip; this music was what I was most hoping I'd get to hear in context as it appeared as part of "The White Rider" on the OST but I never knew what it was for until the CR pdf file explained it.
    • Sméagol's crazy little dance with the cimbalom when he presents Frodo with the rabbits.
    • The vocal had been restored to the "Evenstar" sequence.
    • The snippet of "The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm" tracked into "The Wolves of Isengard" was not represented, instead there was a tense-build-up to account for the additional footage.
    • The sequence in which Éowyn parts with the riders had a choir and trumpet in its appearance on the OST as "Helm's Deep" but the hardanger that was heard in the film in "The Wolves of Isengard" on the CR; the concert had both the hardanger and the choir, but no trumpet beyond the support, it was the best version I'd heard of that piece yet.
    • The martial quote of the Fellowship theme when the Vulcans Elves arrive at Helm's Deep.
    This is not to say that none of the film track changes were represented; the opening in Emyn Muil sequence reflects what was originally heard, the reprise of "Evenstar" accompanied Elrond's prediction of Arwen's fate, the "Nature's Reclamation" theme is heard leading up to Théoden's charge rather than the "Gandalf the White (In Nature)" theme, the music edit in the film version of "Forth Eorlingas"/"Théoden Rides Forth" is mimicked live by the orchestra (which I have to admit sounded rather weird).

    I have to say, the performance felt much more polished this time around than before, with several sequences that were completely mesmerizing in ways I'd not experienced before. The Two Towers has some of the trilogy's most disturbing music in it, particularly for the journey of Frodo, Sam and Gollum, but it also has some of its most beautiful and hopeful. Honestly, it's the score of the three that I always forget how much I've enjoyed until I listen to it again.

    It was also interesting to see the theatrical cut of this film for the first time in such a very long while. While I will still call the extended version my preferred cut of the film, I have to say that I was struck by how well the theatrical cut flowed. Even knowing what wasn't there, I didn't miss it so much as the story was being well-told. I always felt that the extended cut of Fellowship was a longer version of the same film, the theatrical cut of Return of the King was a reduced version of the extended cut but that the theatrical and extended cuts of The Two Towers were two completely different experiences, each with their own merits. It was also interesting to see the original version of this film considering that I'd seen it first at the beginning of a very difficult period in my life, and I did find its ultimate theme of hope to be a very inspiring one at the time.

    Thankfully, both glenniebun and Raz were there for me to bounce my excitement off of!

  • The Fork hath returned. Apologies, but it had to be done.

  • I almost had a complete disaster yesterday.

    I had rented Hugh Hudson's Revolution because I was stunned by John Corigliano's outstanding score. Unfortunately, the disc I got wouldn't play, and when I ejected it, I saw that the disc had a huge loose shard. I was so distracted by this odd sight that I accidentally walked into the tray on the Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo player.

    Before I could satisfy the impulse to commit hari-kari, the technician in me took over. The problem, I reasoned, had to be mechanical, and if it was then maybe I could shoot the trouble. It turned out not to be such a difficult trouble to actually fix, but it involved opening up the drive mechanism and clearing the tray path, so it was pretty involved. However, once I had made sure that the track was clear for the tray, I was able to open and close it at will, and when I put the whole thing back together, lo and behold: it worked just fine. At this point my system contains a few pieces of equipment that can not easily be replaced, including this and my laserdisc player. It behooves me to get a little more involved in the technical aspect of their function.

    The defective disc has been reported to Netflix. That I can not fix.

  • I received my copy of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Ron Jones Project and am finding it chock full of fantastic music. My interest in this set wasn't one of nostalgia for The Next Generation (which due to circumstance I only watched sporadically) it was because I was quite impressed with the GNP Crescendo release of "The Best of Both Worlds" and disc of the Ron Jones scores for the 1988 Superman Ruby-Spears animated series in the Blue Box, so I knew that I would be pretty interested in this set despite its gargantuan size.

    I've started wading through it one disc at a time reading along with the online liner notes, and all I can say is WOW. I really should have gotten tired of hearing the same composer's work for the same show by now, but Jones' music is so inventive that each episode is its own entity. Since each one is only about twenty-five some-odd minutes long, none of them really have the chance to overstay their welcome, and his bold style keeps it consistently interesting.

    I am marveling at the sense of adventure that Jones brings to the proceedings that is more in line with the original series (though never quite as obviously as with "The Naked Now," which, save for a few electronics, could easily have been written for the original series!) than with the much more restrained sensibility that characterized the Rick Berman era. Yes, he is referencing the familiar Goldsmith and Courage themes, sometimes with some very Sol Kaplan/Fred Steiner-esque twists, but it's all in a voice very distinctly Jones. This is an impressive body of work.