- When I initially popped in the "Rarities Archive" CD that came with Doug Adams' The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores, aside from the theatrical version of "Sheildmaiden of Rohan," I wasn't really certain what I was going to hear. I mean, you have to figure that (other than the theatrical cues) if it's on the Rarities Archive in the first place, it was something that for some reason didn't work. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the section of the book devoted to the archives was all the way at the tend of the Indices. And while I have been fascinated with the scores for most of a decade, I wasn't sure if I'd reached my limit.
The disc opened in rather familiar territory; "The Prophecy" from the original album, it turns out, is the second half of a different version of the Prologue, which also covers the history of the ring. But then it happened. I heard something I'd never heard before; the "Gondor (in the Second Age)" theme at the Battle of Orodruin. In the film a thunderous orchestral version of the Nazgûl material is heard instead. My first reaction to hearing this new variation on the Gondor theme was "Gondor! Cool! Okay, is it Gondor in ascension or decline… decline, okay, but… what the #$&% is this!?!" Its ragged, upwardly reaching structure (shades of Aragorn's theme) makes an interesting bookend with the polished and refined presentation of the "Gondor (in ascension theme)" as heard in the theatrical version of "Sheildmaiden of Rohan."² The new version of the theme and what it represents gives the “Gondor (in decline)” variation an interesting and slightly more haunted context.
I wasn't sure what else the Rarities would have had to wow me, but the more I listen, the more there is to hear. The beautiful lines of "Sammack Naur" and the malevolent "Eat All the World" Uruk-hai variations are impressive, as is the choral chanting of “Flood at the Ford of Bruinen.” Some of the mock-ups are more interesting than others, but all of them show an interesting step in the process of how the material for the film was developed.
It is amazing that this music still has the power to surprise me.
- I really hadn't been bitten by the "mix bug" for quite a bit of time. My most recent compilation was my New York-themed Elmer Bernstein compilation Spring In Central Park, which was being finished up exactly when I got the opportunity to move to my current apartment. I was wondering for a while whether or not this silly hobby was behind me, but I caught it again a few months ago when Predators came out with John Debney doing an excellent Alan Silvestri follow-up and Intrada re-releasing Silvestri's score for the original Predator. I really wanted to make a mix of the music from those films but several things stopped me. The first is that there has been talk of a sequel to Predators, which at this point I think it somewhat unlikely, but stranger things have been known to happen. The other (main) reason is that the sound quality of the existing CD of Predator 2 is horrible, and there is some room for expansion; I'm hoping one of our enterprising labels might be able to do somthing with this title.
And so we come to The Lord of the Rings. After the Radio City Music Hall showing of The Two Towers, I watched the films (I mini-series the trilogy when I watch it, usually a disc a night for a couple of days) and had been listening to the original albums and Complete Recordings purely for enjoyment, and had started developing, quite by accident, some very interesting structural ideas for a mix, and the Rarities Archives were the final piece of the puzzle. These ideas have been clawing at me for a few days, and I had to try at least a few of them out.
Well, I'm sick I don't have much to do except lie around all day (my meals have gotten relatively elaborate lately, just out of boredom; today's omelet had garlic-marinated roasted red peppers and caramelized onions). I have a project that I can do while I'm sick, so I arranged my editing suite on my laptop and started working anew on my Lord of the Rings compilation.
While I am keeping some of my former ideas, I am remixing everything with the new programs I use; I've already redone my "pure" version of "A Hobbit's Understanding" (culled from "Farewell Dear Bilbo" and "Gollum;" a few of you heard the original version). Some of the edits that I was never satisfied with before will now be possible, and I’ve gotten a better idea on how to handle certain thematic material. I am after a two disc set, but haven’t ruled out a third disc if the scope ends up encompassing it. If this occurs, the three discs will not correspond to the three films at all, instead reflecting the breadth of Howard Shore’s body of work from no less than fourteen source discs. I still won’t hit everything, so I have to be selective.
What has proven very difficult has been that there are some themes, such as those for Aragorn and Éowyn, that are in a constant state of change, making summation very difficult. Éowyn is actually handled relatively easily by attaching her to material to that of the rest of the Rohan, which I have pretty solid structure for in mind.
I just have to say that this process would be much more enjoyable if I didn't have to blow my nose so often during it.
DERNHELM IN BATTLE
¹ — Quenya for “Listen!”
² — The theatrical version of this cue with “Gondor (in ascension)” culiminating in the “Battlefield Heroism” fanfare is one of my favorites in the trilogy; it had to be changed for the Extended Version to make way for footage of Éowyn fleeing Gothmog.