It is always a pleasure to converse with composer Howard Shore, whose now legendary three-year odyssey with the Tolkien-inspired Lord of the Rings trilogy earned him three Oscars and a heightened visibility that has led to numerous classical commissions. He combined both with this year’s The Song of Names, which required him to write a Hebraic-influenced cantor’s song prior to shooting and then embrace the several decades of dramatic storytelling with a compatible orchestral score. I interviewed Howard in North Hollywood at a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening.
With the opening of The Post, Steven Spielberg’s new newspaper drama with its score by the legendary John Williams, I thought it might be a good time to look back at past movies with a newspaper setting and the music that accompanied them (and added a bit of information and commentary for each). So for this week’s online Variety, I found YouTube videos of music from Citizen Kane, Sweet Smell of Success, The Front Page, All the President’s Men, The Paper and Spotlight. Comments from composers Elmer Bernstein, David Shire and Howard Shore are included.
This past weekend I joined composer Howard Shore onstage at Heinz Hall for a unique concert experience with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Between pieces conducted by Ludwig Wicki, Howard and I talked about his career; his collaboration with such celebrated directors as Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and David Cronenberg; and how The Lord of the Rings changed his life. The concerts included the world premiere of his The Hobbit: Four Movements for Symphony Orchestra, a 30-minute distillation of many of the themes and motifs from his scores for Jackson’s recent Hobbit trilogy of films. Along the way we got to hear such classic Shores scores as The Fly, Ed Wood (with original theremin soloist Lydia Kavina), The Silence of the Lambs, Hugo and (of course) music from Lord of the Rings. Here is a review, which nicely summarizes the proceedings. (Photo courtesy @ShelaghSings)
Howard Shore finally bids adieu to Middle-earth with his music for the sixth and final film in Peter Jackson’s series of adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien novels. His estimated 14 hours of music for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plus another seven or so for the Hobbit trilogy, may constitute some kind of record for a single composer at work on a film series… certainly one that required nearly 100 musicians and another 100 or so singers on each film. I interviewed Shore about this, and about how director Jackson and writer Tolkien have changed his life since he began this odyssey 14 years ago.
This year’s big-screen epics demanded an aural equivalent: big orchestras and often big choirs. For the films Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the directors called on composers Clint Mansell, Alberto Iglesias and Howard Shore to supply appropriate music. For a story in this week’s Variety, I interviewed them and augmented their thoughts with historical perspective from author Stephen C. Meyer, whose new book Epic Sound examines the classic scores of the 1950s and ’60s.
I love writing about the non-film work of composers better known for their movie scores. Elliot Goldenthal has been commissioned to write his first symphony, and the Pacific Symphony — in addition to debuting the Goldenthal work — will also showcase pieces by James Horner and Howard Shore. Here’s a piece I wrote for Variety previewing them.
The L.A. Times asked for a piece linking Wagner’s 19th-century leitmotifs with today’s film music, notably that of Williams (in the Star Wars films) and Howard Shore (in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). It was an offbeat assignment that put me in touch with scholars who shared interesting perspectives.
This was a fascinating experience. The Los Angeles Opera asked me to do the pre-performance lectures before each of the six performances of Howard Shore’s new opera The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. It’s an entirely new work, although Shore and Cronenberg collaborated on the 1986 film version with Jeff Goldblum. I was called the week of the premiere, so my first (partial) glimpse of the work was actually at dress rehearsal a few hours before it opened. But Howard was very generous with his time and it was fun for me to introduce opera-goers to the saga of the short story, the ’50s film, the ’80s film, and Howard’s own journey from film score to major American opera.
I am very proud of this one. This L.A. Times story was the first mainstream-press piece to call wide public attention to the immense accomplishment of Howard Shore in composing the score for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. I delved deeply into the orchestral and choral details of the music for Fellowship of the Ring, interviewed both Shore and Jackson, and then broadened the story to include Shore’s earlier collaborators, David Cronenberg and Jonathan Demme. Of course Howard would eventually win three Oscars for his work — but this was the very beginning of a multi-year, multi-film odyssey that continues today.