It must seem daunting to any composer to be asked to tackle a story like the Lord of the Rings series. To describe these books simply as a cult would be to underestimate the immense following that they have attracted and the reverential status with which they are held. Nevertheless the widely anticipated first film based on J. R. R. Tolkien's core trilogy has delivered on its promise, and Howard Shore has fully risen to the challenge of putting music to the impressive visuals. It has taken Shore some time to shake off the association with horror films, but in recent years he has succeeded in moving into the mainstream and his position on this film underlines that new status. One of the main skills learned from scoring horror movies is to imply musically what is not always present on the screen. Shore uses that skill here with some deep portentous music to convey the enormous mystical powers wielded by characters and objects in the story.
The other key musical ingredient on his pallet is a simple celtic theme tune at times played on whistle (reminding us perhaps of James Horner), principally associated with the lead character Frodo Baggins and the Hobbits in general. If you haven't seen the film the references to Celtic music (and the songs by Enya) might seem strange. It's not so much saying that Ireland is in Middle Earth, but just providing an easy reference point for Frodo's background in a simple farming community, and emphasising the seeming unlikelihood of his being chosen for an important and perilous mission. This anchor point says that no matter how far the companions travel or what they encounter, they still retain a longing for the warmth of home and family which is what they are fighting to preserve.
The music for the dark forces of the film is in total contrast to this gentle theme. The brass and rhythm sections of the orchestra are fully utilised in Wagnerian style and at times hammer out a 5-beat ostinato pattern. Choral sections frequently bring out the mysticism and mythology of the series, including two full-blown songs "In Dreams" and "Lament for Gandalf" (giving away a plot point). The words for these are included in the CD package, along with the lyrics for the two songs contributed by Enya. Her atmospheric Celtic vocals have provided tracks for other films (such as John Williams' "Far and Away") and seem at home in Lord of the Rings. For "The Fellowship of the Ring" Enya sings the love theme for Aragon and Arwen, and "May it Be". All these diverse influences are effortlessly integrated, giving the feel of a single complex but consistent story arc which spans both time and the wide variey of territories and races encountered by the travellers.
You can find the soundtrack CD with at least four different covers and even a leather bound edition, and we direct you these shopping sites to find out more: Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US. Sheet Music is also now available from the film, available in Piano/Vocal/Chord format from SheetMusicPlus (US). This concentrates on the lyrical tracks from the film, and includes Aniron and May It Be by Enya and Nicky Ryan, and the following by Howard Shore: In Dreams from "The Breaking of the Fellowship" (lyrics by Fran Walsh), The Prophecy (text by J.R.R. Tolkien), Lament for Gandalf from "Lothlorien", and Many Meetings. See also our overview of the second film The Two Towers for further Sheet Music from "The Lord of the Rings" films. Other related links that you might want to explore are the Enya website, the Lord of the Rings movie website and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack website.