The sound of Tolkien

SOUNDTRACK: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
SOUNDTRACK: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Acclaimed Canadian composer Howard Shore has worked closely with Sir Peter Jackson to create the soundtrack to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Canadian composer Howard Shore is one of the world's most respected creators in his field.

His work with director Sir Peter Jackson has previously earned him three Academy Awards. In a 30 year career he has scored 80 films and won four Grammy and three Golden Globe awards.

Shore was one of the original creators of Saturday Night Live and has scored 14 of David Cronenberg's films including The Fly, Crash, and Naked Lunch. Other successful projects include Martin Scorsese's Hugo, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Silence of the Lambs and Mrs Doubtfire.

In 2003 he conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Wellington. Since then it, and The Lord of the Rings - Live to Projection concerts, have had over 285 performances by the world's most prestigious orchestras.

It has also been the subject of a book with a title that would struggle to fit on a standard book cover - The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores.

He holds honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and York University and is an Officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France.

Having previously worked with Jackson on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Shore says that his inspiration begins with the book and the screenplay.

"While working on the films I always have the book there at my side and continually refer to Tolkien's words as my guide. I want to make a connection to his ideas and be able to create that in music."

Tolkien's love of nature and all things green is something that "resonates deeply" with him.

"A lot of the expression that I was able to give the piece was really an illustration of this. I find the story very moving and I try to write from my heart and give a true expression of what I'm feeling."

Shore does a lot of compositional work on the themes and leitmotifs at first and then slowly he says he lets the influence of Jackson's visuals take over.

"Later on in a different process, I'll begin to apply the composition to certain scenes, scoring the film. When I receive footage from New Zealand, Peter and I review it together. We discuss in detail the use of music in each scene and what we hope to achieve and convey."

He believes film music is really a point of view: What is your point of view in a certain scene? What character are you relating to? What feeling in the scene are you connecting to?

"Peter and I continually work together throughout the production, shaping the scenes from moment to moment until we find just the right balance.

"There are many new themes and leitmotifs introduced for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In particular, new pieces for Smaug, Lake-town, Mirkwood, The Woodland Realm, Tauriel, Kili & Tauriel, The Politicians of Lake-town, Bard, Beorn, and the Necromancer, to mention a few."

The soundtrack was released on Amazon and iTunes on Tuesday both digitally and as a double CD set. A special edition soundtrack features 12 extended tracks, a bonus track, expanded liner notes and interactive sheet music.

Included on the soundtrack is I See Fire, a new song created for the film by British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.

In a media statement Sheeran said: "It was such an honour working with Peter Jackson on this song. Not only is he one of my favorite directors of my favorite films, The Hobbit was the first book I ever read as a child, so it means a lot that I get to produce music for the motion picture."

Of Shore's work, Jackson said in a statement: "Howard Shore's music soars and enriches way beyond its connection to our images, a unique sound like no other. He truly has created an epic musical world of his own."

The film is released today and Shore believes it continues the "exciting journey of the Dwarves".

"From Mirkwood Forest to the depths of Erebor and the inevitable confrontation with the dragon Smaug."


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (M) is out now. The soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon.