On The Genius Of Howard Shore's Scores For "The Lord Of The Rings"

The Nerdwriter is the YouTube channel brainchild of one Evan Puschak, who describes it as "a weekly video essay series that puts ideas to work." It's consistently interesting and thought-provoking no matter the topic, but it will come as no surprise to my readers that I especially enjoy it when Evan comments on films.

Like this week's video, "Lord Of The Rings: How Music Elevates Story," which highlights one of the best things about Peter Jackson's now-legendary trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. (Even should you come away with a lesser appreciation for Howard Shore than I, you will doubtless appreciate Puschak's highlighting of his extraordinary use of leitmotifs.)

Actually, you know what? Howard Shore's score for PJ's three Tolkien films isn't "one of the best things" about the trilogy. It's far-and-away the best thing, featuring some of the greatest themes ever written for the screen, and adding a truly astonishing richness and vibrancy to the cinematic tapestry on screen.

As I watch (and re-watch) the films, Shore's work feels as vital a cog in the viewing experience as does Ian McKellen's Gandalf, Elijah Wood's Frodo, Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, or Sean Astin's Samwise. His music (and the wonderful way in which he unwraps and develops his themes throughout the course of the story) is just as much a character as they are. I cannot imagine the films without the music.

Looking for heroic and horrifying? Try "The Bridge Of Khazad Dum," with its swelling Fellowship Theme, the darkly propulsive bursts of the unsettling chorus, and the wrenching Lament for Gandalf.

Looking for nothing more than a gorgeous, lyrical, and transportive theme? "The Riders of Rohan" should do the trick. (If the Hardanger fiddle solo doesn't take your breath away, you might not have been breathing to start with.)

And then, of course, my favorite musical (and emotional) beat from all three films: Sam's wonderful, heroic Cyrenian moment, that hearkens musically back to why Frodo's there in the first place -- The Shire -- and looks forward to Frodo's eventual reward -- Into the West.

Gives me goosebumps. Every. Single. Time.

Attribution(s): "Shore and Orchestra" (>source) via VisualHunt and CC BY-NC-ND.