We met up with renowned, three-time academy-award winning composer Howard Shore this year at ComicCon to discuss his methodology for creating his distinctive ominous scores for such movies as the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Hugo, Crash, Big, Silence Of The Lambs, Se7en, to name a few. As he nears his 70th birthday, the prolific composer is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Shore, who graduated from the Berklee School of Music and started his career playing sax in a rock band, was first known as the sonic partner to David Cronenberg. However, Shore has demonstrated that he is quite versatile with vibrant soundtracks to light-hearted fare, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Cats & Dogs, and the aforementioned Big. However, we were at ComicCon, so with several Frodo’s in attendance, we naturally talked Lord Of The Rings. With three LOTR’s and two Hobbits, Shore composed over 20 hours of original music. Twenty. Hours. So how was he able to continually be inspired?
“I kept coming back to the Tolkien books for inspiration,” he revealed. “By reading the passages and letting the words flow through me, I would be able to stay in the compositional frame of mind.” Once the mood was set, Shore would then watch the film, before “laying down for deliberate relaxation” in order to “let the music come.” Using this methodology, one would think that when Shore had a theme in mind, he would then sit down and work out the music at the piano, but instead, he would put pencil to staff paper and write out all the orchestration by hand.
Howard Shore admitted that since Tolkien liked to show the contrast between two worlds, he followed suit. Although he didn’t do it for every character, he did utilize different instrumentation for the principles. So how does one create different instrumentation for characters in a fictional landscape? Shore pulled from our world by matching certain character orchestration geographically. For the people of the north, he utilized Norwegian instruments. For eastern peoples, Japanese, south yielded African rhythms and west, Celtic melodies.
Shore feels that his job is to tell the narrative through the use of music, “By working around the edges of the story to discover the emotional context” he is able to compliment the visuals without the music becoming overwhelming or dominating a scene. So how does Shore continue to deliver one outstanding soundtrack after another?
Shore credits his methodology of performing a lot of research while in the compositional phase to stimulate his creativity. By continually reading and focusing his mind on the content, he then has a much deeper perspective to flesh out the richness and complex natures of the story.
After finishing the third Hobbit movie for Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Shore is looking to leave the Isle of Tolkien for good. Not that he has any regrets, but considering how much music he’s composed for the films over the past several years, he’s ready for new challenges.