Album Review: The Lord of the Rings Soundtrack

It’s finally here, the moment every Lord of the Rings fan has been waiting for since The Return of the King. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will be in theaters starting Friday, Dec. 13. It has been nine years since the last movie was released in theaters. Since then the Lord of the Rings trilogy has become one of the most important epic adventures of all time. It is because of Peter Jackson’s dedication to interpret precisely J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces. This movie trilogy has grabbed the hearts of so many, because of its script, sets, screenplay, and most importantly, its soundtrack. Without the music, the LotR series would be a flop.

Howard Shore’s soundtrack to the LotR trilogy is breathtaking. Whenever I think of soundtracks from movies, this is usually the first one that pops into my mind. It’s Shore’s attention to identity and his use of dynamics throughout the soundtrack that really allow the listener to feel the emotion of the films. You can hear reoccurring themes of identity such as a chorus during the scenes of the wood elves and the use of Irish flutes during scenes of The Shire with the Hobbits. These examples can be heard in the tracks titled “Concerning Hobbits” and “The Council of Elrond.” The use of dynamics throughout the soundtrack is what allows you to put yourself into the character’s shoes. In the song, “The Bridge of Khazad Dum,” you can hear the climatic moment of triumph and tragedy when Gandalf the Grey defends the Fellowship of the Ring from the mighty Balrog. At one moment, the symphony is playing at a loud, staccato pace to heighten this moment of uncertainty, and then silence. The symphony then moves to a somber sound of an orchestra and choir playing soft and legato. The emotion in these movies would not be the same without the work of Howard Shore and his symphony. 10 years later and I still find this soundtrack as good as when I first heard it in theaters.

How will Shore do it again in the Hobbit? The LotR soundtrack is a masterpiece and it will be hard to top. I predict that the soundtrack for the Hobbit will be on the same level as LotR, but will be different in character. I think this, because Shore demonstrates the same dedication to the music in these films, as Jackson does in his directing. Since the Hobbit is the prequel to the LotR series it should have very familiar instrumentation and passages. The challenge for Shore here is to maintain the emotional engagement that was achieved from the first soundtracks and create an overall new feel for the new cast members. As long as Shore maintains a creative approach for identity and dynamics, the Hobbit’s soundtrack will be just as good as LotR’s.

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