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Music / Howard Shore

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Howard Leslie Shore OC (born October 18, 1946) is a Canadian film composer.

He is best known for his highly acclaimed work on The Lord of the Rings films and doing the scores for every film for David Cronenberg since 1979 (except one). He also been the music director of a few of Lorne Michaels's projects (such as Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Conan O'Brien), written music for opera, worked with Roger Waters from Pink Floyd on a few songs, and performed on the world's largest pipe organ.

Several of his scores have been issued/reissued on his Howe Records label.

He frequently collaborates with Peter Jackson, Jonathan Demme, David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese.

Works scored by Howard Shore include:

Tropes associated with this composer

  • Adventurous Irish Violins: Shore's work on The Lord of the Rings has a lot of this goin on:
    • The music that's thematically linked to Rohan. Variations of this main "Rohan theme" pop up throughout The Two Towers and The Return of the King whenever the people of Rohan are doing much of anything noteworthy or dramatic.
    • Some reprises of the Shire-associated theme also have this vibe.
  • Associated Composer: For David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher.
  • Creator Cameo: Shore plays the orchestra conductor during Kong's intro in New York in King Kong (2005), despite the fact he eventually left the movie score and was replaced by James Newton Howard.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: Shore and Ornette Coleman's soundtrack to Naked Lunch is full of this, with a bit of North African traditional influence at times too.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: Present in all three The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit:
    • The Fellowship of the Ring:
      • "Dies irae" appears in the score as Bilbo's ring tempts him one last time before he leaves the Shire. It weighs heavily on him as he slowly tips his hand to let it fall to the floor, right after it has been made clear that there is something dangerous about it and it is likely the One Ring.
      • Heard again as the Ringwraiths corner the hobbits at Weathertop.
      • Also reoccurs as part of the motif for the forces of Isengard.
    • The Return of the King: Heard as Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo up the cliffs near Minas Morgul and the armies of Mordor begin marching forth against Gondor.
    • An Unexpected Journey: A statement is heard during Balin's telling of the failed attempt to retake Moria, right as Azog the Defiler takes the head of Thrór. It's heard again as the company is before the Great Goblin and he mentions there's someone who would greatly desire Thorin's head.
  • Image Song: "Gollum's Song" (Gollum) and "Into the West" (Galadriel) from The Lord of the Rings films seem to fit into this category.
  • Leitmotif:The Lord of the Rings movies are chock-full of themes:
    • The "Fellowship theme", a traditional balls-to-the-wall triumphant brass theme as heard over the montage of the Fellowship traveling out of Rivendell towards the Gap of Rohan. Later used for the Three Hunters, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Notable in that, according to the composer Howard Shore, it never quite makes a full reappearance after the events in Moria, since this is the last time the full fellowship are ever together; at least one note is off, or the rhythm is changed.
    • The "Shire/Hobbit theme", a sort of jaunty flute piece with bassoons and oboes evoking pastoral countryside. Plays over the "Concerning Hobbits" narration. Gets more and more wistful the more the hobbits, especially Frodo, go through Break the Cutie - only to be restored to full orchestral glory when everyone bows to the hobbits during Aragorn's coronation.
    • The "Rohan Theme". Wistful when we first hear it on the Norwegian fiddle when the heroes arrive at Edoras, it later appears in full-on brass mode for Helm's Deep. Plays over the charge of the Rohirrim at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, with Norwegian fiddle and brass sections working together.
    • The "Gondor Theme". Majestic, soaring theme that wouldn't sound entirely out of place in a pirate movie. Heard as Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith and gallop up the city to see Denethor, as well as over the lighting of the beacons. An early version of this theme is played on solo French horn as Boromir speaks at the Council of Elrond.
      • A bit of Fridge Brilliance: 2nd half of this clip. Those blasting trumpets? The Gondor Theme. The soaring violins? That's the Númenor Theme.
    • The "Mordor Theme". Dark and dramatic with lots of brass and ominous chanting when needed. Heard as Gandalf witnesses the arrival of the Nazgûl. Used to excellent effect first as a threatening sound when Sauron first appears before the Allied Army, single-handedly stopping their attack with his very presence, and then blasting into angry brass and choir as he sweeps away scores of soldiers with casual swings of his mace.
    • "Gollum's Theme", appears all the way through the second film whenever Gollum is around, but most notably as a song in the end credits sung by Emiliana Torrini.
    • The "Isengard Theme," (no, not this one) played with heavy brass and percussion in the Caverns of Isengard or when the Uruk-hai are on the move. Unlike other themes, which are in more conventional timing, Isengard's theme is done in 5/4 time, which sounds a little bit off or unnatural (as most music these days is done in 4/4 or 2/4 time), to reflect the twisting of nature and industrial methods of Saruman.
    • The Lothlórien theme (for Galadriel's Elves) is first heard as an ethereal, dreamy piece with generous amounts of Cherubic Choir and One-Woman Wail. In the second movie, though, it gets transformed into a badass military march during the scene where the elven army comes to the rescue at Helm's Deep. For additional fun, in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", the battle version of the theme shows up just for a moment when the dwarven company is being rescued from the wargs by a then-unknown savior, hinting at the fact that the saviors are elves.
    • "The History of the Ring", representing the power of the One Ring, especially when it changes hands or when someone tries to take it — plays under the title card of each movie, so easily mistaken for the theme to the trilogy itself — or perhaps it is, in a way. It also plays in The Hobbit at several key moments associated with the Ring, such as when Bilbo sees it for the first time.
    • The "Nature's Reclamation" theme (perhaps best known as "The Last March of the Ents") does a double duty of representing nature in Tolkien's nature versus industry conflict (for example, as the Rohirrim prepare to charge against the Orcs in the Battle of the Pelennor fields), as well as representing beings that are nature personified such as the Ents or the Eagles (especially as the latter come down on the Nazgûl at the Battle of the Black Gate). This theme also comes back for the appearances of the Eagles in The Hobbit.
    • "The Revelation of the Ringwraiths", containing lyrics from a poem written by Phillipa Boyens and translated from Engish into Adûnaic, the ancient language of Númenor, represents the Nazgûl.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: In The Fly (1986), the climax of Shore's intense cue "Plasma Pool" is used to score... a surly Jeff Goldblum walking through Toronto's downtown after dark, seeking a new partner, unwrapping and eating a candy bar as he walks. During the editing process, executive producer Mel Brooks told director-writer David Cronenberg that the cue was too intense because "The guy's just walking down the street", but Cronenberg simply replied "No, he's walking towards his destiny", and the cue was kept in — to great effect.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting:
    • Shore's score for Al Pacino's Looking For Richard featured Latin translations of lines from Shakespeare's play. It was quite effective.
    • The Lord of the Rings movies feature ominous chanting in a variety of languages (largely the "Big Two" Elvish languages of Quenya and Sindarin), including the languages that Tolkien made up himself as the main purpose of writing the stories in the first place. Some of the songs were even composed by Tolkien himself. The words for lyrics of some original songs, other the hand, had to be improvised by linguists working on the film because of the meagre examples of non-Elvish languages that Tolkien left behind in his writings.
      • The vaguely Semitic-esque Adûnaic chanting whenever the Nazgûl make their appearance is quite ominous despite Adûnaic being the in-universe ancestor of the languages spoken by the Hobbits and the Men of Gondor (and the descendant of the tongues spoken by the "good" men of the First Age); the language was chosen because the Nazgûl themselves were once men, with their leader himself descending from the Adûnaic-speaking Númenóreans.
      Bârî 'n Nidir nênâkham. (The Lords, the Nine, we approach.)
      Nêbâbîtham magânanê. (We deny our maker.)
      Nêtabdam dâurad. (We cling to the gloom.)
      • At two places in Fellowship you can hear parts of the Ring poem (though not those in the Ring inscription) sung in Black Speech, the lingua franca of Mordor. Perhaps surprisingly, these aren't used for Sauron, the Ring, or Mordor (which have their own leitmotifs, but no lyrics), but for Saruman's lust for the Ring and its power.
      • The movies are also notable for the skillful use of a deep-voiced Polynesian choir chanting in Khuzdul (Dwarvish) during the definitely ominous Balrog scene in Moria. Indeed, it's essentially "O Fortuna" in Dwarvish instead of Latin (starting at about 1:12 here). The lyrics are notable for being as ominous as they sound:
      Urkhas tanakhi! Lu! Lu! (The demon comes! No! No!)
      Kâmin takalladi! Lu! Lu! (The earth shakes! No! No!)
      Ugrûd tashniki kurdumâ! Lu! Lu! (Fear rips our heart! No! No!) ...
      Urus ni askad gabil — (Fire in a great shadow —)
      Urus ni buzra. (Fire in the deep.) ...
      Arrâs talbabi fillumâ! Fillumâ! (Flames lick our skin! Our skin!)
      Ugrûd tashniki kurdumâ! Kurdumâ! (Fear rips our heart! Our heart!)
      Urkhas tanakhi. (The demon comes.)
      • That said, while Shore was provided with full translations for the lyrics he was given to work with, he didn't always follow them linearly in the score, and sometimes they ended up quite chopped up. Plus mispronounced (the Sindarin rovail [wings] and naur [fire], in the battle at the Black Gate, should be pronounced as "roh-vile" and "nowr", not "roh-veel" and "noor").
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Inverted with both The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:
    • The Return of the King starts with shortened versions of the themes "Breath of Life" and "The Last March of the Ents" from The Two Towers, and then switches to music recorded especially for the trailer. This music ends in an epic version of the Gondor theme that sounds suspiciously similar to the scene where Gandalf rides through Minas Tirith.
    • As for An Unexpected Journey, it starts with a variation on the Shire theme (maybe used in the movie, but not present in the OST), before we're treated to the Dwarves' "Misty Mountains" song. But after that we hear the exact same score as in the scene where the party leaves Rivendell, though with a different instrumentation.