FOTR Audio Commentary

Special Extended Edition DVD discs 1 & 2

 

These are comments made by Howard Shore on the Fellowship of the Ring's audio commentary track. I've also added a few other comments about the soundtrack made by other people.

When you see this:
HS COMMENT elsewhere on the site, it means that Howard Shore has made a comment pertinent to something mentioned there. Click on the link to find out what.

 

Chapter numbers in brown indicate the chapter number found in the DVD menus
Chapter numbers in blue indicate the chapter number seen on your DVD player while playing Disc 2
 

 

Jump to:

 

Prologue
Hobbiton
Long Expected Party - Plan 9
Bilbo Departs
Barad-dûr
Leaving Bree
Felling of the trees
Weathertop
Rivendell

 


Enya
Sound of the Ring
Fellowship forms
Seduction on Caradhras
Male choir in Moria
Dwarrowdelf
Moria chanting
Decay of Dwarrowdelf


Gandalf Falls
Lament for Gandalf
The Great River
Wounding and Death of Boromir
Frodo Leaves
Use of Silence
The Three Hunters' Resolve
Final Thoughts

Disc: 1

Chapter: 1

On Screen:

Forging of the Ring

Music Playing:

Ring Theme

There’s a theme that’s used in the very beginning of the film that has to do with the history of the Ring. Cause in the prologue is explaining how the ring was forged and all historical references to the Ring. And there’s a theme that’s used there that’s actually a Gondorian theme that you hear as the Fellowship goes through the Argonath and then into Amon Hen. We see ruined statuary of Gondor and you hear that theme.

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 2

On Screen:

Intro to Hobbiton (EE scene)

Music Playing:

Hobbiton Theme

The Shire theme was written quite early, I mean even after the visit to New Zealand the first time. And I think it was based more on the beauty of New Zealand. Cause Hobbiton is just so inherently... I just had a feel of New Zealand, of that rural beauty to it. And I wrote the Shire theme pretty early on and then related the Shire theme to Frodo. The Shire theme is probably the most innocent theme in the film. I wanted it to have a somewhat, a feeling of, you know, to have a rural feeling. You know I wanted it to have enough malleability to be able to create a heroic feeling to it and as Frodo takes the Ring and he’s on his journey, that this theme would carry with him through the story. And in the beginning in the Shire you hear a much more sort of frolicking version of it. But as Film 1 progresses and ends, you hear the Shire theme transformed into what I call the Hymn, which is a version of the Shire theme. It has more of a center core to it and it’s slower.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter:

On Screen:

The Long Expected Party

Music Playing:

Flaming Red Hair

Plan 9, it’s a co-op of musicians in New Zealand, wonderful musicians who live in Wellington and write music. And they had worked with Peter on other films that Peter had done. They wrote the party music. When you’re shooting a film, sometimes you need music to shoot to. Like if you’re shooting the party scene in Hobbiton, you needed that music to play on the set so that actors could dance and people can move to the rhythms of it. And this is well before I was involved in the film. But Plan 9 wrote a piece that they shot to and then as we were watching the film it was just such a wonderful piece that we just left it in.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 6

On Screen:

Bilbo Packing

Music Playing:

Pity of Gollum

He’s (Bilbo) had the Ring now for awhile and he’s being a bit torn to leave it. And a bit of Gollum comes up on him. A bit of evil comes up and you hear a little bit of that Gollum theme that you’ve heard in the beginning when you’ve seen Gollum. That Gollum piece is so central to the story. Even before they leave to go, as Gandalf sits with Frodo in the kitchen and actually tries, you know, explains to him the history of the Ring. Like what he actually has and what Bilbo’s left him. Of course, he talks about Gollum and this creature and what happened to him and again, you hear little elements of the Gollum theme. And it’s a very sort of mysterious piece of music and you know the character will develop and you just see little glimmers of Gollum through the story. So there is a very essential bit of music through all of Film 1 even for a character that you really hardly see in the film... and of course, leading us to Film 2, where you see, you know, you have quite a bit of Gollum, a very important character in Film 2.  So that’s what I think I was saying earlier, that the structure of this long piece is that you had to create Gollum and his sound and his theme very early on even though you really don’t see too much of Gollum in Film 1.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 7

On Screen:

First look at Barad-dûr

Music Playing:

Sauron's Theme

The first time you hear Sauron’s Theme is where Gandalf leaves Frodo and they cut to that shot of that panning up Barad-dûr.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 16

On Screen:

Leaving Bree

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

Well, leaving Bree is now the Fellowship as joined by Merry and Pippin. There’s four Hobbits now. They’ve met Strider in Bree and you hear the Fellowship theme taking shape. It’s not in it full form. You only hear part of the theme. It’s orchestrated in a very sort of journey... they’re on the journey, approach. It’s not in it’s full heroic form. It’s more a kind of arduous form, if you will, because they’re on this very strenuous journey.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 19

On Screen:

Felling the trees in Isengard

Music Playing:

Isengard Theme

Isengard is industrial age, and it’s written in 5/4 time, which is a rhythm that I use only in Isengard and only to evoke this kind of ‘things being a little off kilter’. I mean the 5/4 rhythm is a little unusual enough that it always felt a bit unresolved whenever you were in Isengard. And the orchestration is very metallic, you know. It’s chains and metal percussion and it’s a actually quite simplistic. It’s a 2 part counterpoint with this 5/4 rhythm and all low, low horns all playing in unison and very primal and somewhat scary.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 19

On Screen:

The Ringwaith fight on Weathertop

Music Playing:

Ringwraiths' Theme

Weathertop is primarily based around the Ringwraith them but it also does have elements of Fellowship theme. Aragorn saving Frodo once he puts the ring on – he saves him and you hear elements of the Fellowship Theme. But it’s essentially based around the Ringwraiths.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 23

On Screen:

Frodo awakes in Rivendell

Music Playing:

Shire A Theme

Frodo awakens from quite a long sleep. You actually hear a bit of the Shire Theme when Sam approaches him.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 23

On Screen:

Hobbit reunion at Rivendell

Music Playing:

Rivendell Theme - Shire A Theme

Then you actually hear the full beautiful Rivendell theme on those wide shots of the valley and then as it comes in closer, Frodo and Sam meet Merry and Pippin and there’s a reunion of sorts, still based around the Rivendell theme. And then as Frodo sees Bilbo off in the distance with his book, it changes into a really beautiful, warm version of Shire music, of Hobbiton music. When he sees Bilbo in Rivendell and Bilbo shows him his book, I mean, and then you hear a little fragment that evokes the Shire theme. It’s slowed down and it’s a little warmer, but it brings you right back to Hobbiton (even though you are in Rivendell). It brings you back to that part of the story where it began.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 26

On Screen:

Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge

Music Playing:

Aníron

Enya, great Irish singer and a fantastic voice, amazing voice, I always thought of hearing in Rivendell. It just seemed like a wonderful place to hear that voice. So she was approached and cast really, you know, for Rivendell.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 27

On Screen:

Council of Elrond

Music Playing:

Sound of the Ring

For the Evil of the Ring, you hear the voice of Sauron through the Ring and I used this North African instrument, that sound, for the sound of Sauron. It’s a very, sort of, crying evil sound in the context, it’s evil in the context of seeing it around the Ring. You hear that sound, and that theme plays over it and you hear that at the Council of Elrond, when Gimli tries to destroy the Ring.

 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 27

On Screen:

The Fellowship forms in Rivendell

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

Well, the Council of Elrond is the Fellowship being formed to support Frodo to take the Ring to the Crack of Doom. And it’s a very magic moment in the film and Elrond says that you will now be the Fellowship of the Ring. And the music just swells and you just hear that fully formed version of the Fellowship theme. You’ve heard all these little fragments of it up till that point and it’s the first time you just hear it in it’s glory. And then as the Fellowship leaves Rivendell and they cross the pass and you see each one of them in silhouette against the sky, the theme is again played in a really heroic version as they set out on their great mission.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (2)

On Screen:

Boromir seduced on Caradhras

Music Playing:

Seduction Theme

I used the sound of the boys also around the sound of the Ring, of the seduction of the Ring. Part of the seduction of it, I thought, was the regaining of lost life. And I thought the boys were such a great sound of that, of the seduction of it.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (7)

On Screen:

A rest in Moria

Music Playing:

A Hobbit's Understanding

The music inside of Moria is unique just to the sounds of Moria-singing all in Dwarvish. And the composition is completely unique to Moria. The only elements that you hear from the rest of the film are certain scenes that have to do with relationships. With Frodo and Gandalf, where they sit and Frodo’s quite uncertain about taking the Ring and he looks for Gandalf for wisdom and you hear elements of Hobbit/Frodo’s theme, not the hymn right there, but you hear a version of Shire music as he wonders about the wisdom of the task that he’s on and whether he’s even capable of doing it. By using Quenya and Sindarin and Dwarvish in Moria, particularly help me in the accuracy of the cultures because you wanted to feel that you were in those worlds, not that you were observing them but that you were actually in them. So in Moria, Peter would say, “When they look down into the depths of Moria, you want to hear all the lost souls that have been lost in those mines - thousands of Dwarves.” It’s an all male choir cause the Dwarves were primarily a male race. Tolkien said that female Dwarves looked like the male Dwarves. Like they were hard to tell them apart. It’d be the only place in the film where you hear all male singers. So I mean all of those little details kind of helped create the world that the Fellowship would go to.

Then there was a 60-voice all male choir that sang the Dwarvish music, because Peter wanted all of the sounds in Moria to be male oriented due to the predominately masculine Dwarvish culture.

--Howard Shore from: And In the Darkness Bind Them

----Dan Goldwasser (SoundtrackNet 11-20-01) 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (7)

On Screen:

Dwarrowdelf

Music Playing:

Dwarrowdelf Theme

I wrote a theme for Dwarrowdelf, the ancient Dwarf ruined city of Moria. I played that for Peter and Fran and they liked that, it seemed to work well with that scene and we watched it with the scene and they heard this Dwarrowdelf scene. And it was this very, sort of, majestic... it had sort of a ruined quality. When Gimli approaches Balin’s tomb, when he sees Balin’s tomb, he runs to it... you hear a little fragment of that theme.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (8)

On Screen:

Balin's Tomb

Music Playing:

nothing

The mines of Moria was recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. And it worked so well, I thought, because the chorus is an all male chorus and it’s a Maori-Samoan chorus singing in Dwarvish and because it’s all male, it was a great chorus to derive from that culture, cause inherent in that culture [Maori] is the haka. I don’t know if you know that. It’s a kind of a very aggressive kind of war chanting kind of thing. And it worked so perfectly in Moria cause it is the action center-piece of the Fellowship and that sound was just a wonderfully aggressive, wonderful sound. I kind of used it for both Moria and for the Balrog. For when the Balrog came out of Moria - out of the mines - and Peter said, “When you see the Balrog, it’s the voice of Hell.”

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (8)

On Screen:

Frodo skewered by the Cave Troll

Music Playing:

Dwarrowdelf Theme

The Hobbits Merry and Pippin on seeing Frodo, which they think is being killed, – there’s amazing courage and they’re such little characters compared to the enormous cave troll — jump on top of the cave troll and they’re sticking their daggers into his head trying to bring him down. And Fran said, “Play a fragment of the theme of Dwarrowdelf, the ancient ruined city,” Frodo’s dying, it’s very sort of majestic but it had a kind of ruined quality... it was majestic and historical but it was like that things had somehow gone wrong. And this world was decaying.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (9)

On Screen:

Crumbling bridge in Moria

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

Khazad-dûm was basically built around the Fellowship theme. There’s the struggle of the battle going on and then the final leap across the stairs and then as Frodo’s thrown over by Strider and they’re all on the other side, you hear the Fellowship theme... the very last time you hear that very heroic version of the theme because it’s the most glorious moment, really, for the Fellowship.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (9)

On Screen:

The Fellowship grieves for Gandalf

Music Playing:

Hymn for Gandalf

Gandalf falls and you hear, not Gandalf’s Lament, that you hear Gandalf’s Lament in Lothlórien, but you hear a version of that. Not as an exotic a version, you know, it’s not quite Lothlórien, but you hear a beautiful plaintive piece that’s very unique, really, just to Gandalf falling and dying. I don’t think you hear that music anywhere else in the film. Mabel Faletolu, wonderful South Island New Zealand singer, who sang the solo of Gandalf dying.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (11)

On Screen:

Elves sing Gandalf's Lament

Music Playing:

Gandalf's Lament

I wanted the score to have a feeling of a cast and certain people were cast for certain scenes. Elizabeth Fraser has such a wonderful voice and Fran suggested her and I thought she would be a wonderful singer for Gandalf's Lament. Gandalf’s Lament is a song that the Elves sing and you wanted that to feel as if that was being sung in Lothlórien. You wanted to feel that was real and that the Elves were singing this piece. And it’s in a two part counterpoint, Gandalf’s Lament. It’s the choir, it’s somewhat of a call and answer type of form. And then there was instrumental soloists of the ney flutes, the African flutes, and the rhaita, and there was an Indian instrument called a sarangi, which was a solo instrument used in Lothlórien.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (15)

On Screen:

Anduin

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

 

You hear elements of the Fellowship theme on Anduin leaving Lothlórien. Yes. Because the Fellowship has sort of regrouped. They’ve lost Gandalf but the journey continues and you hear somewhat of a mournful version of it. You never hear that true, heroic version any more after Gandalf falls. It’s now disintegrating, the theme is now breaking apart and there’s a lot of doubt. Frodo’s somewhat mistrusting of the men. He’s lost his spiritual leader in Gandalf. He’s at a loss to what to do and who to take with him on the journey... whether to go on himself.  And there’s a lot of indecision and mistrust at this point so you hear the theme but it’s starting to come apart at the seams.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (17)

On Screen:

1st arrow hits Boromir

Music Playing:

last bit of Death of Boromir, part 1 then silence

The death of Boromir, or the departure of Boromir... Peter did a wonderful thing with the sound and the music where he takes the sound and he treats it in a way – he’s taken the reality of the battle out and created almost an underworld to the action that you’re seeing on screen. It’s almost as if you’ve fallen underwater and you’re hearing sounds filtered through several feet of water. The analogy is Boromir is sinking. He’s.... the arrows have gone in and he’s slowly going down and the knows he’s finished, he’s dying. And it is the feeling of submersion, you know, you’re just falling into this dark pit. The sound of the boy choir singing in Elvish had a quality of youth to it of almost like a lost youth. When Boromir’s dying you hear those boys singing and he looks at the Hobbits, cause he knows he’s finished. And you hear those boys singing. It’s just such a wonderful sound. And I did it all based on the shot of Boromir’s eyes as he looks at Merry and Pippin.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (17)

On Screen:

Merry and Pippin are taken

Music Playing:

Wounding of Boromir

Philippa Boyens on Director's Commentary track: The choral piece under this... they’re actually singing in Elvish some lines from the book which is lines of Faramir’s. “I do not love the sword for it’s brightness or the arrow for it’s swiftness. I love only that which they defend.” It’s a beautiful sentiment under this moment. (The music containing Faramir's words is officially called, The Death of Boromir, part 2. The scene playing as PB discusses these lyrics is after Boromir is wounded by the arrow. This music does not use Faramir's words but, instead, comes from The Death of Boromir, part 1. note: The Death of Boromir, part 2 is used earlier in the fight before Boromir is wounded and a short moment just after Boromir dies. )

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (18)

On Screen:

Boromir's last words

 

Barrie Osborne, Producer: When we previewed, we put [it] together with temp mix and Fran was drawn to Howard’s music so when it came time to actually get the composer involved, Howard was a very natural choice. He was such a great collaborator with Peter and Fran, that I think the result is incredible. In many ways, as Howard’s fond of saying, the score which is over 2½ hours long, and it’s more like opera than it’s like writing movie music.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (18)

On Screen:

Boromir dies

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

Then finally, as Boromir’s eyes close and you know that he’s gone, he’s finished, you hear a processional, funereal version of the Fellowship theme. It really is the end of the Fellowship.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (18)

On Screen:

Boromir dead

Music Playing:

none

Mark Ordesky, Executive Producer: The more conventional instinct would be to just have the score swelling up and it would clearly overwhelm the scene. And Howard’s just so good that he knows the power of his music and the power of the lack of it.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (18)

On Screen:

Frodo at the river

Music Playing:

Fellowship Theme

The moments of silence were incredibly key and thought out very carefully. We called them pauses. They were breaks in the music where just a pure natural sound would come through. A very beautiful one was after Boromir dies, the Fellowship is splitting up and you hear a very sort of funereal, processional version of the Fellowship and then it ends... it stops... and you just hear water from the river lapping on the shore, you hear a little wind in the trees and that silence is just so amazing. And then a camera comes in on Frodo and he has the Ring in his hand trying to decide what to do. That pure, beautiful sound is just going on with no music. And then you hear Gandalf’s voice and you start to hear a bit of the music starting to come in and then it starts to get a little bigger as he makes his decision and then he goes to the boat and the music swells. 

: pure, beautiful sound

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (19)

On Screen:

The Three Hunters

Music Playing:

??

Christian Rivers, Weta VFX, Art Director: This is actually one, I think, one of Howard’s best pieces of scoring. This whole finale is just pulled together so well by the music. Their (Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli) resolve to each other.  Their sort of just covering what’s going on. But the music just has a sort of this uplifting, sense of, you know, anticipation, I guess. You’re just like, WOW! His music is just like almost telling you ‘something fantastic is about to happen.’ And then the film ends and you just want... [anguished sound] AHH! You just want to keep on going. You want to follow both the threads of the story and follow these friends that you’ve met.

 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: (20)

On Screen:

credits

Music Playing:

I think I’m always writing for an emotional impact. I want to feel something when I watch the film and that’s how I create music. I mean, I’m watching the film and feeling something and trying to create that in music. And in a story like this, even though you’re telling [it] on a vast historical scale, this vast scale of the this story, it still is about these people and you want to relate to Frodo, and you want to relate to Bilbo and you want to feel what they’re feeling.

 

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