ROTK Audio Commentary

Special Extended Edition DVD discs 1 & 2

 

 

These are comments made by Howard Shore on Return of the King Extended Edition DVD audio commentary track. They were transcribed by TheTennisBallKid.

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 red 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 Comments:

 

Disc: 1

Chapter: 8

On Screen: Gandalf and Pippin

riding away from Edoras

Music Playing:

White Rider Theme

There's certain emotional things, say, between Merry and Pippin, and that parting at Edoras. I mean -- you don't want to feel that different ways; you want to feel it one way. You know, it wasn't like you wrote the music then analyzed it over and over and over, you know, and tried to figure out "is that the right...?" It was just your expression of that. And if was a true expression -- which all of the music is in this movie -- there's nothing false about. You know, it empowered you to create something based on your own true feelings about it.

magpie: Although HS begins speaking just as Gandalf and Pippin ride off from Edoras, he may actually be referring to music heard just prior to that when Merry and Pippin are parting. That scene uses Shire-ish music while the riding away scene uses the White Rider Theme. See a DA COMMENT about the Shire-ish music.

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 11

On Screen: Gandalf and Pippin

riding to Minas Tirith

Music Playing:

Gondor Theme

The Gondor theme -- it's quite stately, and it is played on the brass. I mean, the brass are really central to Gondor. And it has a bit of a feeling of lost grandeur to it.

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 19

On Screen: The Lighting of the Beacons

Music Playing:

Gondor Theme

Lighting of the beacons is Gondor signaling to Rohan for aid. So it's using the Gondor theme, sending it out across the mountains. The music was used so much at the heart of the story, the center of the story...and...by working with Peter and Fran so carefully on it...and with Philippa on the text, and using the Tolkien languages; the music was able to be created in a way that was at the center of this piece. And um...I didn't know that actually, starting out, that that's what it would be...it wasn't like we had this discussion. It was just something that evolved through the process of...really of just telling the story. I think Peter and Fran wanted the music to be expressive in that way, to be used in a way that was good storytelling. It's an older style; it touches people. Storytelling is something that's been around for a long time and everybody loves a good tale. And Peter is a great storyteller, and by allowing me to express the story in music you connect it to people in the way that music can. And I'm seeing that, and it's fascinating to me actually -- to see the reaction to it, and the knowledge of the music in the films. That people know all the moments, and they know how the music relates to every frame of the movie. I mean, they know everything about it.

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 26-27

On Screen:

Denethor sends Faramir back to Osgiliath

Music Playing:

Pan Flute / Faramir's Theme

Pan flute material Faramir is a character that I wanted to give a certain sound to. He's another fairly tragic character. The pan pipe is one of the oldest instruments in the world; I think I was waiting for the right moment and the right spot to use it. It wouldn't have seemed appropriate to me to use it in Fellowship of the Ring...it might have seemed almost too obvious. And I didn't use it in The Two Towers, and finally now in the first act of Return of the King you hear a little bit of this sound; and it only connects to Faramir. It's a scene where he's in conference with his father in Minas Tirith, and his father is sending him on a mission he knows he won't return [from]. It's a really great moment in the film. And it's a turning point in Faramir because he knows he's going on a suicide mission. As he leads his troops out of the city, you also hear that pan pipe again, but now, it's more fully developed and you hear the piece with choir and orchestra.
 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 28

On Screen:
Faramir riding out of Minas Tirith*

 

*TheTennisBallKids notes: This comment is heard after the end of the Frodo telling Sam to go home scene, but seems to be in reference to it...

*Magpie notes: I almost think this comment might have been tracked in from anywhere. It seems to be a general statement that doesn't refer to anything specific about any particular Frodo/Sam/Gollum scene. But if it's referring to the preceding F/S/G scene, that music would be heard in the OST track, Cirith Ungol.

Fran is the great guide. Fran is the writer of the relationships...and Frodo's relationship to Gollum...Sam's relationship to Gollum...how Frodo relates to Gandalf. I mean, Fran always seemed to be at the center of the emotional heart of the film.

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 33

Onscreen:

The Three Hunters take the Dimholt Road

Music Playing:

low, droning male voices

Paths of the Dead uses a Sindarin text; it was created by Philippa Boyens and translated by David Salo. The Tolkien book contains a lot of lyrics, and text, and poems. And one of the ways I wanted to put some of that back into the film was to use the human voice, the choirs. And I wanted the music, again, to sound very old. So we'll use texts for certain scenes in the film, and we'll have the choir singing. Paths of the Dead is an all male group -- it's mostly basses -- and they're singing in Sindarin, a poem of Philippa Boyens.
 

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Disc: 1

Chapter: 35

On Screen:

Paths of the Dead

 

I wrote watching the picture with Peter's commentary. He would point out the whole shape of the scene. He would also describe a lot of what was going on in the scene that I wasn't able to see sometime, with CG or bluescreen. But he would tell me, in detail, what I would be seeing with computer graphics...you know, of wisps of smoke. But Peter would describe precisely how the smoke would move in the scene, and where it would trail off, and precisely where it would be gone. The smoke was obviously the ghosts, the souls. So, just things like that, he would describe in great detail in the spotting -- which were invaluable, because you would write to them precisely.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 43 (7)

On Screen:

Sam confronts Shelob

 

Shelob was like what we attempted in Moria; once you entered Moria, you were in your own unique world. All of the sing in Moria was in Dwarvish and it was sung all by men. You never really heard this sound anywhere in Fellowship of the Ring, except when you got to Moria. And then it progressed all through Moria, it took you on this journey through the world of Moria, and then took you outside.

And Shelob had its own sound, its own characteristic, its own composition specific for this world, its own orchestration, its own way of playing it. And that was the intent of doing that.
 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 46 (10)

On Screen:

Charge of the Rohirrim 

Music Playing:

The Rohan theme

Barrie M. Osborne, Producer: Sound design: I remember going through many versions of many different horns. For almost every time you see a horn in any of the films of the trilogy, we went through a lot of research and played Peter lots of different variations.

Ethan Van der Ryn, Supervising Sound Editor / Co-Designer: The horns that we ended up with were pitched to work with the music that Howard scored.

Howard Shore: Right. There's dignity, and honor and bravery in that piece. So, I used the Hardanger as the call to it. It's a Norwegian fiddle that has sympathetic strings, it has a very specific sort of Nordic sound to it. And that became a sort of dominant sound as part of the Rohan music.
 

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 56 (20)

On Screen:

Houses of Healing 

Music Playing:

Arwen's Song

Aragorn, as the king-to-be of Gondor is attempting to revive Éowyn, to bring her back from her illness, and you hear Arwen's voice and it's such a great moment....it's such a great idea, because it connects the two women....it connects Arwen and Éowyn by their love for Aragorn. And seeing Aragorn and Éowyn....and he places his hand on the side of her face....only a king can heal. He's showing the moment that he is becoming king, and, also, by becoming king he is taking Arwen as his king. It's a really beautiful piece that was created for that scene, and so having the Arwen song that we really wanted to use in the film, Fran suggested it in Houses of Healing. We wrote a piece called 'Twilight and Shadow' and that's sung by Renee Fleming, and that's what you actually hear.

 

note from Magpie:

The above statement is a bit confusing due some editing of HS's commentary. DA said this at a moviemusic thread in their old forum:

I can understand the confusion surrounding what seem to be Howard's comments on the DVD commentary. But if you listen closely, you can hear that HS' comments have been edited, with a few sentences cut for timing. It almost makes it seem that Fleming's singing is being heard in the Houses of Healing (of course, I don't know that anyone is going to confuse Tyler's singing with Fleming's, but...) His statement regarding "Twilight and Shadow" actually refers to what replaced Arwen's Song after it was pulled from Arwen's departure scene.

Doug Adams elaborated:

Arwen’s Song was originally written (by Howard Shore) around the time of The Two Towers (for the scene where Arwen is leaving Rivendell on her way to the Undying Lands*). It was recorded well, well before the film was nearing a final edit. Nevertheless, back at this point Arwen’s departure from Rivendell*, and subsequent vision, was a TTT scene, not an ROTK scene. (Remember, they had originally planned to stick Arwen into Helm’s Deep to ratchet up the excitement—a plan they wisely decided against.)

So the scene and the song were saved for ROTK. It was then decided that it didn’t work to have Arwen singing about her own situation… a little too meta and self-reflexive. So the piece was pulled, and replaced with the Fleming piece, which was written with the ROTK score proper.

Jump ahead now… the Sissel piece was written for the transition of post-battle Pelennor into the Houses of Healing scene in the ROTK Extended Edition. (Shore met Sissel in performances of the LOTR Symphony.) After this piece was written and recorded, it was decided that Arwen’s Song—which was STILL unused at this point—should be placed under Houses of Healing, so the Sissel piece was removed. Since it was a complete composition, and the only work featuring Sissel, Shore rescued the composition by placing it under the ROTK fan scroll.

So therefore, you ended up with Arwen’s Song written for TTT moved to the ROTK: EE, and the Sissel song written for ROTK: EE moved to the end credits. Only the Fleming piece remained where it was intended, though that, too, was obviously replacing the first appliance of Arwen’s Song.

In the long run, the order of the composition was:

Arwen (Tyler)
Fleming
Sissel

All works were composed by Shore.

*quote from Doug's FilmScoreMonthly's Nov 2007 podcast: FSMROTKQ&A - FSM's inside look at The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: The Complete Recordings Boxed Set and The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films book. He is referring to the point in her journey where she has her vision of Eldarion... not the point (which still remains in TTT) where the Elves, including Arwen, depart Rivendell with lanterns in their hands.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 60-61 (24-25)

On Screen: Aragorn looks in the Palantír

The Host of the West rides out of Minas Tirith

Music Playing:

Gondor Theme

(The other members of the post production commentary team have been discussing issues regarding cutting/editing the movies)

Peter's -- as he's editing the film, I'm composing and writing it, and I'm working with him as he's editing it. He would edit in threads of the movie; Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas... a thread, journey. And he would edit quite a lot of that. By doing that you were writing those scenes very linearly, but then he would intercut the scenes. This is a very important thing to understand. Once they were intercut, scenes actually play differently, because of what's coming before them and after them. And the thread of the story is shaping and unfolding as Peter does the intercutting. And actually once he does it,  and then he's reshaping the intercutting. So, it's all changing to a degree. You may write it, and think it's a certain way, but then you realize -- once the intercut is done -- you realize the positioning of it in the film, that it actually has a much more central part to the film.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 61 (25)

On Screen: Faramir and Éowyn

embracing in the Houses of Healing

Music Playing:

Flute or Pan Flute music

Here is a sound, that in this particular piece, is a little more evolved. And the piece is a new piece, in the sense that their relationship is new.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 66 (30)

On Screen: Frodo and Sam on the mountain

"Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?"

Music Playing:

whistle

You want a depth and coherence and emotion and weight to it. You want to get it right. You feel like Frodo, you know, you're walking up to the end...you're struggling up that hill...the Ring's getting heavier and heavier. And there's going to be a point when it's going to go over. And that's why you could create the levels of the drama of Sam and Frodo going up Mount Doom and the battle raging in front of the Black Gate. You weren't struggling with it, you had the tools and the experience at that point. So that's how those scenes were created.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 74 (38)

On Screen: The Coronation,

Arwen comes to Aragorn 

Music Playing:

Arwen's Theme

Return of the King was many films in one. And everything after the destruction of the Ring and the eagles saving Frodo and Sam -- everything after that is a complete movie production. It certainly was in terms of writing it, and the detail in writing that section of it. But it was also a great release; it was a way of culminating the story; a way of resolving all the thematic material you had used for hours and hours before that. And Aragorn becoming king: if, musically, the scenes before that led up to that...you would reference elements of that; you would reference elements of Gondor, and the Fellowship theme, and Éowyn, and Arwen in that scene. All little fragments of pieces. And of course, it would feel right if it were true. 

Returning to the Shire....the coronation...those are all resolutions of things that have happened before. You could only return to the Shire because you had had the Shire music in Fellowship of the Ring. You had returned to a place that you knew, and the music reflected that. And it felt right.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 75  (39)

On Screen:

A solemn toast at the Green Dragon

Sam approaches Rosie

Sam and Rosie's Wedding

Music Playing:

Fragrance of Ithilien

Rural Setting of the Shire/Hobbit Theme

Shire B Theme

Dermot Crehan is a part of our family. He's a great instrumentalist, soloist; he plays the Irish Fiddle and the Hardanger fiddle, principally, in the film. He plays a solo that is just breathtaking, it's actually one of my favorite moments. The Hobbits have returned to the Shire, and they go back to the pub and Dermot plays this solo that's so breathtaking and heartbreaking, I love it. (This is the Fragrance of Ithilien music.)

The Shire theme relates to the film because it relates to Frodo, and Sam. You could write the pieces because you could take it down to a small area. It could be a glance. It could just be the way Frodo looks at Sam. You could write the music based on that. Because it's just pure emotion. You're just writing from an emotional response to the characters. And it has to do with their performances, and the way they move in those characters. There's certain expressions the actors brought to it, and that music is written and created around that expression and then expanded enormously through the film.

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Disc: 2

Chapter: 77 (41)

On Screen:

Ending Credits

Music Playing:

Into the West and additional credit music

When we started working on Return of the King we made a list of artists, Fran and I did, who we would love to work with, who we thought would be  great voice for the film. And it was an important moment because it had to carry the weight of the whole trilogy. So that's how Annie became involved, and then Fran and I collaborated with her on the writing of the song. She, of course, sang it amazingly, and that's how that grew.

Writing "Into the West" with Fran, we wanted the song to feel like it belonged in the Shire. It had the simplicity of the Shire. And it was just thinking like that, because the end of the movie is about Frodo, and is about the Shire, and it did end in the Shire. It's where you're left, in the last scene. So it's somewhat Shire/Grey Havens. The song, to me, is Frodo, but there's a bit of Sam in it as well. And...it was an expression of that, really.

It's just a great, fun release for me. And I also feel that after all these years, where you're happy that you finished, that completed this task that you set out for, that there is also a post-partum feeling to it.
 

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