Peter Jackson said, "I totally believe that music ties in very closely with the emotion of the film and it's very, very important. It's just like directing the performance of an actor." Below are two examples of how this played out. One can see the sorts of decisions that were made and the process for making them. As you read through them, think about how much you noticed these sorts of musical tweaks to the scene and/or how much they positively (or negatively) affected how emotional reaction. Also consider any experiences you've had that are similar to the collaborative, decision making process described below.


Text in brown: descriptions and transcripts from the Appendices material

Text in Black: my comments, conversation prompts and resources

Underlined text: links


Most of this got reposted at's forum where a discussion then ensued. Those old boards are cranky. To find a copy of that discussion, go HERE.








Helm's Deep

On Screen: score entitled "Helm's Deep"
Music Playing: martial version of Lothlórien Theme

Peter Jackson: It's an instinct in battles to just pile music on top of that, to have this, this throbbing, percussive kind of music. Because it's almost like the music has to compete with the sound effects in order to actually work, so you have these two things doing the same job, really. And so I worked very closely with Howard on plotting and planning a musical structure to the Helm's Deep sequence.

On Screen: families in the crystal caves
Music Playing: quieter music plays

Howard Shore: Peter would say, "As the battle forms, let's go to the smallest child." And you realize that's what the battle's being fought about - the families. But it's not the type of music that you would think that would be the big build-up to the big battle. It's quite emotional.

Peter Jackson: It's the juxtaposition of the music and the pictures. And I think that's a lot more powerful.

On Screen: Elven Archers on wall
Music Playing: martial version of Lothlórien Theme resumes

Howard Shore: So, as the tide of battle shifts, from one group to another, you hear various thematic ideas take over in Helm's Deep. So, when the Elf archers start the battle I used a thematic thread from Lothlórien, from Fellowship.

Music Playing: Lothlórien Theme from FOTR

Howard Shore: But now it's played in battle mode.

Music Playing: martial version of Lothlórien Theme

Howard Shore: But as the Uruk-hai approach the wall and they dig in their ladders, the Uruk-hai theme, the Isengard music takes over.

Music Playing: Isengard Theme

Howard Shore: So, there's always this shifting of focus musically. And Helm's Deep was specifically created with that concept in mind.









Magpie Shiny Bits of Information:

Prelude to a Battle: I thought it might be useful to provide a recounting of the section that I think prompted the comments above:

• The Elves have arrived and hugs have been exchanged. The scene jumps to 'all ready on the wall'.

• The Elves and Men are waiting on the wall. The Uruks approach. No music is playing.

• There's a flash of lightning and crack of thunder and it begins to rain. We hear the rain but there is no music.

• We see an up close shot of the Uruks marching. Quiet music begins.

• We cut to the Rohirrim on the wall, then...

• To the families in the cave (and some familiar faces). The quiet music continues as we hear the murmurs and a crying baby.

• Outside, the horde of black clad Uruk-hai are advancing.

• Back on the wall, Aragorn is giving instructions to the archers in Elvish. "Show no mercy for you shall receive none."

• The front line of Uruks advance and stop in formation.

• As we go back to the cave, a quiet Hardanger plays the Rohan Theme.

• Back to the wall, and Aragorn... then the Uruk chief on the field. The Rohan Theme dies before we cut to the Uruk-hai.

• Quiet, ascending (and basically non-melodic) notes are played as Gimli tries to see and Legolas pokes fun. The notes stop.

• The Uruk-hai begin pounding their spears. The archers on the wall draw their bow. The families wait. (close up of 'cute Rohirrim children')

• There isn't any music. The Uruks are chanting and pounding.

• An old man on the wall looses his arrow and it finds it's mark.

• The chanting stops. Aragorn cries "Hold!".

• The Uruk groans and then falls to the weirdest sound. (see below)

• The music returns with a almost sour low chord. (which sounds very familiar to me... see below)

• Now the Uruks are mad! They advance as the martial Lothlórien Theme begins playing.


Music and Sound: Darkstone led the discussion for the appendices material, The Soundscapes of Middle-earth. In his thread, "Sound motif" he provided this quote from TTT (by Chris Boyes?)

Peter's notes tended to be really clear and direct: ‘I want this scene to start really quiet and subtle and then build. I want it to have this structure to it — we're going somewhere with it.’  For instance, there's a scene where the Uruk-hai are marching on Helm's Deep, this fortress built up against a huge rock cliff, and they're marching from afar, but there are so many of them that they set up this incredible rhythmic pulse as they're marching. There were certain desires on the editorial team to have that really be big and be felt and have this huge pulsing mass coming at you. And [Peter] came back and said, ‘No, this needs to be subtle — so subtle that you feel the pulse, but you also hear the breath of the warriors waiting for this oncoming army.’ It was a really poetic way to take it, and also, since that scene progresses into absolute chaos and mayhem, it was a great way to start because you've got something to build with.

Past TORN discussion led by Darkstone: The Soundscapes of Middle Earth, Part 1:  Sound motif

Familiar Chord: When I was doing TTT work for my website, I realized the chord heard just after the Uruk-hai falls sounded very much like the chord heard just after Haldir is wounded. Sound clip provided below. Do you think this is intended?

Zipped Sound Clip: chord heard as the first Uruk falls and then chord heard as Haldir falls

Weird Sound: As I was cueing up the movie to pull the chord mentioned above, I realized there was a very weird sound heard as that first Uruk-hai fell. Sound clip provided below. You'll hear three things: 1) The groan of the Uruk-hai. 2) The plop, at the end, of him landing in the mud. 3) something that sounds like an object (think big, hard fingernail) running down a strung piano wire. This has nothing to do with the soundtrack but it's so weird and cool I live for moments when I can drag it out for display.

Zipped Sound Clip: Weird Sound


Magpie Conversation Prompts:

A Musical Structure to Helm's Deep: Is this shift of focus in the music something that you were aware of? Had you noticed the shift from quiet to loud in the sound editing? Not only are the ambient movie noises quieter in the caves and louder among the Uruk-hai... but the sound of the Uruk army changes in volume depending on the viewpoint of the camera: in midst of Uruks, on Deeping Wall, in Glittering Caves. What mood does this quiet music put you in? Is it calming? apprehensive? sad? foreboding?


The Lothlórien Theme: What do think about the decision to use the Lothlórien Theme at Helm's Deep? Although it's not my intent to debate the decision to place the Elves at Helm's Deep, it may be interesting to know if one's thoughts on the music are tied to one's thoughts on this plot change. Are these Elves all from Lothlórien? Haldir does say that Elrond sent them but outside the movie, they are referred to as the Naith, indicating they were strictly from Lothlórien. Was it at all jarring to hear Elvish music in what is primarily a war affecting Men?








Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech


Paul Broucek: Howard is incredibly hands on in his whole approach because he not only composes the music but he also orchestrates and conducts.

On Screen: Howard Shore conducting orchestra playing Shire music

Peter Jackson: Directors work in very different ways with composers and I found, to my surprise, just how much manipulation and shaping you can actually do with the music track even if you're in the studio recording it. It's not locked off. It's not, you know, set in concrete.

On Screen: conversation between Howard Shore and Peter Jackson re: scoring a scene

Howard Shore: To be able to work with Peter as a collaborative filmmaker is a fantastic bonus for me because you're getting his input from the story telling aspect of it. You're creating the imagery in it in music. So you're both sort of working together to tell the story.


Peter Jackson: I totally believe that music ties in very closely with the emotion of the film and it's very, very important. It's just like directing the performance of an actor. So, for instance, Howard would play me something and I might say, "Can we please just make that more emotional? I didn't quite feel it. I just want it to be a little bit more sad." I talk in that sort of language. I don't usually talk in musical terms.


Howard Shore: He would say, "Well, the Uruks would feel like this (gesturing)." It would be, "They need to feel a little stronger here."


Howard Shore: I can work with Peter, now, to shape the performances.


Peter Jackson: It's a very important part of the process for me to be part of.

On Screen: editing room discussion of a scene -- tweaking Sam's speech in Osgiliath:

Peter Jackson: Can we just jump back please to the bit where we come out of Sam's little story by the window?

Original Music

zipped soundclip

0:00 - First three notes of the Fellowship Theme

Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.

0:07 - The camera cuts from Sam to Frodo as the third note is held slightly.

0:10 - As the Fellowship Theme continues, the camera cuts to Gollum (who looks thoughtful or sad, I never could figure it out)...

0:14 - ...and returns to Frodo as the theme finishes.

Peter Jackson: I just wondered if there was any way that the Theme could start after the shot of Gollum when we're back on Frodo because it goes Frodo, Gollum, Frodo...

Howard Shore: (overlapping Peter's question) That's what I was thinking. Cause it was the thing of playing that Theme on Gollum and seeing Gollum.. yeah... (Peter mumbles agreeing sounds)

Peter Jackson: It would sort of be holding the note on Gollum similar to what you on Frodo. It's just a sort of... (slides hand)... because you don't really know.... (Howard is interjecting 'yeah's) what the response
is yet. Then Frodo kind of accepts it. (HS: okay) (To technician) Can you just run it here?

Final Score

zipped soundclip

0:00 - Three notes play (not the Shire Theme)

Sam: And it's worth fighting for.

0:03 - The camera cuts from Sam to Frodo as the third note is held slightly.

0:06 - The camera cuts to Gollum. The note is held another moment and then drops down in pitch as Gollum looks sad or thoughtful.

0:10 - We return to Frodo as the Shire Theme begins.








Magpie Shiny Bits of Information:

A Similar Choice?: When preparing my cue by cues for FOTR, I realized something interesting at the forming of the Fellowship. Now I realize that the score discussion for that scene between Howard and Peter probably played out similarly to Sam's Speech.

The CD: Here's how I mapped out the CD music. Do you notice anything missing?

• A slow, 4 beat intro to the Fellowship Theme is played immediately after Frodo says, "I will take the Ring to Mordor."

• A slow, string version of the Fellowship Theme begins in earnest as Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli each pledge their help to Frodo.

• A flute begins the Shire A Theme, picked up in a moment by strings as Sam, Merry, and Pippin each insist on being included.

The music, once more moves back to a heroic version of the Fellowship Theme as we get our group pic of the guys..

What's missing is Boromir, because some music is missing. The fact that music is missing isn't startling. The CD excludes lots of music. But what Boromir's music sounds like is interesting. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli get the Fellowship Theme. Sam, Merry and Pippin get the Shire Theme. What does Boromir get?


The Movie: Here's how I mapped out the movie music (as heard on the Complete Recordings).

• A slow, 4 beat intro to the Fellowship Theme is played immediately after Frodo says, "I will take the Ring to Mordor."

• A slow, string version of the Fellowship Theme begins in earnest as Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli each pledge their help to Frodo.

• Humming chords play over Boromir's statement, "You carry the fate of us all little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done."

• A flute begins the Shire A Theme, picked up in a moment by strings as Sam, Merry, and Pippin each insist on being included.

The music, once more moves back to a heroic version of the Fellowship Theme as we get our group pic of the guys..

Boromir gets nothing. Well, not nothing. He gets humming. And the hummed chords do seem connected to the Fellowship Theme.


Magpie Conversation Prompts:

How much had you noticed these sorts of decision?: Had you noticed this sort of scoring decision before seeing this appendices section? How about after? What do you think about my example from the Council of Elrond? Do you think a deliberate decision was made to subtly 'exclude' Boromir from the Fellowship Theme or was the change in melodies made for more musical, less political reasons? Again, is this anything you noticed?


Unconscious effects - Noticeable effects - or No effect/Wasted effort?: Other sections from Music for Middle-earth explore just how overscheduled and overworked everyone was. Does taking the time to make tweaks this subtle make a difference in the overall enjoyment of or connection to the movie? Is it something only a music/soundtrack geek would notice or do lay people notice it too? Coming from the perspective of an obsessive perfectionist, I have to ask "Is it ever overkill?" That is, does it ever approach a level where the benefits are small in ratio to the energy expended? Or does it elevate a piece of art to something beyond what we might be able to articulate or express effectively?


Real Life: Building off the previous conversation prompt, do you experience these sorts of decisions in your life's work or hobbies? How does one weigh the quest for perfection against the constraints of time, money and quality? When does one push for one more level toward the best one can do and when does one say, "Enough.", "Good enough.", or "Finished is better than perfect."? How does a collaborative effort help or deter the quest for perfection. (And my useful definition of 'perfection' is the closest I can hope to get to it. No one attains perfection but if I aim for it, I hope to get to the highest level that I, personally, can achieve.)


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Above comments transcribed from The Two Towers Extended Edition Appendices Material: Music for Middle-earth

Howard Shore: Composer
Peter Jackson: Director/Writer/Producer
Philippa Boyens: Writer
Paul Broucek: Paul Broucek; Executive Music Producer, New Line Cinema
David Salo: Tolkien Language Translator
John Kurlander: score engineer
Barry M Osborne: Producer
Rick Porras: Co-producer
On Screen: the image shown on screen other than the narrator/interviewee
Music Playing: the music playing under the commentary