TORN Conversation

Emotional Choices

Below is the 'outline' that was displayed at the old TORn boards.

**TTT Music for Middle-earth: Emotional Choices** — aMagpie, 12/5 @ 8:41 (3/32)

  • **Helm's Deep — aMagpie, 12/5 @ 8:44 (3/4)
    • A few thoughts — gkgyver, 12/5 @ 12:51 (1/1)
      • I agree about 'the note' — aMagpie, 12/6 @ 10:29 (0/0)
    • Musical chess.. — weaver, 12/5 @ 22:42 (0/0)
    • The use of the Lothlorien theme — Aerin, 12/6 @ 23:18 (0/0)
  • **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie, 12/5 @ 8:48 (5/20)
    • "Boromir gets nothing" — FarFromHome, 12/5 @ 11:08 (1/6)
      • Boromir doesn't even get a name... — weaver, 12/5 @ 22:53 (2/5)
        • Interesting! — Aerin, 12/6 @ 14:44 (0/0)
        • Yeah. — Darkstone, 12/6 @ 9:31 (1/3)
          • I wondered if it was in the EE and got cut... — weaver, 12/6 @ 9:46 (1/2)
            • Boromir — aMagpie, 12/6 @ 10:47 (1/1)
              • Thanks for the link... — weaver, 12/6 @ 20:11 (0/0)
    • Well — Darkstone, 12/5 @ 12:00 (1/3)
      • That's a good thought, — Aerin, 12/6 @ 1:00 (1/2)
        • Hmmm..... — Darkstone, 12/6 @ 9:06 (1/1)
          • In the commentaries, — Aerin, 12/6 @ 14:39 (0/0)
    • On the sound clips and "perfection"... — weaver, 12/5 @ 23:13 (1/5)
    • So glad I could borrow a computer in time — Loresilme, 12/8 @ 9:47 (1/1)
      • I'm not sure what they intended — aMagpie, 12/9 @ 0:02 (0/0)
    • The theme while Sam — grammaboodawg, 12/9 @ 20:46 (0/0)
  • Time > Money > Quality — aMagpie, 12/7 @ 9:48 (2/5)
    • Howard Shore on Obssession — aMagpie, 12/7 @ 9:59 (2/3)
      • "Nothing could be finer than to write to that imagery and those ideas." — weaver, 12/7 @ 10:17 (1/1)
        • me too. (in response to your last line)  (No Text) — aMagpie, 12/7 @ 10:31 (0/0)
      • soundlinks up — aMagpie, 12/7 @ 16:46 (0/0)
    • I've been accused of — grammaboodawg, 12/9 @ 20:57 (0/0)

Emotional Choices




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 your emotional reaction. Also consider any experiences you’ve had that are similar to the collaborative, decision making process described below.

I’ll divide the discussion into two subthreads:

Frodo and Gollum react to Sam’s Speech

Helm’s Deep

And here's a third subthread that got started during the discussion

Time > Money > Quality

Subthread 1:


Main Post:




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.

On Screen: Lothlórien Theme from FOTR

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

On Screen: 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.

On Screen: 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. Do you think this is intended?

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. 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.

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?


Responses to **Helm's Deep:


gkgyver 12/5/2006
In Reply To: **Helm's Deep — aMagpie:

A few thoughts
About the familiar string note: I think drawing a connection there would actually go way too far. I mean, Howard structured his music in a way that three notes can draw connections to five different motivic ideas, but one note (that's all it really is) by itself is nothing. It's really just one of Howard's characteristic scoring tools.

About the sound editing of those scenes I have to say that when a sound team does a good job, you don't even notice things like this. Like in Fellowship, when Boromir is dying, and all sound effects are pulled back. You're just sitting there and thinking what a great scene it is, but you don't go, like "This is a cool sound mix".
In a way, it's the same for the musical structure. I have to add, though that before the Complete Recordings, I wasn't really aware of many thematic interpolations in Helm's Deep, like the invasive 5/4 rhythms or the Cruelty Of The Orcs motif, or the Evil Times motif.

But I really think these subtle things weren't really expected to be noticed in the theatre. It's really a blessing that we got a composer who really wanted to make the music an outstanding standalone experience.

aMagpie 12/6/2006
In Reply To: A few thoughts — gkgyver
I agree about 'the note'
My noticing that was a pure magpie trait and no shiny thing deserves to be buried in a nest. It must be displayed in all it's shininess.

Once bringing it out, I must allow you all the opportunity to acknowledge that is was not anything more than shiny. So, I will affectionately agree with you completely.


weaver 12/5/2006
In Reply To: **Helm's Deep — aMagpie
Musical chess..

The Helm's Deep sequence is one where I did notice how the images, music, sound, and silence, contributed to the story, indvidually and collectively.

The best thing I can compare it to is a chess board being set up, with the different things that will be part of the story of the battle each being a piece moved onto the board.  The women and kids in the cave, the uruks, the elves, Aragorn, etc.  Each element has its own "introduction" in contrasting images, music and sound, and once all the pieces are positioned, the battle begins, and everything interacts with everything else to tell the story.

Aerin 12/6/2006
In Reply To: **Helm's Deep — aMagpie
The use of the Lothlorien theme

at Helm's Deep is wonderful! I'm afraid it's kind of inseparable from the whole issue of elves at Helm's Deep, but I loved that change, as well, as a way of acknowledging that the elves in fact did participate in the War of the Ring, and because they just looked so cool! And Haldir got to redeem himself from the impression he created in LOTR. And got to wear such a great costume! But regardless, Shore's transformation of this theme both for the arrival of the elves and during battle is brilliant -- possibly my favorite musical moments in the entire trilogy.



End of Responses for **Helm's Deep

Subthread 2:


Main Post:



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.” 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:

What follows, on screen, is a comparison between two different musical choices. One plays the Fellowship Theme while Sam says, “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” This option has the Fellowship Theme playing while Gollum is on screen (his reaction close up) and that concerns PJ and HS. So the second version eliminates the Fellowship Theme. Instead some non-thematic music is played while Sam speaks, some notes are held while we see first Frodo and then Gollum’s reaction, then the Shire Theme begins as the camera cuts back to Frodo. .

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.

Sound Clips of both OST and movie are on the webpages. Link in my footer.

Magpie Conversation Prompts:
How much had you noticed these sorts of decisions?: 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.)


Responses to Frodo & Gollum react to Sam’s Speech :

FarFromHome 12/5/2006 at 11:08 CST
In Reply To: **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie
"Boromir gets nothing"

Just like at the gift-giving. What does it tell us, I wonder? That Boromir is never truly committed to the Fellowship (or at least, not until his final sacrifice)? These are certainly not things that you notice consciously, at least I never noticed the lack of a theme for him at the forming of the Fellowship, although now you mention it I can remember it quite well. It's amazing to find out how much subconscious information must be being communicated via the music.

I had noticed that the full Shire theme doesn't play until Frodo reacts to Sam, but that matches the pattern we saw in the drowning scene in FotR, when the full Shire theme only plays when the hobbits hug. Before that, both times, there's that "Gandalf's wisdom"/"Samwise the Brave" theme that is heard several times, the last being as Sam and Frodo say farewell at the Grey Havens. And in between, as we see Gollum's reaction to Sam's speech, there's a simple, held note that links the two themes.

I love this music! Thanks so much for this rich feast of a discussion aMagpie. I just wish I had more time to do it justice.

weaver 12/5/2006 at 22:53 CST
In Reply To: "Boromir gets nothing" — FarFromHome
Boromir doesn't even get a name...
At the Council of Elrond, Gimli is named by Elrond and Legolas by Aragorn, but Boromir's name is never mentioned.

I think that it's Aragorn who ultimately "names" Boromir, in the scene where Frodo loses the ring in the snow and Aragorn says, "Boromir, give the ring to Frodo." 

I don't know if that was by design, but it's another example of him being "different" from the rest of the Fellowship members...

Aerin 12/6/2006 at 14:44 CST
In Reply To: Boromir doesn't even get a name... — weaver
I never noticed the delay in naming Boromir! I bet it was an accidental result of cutting the Council scene. But this does help me understand one reason why my movie-first brother had a hard time keeping the characters straight - we don't actually hear the names of some characters all that often, and Aragorn even changes names part of the way through the movie.

Darkstone 12/6/2006 at 9:31 CST
In Reply To: Boromir doesn't even get a name... — weaver

In the EE Gandalf names him at the council as he goes for the ring.
weaver 12/6/2006
In Reply To: Yeah. — Darkstone
I wondered if it was in the EE and got cut...
I own the EE's but rarely watch them -- so in this case, it looks like it was something that cut out not overlooked.  They made a point of making sure each character was named by someone pretty soon after they appear in the film, it seemed odd that it took so long for Boromir. Thanks for the info!
aMagpie 12/6/2006
In Reply To: I wondered if it was in the EE and got cut... — weaver   
His name was spoken in an extended scene. It's part of the scene where he recounts the dream he had. He reaches for the Ring, Elrond shouts out his name. Then Gandalf recites the Ring Verse in Black Speech.

Putting ourselves in a movie-firster's point of view...
In the Theatrical Version:
Gimli is named by Elrond when he says, "The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin"

Legolas is named by Aragorn when he says, "Havo dad, Legolas".

And weaver is right, Boromir is named when he is caught by the spell of the Ring. Very interesting.

Another interesting thing that was noticed by a fellow fan in a long ago discussion: All the members of the Fellowship-to-be arrive at the council with someone. Legolas with other Elves, Gimli with other Dwarves. But Boromir arrives alone. This came up in an interesting discussion of Boromir and I've made that available at the link below

Lightness of Spirit

weaver 12/6/2006
In Reply To: Boromir — aMagpie
Thanks for the link...
..some mighty fine thoughts in that series of comments. Thanks.

Most people, I think, see Boromir as more sympathetic in the films than in the books.  I'm thinking it's not because of all the "lacking" things about him, compared to the other fellowship members, that we've been discussing -- but more because they do show him in relationship with others.  He teaches Merry and Pippin how to fight, and rough-houses with them.  He gets past his arrogance to find a brother, captain and king in Aragorn.  He demonstrates that he cares about his father, and defends Faramir to Denethor. Those things make us care about him, so that it's tragic when he falls. The book doesn't really show us that side of him, at least not until after he's dead, and so he gets our respect, but not our sympathy.

Éowyn fits this pattern too, I think.  The films give us a lot more advance knowledge of her circumstances than the books, so she gains our sympathy early, rather than later.  The House of Healing is less essential then, on screen, because we don't need to come to an understanding of her afterwards; we've gotten all we need to know beforehand.

end subthread


Darkstone 12/5/2006
In Reply To: **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie
Boromir keeps his Gondorian viewpoint despite all the happy fuzzy feelings.  He's giving lip service (humming service?) to the Fellowship, but he still thinks the ring should go to Gondor.

Well, to paraphrase Paul Valery, "A work of art is never finished, only abandoned".  Then again you have Antoine de Saint-Exupery who said "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  You can look at Jackson's effort the same way.  Some feel Jackson just ran out of time.  Others say he should have kept adding more and more Tolkien scenes.  I agree with the thought about the point of diminishing returns.  I can think right off about a couple of paintings I did that I overworked.  I realized later that if I had stopped at a certain point the works would have been much clearer.  As it was, I added so much that the simple lines I began with were totally obscured if not utterly destroyed.  Similarly, there are many works of art that could do with some trimming.  I mean, a true artist's aim is to communicate, not to impress.  Further, the need for perfection can be paralyzing, so you never finish, or worse, never start.  Sometimes you just got to let go.  I think the worst are engineers, who'd work and fiddle and keep making something "more perfect" forever if somebody didn't bust into the lab and pry the thing out of their hands.

Aerin 12/6/2006
In Reply To: Well — Darkstone
That's a good thought,


but by PJ's own account, it doesn't apply to his situation. He's the first to say that he did not achieve perfection and that he ran out of time. Some of the things many of us like best in the movies were late additions and reworkings. He never even got within hailing distance of any point of diminishing returns.
Darkstone 12/6/2006
In Reply To: That's a good thought, — Aerin
From an interview with Jackson, BBC Online, Friday, February 27 2004

"I'm relieved that there is not a fourth Lord of the Rings film next year.  Three feels like a good number - we poured everything into Return of the King and I'm absolutely shattered and I don't think I could face going through another year of post production, because it's been tough.  I found that my mind was kind of closing down. I was so exhausted that my imagination was drying up and I started to panic a little bit because I'd start to feel that I couldn't think of interesting shots to do.  I couldn't think of interesting things to say to the actors, I was just feeling very wasted and rung out."

Pleas note that the late additions in pickup were a mixed bag.  For example, doubting Gandalf.  In contrast just about everyone agrees that FOTR was "perfect".

Remember, Jackson directed LOTR *4 times*!!  One storyboard version of the 2 film version and *two* storyboard versions of the 3 film versions.  (The storyboard versions had fully acted dialogue with Craig Parker, Cameron Rhodes, and others.)  Then he made the final films themselves.

That's a lot of dang work, and I for one am not going to Monday quarterback and say "PJ, you coulda done so much more if you'd really tried."

Aerin 12/6/2006
In Reply To: Hmmm..... — Darkstone
In the commentaries,
PJ, Fran, and Philippa note a number of places where they "ran out of time" or had already committed to an approach and couldn't change it at that late stage. In the interview you cite, he makes it clear that his problem was one of physical exhaustion, not having actually exhausted the creative possibilities. This is quite different from endless fiddling with something that only makes it worse.

end subthread


weaver 12/5/2006
In Reply To: **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie
On the sound clips and "perfection"...

The sound clips were very helpful in showing how the score moved from a "rough draft" to a final version.  It's interesting to me that Peter doesn't have the vocabulary to properly talk about music, but was able to so clearly indicate what he wanted to achieve with a scene.  And Howard Shore's willingness to embrace Jackson's vision for the scene, rather than fighting for his own artistic vision, is admirable.  Those are the marks of a good collaboration, and it shows in the final product.

I do like the final version of the "Sam's Speech" clip much better, but I doubt they could have gotten to that one without doing the first one.

On the perfection issue, I've been involved with writing as part of my work, one way or another, for a lot of years now.  When I started, I used to agonize over things, now I know that if I just keep at something, the "best" product ultimately emerges though I can't predict exactly "when" that will happen.  A lot of my recent work is in grant writing, which has a deadline you can't miss, which has really helped me to write better.  All of the fluff falls away and it's easier to concentrate on the essentials when you know you don't have all the time in the world.

Grantwriting is also a highly collaborative thing, with one person here doing layout, another research, another the budget, etc.  I do the narratives, and then put it all together.  When I get to the assembly point, I either love what everyone else has done, or can very easily pick out the final "tweaking" that needs to be done. That's because I'm the only with the perspective to see how it all fits together, though others here have far better skills than I do on the different aspects of things they work on.  The stress level is high at the end, as you can imagine, and sometimes the layout person will want to kill me when I ask for one final change -- but more often than not, it's the last minute things we add that end up really setting our grants apart and getting them funded.  So there's "some" kinds of perfection that are essential, I think, and to quote Sam, "worth fighting for".

It strikes me that Tolkien was still fiddling with his creation until right before he died, really -- did that make him a perfectionist or an artist?  In the case of his legendarium, it was  "life's work" and not a one-time creative act, so I can see great value in his constant working on it over his entire life. But in the case of the creative things that came out of his legendarium, like LotR, or in his own scholarly works, Tolkien really does seem to need a deadline to let go of things. And even then, it still took him years to do much of his published writing.

(a subthread got created discussing grant writing... not copied here)


Loresilme 12/8/2006
In Reply To: **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie
So glad I could borrow a computer in time

to listen to your music discussion before it left the boards.
(My usual computer is quite old and I cannot get the sound to work reliably.)

I so greatly appreciate the entire thread, I've loved reading all of what you've brought to our attention, and I've enjoyed all the many fine comments in response.

I wanted to add a comment to this particular discussion. I felt that on that slight downward note when they showed Gollum and his expression, that it communicated to me that Gollum could not bring himself to believe what Sam was saying. It made me feel that it reminded him that he had had a glimmer of hope with Frodo, before Frodo's (seeming) betrayal. But his saddened, downward glance which accompanied the downward note, reflected that he could hope no more.  I don't know if this is what they intended, but that is how it felt to me. 

Thank you again for this extraordinary discussion.

aMagpie 12/9/2006
In Reply To: So glad I could borrow a computer in time — Loresilme, 12/8 @ 9:47 (1/1) Subject:
I'm not sure what they intended
I will admit that 'look' perplexed me every time I saw it for a long time. But you're interpretation seems plausible to me. Perhaps it's not so bad that's it's vague since it makes us think more than if it were very clear.

end subthread


grammaboodawg 12/9/2006
 In Reply To: **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam's Speech — aMagpie
The theme while Sam


is talking about tales makes me feel like I'm walking through history that is interlaced by all of the kindreds of Middle-earth now... just as Frodo and Sam have been thrown into the affairs of all of Middle-earth as well.  But when "the Shire Theme begins as the camera cuts back to Frodo", it strikes me that Sam has brought Frodo back to the Shire.  Reminding him of who they are within this tale themselves.  That there are things worth fighting for... but Sam's determination and passion, in a sense, embraces Frodo and snaps him back.

Sam's speech still brings me to tears.  Frodo's so spent and lost at this point.  Sam lifts and carries him in more ways than one.


End of Responses for **Frodo & Gollum react to Sam’s Speech**

Subthread 3:


Main Post:

aMagpie 12/7/2006 at 9:48
In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Emotional Choices** — aMagpie
Time > Money > Quality
Time > Money > Quality
You can only satisfy or achieve two of those three at any time, it is said. (This was inspired by Darkstone's and Aerin's conversation below.)

There are so many things that play into this issue and they are so intertwined that it's difficult to examine piecemeal. Part of the reason I broached this topic is because it's a struggle I engage in almost every day and I have been fascinated with JRRT’s, PJ’s and HS’s propensity towards similar quests for perfection. All your responses have been insightful to read. Since I wasn't sure where to put my response, I decided to just place it here. But it's definitely influenced by what the rest of you have written.

I think PJ ran out of time and energy and he probably did stop before achieving perfection. The thing is... perfection is never achieved. Partly because it is simply not achievable (or so mythology/theology would tell us and I chose to believe it or I would go insane). But also, every day we wake up and re-approach a work, we are a different person. We see things differently, we react differently. What seemed like perfection yesterday has changed, whether we know it or not.

For what ever reason, there is always a tweak that could be made. But art has it's price. If we are writing, or sculpting or composing project X... we are not doing something else. When we indulge ourselves in 'one more tweak', what are we NOT doing? How much better is something for that final tweak? 10%.. 1%... miniscule?

In a conversation between weaver and I below about my obsessive tendencies, she said (and after my faux pas with Owlyross, I hope 'pat' is female)

I think as long as your motivation is a "good one", to do something that advances your skills, or knowledge, and which invites others to do the same, well... the world could do with a bit more obsessiveness like the kind I find around here.

My obsessive personality results in a lot of really nice work that garners me a lot of praise. But it also can result in a lot of self-doubt, anxiety, and overworking a piece (like Darkstone talked about) and unfinished products. So I do this self check as often as I can: Is this (my obsessive quest for perfection) working for me or against me? Am I happy or am I exhausted? Am I producing something worthwhile or is this something that has little real, lasting value to anyone? Am I engaging or am I avoiding (something else)?

But the fact is, the answer changes from moment to moment and from project to project and from person to person. And figuring out the answers to this issue is just another ‘project’ that we want to get right. That’s why it is so very fascinating to me to examine others in the throes of creativity and passion and obsession. Where does genius and madman separate? Where does it intersect?

JRRT was working on LOTR until they practically pried it from his hands. But if they insisted he meet their deadlines, we would have had Bingo and Trotter instead of Frodo and Aragorn. I think LOTR is better with Frodo and Aragorn. I’m glad JRRT couldn’t stop and I’m glad his publishers indulged him. That give me just a little permission to keep following my dream. ;^)

grammaboodawg 12/9/2006 at 20:57 CST
In Reply To: Time > Money > Quality — aMagpie,
I've been accused of
being obsessive... and I wave my hands in the air and declare "GUILTY"!  I think it's good to examine if you're inflicting yourself on others (controlling? attention? territorial? persuasion?) and to consider if what you're offering is constructive... whether for discussion, entertainment, or education.

I have never gotten the impression of anything from you but joy from what you do and an eagerness to share that with others.  I am so grateful for your patience and generosity in your posts.  I have so little knowledge
of music and it construction, etc.  Having a chance to consider the depth of what music is and means can often go right over my head, but I've found that you've planted seeds in my appreciation of the music in these films!  I will always be grateful for that :D

"Am I happy or am I exhausted?"  That's the only real question to ask of yourself when you're able to enjoy your obsession.  Then it's really just passion, isn't it?  How many things in your day give you joy?  Grab it with both hands and GO FOR IT!

aMagpie 12/7/2006 at 9:59
In Reply To: Time > Money > Quality — aMagpie
Howard Shore on Obssession

As I wrote my post above, I was reminded of an interview that Howard gave. It really resonated with me, especially the tone of his voice with one statement he made. I will copy off the pertinent part of that interview below. More of the interview can be found at my website. (It was a two hour interview and I only transcribed the parts pertinent to LOTR.) From that page, one can find a link to actually listen to the interview.

Spinning on Air - Howard Shore interview transcription

I'm going to prepare a couple of soundclips. I'll probably have them done this afternoon.

HS=Howard Shore
DG=David Garland, host of Spinning on Air

HS:I think I was part of that process where I had done over sixty films by the time I started on Lord of the Rings. I was at the right level, really, of experience to take on the challenge of writing that. I was at a good age to do it.

DG: Why? In what way?

HS: Just energy. Because it was enormous... task to do and it was hard, I think, for all of us... to do it. Physically – you needed to be able to do that work and work at that... to have the stamina, really, to make those films in that time.

DG: So you’re talking literally, the length of the work day and those sort of things.

HS: Those films were made with full on energy for many, many days and weeks and months. Because we felt, and I mentioned this earlier, such a great responsibility to do it. We didn’t feel people would make Lord of the Rings again, or at least not for a long time. And because the book is so iconic, say, in Return of the King when you’re writing the piece for the destruction of the Ring, you realize the enormity of that. You are now going to create a piece that’s going to live in this production for a long time that expresses this very important moment in this book about the destruction of the Ring or Gollum finally having the Ring. And what will that be? And what will you do? And what’s your expression of that? And actually, frankly, it took many years to find out. Because you couldn’t write the Destruction of the Ring until you had written the beginning of the story and the prologue...

DG: Really?

HS: Yeah, you had to write your way into it.

DG: Hmm.

HS: You know, at first it seemed daunting. But as you wrote your way into it and started to create music into it, it became more and more interesting actually. And the complexity of it became even more and more interesting. And at some point, I’m sure there were loved ones saying, “Maybe we should take Howard away from Tolkien for a little while (DG and HS laugh) because he’s seems a little obsessed by it.” But that was the kind of a joy of it.

DG: You felt obsessed in a personal way, not just professional?

HS: Oh yes, you became absorbed and obsessed by creating it and it’s all you really wanted to do. And of course living in Middle-earth is not a bad place to live. I mean, it was with great friends and great trusts that you were there. You had great support from the people creating the film and credit should be given to NewLine and the music department at NewLine for allowing us to create the movie in as great a way as we could. And allowed us the resources to record with a 200 piece orchestra when we needed to. So, you had the great musicians of the world, you could work with Renée Fleming and Annie Lennox and James Galway and Enya in the first film... Isabel Bayrakdarian and Elizabeth Fraser, Sheila Chandra.. I mean, you could choose the great artist you wanted to work with. You had an amazingly great orchestra, great technical team and an amazing movie to work on. For a composer to write music to Lord of the Rings is everything you imagined the greatness of movies is. Nothing could be finer than to write to that imagery and those ideas. And so you had all this wonderful thing to work with and you wanted to take advantage of that. And so, I think the stamina part came in because of the need for the perfection and the need to create it as good as you could. The was many times when we would create something, Peter and I... and we would look at it and we knew we could do it better so we would try to do it better.

DG: Really?

HS: Oh yes. Peter says the movie is finished only when they take it away. The movie’s never finished.

DG: Hmm.

HS: There’s just a point when they take it away, meaning that there has to be an end. You know, the studio says, “It must stop now. You know, you must stop working on this.” And that’s the way we all feel. There is that sort of delivery date, that goal, that moment when they say, “It must stop.” But you work so full on, and so completely dedicated to it to create it... because you also know you’re not going there... you know, you are creating this moment, say, of the Destruction of the Ring or describing the world of Lothlórien that people have read about for 50 years. And you want to make sure that your imagery of those worlds is as true and as real and as well crafted as you could possibly do it.

aMagpie 12/7/2006 at 9:59
In Reply To: Howard Shore on Obsession — aMagpie
soundlinks up

I think Howard Shore's voice is so expressive. Sometimes, text transcripts just can't convey what one can hear in his voice. There were two comments from the material I transcribed in my previous post  where I loved hearing his expression.

He sounds a little obsessed.
It must stop now.

side comment:

"This task was a good example of 'sounded good when I thought of it. My day looked like this at 10:30 am:
really cold outside (zero)
no reason to go out
lots of time to prepare clip, finish a seasonal task and then clean house

My day looked like this at 10:35 am:
Mom can you drive me to my doctor's appt? Sorry I didn't think to ask earlier.
1 hour spent to, at and from the doctor.
another hour spent conveying son to other spots 'while I'm in the car'
2 hours spent sound-copying off interview which I thought I already had done and I was pretty sure I'd want copied off someday.

Such is the quest for doing it all. ;^)"

weaver 12/7/2006 at 10:17 CST
In Reply To: Howard Shore on Obssession — aMagpie
"Nothing could be finer than to write to that imagery and those ideas."

Thank you so much for posting this interview excerpt, which is filled with lines like the one in my subject line.

If I had to put words to the expression on Howard Shore's face when he turned around for the applause after conducting the LotR Symphony, this line would be it.

What he says through this interview to me  is the essence of a labor of love -- where it's hard, and it's difficult, and you have to let it go at some point -- but "nothing could be finer" than to be giving your heart and soul to something that you understand to deeply matter in some way.

I love Howard Shore...

me too. (in response to your last line)  (No Text) — aMagpie, 12/7


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