L O R D
R I N G S
by Leonard Rosenman
I regard this as Rosenman's tour-de-force. (Apparently, so did he, since
he recycled the theme for the inferior Star Trek IV.) Although it
doesn't recall many parts of the literary trilogy, LOTR forms an intricate,
complex tone poem that would make a great concert piece. This expanded
Intrada CD cleans up the muddy LP sound quality, and reveals many previously
unheard instruments, like a "Lion's Roar" percussion instrument, harpsichord,
and a chanting choir. The score is pure Rosenman, containing his
signature modern technique of piling up several fifth intervals on top
of each other. This CD is generally pretty loud, with most tracks
containing, as the liner notes say, "violence, eerie marches, strange chases,
and wild battle scenes." The notes go on to say that he tries (and
in my opinion succeeds) to keep it interesting by using surreal musical
devices, varying thematic material, and writing calm, lyrical passages
whenever he could. One of the most interesting things he does is
hold back the complete versions of all the themes until the last few tracks.
Thus, we don't hear all of the main theme until the end credits.
Track by Track Analysis:
1. History of the Ring (6:31)
Rosenman opens with some piling fifths, and proceeds
to state a basic triadic motif based on a section of the main theme.
The rest of the track acts as an overture, introducing brief snatches of
most of the principal themes. In one particularly ingenious part,
he states a segment of the main Black Rider theme directly after the opening
title. This segues into an introduction of the ram's horn battle
call. In the rest of the track, he blends the Black Rider motif,
Gollum's theme, and the main march into a seamless overture. It ends
with a section of the main theme under some twinkling, Christmas-like bells.
2. Gandalf Throws Ring (3:55)
Basically states more fragments from most of the themes, including
subtle references to the Black Rider motif, the opening triadic motif,
and the main theme, which is stated almost completely. Although it
has some very intricate music, this somewhat boring cue is probably the
low point of the album.
3. The Journey Begins; Encounter With the Ringwraiths
This extremely unsettling cue begins with a statement
of the Black Rider motif under dissonant strings and woodwinds. We
get a break, as he gives us the most developed version of the main theme
so far as the hobbits begin their long journey, but he foreshadows upcoming
events by subtlely stating a fragment of the final battle theme.
For the next few minutes, Rosenman introduces the chanting choir, uttering
"Mordor!" One of the surreal techniques throughout this cue is playing
the joyous march theme over the chanting, which makes for a very creepy
4. Trying To Kill Hobbits (3:03)
As the Black Riders attempt to kill the hobbits
in the inn in Bree, the composer gives us a full statement of the Black
Rider motif, complete with more chanting. After one of the more harrowing
dissonances, we get a short break in the form of the Hobbit theme, but
the chanting returns at the end, this time with harpsichord.
5. Escape to Rivendell (6:22)
This is definitely the most disturbing track
on the album. As Frodo flees the Black Riders to reach Rivendell,
Rosenman unleashes in full force his dissonant, unrelenting Ringwraith
motif. This time the chanting is louder, the orchestra more atonal,
and the darkness doesn't let up until the end of the track. Sometimes
I'll skip this cue just to escape the depression. Leonard Rosenman
does, however, interpolate brief snatches of the Hobbit theme, and there
are a few more action-oriented bits.
6. Company of the Ring (1:39)
After the darkness of the previous track, we
get the most charming cue on the album. It puts the main theme through
a Christmas-like carol, complete with chimes. I still don't know
where he gets the idea that it sounds "almost like Bach," as the liner
notes say. I've played a lot of Bach, and I can safely say
that none of it sounds like or has any compositional similarities with
this track (if you think differently, email me and we'll talk.) Unfortunately,
in keeping with the rest of the score, this charming little composition
drifts into darkness at the end.
7. Mines of Moria (6:10)
This dark and dreary cue further develops the
original triadic harmony, the main theme, and gives us our first brief
hearing of the Lothlorien theme. Rosenman also gives us more action
music with harpsichord and the Ringwraith motif. At one point we
even hear Gollum's motif for the first time.
8. The Battle in the Mines; The Balrog (5:08)
This is the first true action cue of the score
as Frodo and Co. fight Orcs in the Mines of Moria. It features some
good drum work, and gives us a first true treatment of the final battle
theme. One of my favorite aspects of this track is the orchestral
bursts coupled with primitive drums. Like the rest of the cues, he
adds the harpsichord to the action music, and has several statements of
the main theme. This also has a giant electronic instrument representing
the Balrog. (Somewhat off topic, but where did the makers of the
film get the idea that the Balrog had wings and giant Big Bird feet?
I even read somewhere that Tolkien told them specifically that the Balrog
didn't have any of these. There's a funny web page that tells all
the errors in the movie, called the Tolkien Sarcasm Page.)
9. Mithrandir (3:17)
Rosenman provides a nice break with this little
song. The opening sounds pretty bad, with all the twinkly, Elfy music,
but it redeems itself in the second half with full choir. (Another
good error from the Tolkien Sarcasm Page - where'd they get the idea that
Elves have to have twinkly, pseudo-woodland music all the time?)
10. Frodo Disappears (2:38)
The feelings of despair return as Frodo runs
away. Rosenman gives us his typical atonal action music, with a driving,
scherzo-like pulse. Like always, fragments of all the key themes
appear, this time including the Ringwraith motif and the main march theme.
11. Following the Orcs (3:16)
This creative track begins with a new permutation
of the march theme, this time over driving, optimistic percussion.
He ingeniously contrasts the hopeful Aragorn and Legolas with the Orcs
by providing us with a new Orc march derived somewhat from the Ringwraith
motif. Another cool thing he does is play a desperate statement
of the main theme over the continuous Orc percussion ostinato.
12. Fleeing Orcs (2:31)
"Fleeing Orcs" begins with a short restatement of the Orc march from
the previous track, followed by another desperate version of the main theme.
It eventually turns somewhat optimistic, and Rosenman introduces another
section of the final battle cue, complete with harpsichord. I usually
skip this, as most of it can be heard in its entirety in "Helm's Deep."
13. Attack of the Orcs (4:04)
More action music, but much more fragmented than
track 12. Another one to skip, since it's mostly boring, atonal tension
stuff, and the action music can be heard in "Helm's Deep."
14. Gandalf Remembers (2:19)
This begins with startling chimes and trumpet
playing a motif reminiscent of the opening triads. It turns gentle,
as Aragorn realizes that his mentor isn't dead. Most of the rest
is very unsettling, however, as Gandalf recounts his epic battle with the
Balrog. After a misleading happy trumpet fanfare, the action material
from "Battle in the Mines" reappears.
15. Riders of Rohan (3:43)
One of the most complex cues, this opens with
the middle section of the main theme (that's right, the part he ripped
off for Star Trek IV's theme.) Next comes a joyous trumpet and string
fanfare joined with part of one of the action motifs. The middle
section goes back to the dark, fragmented nature of track 2, and makes
the first full statement of Gollum's theme. At the end, our favorite
chanting chorus pops back up, this time with trumpet glissandos.
16. Helm's Deep (7:02)
This is the climatic battle cue, what all the
other tracks led up to. After some tension, Rosenman extends the
Orc march, adds the ram's horn from the overture, and gives the choir a
demonic battle hymn to sing. This is truly the highlight of the album.
He uses the triadic harmony from the opening and a hopeless version of
the main theme to depict the horrid nature of this battle. The hinted-to
sections from previous tracks all blend seamlessly with the main battle
chorus. He even transforms the main march into one of the main driving
action motifs! For the climax of the battle, Rosenman throws every
theme of the score together, complete with harpsichord and the "Lion's
Roar" percussion music. Truly an epic track.
17. The Dawn Battle; Theoden's Victory (5:34)
The Dawn Battle is part 2 of the previous track,
although not nearly as good. At the beginning, Rosenman gives us
the final statement of the oppressive Ringwraith motif. Following
this are a few minutes of tension and a final statement of all the action
motifs heard in "Helm's Deep." As if to hint that the movie is almost
over, he plays a few of these in a major key. The end of all the
battle music is a pair of climactic trumpet fanfares. After this,
the forces of evil finally are slain, and most of the rest of the music
is triumphant, with a highlight being a joyous brass run. The cue
ends on a huge tuba cadence.
18. The Voyage to Mordor; Theme From "The Lord
of the Rings" (4:43)
Rosenman begins his final track with a melancholy
version of the main theme, with a final statement of Gollum's motif and
the original triadic harmony. Even though the story's far from over,
the movie figures it's time to bail out, and we finally get an uncut playing
of the main theme in all its glory.
Although I only have two scores by Rosenman, I
can say that this is probably his very best work. The fragmentary
nature of it keeps us guessing until the end (literally) and, although
there are a few tedious parts (which bring the rating down 1/2 point),
overall this is an excellent score. Of course, if you've only heard
film music like Goldsmith's "Rudy" or Horner's "Titanic", you'll most likely
instantly be put off by Rosenman's 20th Century classical sensibilities.
But this can be safely recommended to almost anyone else.
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The Lord of the Rings is Copyright 1991 by Intrada Records. Its appearance
on this site is for informational purposes. Review Copyright 1999
by Andrew Drannon. Opinions stated are not those of Tripod.