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THE

L O R D

OF THE

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 (3:03)
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 listening experience.
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.



 
The Lord of the Rings: The Final Score
Music Rating 9.5/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 9/10
Orchestral Performance 7/10
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 9/10

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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.