Doug Adams ('Music of the Lord of the Rings')
'Capturing the sounds of Middle Earth'
In a project that would surely make J.R.R. Tolkien proud, self-proclaimed musicologist Doug Adams, has set out to document the music of the landmark Lord of the Rings films…in a book.
After nine years and three journeys into Middle Earth, 'The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films' is a comprehensive look into the scores of all three of the groundbreaking films.
Mr. Adams recently sat down with Exclusive Magazine’s Ashley Trombley for a chat about music, literature, and the relativity of time in the land of Hobbits.
I read the press release, and the first thing that jumped out at me was that you are a musicologist. Could you please explain in depth what a musicologist does? "It’s really an attempt to put a work of music into a historical context, and show how a piece of music, in this case, the Lord of the Rings, to examine the theory and see how music is used as a story-teller. So it’s essentially unraveling the themes and the connections between themes that Howard Shore created, and other composers like Wagner who might have attempted other storytelling devices."
What got you interested in pursuing that particular avenue? "I think it was always an attempt on my part to try and view a piece of music through the composer’s eyes. That was something that was always important to me as a music student, music as an act of recreation, in a sense. You want to know about the composer, what their goals are, what they were trying to achieve, and how they came about to their final product, I suppose. And I think that was an overall fascination with composers and the fascination process."
How did you become involved with the LOTR films? "It was kind of miraculous. I wrote for a long time for a magazine that dealt with television music. SO I interviewed Howard a number of times, and we always got along well. When he signed on to do the Lord of the Rings, we were discussing another project, back in 2001. And I interviewed him, and we chatted afterward, and he said, “LOTR is coming out, and I’m working on it.” I was trying to play it cool and not blurt anything out. And he said, “It looks like this is going to be bigger than a normal project. Would you like to stick around and see if there it something we can do about it?” Of course I was thrilled, and said yes!"
"Soon after, I started visiting his offices in New York, and looking at the conductor’s scores, and we watched the films together, and discussed them scene by scene, and theme by theme, and character by character, and composition by composition. We didn’t really know what we were aiming toward. And after a few months, we bound it all together, and it looked like we were heading for a book. And here we are, many years later."
You say many years…how many? "Just about nine years. When I started doing this, the filmmakers told me that they’d been working on it for eight years. I thought, “How can you work on any project for eight years?” And now I sit back in my rocking chair, fold my arms and say, “Now I get it".”
On a broad spectrum, what do you think the utilization of music in film accomplishes? "Every composer goes into it with a different idea, and that’s why it’s so cool, because there are as many approaches as there are composers. And what fine composers tend to do is they look at music and film as a second telling of the story. It’s not just a collection of happy-sad, fast-slow, fighting-loving, it’s got its own architecture. And there’s some magical thing that no one’s quite figured out that when it’s put against film and editing and performances that somehow everything just meshes together."
I remember playing a medley of music from the first LOTR film in my 8th grade band class years ago. Having had as much access to all three film scores as you’ve had, I’m wondering if you have a favorite piece, or maybe one that particularly stands out to you? "The moment that always sticks out with me is that one moment at the end of Return of the King where all the heroes are victorious and they have a big coronation, and the Hobbits are all bowing to the king, and everybody bows to the Hobbits for their contribution. I hear these things, and remember where I was."
Are you going to be working with The Hobbit score as well? "They’re kind of beginning the process now. It seems like everything in Middle Earth tends to take a long time. They’re hoping to start filming on The Hobbit in the next few months, so no music has been written yet, but they‘re starting to think of ideas. That might be what we do next, go back into Middle Earth and take on The Hobbit."
So is this going to be its own thing, or would it be like a yearbook insert for the book you‘ve got now? "It’s probably gonna be its own thing. They were thinking about making two films out of it, and it looks like it’s gonna be a related piece, but something that has its own specific energy. But maybe we’ll get it out in less than nine years," he laughs.
As far as the book goes, have you any plans to get it translated into other languages? "Good question. That’s actually something we’re looking into, but there are a lot of rights issues, and then you have to find someone to actually do the translation, but it’s something we are actively looking at."
And you also have a blog of sorts. What goes on there? "Yeah, I started a blog when we had these CD sets which we call “The Complete Recordings”, which were all of the music used in the films. And there was a lot of interest in them, and people were always asking questions. So I went around to message boards to answer people’s questions, to the point where I thought, instead of going from site to site, it would be easier to set up my own site. And it’s a pretty cool thing, people ask some very intelligent questions, and there’s a nice little community that’s built around it. It turned out way better than I ever thought it would."
Interviewed by: Ashley Trombley
'The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (The Complete Recordings)' CD Purchase Link
'The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (The Complete Recordings)' CD Purchase Link
'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings)' CD Purchase Link
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