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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'The Lord of the Rings: ROTK - Complete Recording'
Artist - Howard Shore

I have been greatly looking forward to a complete "Return of the King" soundtrack ever since the movie came out, and I realized how wonderful Howard Shore's music was. What sheer delight, being able to sit in my living room for two hours last night, and again this afternoon, with two cats vying for space in my lap, the sound of knitting needles softly clacking nearby, during lulls in the music, while listing to the heavenly strains of melody wafting from the speakers. The only thing missing was the fireplace and a couple of burning logs!

I would argue for this being the greatest score ever written for a film sequel, except that technically it isn't. Peter Jackson set out to produce a single, gigantic epic, which he then broke into three parts for convenience. In much the same way, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the original novel half a century ago but split it into the familiar trio. Thus, when Howard Shore was asked to create the music, he had the luxury of thinking in terms of the whole trilogy, and began to lay the groundwork in "The Fellowship of the Ring" right from the beginning. This gave him a tremendous advantage over, say, John Williams, who was at the mercy of George Lucas coming up with a new Star Wars script every few years. He had to make up the music as he went along.

According to the "making of the music" video in the extended DVD version of "Fellowship", Shore knew from the outset that he wanted to create an opera. If you read the excellent notes which come with the music boxed sets for all three movies, you'll know that he heavily employed a 19th century technique called "leitmotif", wherein every character of note, and every place, gets its own theme, and all of these melodies are skillfully woven together. By "The Return of the King", all the pieces were in place for the grand climax of the epic.

The beauty of this composing technique is that I could sit there with my eyes closed, and follow the progression of the movie. Certain visions and bits of dialog would pop into my mind. I could see Deagol plunge into the water and lose hold of his fishing pole, only to find the Ring embedded in the mire instead -- to his undoing. Or how about when the treasonous Saruman is standing atop Orthanc, up to his old tricks, trying to sow dissent among the ranks of his opponents? Or that wonderful extended scene where Sam and Frodo see the sun shining for one last, forlorn moment upon a floral crown atop the fallen head of a Gondorian statue at the Cross-Roads?

My favorite track of all is "The Lighting of the Beacons". I've seen that scene probably three times more often than the rest of the movie in its entirety, and the music plays a huge part of that. Another good one is "Osgilliath Invaded", which features boy soprano Ben del Maestro's ethereal voice soaring above Pelennor Fields, figuratively speaking, as Gandalf rides forth from Minas Tirith, light streaming from his staff, to dispel the Nazgul on their fell beasts and thus rescue Faramir's band.

And, of course, there is the whole sequence of Sam and Frodo on the side of Mount Doom: "Then let's be rid of it, once and for all. I can't carry it for you, but I can carry YOU!"

If you've watched the "making of" videos for the extended "Return of the King" DVD, you may recall that Annie Lennox was working on a second recording, called, I think, "Live for the Day", but this never made it into the movie. I was kind of hoping maybe they'd slip it into the boxed set, alongside "Into the West", but no dice. They did, however, include something just as nice: "Bilbo's Song". I listened to it twice, feeling utterly haunted by the melody. What a great way to finish the journey.

As with the other two boxed sets, the packaging is very attractive. I have a minor complaint about the CD pegs being a hair too tight, but no matter. Be aware, too, that the DVD is two-sided, which means there is no label side to absorb grease from one's hand inadvertently brushing across it. It's happened to me a couple of times already. That also means being extra careful when you twist the DVD off its rubbery peg, lest you get fingerprints on the surface.

The notes for all three movies keep referring to a book called "The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films". I hope this becomes available sooner rather than later. There are very nice PDF booklets available for download giving a track-by-track discussion of the music in all three films -- but this would mean listening to the music in front of my computer. And that isn't always practical. Perhaps it's time to invest in a nice color printer.

But why spend any more time reading this, when you could be listening to the music instead? It was well worth the price for me. Go for it!