After Howard Shore Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted and Produced, what is in my opinion, the greatest Film Score ever written for The Lord of the Rings, where he created over eighty separate themes, and then Peter Jackson decided to make The Hobbit, well I thought that Howard Shore has surely ran out of music…hasn’t he? Then it was released after a decade long wait, and I sat there listening to it at least three times in a row, all the way through. I was in shock that he had done it again! How has this man produced another Middle Earth Score that is of the exact same quality of his Lord of the Rings, multiple Oscar-winning Masterpiece? Well, I guess the answer is, he’s Howard Shore.

You may listen to a 1:30 minute preview of every track on soundcloud or you could stream the entire soundtrack here directly or via spotify.

With a whole host of new characters, you’d expect to enjoy a whole host of new themes, and that’s what he delivers. Firstly the epic and majestic theme for the Dwarves is as memorable and grand as his Fellowship theme, which you can tell is going to be the main theme of the Trilogy, and what a powerful main theme it is.

So what’s new…and old?

From the very beginning, the first piece, ‘My Dear Frodo,’ is an eight minute lesson in Film Scoring. Any students of music interested in becoming Composers, should listen to the piece and wonder how he does it. In those eight minute, he immediately creates seven new themes, and brings back one familiar one, and it all sounds like one huge theme with different elements. How he combines so much new material, that ranges from heroic to terrifying, so it flows so effortlessly, is something I think no one will ever comprehend.

After you get over the brilliance of the first piece, you are given no time to collect your thoughts, as he hits you with his most innocent and happy theme from the Lord of the Rings; the Shire theme. The nostalgia is like a warm blanket, and like family and friends welcoming you home after a long journey. It feels so familiar, it’s almost as if you’ve never left the Shire. This happens a lot throughout the score, but not too much that you feel like it’s just a re-use of past material. It’s the perfect amount to give you the feeling that you’re back in Middle Earth, yet this isn’t the Lord of the Rings, this is the Hobbit, and you are reminded how vast this world really is.

My favourite piece…

It’s almost impossible to choose, but from the new music included, I would have to say that my favourite piece is ‘Axe or Sword.’ It includes Thorin Oakenshield’s theme, the Dwarves theme, and many more, including the new theme created to represent Bilbo Baggins; the Hobbit himself, which is heard at the end of the piece. It is filled with rich strings, and a building feeling that something very important is about to happen to the characters. Whether good or bad; this piece doesn’t let you know, but allows you to figure it out for yourself whether this journey they are about to take is going to turn out well for them.

The rest of the Score…

As the Score goes on, Shore gives us wild and weird sounds for the new Wizard; Radagast the Brown, and heavy, drum-filled pieces like ‘A Thunder Battle,’ for the big action moments, that are as original and refreshing as you could want from this new adventure, before he sends us right back into fear and doubt with Gollum’s cave, where the Ring theme returns to let you know that evil still exists in its most horrible way, and all those terrible things that we know are going to happen, are on their way.

Finally the Score ends with a very expected song, that is completely different to the melancholic and emotional Lord of the Rings songs, instead it is fun and upbeat to give us reassurance that The Hobbit is a much more innocent journey, with a not so world-ending story.

If I had to sum it up…

I do not consider this Score to be independent to his previous Middle Earth material. I see this as just part four in a six part Opera, or part one if you take into account that it’s a prequel. And this was easily as impressive as his previous three parts, which makes me wonder just what he has for us with the further two parts of his Magnum Opus still to come. It melts the brain to think about it.

You can purchase Howard Shore’s soundtrack on Amazon and ITunes. Furthermore you can watch Howard Shore here speaking about the making of his score for The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey.

Posted by Lee Allen

Film and Television Score enthusiast. Podcast Host at Bombad Radio. World traveller.

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