Music of the Return of the King

Howard Shore CameoDuring the editing of the Return of the King, composer Howard Shore was able to see a rough edit of the movie, which gave him more time to develop the score. He was also present during some of the pick-up filming, to really take in the feeling of the movie. (He also has a cameo appearance in the extended edition of the Return of the King, during Legolas and Gimli's drinking contest.)

Howard Shore is brilliant at working on developing themes and continuing to develop and extend these from film to film. In the Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir speaks about his father during the Council of Elrond. In the background we hear a piece of music that becomes the theme of Gondor, and one of the central themes in the Return of the King. This theme is first presented when Gandalf and Pippin enters Minas Tirith, but its greatest moment is during the lighting of the beacons. There are no people and no dialogue, yet it still a very strong scene. It really shows the power of music.

OrchestraPeter Jackson wanted something special for Shelob's Lair, and he basically wanted it to feel very unlike the rest of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He wanted the music to sound like something from The Fly, a movie by David Cronenberg, which Howard Shore wrote the music for. Peter wanted the scenes in Shelob's Lair to be a kind of film within the rest of the film, like you entered a new world when you stepped inside Shelob's Lair. The music would sound more electronic and unearthy than the rest of the orchestral music, and again shows us just how important music is for a movie.

"Howard has this great nack of bringing in a soloist voice, a bare voice without the major orchestra, juxtaposed against the frenetic visual action on the screen." - Rick Porras.
There are two moments like these in the Return of the King. The first is when Gandalf and Pippin rides out to aid Faramir and his men on their way back from Osgiliath. As Gandalf's staff lights up, we hear a light, clear voice instead of the loud shrieks from the Nazgûls and the battering of hoofs. Combined with the spectacular movie shots of the riders it can really give a person goosebumps. The second is inside Mount Doom, when Gollum finally has the Ring, and you hear the solo voice of Renée Fleming. There's nothing we as humans respond better to than the human voice. You don't necessarily know what it's doing to you, but it makes an emotional connection that makes a scene really powerful.

Pippin's SongPhilippa Boyens went out with the actors to a karaoke bar one night, where she heard Billy Boyd sing for the first time. (Delilah by Tom Jones.) There's a quote in the book where Denethor asks Pippin for a song, something Philippa really wanted to use in the movie. Billy was then asked to create a song based on a poem from the Fellowship of the Ring, a task he only had a day or two to complete. He thought about what kind of song it would be based on the words and where he was at the time, and he thought it was a song he'd probably heard his grandfather sing, that came from when the hobbits were looking for the Shire.

Billy Boyd recordingHe wrote a few melodies, came on set, and sung this beautiful song no one had heard yet. That's how the song was made, it was an idea brought to life only days before the scene was shot. They later recorded the song in Abbey Road Studios, a huge highlight of Billy's carrier. Howard Shore then wrote pieces of music around Billy's performance, to build up and shape the vocals. In Billy's song, the orchestra comes in when the riders are approaching Osgiliath. Instead of noisy sounds of battle there's a simple, beautiful and haunting melody, supported by the very simple orchestral music growing out of it.

Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens asked Liv to sing and record a song for Arwen's vision of Aragorn and her son. But when they sat down and worked on the scene, it didn't seem like the right thing to do, and they used a piece called Twilight and Shadow instead. They simply didn't have a place to put Liv's wonderful song in the theatrical version of the movie, but when they were working on the extended edition they realized that it fit perfectly in the scene where Éowyn is healed. The song is about someone who must come back from the depths of despair if they are to endure and keep going. It also connects Arwen and Éowyn through their love for Aragorn, and it brought the whole story together.

Aragorn's SongAfter Aragorn has been crowned King of Gondor, he sings a powerful song to his people. He basically repeats the words spoken by his ancestors when they first came to Middle-Earth, and by this he acknowledges the past and makes a promise for the future, while celebrating the present.

Howard Shore and Annie LennoxThe song at the end of the Return of the King is possibly the most important in the trilogy, as it has to end the trilogy while keeping the mood and emotions from the end of the movie. Howard Shore and Fran Walsh got together and thought about who they wanted to work with, and Annie Lennox was on top of both their lists. She has a way to project the sheer emotional power. Howard originally wrote a song based on Tolkien's words, but Peter Jackson didn't think it was the right way to end the trilogy. They then wrote Into The West, strongly influenced by Cameron Duncan, a young filmmaker close to Peter and Fran, who had recently passed away. A snippet of the song can be heard when Gandalf and Pippin thinks all is lost, and Gandalf tells the young hobbit about death, leading to the end of the movie where we hear the full song.

After the trilogy was completed, Howard made a two-hour long Lord of the Rings symphony based on the twelve hours of music made for the movies. The symphony has been played in many countries all over the world.