With the first installment in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit arriving in theatres one month from now, the hype machine is kicking into overdrive. And today, the most exciting marketing move of all has appeared.
Empire Magazine is exclusively streaming the entire score for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, composed by Lord of the Rings veteran Howard Shore. I recommend immediately dropping whatever it is you’re doing and listening to the score right now, because it is, in a word, spectacular.
Shore’s epic score for Jackson’s Rings trilogy is widely regarded as one of the all-time great exercises in film composition, and for good reason. In the world of cinema, no other composer has ever attempted anything quite as ambitious and audacious as writing one extended score for nearly twelve hours of film. Shore did not just pull it off, but in weaving a complex and nuanced musical tapestry – made up of literally hundreds of distinct themes and motifs – he arguably composed the greatest ‘film symphony’ of all time. To this day, his scores stand as the best music cinema has ever had to offer. They are remarkable.
That is why I, along with so many others, have been eagerly awaiting a chance to lay our ears upon his work for The Hobbit. As with the films themselves, the big question so far is whether Shore could recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic he summoned a decade past.
Listening to the complete score, I am happy to report that lightning can, indeed, strike twice. Accepting that we have not had a chance to hear this music in context, I believe that, on its own, this music is easily as strong as what Shore created for The Lord of the Rings. In some cases, it’s even more incredible, as Shore’s willingness to experiment with style and instrumentation has clearly grown over the past ten years.
Some beloved themes from the past – including cues for the Shire, Rivendell, and, of course, Gollum – return in highly invigorating ways, often sending chills down the listener’s spine. Shore is obviously aware of his music’s enduring legacy, and plays on our expectations in the most exciting of ways.
But the new material is even more compelling. It certainly sounds of a piece with his Lord of the Rings work, but there are dozens of fresh themes, motifs, and bold sonic concepts that extend the aural boundaries of Middle Earth by many glorious miles. In parts, the style shifts closer to the storybook aesthetic of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original Hobbit novel – there is an unrestrained glee to the Shire sections I find absolutely infections – but there are other sections that forebode an oncoming darkness, especially around the one-hour mark (which, looking at the track listing, seemingly correlates to Gandalf’s investigations away from the company). Shore’s music presents a Middle Earth in flux, at once celebrating a golden age of adventure and prosperity while mysterious forces coalesce beneath the surface.
In any case, every second of the soundtrack is masterful, compelling and engaging on every possible level. I have had a blast listening to the score today, and cannot wait for my Special Edition CD to arrive in the mail on December 11th so I can explore the score in greater depth. If the music is any indication of what the film itself may be like, then I think we are in for one hell of a treat. It appears that The Hobbit trilogy will absolutely live up to its Lord of the Rings precedent.
Head on over to Empire to hear the complete score, and sound off in the comments with your thoughts on the music!
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theatres December 14th.