Music of The Lord of the Rings film series

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The Lord of the Rings
Operatic film score cycle by Howard Shore
RelatedThe Hobbit
TextJ. R. R. Tolkien, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, Howard Shore
LanguageEnglish, Old English, fictional languages (Sindarin, Quenya, Khuzdul, Black Speech, Adunaic)
Composed2000 (2000)–2004
Movements90 movements (in three parts) for the live-to-projection cycle
  • soprano
  • boy soprano
  • alto
  • tenor (Symphony)
  • large male choir (Fellowship of the Ring)
  • large mixed choir
  • large boy choir
  • "Hobbit Band"
  • large symphony orchestra

The music of The Lord of the Rings film series was composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by Howard Shore. It is notable in terms of length of the score, the size of the staged forces, the unusual instrumentation, the featured soloists, the multitude of musical styles and the number of recurring musical themes used.

Shore wrote many hours of music for The Lord of the Rings, effectively scoring the entire film length. Over 13 hours of the music (including various alternate takes) have been released across various formats. Shore conceived the score as operatic and antiquated-sounding. He made use of an immense ensemble including a large symphony orchestra (principally, the London Philharmonic Orchestra), multiple instrumental "bands", various choirs, and vocal and instrumental soloists, requiring an ensemble ranging from 230 to 400 musicians.

Throughout the composition, Shore has woven over 100 identified leitmotifs (or over 160, when considering the music of the Hobbit films), which are interrelated and categorized into groups that correspond to the Middle-earth cultures to which they relate,[1] forming one of the greatest and most intricate collections of themes in the history of cinema.

The series music is widely regarded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of film music and became the most successful of Shore's career, earning three Oscars, two Golden Globes, three Grammys, and several other nominations. Some of his themes (like the Shire theme) and songs earned great popularity. The music was the subject of a short documentary film called Howard Shore: An Introspective, and has earned a dedicated research-based book by the musicologist Doug Adams. The music continues to be performed by choirs and orchestras around the world as symphony pieces, concert suites and live to-projection concerts. They were voted the best soundtrack of all time by a Classic FM listener poll for six years straight.[2]


Shore was chosen by the filmmakers (who also considered the American composer James Horner[3] and the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar[4]) when they found themselves temporarily-tracking parts of the assembled footage to pieces from his existing scores. The films were also temp-tracked sparsely with pieces from the scores to Braveheart[5] and Last of the Mohicans. Shore visited the set and met with the filmmakers and various people involved in the production including the conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe (who would contribute to his Symphony and Doug Adams's book on the score), the actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and Andy Serkis, the screenwriter Philippa Boyens (who became Shore's principal librettist for the score), and saw assembled footage of all three films.

Howard Shore, composer of The Lord of the Rings series' film score

Shore agreed to take the project in early 2000. He envisioned the scores to all three films as a through-composed cycle, a grand opera told in three parts,[note 1] involving a large network of leitmotifs, large choral and orchestral forces (including additional "bands" of instruments besides the main orchestra), frequent use of singing voices, both in choirs and through a wide ensemble of vocal soloists.

The score uses a neo-romantic, 19-century style and structure, derived from Shore's desire to have the music sound antiquated, but he nevertheless married it to modern and at times avant-garde techniques including atonal sections, unusual instrumental choices and orchestral set-ups, aleatoric writing, partly-spoken sprechstimme voices and syncopated rhythms, as well as borrowing from eastern scales, medieval styles of music, contemporary film music idioms for specific setpieces, classical idioms for some of the music of the Shire, new-age and contemporary idioms for the end-credits songs, etc. However, he insisted on staying away from electronic or synthesized music.

Shore orchestrated the music himself, and conducted all of the orchestral sessions and many of the choral and soloist sessions.[note 2] In keeping with his operatic vision, Shore used the three scripts and the book itself to write themes even before having film reels to compose to. As a result, Shore spent nearly four years on the composition, compared to a period of 6–8 weeks per film, and a week or two of recording, as practiced by most film composers.[note 3] For the recording process, which extended over four weeks per film, he composed the music in long suite-like pieces for the orchestra to go through during a day of playing, rather than short cues, lending greater cohesion to the music. Only a few minutes of finalized music were recorded each day to allow for input from director Peter Jackson and revisions to the music and performance[6] Jackson gave Shore direction and had each theme played to him as a mock-up and by the orchestra before approving it. All of the music production (which overlapped with the films' editing process) was supervised by Jackson who often asked for significant changes to the music, which is unusual for film music.

Shore began his work on the music early during the production of The Fellowship of the Ring in late 2000 and recorded the first pieces of music (the Moria sequence[7]) in spring of 2001 to a 40-minute teaser of the film, as the film was still being shot. The scored section also included a version of the Breaking of the Fellowship sequence, with an extended tin whistle solo, and a montage of footage from the following two films. The rest of the score was recorded in London during the editing of the film in post production, and took over 180 hours to record. Shore would later return to the finished film, recording additional music and revised takes for the extended DVD version in March 2002.

A similar pattern was followed for The Two Towers (which was scored at a faster pace than the other two) and The Return of the King (with Shore also, unusually, providing an original score with new themes for the trailer, as well) with the final sessions taking place in Watford on 20 March 2004. Shore wrote the music effectively for the entire film length.[note 4] In the finished film, some of the music was dialled out while other parts were looped or tracked and re-tracked, so overall about 90% of the finished film contains music.

The music was performed primarily by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and three choirs: London Voices (for mixed and all-women choral parts), Wellington Maori-Samoan choir (for all-male choral passages in The Fellowship of the Ring) and London Oratory School Schola boy choir. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra contributed some of the early Moria music, written for an early edit of the film. A wide variety of instrumental and vocal soloists, including members of the films' cast, contributed to the scores as well. Each film calls for at least one soprano and/or alto soloist and one boy soloist.

The scores for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King won Academy Awards in 2002 and 2004; The Two Towers was not nominated because of a rule of the academy to not nominate sequel scores that reuse old themes,[8] a rule that was undone specifically to allow for the nomination of The Return of the King.[9] The latter film also won an Oscar statuette for Best Original Song, as well as the Golden Globe for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings has become the most successful composition of his career and one of the most popular motion picture scores in history. Along with his music of the Hobbit film series, the prequels to The Lord of the Rings, Shore wrote 21 hours of music.[10]

Principal leitmotifs[edit]

Shore's composition does not utilize motifs from other scores he had written previously, nor from passages of existing film or stage music, with the exception of one intentional nod to Richard Wagner's ring cycle over the end-credits of the third film. Instead, Shore wrote a long series of interrelated leitmotifs that were used, developed, combined or fragmented throughout the three scores. The motifs are attached to places, cultures, characters, objects and occurrences, and are divided into sets and subsets of related themes.

Shore used his themes in defiance of the common practices of film music (and even some theatre works) by strictly applying them for narrative purposes, never using them purely to suggest mood, although several intriguing instances still exist in his work: he replaced the Realm of Gondor theme used for the passage of the Argonath with a statement of The History of the One Ring theme, the main theme of the trilogy, to denote the film coming to a close; and he used the so-called Ringwraith theme (which in fact applies more broadly to all the servants of Sauron[note 5]) to the Orc armies of the prologue.[11] Otherwise, the only instance of music outside the narrative is the use of tracked music, whereby the filmmakers applied the Moria motif to the Warg attack in the Two Towers, contrary to Shore's original intention.[note 6]

Shore's use of leitmotifs is both strict and nuanced: rather than mimic the on-screen action, the themes are often used subtly to inform underlying dramatic connections.[note 7] A good example is how Shore forms the first notes of the Fellowship theme over Sam joining Frodo, and expanding on it when Merry, Pippin and Strider join the group—all to hint at the gradual coming together of the Fellowship of the Ring and leading up to the full statement in the council of Elrond. There is even significance as to the order in which themes appear in a scene or to when a theme is absent.

The themes go through a series of variations of orchestration, tempo and harmony to denote changes to characters and the general progression of the plot. Again, the Fellowship theme gradually comes together before appearing in a string of full heroic statements as the whole company travels and struggles. After Gandalf's demise, however, the theme appears fragmented, the harmony is changed and the instrumentation is reduced leading up to a dirge-like statement over the death of Boromir. It is gradually remade during the next two films, leading up to a grand choral statement during the assault on the Black Gate.

Each film, and particularly the first one, starts with an overture: a series of statements of the principal themes of the feature, which extended from the opening credits till after the individual title of the film. The prologue to the first film, for instance, features the History of the One Ring theme, Lothlórien theme, The Mordor accompaniments, Sauron's theme, the Servants of Sauron theme, the Fall of Men, Aragorn's theme and the Shire theme and variations and at some point was to feature the second-age Gondor theme and the Power of Mordor as well. The main Lord of the Rings theme appears on the main title, while the main theme of each individual episode appears on the second title. Shore used the first film to introduce the principal themes, the second film to add more themes and develop the existing ones, and the third film to create conflict and crossovers between the existing themes and bring them to a resolution, creating in the process new themes for the Fourth Age. Also across the three scores, Shore changed the soundscape: incorporating more aleatoric devices and contrapuntal writing in The Two Towers, compared to The Fellowship of the Ring, and more extrovert writing for Return of the King.

All of these themes were compiled into a menu by musicologist Doug Adams, who worked with Shore on the documentation of the score. Adams identified[1][12][13] about 90 motifs[note 8] (some very brief, scarcely used and/or only subtly differentiated from others) in the three Complete Recordings, by far the largest catalogue of themes for a theatrical work. Furthermore, in creating The Hobbit scores, Shore not only added another 62 themes or more, but went on to reuse some isolated musical gestures from The Lord of the Rings scores, turning them into leitmotifs after-the-fact, adding up to over 100 leitmotifs used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy alone, and 160 when combined with motifs of The Hobbit. There are also leitmotifs which Shore only used in alternate forms of pieces from the soundtracks, and several variations and diegetic pieces that can be added to this count.

By comparison, John Williams's 18-hour composition to Star Wars features some fifty themes, and other film compositions (such as James Horner's Titanic) use only a handful, making Shore's work on The Lord of the Rings films by far the most thematically rich of any cinematic work. When coupled with his work on The Hobbit trilogy, even rivals Wagner's Ring catalogue of leitmotifs, making it not only the most thematically complex film score but one of the most leitmotifically nuanced works in the history of orchestral music.[note 9]

The themes below are as they appear across the three films, sorted out into their thematic families. Many are provided with a clean audio example. The themes within each family share a soundscape and melodic and harmonic traits, but there are also connections between themes of different families to imply dramatic connections and lend cohesiveness to the score as a whole. Listed below are some 85 of the most clearly defined of those motifs:

First appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring[edit]

Themes for the One Ring[edit]

  • "The History of the One Ring" or The Lord of the Rings theme:[note 10] a minor-key string melody plays over the Lord of the Rings title card for all three films. Howard Shore has considered this theme, more so than the Shire or the Fellowship theme, as the "main theme" of the score, given that its basic pitches are the basis for all the themes in the score. The statement in the title card of Fellowship of the Ring, which features the signature introduction figure,[14] is tracked over several moments in that score, including Frodo picking up the ring and Gandalf explaining its origin to Frodo, and eventually before Frodo's confrontation with Boromir. Otherwise, it mostly appears when the ring switches owners: from Sauron to Isildur, from Isildur to Smeagol, from Smeagol to Bilbo and from Bilbo to Frodo. This theme appears briefly in The Hobbit, woven into some of the early material, before appearing when Bilbo finds the ring, now starting in a major mode. It appears in its definitive form as the trilogy comes to a close.
  • "The Seduction of the Ring": a slow, melancholic variation of the ring theme, sung by a boy choir. The associated lyrics first appear with a low men choir when Gandalf finds the account of Isildur. The first proper appearance (when Gandalf warns Frodo never to surrender to the Ring's temptation and put it on) is hummed by a boy choir, and later sung when Boromir is tempted.[note 11] It returns for the seduction of Aragorn later in the film, and in the Two Towers for the seduction of Faramir, where it is also recapitulated over the end-credits. In Return of the King, it appears when Deagol finds the ring, now with the women doubling the boys; and later orchestrally with the Evil of the Ring theme (Sauron's theme) and the Barad Dur Descending Thirds motif as Smeagol wrestles with Deagol. The Lord of the Rings Symphony features a formal presentation of theme with a monochord accompaniment. The theme's opening is the same as the opening of The Shire theme, but in minor mode, given that The Hobbits are the prime subject of the Ring's seduction and that The Hobbits are similarly tempted to return home throughout the journey. The figure also appears in the B-phrase of the Fellowship theme and in the "Drive of the Fellowship" ostinato.
  • "Sauron":[note 12] A more menacing variation, used more as a theme for Sauron (and—by proxy—for Mordor). It is usually played on muted brass and a Moroccan Rhaita, giving it an old, eastern flavor, while also maintaining its more aggressive and nasal sound. It is the basis for the Necromancer's theme (which often uses an oboe to mimic the rhaita) in The Hobbit, but also appears in its full form, on rhaita and even a pipe organ. This theme is also associated with The Evil nature of the Ring, itself; and with Mordor and Barad Dur. The theme is first played during the scene in which the viewer is shown Barad Dur for the first time.

Themes for Mordor[edit]

The material for Mordor suggests the geographical location and antiquity of the land by use of the augmented second, a prominent interval of eastern scales; and prominently features the descending whole step, as opposed to the ascending half-step featured in the opening figure of the Fellowship theme. This material acts in direct contrast to the Shire material, as both thematic families are similarly constructed with multitude of principal themes, and of secondary motifs used as accompaniment figures, some of which (like the skip-beat accompaniments motifs of each thematic family) are even constructed similarly.

  • "Mount Doom":[note 13] A pair of alternating chords, derived from the opening harmonies of Gollum's theme. It first appears when Elrond recalls taking Isildur to the Crack of Doom, and returns only when the Hobbits are on the side of the Mountain, fighting Gollum, where it is sung by the full choir.
  • "The Threat of Mordor":[note 14] this, along with the accompaniment motifs, is one of several danger motifs associated with Mordor, but this acts as an ostinato rather than an accompaniment. By Return of the King, it becomes much more powerful, now ascending rather than descending and forms the basis to the Witch King's theme.[15]
  • "The Servants of Sauron":[note 15] This theme is a combination of a choir singing the pitches of the Ring theme all stacked over each other, while the different Mordor accompaniments are combined underneath, and the Skip-Beat used as an ostinato. It is first heard in the Battle of the Last Alliance in the prologue, applied first to the Orc Armies and then to Sauron himself. Afterwards it is used almost (but not always) only with the Ringwraiths. It features most prominently in the first half of Fellowship of the Ring, as the wraiths menace the four Hobbits. It was originally supposed to appear when Frodo sees Barad Dur on Amon Hen, as well; In the Two Towers it returns when the winged wraith appears over the Dead Marshes. In The Hobbit, the harmonies permeate some of the Warg and Goblin material, and a statement of it was added to the confrontation between Azog and Thorin in An Unexpected Journey.
  • "The Power of Mordor":[note 16] This music was originally written to debut in the prologue (as featured in the original soundtrack release) before devolving into the Servants of Sauron theme for the duration of the film. In the finalized composition, it is only foreshadowed in the Council of Elrond before appearing in the Battle of Pelennor Fields as the wraiths swoop on Minas Tirith.
  • The Footsteps of Doom (End-Cap):[note 17] This theme consists of the first beats of the Servants of Sauron theme looped to signal impending doom. It is used as a cap to the Servants of Sauron theme used in the prologue, as Sauron arrives; and again in The Two Towers for the statement of that theme.

The Mordor themes are often underlined by one of these three motifs, which serve as accompaniment figures, although they also appear independently:

  • Barad Dur ostinato or "Descending Thirds" motif:[note 18] This is the background music to much of the more threatening Mordor material, especially Sauron's theme, but it also appears on its own: for instance, when Bilbo leaves the Ring behind in Bag End. It is the basis to the Dol Guldur theme and to Azog and Bolg's themes from The Hobbit.
  • Sauron's Menace or Mordor Skip-Beat:[note 19] This is a "chase" ostinato used with the Ringwraith theme, a flipside to the Hobbit Skip Beat. It has several variations, including a distinct two-pitch variant, used predominantly in the Flight to the Ford sequence. A devolved form of the motif serves as the motif for the threat of Dol Guldur in The Hobbit.[16]
  • The Mordor Outline: This is just a martial drumbeat, "more of a pattern than a motif" due to the lack of harmonic variation. It is used in association with the forces of Sauron (like his armies at the Black Gate) and with forces allied with him, such as the Haradrim (it plays under the Mumakil sequence) and Saruman.

Themes for the Hobbits[edit]

The Hobbit themes are very Celtic-sounding, scored for Celtic instruments namely fiddle and tin whistle. Their maturation through the story has them not only transform melodically and harmonically, but also make use of the orchestral relatives of the folk instruments with which they are originally played. The music is stepwise and calm, with old-world modal harmonies to evoke familiarity.

The basic tune appears as several distinct themes:

  • Main Shire Theme or The Pensive theme:[note 20] This is the main, reflective version of the shire theme. Two distinct phrases make up the unabridged theme: the main, A section which is used most often; and the leaping B-section,[note 21] which is quoted infrequently, often apart from the A-phrase and in a different orchestration (namely, strings tutti). The theme often appears in strings or solo clarinet (which is particularly associated with Bilbo). There's also a spry variation for tin whistle, which quotes the A section of the tune, although the whistle also plays the B section of the theme as part of the suite written for Sir James Galway. The unabridged theme develops into The Shire Reborn theme. It is one of the main themes of the trilogy, and arguably the main theme of the series as a whole (including The Hobbit).
  • "Hobbiton Theme" or Rural theme:[note 22] heard only in Hobbiton, this is a more lively and Celtic version of the tune. It is played by a solo fiddle augmented with parts for various Celtic folk instruments, including strummed mandolin, guitar and Celtic harp figures; sustained drone chords for musette and bagpipe drones; dulcimer and celesta accompaniment, and a heartbeat-like pattern on bodhran drums, and a light orchestra playing the various Hobbit accompaniment figures underneath. This variation only quotes the A section of the Hobbits tune; The B section appears only once, played by Tin Whistle, when Gandalf learns that he is dubbed "a disturber of the peace."
  • "Frodo's Theme or The Hymn theme":[note 23] This theme is based on a series of hymn-like chords, that either play independently or underneath a slow version of the Shire theme. It serves mostly as a theme for Frodo Baggins. The chords themselves first begin to form when Bilbo tells of Hobbits fondness of "peace and quiet"[17] and again when Gandalf and Bilbo talk about Frodo in Bag End,[14] but only fully form when Bilbo has a quiet word with Frodo in the party. The first statement with the melody happens in the corn field. It is mostly used with the A-phrase of the Shire melody, with the B phrase only quoted for the first time in the ending scene of The Two Towers going forward. This theme also has a spry tin whistle variation, used in the Breaking of the Fellowship. Out of the unabridged version of this theme develops In Dreams, Bilbo's Song and Frodo's Song.
  • "In Dreams": For the end-credits suite of Fellowship of the Ring, Shore combines the various Hobbit themes (most prominently, the hymn setting) and accompaniments, as well as elements of the Fellowship theme, into the song "In Dreams." The A-section of the main tune is used as the verse, and the B-section—as a chorus.

Besides the variations of the basic tune, Shore crafts several accompaniment motifs that often play as a baseline to The Hobbiton theme. However, as the story progresses, elements of this baseline begin to appear independently of each other and of the Shire theme:

  • Hobbit Expectation motif or Hobbit Outline:[note 24] Used when Frodo first encounters Gandalf, and again through the Hobbiton scenes. It occurs when Gandalf enters Bag End. Eventually, it evolves into the baseline of the developed Shire Theme, The Shire Reborn, at the end of the third film.
  • Playful Hobbit motif or Hobbit Two-Step:[note 25] This motif is limited to the Hobbiton scenes, both in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It becomes the basis for the material for Gandalf's Fireworks, which also recurs in The Hobbit.
  • Secondary Playful motif or Hobbit Skip-Beat: This motif is often interspersed with the Two-Step figure. Dark variations of it start to appear later in the story: first when Bilbo frenetically searches The Ring (this variation returns to describe Bilbo's restlessness in The Hobbit's framework story), and mingles with The Mordor Skip-beat as Boromir assaults Frodo. The minor-mode variation of it becomes the Bree motif.
  • Hobbit Bafflement motif or Hobbit End-Cap: A finale figure to the baseline and the Hobbiton Theme. This motif returns, on its own, in the Two Towers where it is looped into an ostinato, forming The Hobbit Antics motif. Both motifs return for Bilbo's fussy behaviour in The Hobbit.

Besides all of this material, Shore also introduces one other, independent theme for the Shire:

  • "A Hobbit's Understanding":[note 26] used when the Hobbits come to understand the hardships and struggles of their journey. It is used when Gandalf advises and encourages Frodo in Moria, and in a more grand setting throughout the Breaking of the Fellowship sequence and again when Sam encourages Frodo in Osgiliath in the following instalment. It is used in The Hobbit when Gandalf instills the notion of compassion in Bilbo.

Themes for Gollum

  • "The Pity of Smeagol":[note 27] a slow, gloomy piece which acts as a theme for Smeagol. It is first heard in the prologue when Smeagol discovers the Ring. It is closely related to the Hobbit music but also to the History of the One Ring and the Weakness Arpeggios. It is applied briefly to Bilbo as he adopts Gollum's manner of speaking towards the ring, and to Gandalf as he embarks on the hunt for Gollum.

Themes for The Elves

The Music of the Elves is sinuous (in line with the Arts Department's vision of the Elvish architecture), clear-toned and elegant, being scored for women voices, violins and chimes. It is however also ancient, exotic and at times closed off to the outside world, like the Elves, and is in those instances scored for eastern instruments and contains melodic intervals prevalent in Eastern music.

  • Rivendell:[note 28] a theme for female chorus, along with a signature arpeggio accompaniment, which is treated thematically, as well.[15] While it is written to be very soothing, it becomes more saddened as Arwen leaves in The Two Towers, and when she returns to Rivendell in the last film. The arpeggios are the major variation of the Weakness arpeggios, signalling Elrond's weaknesses.
  • "Arwen":[note 29] This theme for female choir and soloist is used when Arwen makes a grand entrance. It is used when she appears before Frodo, before the attempts to revive him; and again, sung by Renee Fleming, when she appears at Aragorn's coronation.
  • Lothlórien:[note 30] a soft, ethereal chorus accompanied by cellos. It is written in an adapted form the Maqam Hijaz, so as to create a sense of antiquity and provide Lothlórien with a slightly unsettling effect. A more hard-edged, brass-driven version of the theme appears in the second film during the battle of Helm's Deep. In the process, the theme moves from the more alien Maqam mode to the Phrygian mode.
  • "Elvish Pledge": This motif is sung when the Doors of Durin are revealed, a memory of the pledge of the Elves of Eregion (who built the doors) to the Dwarves of Moria. It is reprised when Haldir joins the fight at Helms' Deep.

Themes for Isengard Whereas the Mordor material contrasts the Shire material, the related Isengard material contrasts the Fellowships' thematic material: The Isengard theme opens with a twisted variation of the "there and back again" shape that opens The Fellowship theme. The time signature of the Orc theme, 5/4, contrasts the 4/4 time signature of the Fellowship theme, the range of the brass instruments used is different, et cetera.

  • "Isengard" theme":[note 31] This theme was created to provide a sense of industrialism, and is scored for low brass and accompanied by the percussive Orc theme. Its opening reflects the opening of the Fellowship theme, showing the rivalry of Gandalf, leader of the Fellowship, and Saruman.
  • "Five Beat Pattern":[note 32] The accompaniment to the Isengard theme, also serving as the musical representation of the Orcs in general. It is played on anvils, Bell Plates and other metallic percussion instruments. The 5/4 time signature makes this theme feel off-kilter. Doug Adams lists this motif twice, once for Isengard and once for Mordor, with the musical distinction that the Isengard 5-beat pattern accents the first and fourth beats, unlike the rest of the 5/4 music which applies to orcs more generally. Whether the two can be musically categorized as two separate leitmotifs is subjective. Adams also lists the Cruelty of the Orcs twice (since it "realigns with Mordor" in the last film) and the Evil of the Ring (which doubles as Sauron's theme). This theme was also used as source music for the Orc Armies in the Pelennor Fields.
  • "The Orc Crawl":[note 33] A four-pitch motif, derived from the end of the Isengard theme, for the Uruk-Hai band that hunts down the Fellowship, often sung by choir. It is also used when the three hunters chase said band in the Two Towers.

Themes for Nature

  • "Nature's Reclamation" (commonly referred to by fans as the Nature theme[note 34]): the theme was first heard while Gandalf was trapped in Isengard when a moth serving as a messenger for the Eagles arrived at the pinnacle of Orthanc; the moth and the Eagles represent nature here as well. The theme has a grander version in "The Two Towers" during the "Last March of the Ents". This statement was tracked into the parallel scenes in Helm's Deep to signal the sunrise as the Rohirrim charge. The theme is again used in a grand setting as the sun rises once more behind the Rohirrim before the battle of the Pelennor fields, and in several statements leading up to that.

Themes for the Dwarves

The Dwarvish music is raw, and based on parallel fifths rather than full chords. It is scored for all-male voices, often for very deep and rough voices at that, and for blaring brass. This contrasts it with the Elvish music, and also informs the perils of Moria.

  • "Moria":[note 35] An ascending, ominous danger motif on brass and male choir. It is first suggested when Gandalf realizes they will have to go through the mines, and stated when the doors first opened in a non-threatening setting. The low male singing throughout the journey in the dark hint at the theme, but only as the company escapes the Balrog does it return fully, now in its more aggressive setting. A variation of It is used as the music for the opening credits of the Two Towers, which starts with a depiction of Gandalf's duel with the Balrog. It is also tracked into the beginning of the fight between the Rohirrim and Wargs, the theme used here almost "romantically", more for its mood than its thematic meaning.[note 36] There is also a mock-up of an early variation of this theme in the Rarities. The embryonic form in the shape of droning voices appears occasionally in The Hobbit, as well, as a general theme for the Dwarves.
  • "Dwarrowdelf":[note 37] This theme is much more grand and emotional than the other Moria themes, but it is minor-moded and melancholic, representing the ruined grandeur of the Dwarves. Its grand statement is when the fellowship enter the 21st hall of Moria, again more quietly at Balin's Tomb and for the third time as the Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul has subsided. The opening phrase of the theme is used as a motif for the Dwarf company assembling in The Hobbit, first in Bag End and later at Beorn's House.
  • "The Dark Places of the World": A danger motif for the Moria sequences. It is associated with the deep chasms of Moria and used both when the Fellowship runs down the stairs and again when Gandalf and the Balrog fight in the chasm.

Themes for Gondor

The music of Gondor and the World of men and stately and brassy, but not necessarily triumphant, the music lamenting the decay of the mortal world. Only from the later half of the Two Towers and into Return of the King are the themes of the world of men presented in more heroic settings.

  • "Realm of Gondor" theme: the basic version of this was established during the Council of Elrond in "The Fellowship of the Ring"; it is followed in The Two Towers with one pensive statement applied to Aragorn's heritage (tying him to Gondor) and two statement, including a very heroic one, tied to Faramir's memories of Boromir. It goes on to become the signature theme of Return of the King, earning grand statements over the riding of Gandalf up Minas Tirith and through the Lighting of the Beacons. It was originally going to feature more prominently in Fellowship of the Ring, including a statement over the crossing the Argonath, and a variation, The Numenore theme, used in early takes on the prologue. A third variation, which debuted in the trailer to Return of the King and later appears in the film itself, replaces the descending coda[note 38] of the theme with a rising phrase taken from Aragorn's theme (and, by proxy, the Fellowship and White Rider themes), creating the Gondor in Ascension theme. There's also a mockup of an early, major-moded version of the ascension theme with a pan flute role.
  • "Minas Tirith" theme:[note 39] the basic version of this was established during a scene with Aragorn and Boromir in Lothlórien in "The Fellowship of the Ring". It reappears in the third film, related to Minas Tirith and the History of Gondor. In the third film, a variant of this theme also stands for Anduril.

Themes for the Fellowship

  • "The Fellowship of the Ring" theme: a heroic, sweeping piece using principally brass, timpani and orchestra. It is heard in various versions during the first film (of which it is the signature or main theme), but after "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm," the last time that the entire Fellowship is together, it fractures and can only be heard infrequently and sparingly throughout the next two films until the remainder of The Fellowship charge the Black Gate "The Mouth of Sauron" and "For Frodo" where it is sung by the choir. This theme is colloquially known as the main theme of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Along with The Shire theme, this is the most repeated theme in the series. Curiously, on the album, this theme is used once in conjunction with Haldir's archers as they join Aragorn's cause. Here the theme is extrapolated from its narrow meaning (which only encompasses the nine walkers) and is applied as a general idea of "fellowship" and friendship.
  • "The Drive of the Fellowship":[note 40] a little action ostinato derived from the Fellowship theme, which appears when the members of the Fellowship ready themselves to fight the Orcs in the Mines of Moria. It is also heard in Weathertop.
  • "Strider": The embryonic form of Aragorn's theme, which only features the opening figure, starting with a perfect fourth. It is used during his introduction and in the battle of Weathertop. a variation of this piece, prefiguring Argorn's theme and the Fellowship's, is used in the prologue for Isildur.
  • "The Heroics of Aragorn":[note 41] The fuller, more heroic statements, especially in the third film, are labelled as "The Heroics of Aragorn." They are first heard when Aragorn walks towards the band of Uruk-Hai on Amon Hen. This theme also forms the ascending coda of the Gondor in Ascension theme.

Themes for the Monsters of Middle Earth

  • "The Cave Troll":[note 42] This piece is only used in the battle of the Mazarbul is an association with the Cave Troll. It is cumbersome but also pitiful, just like the film's depiction of the Troll. It is the second in the string of monster pieces, but unlike the purely self-contained music of the Watcher in the Water, this piece also references the "Dark Places" motif and is related to the Troll themes used in The Hobbit.
  • "The Balrog":[note 43] This theme, like the material for the Mumakil, is defined more by timbre and style of orchestration: rhythmic material based on open harmonies, underlying drumbeat, piercing brass over long male chorus phrases. However, there are actual recurring phrases, namely in a section from the opening of The Two Towers which is lifted from "The Bridge of Khazad Dum."

Themes for Middle Earth: The Ring Quest themes

  • "The Journey There":[18] This motif is related to the Ring theme. It is used sparingly: once when Frodo and Sam roam the Shire, and once when Frodo realizes he has to leave the company after looking into Galadriel's mirror. It is used again when the company rows down the Anduin, and in the Third film when Frodo, Sam and Gollum walk to Mordor.
  • "Dangerous Passes":[note 44] This theme is used whenever the Ringbearer traverses dangerous and mountainous passes. It scores the Caradhras scenes (originally, it was designated as the "Caradhras theme"[15]), but returns for the secret stairs in Return of the King, albeit being muted in the film.
  • "Evil Times": Whenever the Quest of the Ring brings suffering to a character, this theme is used. It is applied to Gandalf sitting atop Orthanc in the Fellowship of the Ring. It gradually comes to encompass all instances of evils wrought during the War of the Ring, applied for instance to the suffering of the people of Rohan or of Faramir.
  • "'Weakness motif" (Weakness and Redemption): this Arpeggio signals weaknesses of the mind and temptation, and the overcoming of them. It is applied to Boromir's weakness for the Ring, and forms the basis of Gollum's theme, signalling his weakness as well. It is related to the Rivendell Arpeggios.

Themes for Middle Earth: "All Shall Come to Darkness" themes

  • "Nameless Fear":[note 45] This motif appears when Galadriel speaks of a nameless fear and shortly afterwards when Frodo tempts Gandalf with taking the Ring. It returns when Galadriel speaks to Elrond of the will of the Ring in the Two Towers.
  • "The Fall of Men": This motif is unique to the first film, being used once when Elendil dies and again when Boromir succumbs to the call of the ring.
  • "A Noble End": This theme is about a death of noble sacrifice. It is used mostly for Boromir's death and revisited when other characters reflect on his death, but it is also applied to Theoden in the Return of the King.

Themes for Middle Earth: "Another Path" theme[edit]

  • "Gandalf's Farewells":[note 46] This music is sung by a solo voice immediately after Gandalf falls. It is also used when he eventually departs to Valinor. It is repeated in other occasions, although not necessarily with any direct connection to Gandalf's death, but perhaps in an opposite meaning, of meeting with Gandalf again: When Frodo and Sam lie on the slopes of the collapsed Mount Doom, Gandalf's Farewells is used, perhaps to show that the Hobbits are ready to meet again with Gandalf in death.

Themes recurring from The Hobbit and in Alternate forms of the Soundtrack[edit]

  • From alternate forms of the soundtrack: The Realm of Numenore.
  • From The Hobbit: Bilbo's Birthday, Map of the Lonely Mountain, Smoke Rings, Flaming Red Hair (diegetic), Gandalf's Fireworks, Bree, Elvish Medicine, Mithril Vest, Durin's Folk, Galadriel's Powers.

First appearance in The Two Towers[edit]


The History of the One Ring, Seduction of the Ring, Sauron, The Shire, Frodo/Hymn variant, Hobbit Outline, Hobbit End-Cap, A Hobbit's Understanding, Pity of Smeagol, The Servants of Sauron, Threat of Mordor, Descending Thirds, Mordor Skip-Beat, Footsteps of Doom, Servants of Sauron, Isengard, Uruk Hai, Orc Crawl, the Realm of Gondor, Fellowship, Strider, Heroics of Aragorn, Rivendell, Lothlorien, Elvish Pledge, Diminishment of the Elves, Evil Times, Weakness Motiv, Nameless Fear, The Balrog, Moria, The Dark Places of the World, Nature's Reclamation.

Themes for One Ring[edit]

  • "The Fate of the Ring": This theme is the embryonic form of the music for the destruction of the ring, which is essentially the Ring's theme switched to major mode, which transforms the contour of the theme. It is used in this embryonic form once, when Gandalf tells Aragorn that the ring remains hidden from Sauron and Saruman.

Themes for Mordor

  • The Way to Mordor:[note 47] Shore crafts this truncated variant of the Threat of Mordor to denote proximity to Mordor and the roads leading to it. It is used for Frodo and Sam's journey to Mordor in the Two Towers, and in the Osgiliath skirmish in the Return of the King.

Themes for the Hobbits

  • "Playful Hobbit theme": This distinct, playful variation of the unabridged Hobbit tune is used in the scenes with Merry and Pippin. A variation of it scores the early Smeagol and Deagol scenes of Return of the King.
  • Adams also labels a separate "Lullaby setting" of the Shire A-theme that occurs once, but states elsewhere[19] that it is "based so closely on the original Shire theme (as it should be) that it can't really be called a brand new motiv."
  • "The Hobbit Antics":[note 48] Merry and Pippin's antics from Fangorn going forward are scored with this motiv, which essentially loops the Hobbit end-cap motiv into an ostinato. A twisted variation of it appears twice when Frodo scrambles in Shelob's lair.

Themes for Gollum

  • "Gollum's Menace":[note 49] This is the theme of the Gollum or "Stinker" side. It features the cimbalom which at once gives it the feeling of the Hobbit music (which utilizes the related cimbalom) and yet gives it a jittery feeling that mimics Gollum's motions.
  • "Gollum's Song": The melody for the end-credits song of the film, which begins instrumentally over the end of the film itself, is drawn from the harmonies of Smeagol's theme.

Themes for the Elves

  • "Evenstar": the main love theme of Aragorn and Arwen. It is much more moody than Aniron, since the shadow of mortality hovers over the love of Aragorn and Arwen.

Themes for Isengard

  • "The Cruelty of the Orcs": This is a descending, dissonant motiv on brass. It is used mostly for the Wargs and the war machines of the Orcs and continues in the Return of the King.
  • "The Uruk-Hai in Battle":[note 50] For the army at Helm's Deep, Shore uses a related motiv unique to Isengard. It is used for the gunpowder explosives set under the outer wall and again for the crowbalistas of the Uruk Hai. The motif consists of two repeating chords – E minor and G minor.[20]
  • "Grima Wormtongue": Grima's theme is alienated from the Rohan themes, and rather aligned with the Isengard theme. It is a collection of low notes on brass and deep woodwinds.

Themes for Nature

  • "Gandalf the White in Nature":[note 51] This theme appears when Gandalf the White is revealed before Aragorn, and when Aragorn remembers his words at sunrise in Helm's Deep, although that was replaced in the film with Nature's Reclamation. The melody of the theme is in the form of triplets, and the distance between two consecutive differently-pitched notes in the theme is almost always a half step.[21]
  • "The Ent theme":[note 52] This theme is scored for low, woody sounds like log drums, bassoon and cellos. It is plodding and slow, but also hefty, like the Ents.
  • "Treebeard's Stride": This is more of a theme for Treebeard himself and the forest named after him. It is used when Aragorn first looks into the forest, and again for scenes with Treebeard.
  • "Small Stones": This motiv is more active and related to the Shire themes. It is used, sung by choir, when Gandalf comments of the coming of Merry and Pippin to Fangorn, and again when they encourage the Ents to action.

Themes for Rohan

  • "The Rohan Fanfare":[note 53] featuring the hardanger fiddle. This is the signature theme of the Two Towers, playing over the corresponding title. It utilizes brass, violas and the Hardanger fiddle. At its most grand, at the charge of the Pelennor fields, it is played by a brass section twice the size usually deployed in the score.
  • The Riders of Rohan:[note 54] This short motiv, an embryonic form of the Rohan fanfare, is used for Éomer when he leads his rogue band of riders. It is used in the fight with the Uruk Hai and when the riders surround Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas.
  • Éowyn's theme:[note 55] using open fifth intervals (lacking the third of the chord—this means that the chords cannot be defined as major or minor) which is common for the music of Gondor, implying Eowyn's eventual connection to Faramir. It is used when we first see her, again when she stands before Edoras. A slow variation of it is played before Theodred's Dirge, and it eventually plays in a very triumphant setting when she rides off to battle.
  • Eowyn and Theoden:[note 56] This theme has a more developed B-section. It is used when Eowyn sees Theoden healed and makes a series of moody appearances before being used very heroically when Eowyn dispatches the Witch King.
  • Eowyn and Aragorn: This theme starts like Eowyn and Theoden but has a different ending. The ending only first appears in Helm's Deep when Eowyn shouts at Aragorn, and earns its last statement on a double fiddle when Aragorn leaves her to go to the paths of the Dead.

Themes for the Fellowship

  • "The White Rider and the Fellowship":[note 57] a waltz-time, sweeping, full-orchestra crescendo with heavy strings that represents Gandalf the White. It is used over wide shots of him riding Shadowfax.
  • "The Fellowship in Rohan":[note 58] When the Fellowship and the Riders first meet, their themes begin to mingle. This forms a new motiv that only matures in the battle of Helm's Deep, appearing heroically when Gimli leaps on the Uruk Hai to save Aragorn.

First appearance in The Return of the King[edit]


  • Shire, Hobbiton, Frodo, Hobbit Outline, Two-Step, Skip-Beat, End-cap, Antics, Gollum's Menace, Smeagol's Pity, Fellowship, White Rider, Strider, Aragorn's Heroics, Dwarf End cap, The History of the One Ring, Seduction of the Ring, Fate of the Ring, Sauron, Mount Doom, Threat of Mordor, Footsteps of Doom, Mordor Outline, Skip-Beat, Descending Thirds, Way to Mordor, Servants of Sauron, Power of Mordor, Isengard, Orc theme, Cruelty of the Orcs, Lothlorien, Rivendell, Arwen, Evenstar, Evil Times, Weakness Motiv, Journey There, Dangerous Passes, Gandalf's Farewells, Mumakil, Gondor (in Decline), Minas Tirith, Rohan, Eowyn, Eowyn and Theoden, Eowyn and Aragorn.
  • Recurring in "The Hobbit" and in alternate forms of the Soundtrack: The Forces of the Enemy, Legolas' Heroic Feats, Minas Morgul, The Eagles, Breath of Life.

Themes for The One Ring[edit]

  • "The Destruction of the Ring" (Fourth Age theme[note 59]): This theme shifts the ring themes into a major mode. It celebrates not only the destruction of the Ring but also that of Mordor and the ushering of the Fourth Age and its new soundscape.

Themes for Mordor[edit]

  • "The Witch King of Angmar" (Fourth Age theme):[note 60] After Saruman dies, his theme is extrapolated and used in conjunction with the Threat of Mordor in retrogrades to form the theme for the Witch King. This is one of the Fourth Age themes of Mordor, showcasing the possibility of Mordor's triumph.
  • The Orcs of Mordor theme: Adams lists this theme twice: once for the Witch-King and once for the Orc Armies he leads. The most distinct variation of the theme, which is used in conjunction with the Orcs, is a heavily devolved form, which appears with the five-beat pattern as the armies of Mordor march on the Black Gate, well after the demise of the Witch King.

Themes for The Shire[edit]

  • "Meriadoc the Warrior": A hybrid of the Shire theme, the Fellowship theme and the Rohan fanfare.
  • "Heroic Shire Theme": This heroic setting of the Shire theme's A section, interjected with brass fanfares, is applied strictly to Sam, as he races to save Frodo from the Orcs of Cirith Ungol. Adams mentions "several" heroic statements, which perhaps refer to the choral setting of "The Argument" used on Mount Doom.
  • "The Shire Reborn" (Fourth Age theme[note 61]): This is the Fourth Age Shire theme, used as Sam and Rosie go home and the film closes. It is accompanied by a Fourth Age variant of the Shire Outline figure.
  • "Bilbo's Song" (Fourth Age theme): This is an encore theme that Howard Shore wrote specifically for the end of the fan credits of the Extended Edition of Return of the King. It is the final development of the Shire themes. In The Hobbit, this theme is quoted briefly as Bilbo returns to Bag End.

Themes for the Elves[edit]

  • "Arwen's Song" (Fourth Age theme): Sung by Liv Tyler. It was originally slated for the moment when Arwen has a vision of Eldarion (which in and of itself was originally slated for the Two Towers), but was bumped for a variation of the Evenstar theme, and ended up being used in the Houses of Healing scene.

Themes for the Dwarves[edit]

  • "The Dwarf End-Cap": To cap off the Dwarf themes in the final film, Howard Shore scored Gimli and his antics with a motiv constructed like the Hobbit End-Cap, but more in the vein of the Dwarvish music.

Themes for Gondor[edit]

  • "The Realm of Gondor in Ascension" (Fourth Age theme):[note 62] This theme replaces the descending coda of the Realm of Gondor theme with an ascending phrase derived from Aragorn's theme (and, by extension, Gandalf's White Rider theme). It is used when Gandalf and Pippin ride up the city of Minas Tirith, again after Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn join the Battle of the Pelennor fields, and finally at Aragorn's Coronation. There's also a version of this theme in the trailer.
  • "The Stewards of Gondor" (Faramir and Denethor):[note 63] This theme is usually heard on a pan flute. It is used when Faramir argues with his father as to retaking Osgiliath, and again when he marches down Minas Tirith to fulfill his father's will on the matter.
  • "Battlefield Heroism":[note 64] Used for the Heroism of the soldiers of Gondor and, by extension, to the heroism of Pippin (a soldier of Gondor) as he rescues Faramir from the fires. In The Hobbit, Shore quotes this motiv and applies it to the world of men in general, by applying it to the people of Laketown.
  • "Gondor Reborn" (Fourth Age theme[note 65]): A Fourth-Age theme, based on the Minas Tirith theme. It was also used in the fall of Barad Dur (and in the finale of the first Hobbit film) as a more general "good triumphs over evil" musical idea.

Themes for the Monsters of Middle Earth[edit]

  • "Shelob's theme": For Shelob, Howard Shore crafted music that is more in the style of horror film scores, making her feel alien to the texture of the overarching score while also conveying her terror and gait.

Themes for Middle Earth[edit]

  • "The Paths of the Dead" ("All Shall Come to Darkness" theme): This theme is scored for low voices and Tibetan Gongs, giving it an ethereal feeling. It is hinted when the apparition of the King of the Dead first appears, and again during Aragorn's dream of Arwen before the Paths of the Dead sequence where it figures prominently.
  • "The Return Journey" (Fourth Age "Ring Quest" theme): Whereas the Journey There is based on the Ring theme, The Return Journey is based on the Shire theme.
  • "The Grey Havens" theme (Fourth Age "Another Path" theme): featured in "Into the West" by Annie Lennox. It is only foreshadowed two times: first when Gandalf describes the vision of Valinor to Pippin, and again triumphantly when Sam lifts Frodo up Mount Doom.

Reprised Themes in The Hobbit[edit]

In The Hobbit film trilogy's soundtracks, aside from adding well over 70 new leitmotives to the Middle-earth catalogue, Howard Shore chose to reprise and vary pieces of music that had not had thematic significance in The Lord of the Rings, thereby turning them into themes. Since some of these motifs are only short, singular quotes, or a subtle variation on an existing motif, their status as leitmotifs is debatable, and they are only listed as possible motifs.

Themes for the Dwarves[edit]

  • "Durin's folk": The early Moria sequences in The Fellowship of the Ring were scored with a droning male choir, based on the Moria theme. This piece was reprised in the Prologue to An Unexpected Journey, thereby turning it into a theme for the Dwarves.[22]
  • "The Map of the Lonely Mountain": This melody is heard in "The Fellowship of the Ring" when Gandalf takes a gander at the Map of the Lonely Mountain at Bag-End. It appears several times in The Hobbit, and is connected to The House of Durin theme from The Hobbit.[23]

Themes for the Shire[edit]

  • "Smoke rings": A short variant of the Shire theme, used for Bilbo and Gandalf puffing Smoke Rings from their pipes, was reused for a similar shot at the Beginning of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", with a harmonic hint towards The History of the Ring theme.[24]
  • "Bree": A dark, minor-mode variation on the Hobbit Skip-Beat, used as the Hobbits enter the town of Bree in "The Fellowship of the Ring" was reused for shots of Thorin walking in Bree in the prologue to The Desolation of Smaug.[25][26]
  • "Gandalf's fireworks": In "The Fellowship of the Ring", Gandalf's fireworks, set up by Merry and Pippin, were scored with a tune based on the Hobbit Accompaniment figures. That piece was used twice in The Hobbit to illustrate Bilbo's memories of Gandalf. A menacing variant of it was used over the opening credits to The Desolation of Smaug, connection the firework (which was fashioned in the likeness of Smaug) and the titular dragon.[25][27]
  • "Mithril vest": An oboe line that scored Bilbo giving the Mithril Vest to Frodo was used for Thorin giving it to Bilbo.[28]
  • "Bilbo's birthday party Preparations": In the Fellowship of the Ring, as the banner for Bilbo's Birthday Party is erected, a statement of the Hobbiton theme ends with a "fiddle fanfare". Shore re-used that piece to score Bilbo opening up replies to his Birthday invitations in the beginning of The Hobbit.[29]
  • Hobbit Mischief: Some of the playful music that accompanies Merry and Pippin in the cornfield is used when Bilbo is running out of his home.[30]

Themes for the Elves[edit]

  • "Elvish medicine": this was heard in the Fellowship of the Ring, right after Arwen's theme, when Frodo succumbed to the effect of the Morgul Blade. It was reused in The Hobbit for Tauriel healing Kili.[31]
  • "Legolas' heroic feats": a swirling-string piece used for Legolas taking down a Mumakil from The Return of the King was reused for his scenes in Laketown.[32]
  • "Galadriel's powers": When Galadriel appears in wrath and banishes Sauron, Shore quotes a collection of brass chords that he used for Galadriel in "The Mirror of Galadriel" from the Fellowship of the Ring.[33]

Themes for Mordor[edit]

  • "The Forces of the Enemy": A variation on Sauron's theme, played over Descending Thirds accompaniment, was reused for Sauron's appearance to Gandalf and again in "the Guardians of the Three" from the Battle of the Five Armies.[34]
  • Minas Morgul: In both versions of the "High Fells" piece, a short musical figure from "A Coronal of Gold and Silver" appears, standing for the abode of the Ringwraiths.[35]

Theme for Nature[edit]

  • "The Eagles": Both of Shore's compositions for the Eagle rescue (the album and the finished film) are informed by "The Eagles" in Return of the King. The former, in particular, quotes the melody of "the Eagles" briefly.

Themes of The Hobbit[edit]

In The Hobbit, Howard Shore added about 65 new themes which are a part of the greater catalogue of themes for the Middle Earth film franchise. The themes are part of the existing thematic families for Dwarves, Hobbits, Elves, Middle Earth, Nature and the Forces of Evil and the World of Men, and are as follows:

Unconfirmed and incidental motifs[edit]

The themes above have been identified by musicologist Doug Adams, namely in his Liner Notes and The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films book, based on the intentions of Howard Shore as presented in The Complete Recordings. However, there are other motifs in the score, in three forms: themes that don't recur in the films or The Complete Recordings but do recur in alternate forms of the soundtracks like the original soundtrack or rarities; motifs that are distinctive variants or components of existing themes, and other recurring gestures which aren't leitmotifs, but are nevertheless important to the narrative aspect of the score; and pieces of music (mostly diegetic music and musical sound effects) that were not written by Shore but are nevertheless used in conjunction with his score and reappear thematically. The validity with which these motifs are identified as themes varies.

Motifs in the original soundtracks, fan-credits, rarities and symphony[edit]

Some of these motifs went unused in the film (and The Complete Recordings), but appeared several times over the course of the original soundtrack release (which are not covered by the book) or the rarities archives as well as The Lord of the Ring Symphony or the fan-credits of the extended editions. These appear below:

Theme for Gondor[edit]

  • "Numenor theme": The rarities introduced an uncut early variation of the prologue, featuring an aforementioned second-age variant of the Gondor theme, that has an ending distinct from both the "Ascension" and "Decline" codas.[36] In drafts of the music of the Lord of the Rings films, this theme was listed in the opening menu as an "unused theme."

Theme for the Shire[edit]

  • "Frodo's Song": A flute variation on Frodo's theme. A fragment of it is quoted over the end-credits before "Into the West" but there is also a longer version used under the "In Discussion" track on the Rarities Archive.

Themes for Middle Earth[edit]

  • "Use Well the Days"

Themes for the Fellowship[edit]

  • "Breath of Life": This song, by Sheila Chandra, is connected to Aragorn's theme. It is also used in the trailer music for Return of the King (only released in the Rarities archive), and—in the film version—in the Rivendell scenes during the Two Towers. The song is informed by one of the settings of "The Missing" when Eowyn thinks Aragorn has died.

Theme for Nature[edit]

  • "Shadowfax theme": This choral melody appears only once in the finished film (and the Complete Recordings) where Gandalf, astride his horse Shadowfax, charges with the Rohirrim at the Orcs at Helm's Deep. However, in the Original Soundtrack Release, this melody was also used when Shadowfax makes his first appearance.[37]

There are other "themes" of this nature but their definition is more tenuous. In the Extended Edition, there is technically a reprise of the Argonath music over the fan-credits. The choral piece for Saruman's duel with Gandalf can be seen as a relative of the Servants of Sauron theme (in the Lord of the Rings Symphony, Shore clarifies this connection by attaching this piece, in full, to the end of the composition "The Black Rider"), and even the choral Outburst "Mettanna!" from the prologue to the Two Towers is reprised several times. There are several alternate forms of existing themes that never got past the mock-up stage, like an alternate Moria theme, an alternate, major-key version for the Ascension of Gondor, an alternate Frodo's Song and Arwen's Song.

Incidental variations and fragments[edit]

The scores contain multiple distinctive variations and fragments of themes, as well as other recurring figures, that do not constitute leitmotifs, but nevertheless merit mention. First, there are multiple gestures that are at the basis of some of themes, like the "there and back again" shape that opens the Fellowship theme and connects it to its subsidiary themes. Equally, the inverted figure, serves as a general gesture for the forces of evil.

Part of the thematic development in the score also occurs throughout introduction of hybrid figures, although Adams labels few of those as separate themes: there is a recurring hybrid of Smeagol's theme and the Ring theme, which illustrates the connection between them.[38][39]

Other notable variations include Shore changing melodies from descending to rising, a device applied to all the Mordor motifs in Return of the King, but not one of those is labelled a separate theme in the book. He also takes the Nazgul harmonies and sets them to a choir for the Witch King's battle with Eowyn and while that figure is non-recurring, it is a device that he also used with other themes like Thorin's in An Unexpected Journey. There is a two-beat variation of the Mordor Skip-Beat used in "the most frenetic situations"[40] which can be described as a separate chase motiv.

The Shire theme, because of the malleable and long-winded nature, can be described as two motivic units, with the B-section being used sparingly and separately from the A-phrase, often in a very different, expansive effect.[41][42][43] The underlying bodhran-tapping accompaniment, while too generic to be a proper leitmotiv, is a recurring figure across the various scores, and acts in contrast to the rhythmic motivs of Mordor and the Orcs.[44] While the Shire's theme Fourth Age variation is described as a new theme, the underlying accompaniment, a development of the Outline figure, is not. In fact, the outline figure also has a uniquely "warped" variation used for Smeagol's antics (when he fetches rabbits for Frodo), as well. Smeagol and Deagol are actually associated with several "second-age" variations on several of the Shire themes, including a variant of the rural or playful Shire theme and a variation of the Hobbit Antics.

Other themes also have such variations: The melody and accompaniments of the Rivendell theme often appear separately, as well. The Rohan theme has several distinct variations, including two successive statements of a "klaxon" variation, and a "call of arms" variation used across the Helm's Deep scenes. Aragorn's theme appears in a "second-age" variation attached to Isildur, mentioned by Doug as "the fleeting shape of the Fellowship theme."[45][46][47] For Anduril, Shore introduces a triumphant setting of the otherwise pensive Minas Tirith theme, accompanied by the Rivendell Arpeggios. The woodflute tune for Eowyn and Faramir, also, is based on Eowyn's themes.

Shore utilizes a number of his stylistic devices through the scores for a dramatic effect, such as D-minor pentachords,[48] minor triads,[49] rising notes up the minor scale,[50] aleatoric writing.[51]

There are also recurring timbral choices in the scores: In "Rock and Pool", Shore uses the sound of the Cimbalom, on its own, to evoke Gollum's thematic material without quoting it. Bowed cymbals are often used to create a sense of unease in the quest's darker passages such as the journey's in the dark, the Dead Marshes and the shadow World. Aleatoric devices are used similarly, as well. There are also distinct timbral variations on themes: The Shire theme also has a more spry variation for tin whistle, and even when it is played on a clarinet it is usually done to evoke Bilbo. Even lyrics are used narratively: before the seduction of the ring theme can appear, Shore introduces the associated lyric with a rising male choir, without the melody, to portray Isildur's seduction by the ring. When Frodo and Sam approach Minas Morgul, the choir sings syllables from "The Revelation of the Ringwraiths", associated with the ringwraith theme, without quoting the theme, per se.

Musical set pieces[edit]

Besides recurring gestures and variations, there are also pieces that were written by Shore specifically for one set piece, and are woven throughout it: The Emyn Muil sequences features (on album) a choral melody unique to the sequence which, in the rarities version of the piece, appears several times during the sequence. The Lorien scenes have several individual pieces built out of the Lorien theme, including the choral piece accompanying the reveal of Caras Galadhon and Galadriel, the Lament for Gandalf and the two versions of the Farewell music. There are also a number of fanfares used for reveals of places in the story: including Minas Tirith (in The Fellowship of the Ring), Weathertop (the fanfare is featured in the album), the walls of Moria, and Amon Din.

While Adams refrains from labelling these sorts of pieces as themes, he does list two "structural, non-leitmotivic ideas"[39] relating to the monsters of Middle Earth which do not align with the classic definition of the leitmotiv:

  • "The Watcher in the Water": This is not a recurring theme, but a full, self-contained piece that is woven in an out of the piece "The Doors of Durin." It features a microtonal contrabass part over aleatoric orchestral music, recalling monster music for science fiction films. It is the first in a string of related, but distinct, monster pieces. Nevertheless, it does not recur in the scores, nor is it developed from (or develop into) any other theme in the work, therefore it does not conform with the classic definition of the leitmotiv.
  • "Mumakil theme": This is the only musical theme of the East and South of Middle Earth. It uses a Dilruba and gongs. It reappears with the Mumakil at the Pelennor fields, although the two statements have more in common in terms of the way Shore handles the orchestra rather than in fixed melodic or harmonic material,[52] and therefore doesn't follow the strict definition of the leitmotiv.

Diegetic motifs (not by Howard Shore)[edit]

Although Shore wrote the score, some of the diegetic music (that the characters themselves would be hearing) in the film is not by Shore. Most of it was composed by a New Zealand musician collective known as Plan 9 (Jannet Roddick, David Donaldson, Stephen Roche) and David Longe, known collectively within the context of The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) as "The Elvish Impersonators". They composed several vocal and instrumental pieces as well musical sound effects used for the Ring and Sauron, for the Dead Marshes and for Fangorn. Other musical sound effects, added by the film's sound design department, include war horns and bells ringing.[53] Other film compositions were made by Enya, co-producer Fran Walsh and by the actors Viggo Mortensen and Billy Boyd.

The role of these pieces within the structure of the music of The Lord of the Rings is debatable. While they were not composed by Shore, they were often accompanied by the score: The second verse of "Edge of Night" was accompanied by the string section and picked up by the clarinet; Gandalf's performance of the Old Walking song was harmonized by the orchestra; the underscore to both of Enya's compositions was orchestrated and conducted by Howard Shore. The fiddle accompaniment of the Drinking Score is even featured in the live performances. All of those pieces (excluding "rock and pool" as well as what are outright effects like horn calls) are even featured on the album. Some of it, like Aragorn's coronation chant, even appears in the Lord of the Rings Symphony.

Furthermore, many of the musical sound effects like horn-calls were made to complement the score[53] while other pieces shared a more coincidental connection to the score, such as the stepwise melody of "The Edge of Night" (evoking the Shire music) and its open-fifth opening figure, evoking Gondor, where it is sung in the film. Others like the diegetic 5/4-time drum-beats were outright inspired by the score.

Within the overarching concept of Howard's Middle Earth music (including the music of the Hobbit films), the score has occasionally adopted diegetic music (by "the Elvish Impersonators") like the Misty Mountains song, as well as leaked into diegetic music (like "Valley of Imladris") and even into sound effects, with a war horn calling out the Erebor theme. Hence, these compositions can be viewed in much the same way that other composers will use phrases from Dies Irae as themes within their scores.

These "themes" include the piece "Flaming Red Hair on her feet" which would go on to be reprised in The Hobbit, The Old Walking Song, which appears twice in the score; Rock and Pool, which appears three times in the series; The Edge of Night[note 66] which was reprised in the trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies and is related to that film's own end-credit song. These can be, to some extent, attributed to the thematic family of The Shire. Others such as the musically produced sound-effects associated with the Ring or the Orcish war chants (recorded in a crowded Rugby stadium) can be associated with the Mordor material. Even pieces such as Aniron (which is formally dubbed "theme for Aragorn and Arwen") or the Two Towers trailer music, Requiem for a Tower, could be seen as part of the construction of the music of Middle Earth.


Howard Shore orchestrated the music himself and made use of an immense ensemble: a core 96-piece orchestra and 100-piece choir, as well as additional instruments for select sections of the score, onstage instrumental "bands" and additional choirs: overall, over 330 players.

In a live performance, a lot of the expanded instrumentation such as sections of double brass or added woodwinds are removed, and some of the parts can be doubled by a single player, and the various soloist parts are often performed by one soprano. Nevertheless, such performances always require a minimum of 250 players, and have been known to exceed 400-pieces,[note 72] with expanded choral forces and sometimes with augmented orchestral forces.[71]

The diegetic music[72] and musical sound design in the film[53][73] feature additional instruments such as banjolele, harmonium, hurdy-gurdy, goblet drum, castanets, Jew's harp, rommelpot, zither, cowhorn, dungchen, bells, and possibly congas, bongos,[74] hasapi and a home-made Đàn-bầu.[75]

The orchestra, choir, soloists and instruments were recorded at a variety of venues: Watford Town Hall, Abbey Road Studios, Air Lyndhurst, Henry Wood Studio and the Wellington Town Hall. Several of the soloists were recorded in private studios. The symphony version was recorded in KKL Lucerne, and "A Composer's Journey" was recorded in the Montreal Symphony House. Effort was put into creating a unified sound between the various orchestras and venues.

Shore was adamant on creating a unique sound for this series, and created a unique way of handling the orchestra, dividing it by the range of the instruments. The choir, soloists and specialist instruments were often (but not always) recorded apart from the orchestra, with many of the choral sessions being conducted by their respective choirmaster, under Shore's supervision.[76] Shore was insistent on not using any electronic sounds in the recording of the score, although he did use mock-ups in the preparation of the score.[5]

Use of Tolkien languages[edit]

The film score for The Lord of the Rings incorporates extensive vocal music blended with the orchestral arrangements. The great majority of the lyrics used in the libretto are in the invented languages of Middle-earth, representing the various cultures and races in Tolkien's writings. These languages include Quenya and Sindarin associated with Elves, Adûnaic and Rohirric for Men, and Khuzdul for the Dwarves. The score follows Tolkien's use of Old English as an analogue for Rohirric, and English was used as an analogue for the Common Tongue. Some of these languages had been developed extensively by Tolkien, while others were extrapolated by the linguist David Salo based on the limited examples of vocabulary and linguistic style available.

The libretto was derived from several sources, including songs and poems written by Tolkien, phrases from the screenplay (often sung against the corresponding dialogue or recitation) as well as original and adapted material from Shore and from screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and others, all translated by Salo while stressing good choral sounds.[77] The vocal music serves primarily to give texture and cultural aesthetic to the score; there is no translation of the lyrics in the on-screen presentation, and in some cases only fragments of the source texts are used for their sound more so than their meaning, although overall the use of the choral text remains mostly coherent.


The score includes a series of songs, diegetic and non-diegetic. Some of the songs and the associated underscore were released as single CD releases and music videos featuring footage from the film and the production, prior to the release of the entire soundtracks.[78] Some of the diegetic songs were not composed by Howard Shore, but he orchestrated and conducted the orchestral accompaniment and even reprised some of them in his symphony.[79]

  • "Aníron" (The Fellowship of the Ring) performed and composed by Enya, orchestrated and conducted by Shore. Released as a Single for Enya, the London Philharmonic and London Voices. An alternate take appears on Enya's album.
  • "Arwen's Song" (The Return of the King) performed by Liv Tyler.
  • "Asea Aranion": Performed by Sissel Kyrkjebø.

Diegetic Songs

  • "To the Bottle I Go" (The Fellowship of the Ring) performed by Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, and other Hobbit cast members. Composed by Fran Walsh.[79]
  • "The Road Goes Ever On": sung by Sir Ian Mckellen and later by Sir Ian Holm. The first appearance is underscored by Shore's whistle music. Composed by the Elvish Impersonators.
  • "Lament for Gandalf": sung in Lothlorien by Elizabeth Fraser and a women's choir. It was composed by Howard Shore and forms part of the score, but is heard by the characters.
  • "Elvish Lament": composed by "The Elvish Impersonators": Plan 9 and David Longe. It is the only vocal duet in the score.[79]
  • "The Song of Beren and Lúthien" (The Fellowship of the Ring) composed and performed by Viggo Mortensen.[79]
  • "The Funeral of Théodred" (The Two Towers) composed by Plan 9 and performed by Miranda Otto.[80]
  • "Fishing Song": Sung by Gollum in several spots (as well as in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
  • "The Green Dragon" (The Return of the King) performed by Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. Composed by Plan 9. Accompanied (in Shore's underscore) with Dermot Crehan on fiddle.[80]
  • "The Edge of Night" (The Return of the King) composed and performed by Billy Boyd.[79]
  • "The Return of The King" (The Return of The King) performed by Viggo Mortensen.[79]

End-credits songs

  • "May It Be" (The Fellowship of the Ring) performed and composed by Enya, underscore orchestrated and conducted by Shore: nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 2001 and performed at the ceremony. Released as a Single and as a music video featuring footage from the film.
  • "In Dreams" (The Fellowship of the Ring) performed by Edward Ross.
  • "Gollum's Song" (The Two Towers) performed by Emilíana Torrini is musically related to Gollum's Pity Theme. The lyrics are by Fran Walsh. Released as a Single and as a music video featuring footage from the film. The song was to have been performed by Björk, whose name actually appeared in the closing credits of the film as shown in theatres; Björk had to decline because of her pregnancy, however, and Torrini was credited in the DVD. This track is also titled "Long Ways to Go Yet," in The Complete Recordings. This version of the track includes additional instrumental music at the end, making it a medley of themes to cap off the album. Artist Geoff Keezer has released a jazz piano version of the song. Unrelated to the song of the same name in the book.
  • "Into the West" (The Return of the King) performed by Annie Lennox: won the Academy Award for Best Song in 2004. Alternate acoustic takes were released to the public. Released as a Single and as a music video featuring footage from the film.
  • "Use Well the Days" (The Return of the King, Deluxe Soundtrack) performed by Annie Lennox.

Diegetic instrumental music[edit]

Besides the source songs, the films feature instrumental diegetic music, mostly by The Elvish Impersonators, including "Flaming Red Hair on her feet", an alternate (and unreleased) "Flowers for Rosie", and a piece for the Bywater Marketplace. The film also includes source drumming (set to Shore's concept of a 5/4-time beat for the Orcs), chanting and horn calls, which were all made to conform to the score.

The underscore goes on to accompany most of those diegetic pieces: Mortensen's chant at the coronation is backed by soft choir and strings. "The Edge of Night" features string accompaniment and ends with the clarinet and the string repeating the melody, so the contributions grow out of the score.

Deleted tracks[edit]

Because a lot of the music was being recorded as the film was being edited and because the recordings were subjected to the direction of Peter Jackson, the process took several weeks for each film and produced a variety of alternate takes and changing compositions. Therefore, several pieces of music written by Howard Shore never made it into the final cut of the film trilogy or any officially released soundtracks. Among these are various alternate takes and small extensions that were micro-edited out of the film and soundtrack releases, but some have been unearthed by fans.

Some additional music, including the most prominent alternate takes, was released in the Rarities Archive or played over the fan-credits of the Extended films. For instance, a special musical arrangement written for the trailer for The Return of the King, which primarily consisted of principal leitmotifs along with movie trailer-like music.[81] Additionally, there was a song entitled "Use Well the Days" sung by Annie Lennox, which can be found on a supplementary DVD included with The Return of the King soundtrack in some packages released in 2003.[82] If all the new material is compiled together, it would amount to about 14 hours of music.


For the three films Shore worked with many vocal and instrumental soloists.


Cast Performers


  • The "Elvish Impersonators": Jannet Roddick, David Donaldson, Stephen Roche ("Plan 9") and David Long: Fiddlek, Hurdy-Gurdy, Rommelpot, Jaw Harp, Harmonium, Whistle, Bodhran, Goblet Drum, Castanets, Tambourines, drones, Zither; possibly Dan Bau, Hasapi, Conga and Bongos
  • Dermot Crehan – Fiddle, Sarangi, Hardanger fiddle,[83] Double Fiddle
  • Sir James Galwayflute, tin whistle, low whistle[84]
  • Ulrich Herkenhoff – pan flute
  • Edward Cervenka – Hammered Dulcimer, cimbalom
  • Mike Taylor: Tin Whistle, Low Whistle, Fiddle
  • Jan Hendrickse: Rhaita, Nay Flute
  • Sylvia Hallett: Sarangi, Dilruba
  • Edward Hession: Musette
  • Tracey Goldsmith: Musette
  • Jean Kelly: Celtic Harp
  • Greg Knowles: Dulcimer, Cimbalom
  • John Parricelli: Six-String Guitar, Twelve-String Guitar
  • Gillian Tingay: Celtic Harp
  • Sonia Slany: Monochord
  • Robert White: Drones/Bodhrán
  • Alan Doherty: Nay Flute, Tin Whistle
  • Alan Kelly: Bodhrán

Original soundtracks[edit]

Recordings of the score were originally issued on single-disc albums, that closely followed the theatrical release dates of the films or presented earlier versions recorded during the film's editing.[85] The music on the disc was arranged as a concert-piece while also keeping reasonably with the plot progression of the film.[86] Many of the cues are edited to create concert suites of some of the themes such as the Ringwraith theme (in "Black Rider"), the Durin theme (In "Journey in the Dark"), the Rohan theme (in "Riders of Rohan") and the Gondor theme (in "The White Tree").

The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
"The Prophecy" (3:55)[1][2] "Foundations of Stone" (3:51)[2] "A Storm Is Coming" (2:52)
"Concerning Hobbits" (2:55)[1][2] "The Taming of Sméagol" (2:48)[2] "Hope and Memory" (1:45)[1]
"The Shadow of the Past" (3:32)[1] "The Riders of Rohan" (4:05)[2] "Minas Tirith" (3:37)[2]
"The Treason of Isengard" (4:00)[1] "The Passage of the Marshes" (2:46)[1] "The White Tree" (3:25)[1][2]
"The Black Rider" (2:48)[1][2] "The Uruk-hai" (2:58)[3] "The Steward of Gondor" (3:53)
"At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" (3:14)[1] "The King of the Golden Hall" (3:49)[2] "Minas Morgul" (1:58)[2]
"A Knife in the Dark" (3:34)[1] "The Black Gate Is Closed" (3:17)[3] "The Ride of the Rohirrim" (2:08)[2]
Flight to the Ford" (4:14)[1] "Evenstar" (3:15)[2] "Twilight and Shadow" (3:30)[1][2]
"Many Meetings" (3:05)[1] "The White Rider" (2:28)[1] "Cirith Ungol" (1:44)[1]
"The Council of Elrond" (3:49)[1]

Feat. Aníron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen) by Enya

"Treebeard" (2:43)[2] "Andúril" (2:35)[1][2]
"The Ring Goes South" (2:03)[1] "The Leave Taking" (3:41)[2] "Shelob's Lair" (4:07)[2]
"A Journey in the Dark" (4:20)[2] "Helm's Deep" (3:53)[1][2] "Ash and Smoke" (3:25)
"The Bridge of Khazad-dûm" (5:57)[1] "The Forbidden Pool" (5:27)[1][2] "The Fields of the Pelennor" (3:26)
"Lothlórien" (4:33)[1][2] "Breath of Life" (5:07)[2] "Hope Fails" (2:20)[1]
"The Great River" (2:42)[1] "The Hornburg" (4:34) "The Black Gate Opens" (4:01)[1]
"Amon Hen" (5:02) "Forth Eorlingas" (3:15)[1] "The End of All Things" (5:12)[1][2]
"The Breaking of the Fellowship" (7:20)[2] "Isengard Unleashed" (5:01) "The Return of the King" (10:14)
"May It Be" (by Enya; 4:19)[1][2] "Samwise the Brave" (3:46)[2] "The Grey Havens" (5:59)[2]
"Gollum's Song" (5:51) [2] "Into the West" (5:57)[1][2]
Bonus Track:

"Farewell to Lórien" (4:37)[2]

Bonus Track:

"Use Well the Days" (3:10)[1][2]

Total length: 71:26 Total length: 77:38 Total length: 75:15
Total length: 224:19
[1] Contains material not included in the Complete Recordings.

[2] Concertized piece

[3] Edited-down in the Deluxe Edition to accommodate for the Bonus track.

All soundtrack albums of the trilogy have been released through Reprise Records, Enya's label at that time of the first soundtrack's release. While the cover art for The Fellowship of the Ring uses an original compilation of film characters, the covers for The Two Towers and The Return of the King reflect the respective film posters.

Limited Deluxe versions of the Original Soundtracks were also released, with bonus tracks covering "Farewell to Lorien" (from the Extended Edition) and the song "Use Well the Days", as well as a documentary (made by Shore's wife, Elizabeth Conotoir) following Shore's creation of the music and his work with the soloists and director.

List of original soundtracks, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications

The Fellowship of the Ring 29 2 8 2 2 3 7 21 8 10
The Two Towers 43 2 31 11 3 8 20 14 28
The Return of the King 36 2 33 5 5 10 19 9 8 34
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

The Complete Recordings[edit]

Starting in 2005, a year after the extended release of The Return of the King, Reprise Records began to release one multi-disc set for each part of the trilogy. These annually published collections, titled The Complete Recordings, contain the entire score for the extended versions of the films on CD, along with an additional DVD-Audio disc that offers 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround mixes of the soundtrack. Each album also comes with extensive liner notes by music journalist Doug Adams which reviews all of the tracks and provides information about the process of composing and recording the score, as well as a detailed list of all musical instruments, people and organizations involved. These Annotated Scores have been made freely available by New Line on the promotional website for the soundtracks (see below). The cover artwork uses common elements for the three albums like the film series' logo and an inscription in Tolkien's tengwar letters. The background of each album cover differs though in that it shows an aspect from the map of Middle-earth drawn by Christopher Tolkien that fits the title of the release and the location of the plot: The Fellowship of the Ring depicts the Shire, Rhudaur and Eregion in dark red, the cover for The Two Towers shows Rohan and Fangorn in dark blue while The Return of the King shows a map of Gondor in dark green.

In 2018, Rhino Entertainment re-released the Complete Recordings. The original CD box sets were re-released, with Blu-ray Audio discs replacing the DVD-Audio discs. The scores were also released on vinyl in limited edition, individually numbered sets.[102] Additionally, the scores for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were made available on digital download and streaming platforms for the first time.

The Fellowship of the Ring[edit]

The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring:
The Complete Recordings
Soundtrack album by
Released13 December 2005
6 April 2018 (re-release)
StudioCTS Colosseum in Watford, England
Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, England
Abbey Road Studios in London, England
Wellington Town Hall in Wellington, New Zealand

The Complete Recordings for The Fellowship of the Ring which unlike the other two albums, was conceived as an isolated film score, span just over three hours of music on three CDs. The set was released on 13 December 2005. It was re-released on CD/Blu-ray audio, vinyl, and digital platforms on 6 April 2018.

Track listing
Disc one
1."Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All"7:16
2."The Shire"2:29
3."Bag End" (feat. "The Road Goes Ever On", performed by Ian McKellen)4:35
4."Very Old Friends"3:12
5."Flaming Red Hair"2:39
6."Farewell Dear Bilbo"1:45
7."Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe" (feat. "The Road Goes Ever On", performed by Ian Holm and "Drinking Song" performed by Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan)8:54
8."A Conspiracy Unmasked"6:09
9."Three Is Company"1:58
10."The Passing of the Elves"2:39
11."Saruman the White"4:09
12."A Shortcut to Mushrooms"4:07
14."The Nazgûl" (feat. "The Song of Beren and Lúthien", performed by Viggo Mortensen)6:04
Total length:58:30
Disc two
2."The Caverns of Isengard"4:54
3."Give Up the Halfling"4:49
6."The Sword That Was Broken"3:34
7."The Council of Elrond Assembles" (feat. "Aníron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen)", composed & performed by Enya)4:01
8."The Great Eye"5:30
9."Gilraen's Memorial"5:01
10."The Pass of Caradhras"5:04
11."The Doors of Durin"6:03
14."Balin's Tomb"8:30
Total length:59:05
Disc three
2."Caras Galadhon" (feat. "Lament for Gandalf", performed by Elizabeth Fraser)9:20
3."The Mirror of Galadriel"6:21
4."The Fighting Uruk-hai"11:32
5."Parth Galen"9:13
6."The Departure of Boromir"5:29
7."The Road Goes Ever On... (Part 1)"5:58
8."May It Be" (composed & performed by Enya)3:26
9."The Road Goes Ever On... (Part 2)" (feat. "In Dreams", performed by Edward Ross)3:41
Total length:63:01

The Two Towers[edit]

The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers:
The Complete Recordings
Soundtrack album by
Released7 November 2006
27 July 2018 (re-release)
StudioCTS Colosseum in Watford, England
Abbey Road Studios in London, England
Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, England
Henry Wood Hall in London, England

The Complete Recordings for The Two Towers span over three hours of music on three CDs. The set was released on 7 November 2006. It was re-released on CD/Blu-ray audio, vinyl, and digital platforms on 27 July 2018.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Track listing
Disc one
2."Elven Rope"2:19
3."Lost in Emyn Muil"4:15
4."My Precious"2:56
5."Uglúk's Warriors"1:41
6."The Three Hunters"6:12
7."The Banishment of Éomer"3:55
8."Night Camp"2:50
9."The Plains of Rohan"4:15
11."The Dead Marshes"5:08
12.""Wraiths on Wings""2:08
13."Gandalf the White"6:48
14."The Dreams of Trees"1:55
15."The Heir of Númenor"6:51
Total length:63:10
Disc two
2."The Court of Meduseld"3:11
3."Théoden King" (feat. "The Funeral of Théodred", performed by Miranda Otto)6:12
4."The King's Decision"2:08
5."Exodus from Edoras"5:43
6."The Forests of Ithilien"6:38
7."One of the Dúnedain" (feat. "Evenstar", performed by Isabel Bayrakdarian)7:13
8."The Wolves of Isengard"4:22
9."Refuge at Helm's Deep"4:00
10."The Voice of Saruman"1:12
11."Arwen's Fate" (feat. "The Grace of the Valar", performed by Sheila Chandra)3:59
12."The Story Foretold"3:39
13."Sons of the Steward"6:03
14."Rock and Pool"2:55
15."Faramir's Good Council"2:21
Total length:63:59
Disc three
1."Aragorn's Return"2:12
2."War Is Upon Us"3:36
3.""Where Is the Horse and the Rider?""6:16
4."The Host of the Eldar"2:51
5."The Battle of the Hornburg"2:53
6."The Breach of the Deeping Wall"3:03
7."The Entmoot Decides"2:06
8."Retreat" (feat. "Haldir's Lament", performed by Elizabeth Fraser)4:41
9."Master Peregrin's Plan"2:32
10."The Last March of the Ents" (feat. Ben Del Maestro)2:31
11."The Nazgûl Attack"2:45
12."Théoden Rides Forth" (feat. Ben Del Maestro)5:48
13."The Tales That Really Matter"12:01
14.""Long Ways to Go Yet"" (feat. "Gollum's Song", performed by Emilíana Torrini)8:06
Total length:61:12

The Return of the King[edit]

The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King:
The Complete Recordings
Soundtrack album by
Released20 November 2007
21 September 2018 (re-release)
StudioCTS Colosseum in Watford, England
Abbey Road Studios in London, England
Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, England

The Complete Recordings for The Return of the King span almost 3 hours and 50 minutes on four CDs. The accompanying DVD-audio disc is double-sided to accommodate all of the material. The set was released on 20 November 2007 on CD/DVD-Audio and digital download.[105] It was re-released on CD/Blu-ray audio and vinyl on 21 September 2018.

Track listing
Disc one
1."Roots and Beginnings"6:31
2."Journey to the Crossroads"2:17
3."The Road to Isengard"2:18
4."The Foot of Orthanc"4:45
5."Return to Edoras"1:51
6."The Chalice Passed"1:51
7."The Green Dragon" (feat. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan)0:35
8."Gollum's Villainy"2:10
9."Éowyn's Dream"1:24
10."The Palantír"3:10
11."Flight from Edoras"2:19
12."The Grace of Undómiel" (feat. Renée Fleming)6:21
13."The Eyes of the White Tower"4:33
14."A Coronal of Silver and Gold"8:27
15."The Lighting of the Beacons"9:03
Total length:57:32
Disc two
1."Osgiliath Invaded" (feat. Ben Del Maestro)8:48
2."The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"2:41
3."Allegiance to Denethor"3:20
4."The Sacrifice of Faramir" (feat. "The Edge of Night", performed by Billy Boyd)4:09
5."The Parting of Sam and Frodo"4:04
6."Marshalling at Dunharrow"4:57
7."Andúril – Flame of the West"3:28
8."The Passing of the Grey Company"4:12
9."Dwimorberg – The Haunted Mountain"2:26
10."Master Meriadoc, Swordthain"1:40
11."The Paths of the Dead"6:22
12."The Siege of Gondor"9:01
13."Shelob's Lair"8:53
14."Merry's Simple Courage"2:09
Total length:66:03
Disc three
1."Grond – The Hammer of the Underworld"1:33
2."Shelob the Great"5:13
3."The Tomb of the Stewards"3:58
4."The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"4:10
5."The Pyre of Denethor"2:59
6."The Mûmakil"0:57
7."Dernhelm in Battle"2:06
8."A Far Green Country"1:28
9."Shieldmaiden of Rohan"5:07
10."The Passing of Théoden"2:16
11."The Houses of Healing" (feat. Liv Tyler)2:58
12."The Tower of Cirith Ungol"4:41
13."The Last Debate" (feat. "Asëa Aranion", performed by Sissel)4:21
14."The Land of Shadow"6:29
15."The Mouth of Sauron" (feat. Sir James Galway)8:16
16.""For Frodo"" (feat. Ben Del Maestro)3:17
Total length:59:44
Disc four
1."Mount Doom" (feat. Renée Fleming)4:09
2."The Crack of Doom"4:02
3."The Eagles" (feat. Renée Fleming)2:24
4."The Fellowship Reunited" (feat. Sir James Galway, Viggo Mortensen, and Renée Fleming)12:18
5."The Journey to the Grey Havens" (feat. Sir James Galway)7:35
6."Elanor" (feat. Sir James Galway)1:28
7."Days of the Ring" (feat. "Into the West", performed by Annie Lennox)11:10
8."Bilbo's Song"2:58
Total length:45:58

Theme presentations and Concert Suites[edit]

Howard Shore did not present the albums with material that was intentionally written for a concert arrangement (although he did present the themes, one by one, to Peter Jackson in the recording process), but he did utilize unused material recorded for earlier edits of the film, edited it and/or added an alternate, "concert" ending in order to create formal presentations of certain thematic pieces. There are straightforward presentations of themes and pieces not written to conform to image, but usually for the finale of the theatrical credits, and for albums of other people involved with the music production such as Enya.[106]

The Fellowship of the Ring

  • "The Prophecy": The Lord of the Rings symphony starts with "The Prophecy", originally an edit of an early composition for the prologue of the film (which at the time was significantly different), which prominently features the Power of Mordor theme, and a brief insert of the History of the Ring theme.
  • "Seduction of the Ring": The Symphony features a concert presentation of the Seduction theme with the associated lyrics and a monochord accompaniment.
  • "Concerning Hobbits": This famous piece from the original soundtrack is edited from material written for an alternate edit of the introduction of the Shire.[107] It was reworked into The Lord of the Rings Symphony.
  • Aníron: This song exists in a longer, album version, which appears on "The Very Best of Enya."
  • "A Journey in the Dark": The credits present an edited down "concert score" version of the music written for the Moria scenes.
  • "The Fellowship of the Ring": On the original Soundtrack release, the statement of the Fellowship theme (which precedes "In Dreams" in the actual credits) segues directly into the final crescendo of the theme, rather than returning to a tracked statement from "The Great Eye" (as it does in the actual credits) thereby creating a fleshed out, concert-form theme presentation for the Fellowship theme as the finale of the score proper.

The Two Towers

  • "Rohan": The original soundtrack presents a version of Eowyn and Theoden's theme played on violas before transitioning into an alternate of the final statement of the Rohan theme that closes the theatrical credits.
  • "Evenstar": Featured in the credits. It does not include the solo voice.
  • "Gandalf the White": featured only in the credits.

The Return of the King

  • "The End of All Things": an edited alternate of the music of the finale at Mount Doom, with a concert-finale missing the big crescendos of the complete recording's version of the piece.
  • "Days of the Ring": The theatrical credits end with a tribute to Richard Wagner's music of the Ring Cycle (particularly the last of the cycle, Götterdämmerung), which was in inspiration of Shore in terms of the structure of the work. The section isn't an outright quote of any specific passage of Wagner's Opera, but more of an allusion to his sound and several of his melodic ideas. The Original Soundtrack release has a concert-setting of this finale, which is missing the big crescendo of the film version.
  • "The Journey Back": featured over the credits before "Into the West" begins.
  • "Frodo's Song": A flute rendition of the theme which is played under the "In Discussion" rarities track. Only a snippet of it appears in the finished credits.

Shore also created a suite for chamber orchestra and flute created for Sir James Galway. The Live to Projection concerts also feature variations of some of those suites as entr'acte music.[108]

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films[edit]

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films (ISBN 978-0-7390-7157-1) is a book which was written by Doug Adams and released on 5 October 2010. The book contains a detailed look at the themes and leitmotives in the film's music.[109] It also contains snippets of sheet music and illustrations. The book was released with a companion CD, The Rarities Archives. The CD has 21 tracks of previously unreleased music created for the films, as well as an audio interview with Howard Shore.

The Rarities Archives[edit]

The Lord of the Rings: The Rarities Archives
TLOTR the rarities.jpg
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedEuropean Union on 28 September and in the US and worldwide on 5 October 2010
LabelHowe Records
Track listing
1."Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All (Alternate)"5:56
2."The Shire/The Hobbits (Mock-up)"2:00
3."Out From Bree (Theatrical Version & Alternate)"4:04
4."Flight to the Ford (Alternate)"4:04
5."Moria (Mock-up)"1:44
6."The Fighting Uruk-hai (Alternate)"1:47
7."The Argonath (Alternate)"2:18
8."Gwenwin in în ("Arwen's Song" Alternate/Mock-up)"2:02
9."Arwen's Song (Complete)"2:11
10."Emyn Muil (Alternate)"3:23
11."The Rohan Fanfare (Mock-up)"3:09
12."The Eaves of Fangorn (Alternate)"5:25
13."The Ent Theme (Mock-up)"2:00
14."The Return of the King Trailer"2:34
15."The Gondor Theme (Mock-up)"2:18
16."The Muster of Rohan (Alternate)"6:43
17."The Siege of Gondor (Alternate)"3:13
18."Shieldmaiden of Rohan (Theatrical Version)"2:00
19."Sammath Naur (Alternate)"8:51
20."Frodo's Song ("Into the West" Alternate/Mock-up)"2:23
21."Elanor (Alternate)"1:30
22."In Conversation (Audio Interview Part 1), featuring "Roots and Beginnings" (alternate)"5:05
23."In Conversation (Audio Interview Part 2), featuring "Frodo's Song" (alternate), played by Sir James Galway."4:27


The scores and soundtrack albums of the film trilogy have won several awards:[citation needed]

The Fellowship of the Ring
Preceded by Academy Award for Best Original Score
Succeeded by
Preceded by Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album
Succeeded by
Preceded by World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Soundtrack
Succeeded by
The Two Towers
Preceded by Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album
Succeeded by
The Return of the King
Preceded by Academy Award for Best Original Score
Succeeded by
Preceded by Academy Award for Best Original Song
with "Into the West" by Annie Lennox
Succeeded by
Preceded by Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
Succeeded by
Preceded by Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album
Succeeded by


The Lord of the Rings Symphony
LOTRS symphony.jpg
Soundtrack album by
Released13 September 2011
RecordedLucerne, Switzerland
LabelHowe Records

Following the theatrical release of each of the films, Howard Shore reworked the music from the films and original soundtrack releases into movements for the concert hall, eventually creating the complete The Lord of the Rings Symphony, a more structured six-movement work for orchestra, choir and soloist.

This suite has been performed in various concert halls around the world, accompanied by a light and visual art show by Alan Lee and John Howe. A DVD titled Howard Shore: Creating the Lord of the Rings Symphony—a composer's journey through Middle Earth has been released. The 50-minute-long DVD features extensive excerpts of the concert given by Shore and the Montreal Orchestra, Grand Choir and Children choir at the "Montreal en Lumiere" Festival, interspersed with spoken commentary by Shore, who recounts his approach in composing the music for the three films and then reworking it into the LOTR symphony.

On 13 September 2011, Shore released "The Lord of the Rings Symphony" on CD and MP3 format. The double-album was recorded in Lucerne, Switzerland and performed by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (including treble Loris Sikora, Boy Soprano Manuelle Polli, Mezzo-Soprano Kaitlyn Lusk and Bass-Baritone Marc-Olivier Oetterli) under the direction of Ludwig Wicki.

Track listing[edit]

"Movement 1" – 11:25

  1. The Prophecy
  2. Concerning Hobbits
  3. The Seduction of the Ring
  4. The Black Rider and Treason of Isengard

"Movement 2" – 34:04

  1. Rivendell
  2. The Ring Goes South
  3. A Journey in the Dark
  4. The Bridge of Khazad Dum
  5. Lothlorien
  6. The Great River
  7. Amon Hen
  8. The Breaking of the Fellowship

"Movement 3" – 18:15

  1. Foundations of Stone/Glamdring
  2. Gollum
  3. Rohan
  4. The Black Gate Is Closed
  5. Evenstar
  6. The White Rider
  7. Treebeard
  8. The Forbidden Pool

"Movement 4" – 10:28

  1. The Hornburg
  2. Forth Eorlingas
  3. The Last March of the Ents
  4. Gollum's Song

"Movement 5" – 15:26

  1. Flight from Edoras
  2. Minas Tirith
  3. The Lighting of the Beacons
  4. The Steward of Gondor
  5. Cirith Ungol
  6. Anduril

"Movement 6" – 26:13

  1. The Fields of the Pelennor
  2. The Paths of the Dead
  3. The End of All Things
  4. The Return of the King
  5. The Grey Havens
  6. Into the West

Live to Projection[edit]

Live to Projection is a series where The Lord of the Rings theatrical films (which only had dialogue and sound effects) are projected while the music is performed live in sync with the films. It is conducted by Ludwig Wicki [de] and Erik Eino Ochsner and was performed around the world, including Switzerland, Australia and the United States.[110]

The concerts, which consist of multiple movements,[111] restore unused or alternate sections of the soundtrack (where other concerts of this kind for other films repeat the final film music) and even required Shore to edit several bars of the music,[112] including a feature entr'acte suite. Sometimes they are performed as a cycle featuring the Lord of the Rings Symphony followed by each theatrical film on four consecutive nights. The choir and orchestra are amplified for sake of control over the sound mix with the film, which is supplied with subtitles in the local language.


The score and the scoring process, like the rest of the making of the Lord of the Rings, merited extensive documentation. Each film featured a section of "making-of" dedicated entirely to the music, describing some of the main themes and pieces, and Shore's approach, as well the diegetic music and end-credits songs. Shore also took part in the audio commentary of each film. The recording sessions were featured, with interviews of Shore and Jackson, in Television broadcasts. Doug Adams followed the production of the music, interviewed Shore numerous times for Film Music Monthly magazine, and created liner notes and annotated scores featuring extensive comments from Shore, to accompany the Complete Recordings. The limited-edition of the original Soundtrack of Return of the King featured a 30-minute documentary made by Shore's wife, Elizabeth Cotnoir, which followed him in the making of the score. Shore was also interviewed through the CD "A Composer's Journey through Middle Earth" and in the Rarities CD of Doug Adams book on the scores. This trend was followed in the documentation of The Music of The Hobbit, with a 10-minute HD documentary of the score to An Unexpected Journey and a 40-minute one for The Desolation of Smaug, and an episode of the production diary was dedicated to it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The emotional aspect of the music has been modelled after early Italian Opera while the structure was more in line with the Late-Romantic German Operas. While there are recited and narrated sections in the film, they are performed in spoken language rather than as an operatic recitative, making the music more of an operetta. Although, with composers like Wagner diminishing the distinction of the recitative and aria, and with others like John Adams, John Corigliano, Philip Glass, John Harbison and even Andre Previn instilling further changes to the medium, Shore's work on the films can be "set at the edges of opera pretty easily" or at least compared to recordings of operas where the recitative parts are dialled out. Jan—Return_of_the_King_Mailbag.asp
  2. ^ The early sessions saw Shore conduct the orchestra, choir and stage bands simultaneously. Later, the choirs would be conducted by their director after the orchestral sessions on the relevant part of the picture were recorded earlier that day.
  3. ^ John Williams famously took 10–14 weeks to compose and record each installment in the Star Wars saga.
  4. ^ The Complete Recordings' length is about 90% of the film length (without added credits), and additional music, including (but not limited to) alternate passages, exists as well. However, the difference arises mostly from short stops of music during scene transitions (of which there are many given the film's length) rather than drawn-out passages that go unscored.
  5. ^ The theme is used for the Orc armies and soon thereafter for Sauron himself; but it was also used originally in Amon Hen for Frodo's vision of Barad Dur, and it is used in An Unexpected Journey for Azog, and the harmonies underpin some of the Warg and Goblin music. The theme itself is little more than a devolved form of the broader "Power of Mordor" theme.
  6. ^ In The Hobbit, Shore uses the Gondor Reborn theme to score the climax of the first film—the single blatant example of using a theme "romantically" in the entire work. Nevertheless, both instances are not entirely beyond reason. The Moria material opens The Two Towers, and a vein of Dwarvish music continues to follow Gimli throughout; similarly, The Gondor Reborn music has a strong affinity to the triumph of good (Gondor in this instance) and is in this scene extrapolated from its Gondor association and used more broadly. A similar device is used when Shore applies The Fellowship theme not to denote the nine walkers, but rather notions of Fellowship in general, when Haldir joins the battle of Helm's Deep.
  7. ^ This form of using leitmotifs is more in the vein of Wagner and less in the "devolved" form, for which film music was criticised by the likes of Theodor Adorno. See Leitmotif: Critique of the leitmotif concept.
  8. ^ In early interviews during the scoring process, Shore spoke about "over fifty leitmotifs". In the liner notes, Adams talked about "over 80" and in the published book he identified 93 motifs (although the book at one point was [1] Archived 14 October 2021 at the Wayback Machine said to include 104 motifs), including four motifs that are counted under two different categories, three non-recurring ideas and one variation on existing theme. This figure does not include an unused, second-age variation of the Gondor theme, nor 3–4 additional motifs that only appear in alternate forms of the soundtrack, neither does it include 11–14 isolated motifs that were reprised in The Hobbit scores, all of which increase the count of leitmotifs to 100, along with 62 or more leitmotifs that appear in The Hobbit trilogy. There are other, non-thematic recurring figures in the scores, which still play an important role in the dramatic development of the story.
  9. ^ Wagner's Ring Cycle nevertheless remains the most thematically dense work, featuring 178 leitmotivs within the framework of a 15-hour work, compared to a roughly similar number in Shore's 21-hour Middle Earth scores.
  10. ^ The History of the Ring theme  (listening sample)
  11. ^ The Seduction of the Ring Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening Sample)
  12. ^ Sauron theme  (listening sample)
  13. ^ Mount Doom theme  (listening sample)
  14. ^ The Threat of Mordor Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening example)
  15. ^ The Servants of Sauron" theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  16. ^ The Power of Mordor theme  (listening sample)
  17. ^ Listening sample: The Footsteps of Doom end-cap 
  18. ^ Descending Thirds Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  19. ^ Mordor Skip Beat  (listening sample)
  20. ^ The Shire/Hobbit main theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  21. ^ Listening example Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Hobbiton theme  (listening sample)
  23. ^ The Hymn theme  (listening sample). First the theme is played on its own, then underneath the melody of the "Hobbit's Understanding" theme.
  24. ^ Hobbit Outline motif Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  25. ^ Hobbit Two Step  (listening sample)
  26. ^ A Hobbit's Understanding Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  27. ^ The Pity of Smeagol Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  28. ^ Listening sample: Rivendell theme Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (melody and arpeggio accompaniment)
  29. ^ Arwen Revealed Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening example)
  30. ^ Lothlorien/Galadriel theme Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  31. ^ Isengard theme  (Listening sample)
  32. ^ Five Beat Pattern  (Isengard version)
  33. ^ Orc Crawl  (Listening sample)
  34. ^ Nature's reclamation theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  35. ^ Listening sample: Moria theme 
  36. ^ Although it is technically calling back to the use of the Moria theme in the opening. The Two Towers also introduces a Dwarvish variant of the Fellowship theme so there is a consistent vein of Dwarvish music throughout the film.
  37. ^ Dwarrowdelf theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  38. ^ Gondor in Decline theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening example)
  39. ^ Minas Tirith/White Tree theme Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening example)
  40. ^ Listening sample: The Drive of the Fellowship theme 
  41. ^ The Heroics of Aragorn theme  (Listening Sample)
  42. ^ Listening sample: The Cave Troll theme 
  43. ^ Balrog theme  (listening sample)
  44. ^ Dangerous Passes theme  (listening sample)
  45. ^ Nameless Fear theme  (listening sample)
  46. ^ Gandalf's Farewells Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening example)
  47. ^ The Way to Mordor  (Listening sample)
  48. ^ Hobbit Antics ostinato Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  49. ^ Stinker/Gollum's Menace theme Archived 28 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  50. ^ The Uruk-Hai in Battle theme  (Listening Sample)
  51. ^ Listening sample: Gandalf the White in Nature theme 
  52. ^ The Ent/Fangorn theme Archived 28 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  53. ^ Rohan theme and fanfare Archived 28 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  54. ^ The Riders of Rohan theme 
  55. ^ Eowyn Shieldmaiden Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine's theme (listening example)
  56. ^ Eowyn and Theoden theme Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (sample)
  57. ^ The White Rider theme Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  58. ^ The Fellowship in Rohan theme  (Listening Sample)
  59. ^ Destruction of the Ring/Destruction of Mordor theme Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  60. ^ Witch King of Angmar/The Orcs of Mordor theme 
  61. ^ The Shire Reborn Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine (listening sample)
  62. ^ Gondor in Ascension theme  (Listening Sample)
  63. ^ The Stewards of Gondor theme 
  64. ^ Battlefield Heroism theme 
  65. ^ Gondor Reborn Archived 30 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine theme (listening sample)
  66. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  67. ^ Shore requires a large assortment (as many at eight) snare drums of various sorts, including deep field or marching snares, a military drum with rope snares, and shallow "guillotine" snares.
  68. ^ The score requires two sets of taiko drums (which are, in one instance, played simultaneously), and includes various types of drums: small Shime-daikos, medium size chū-daikos, and several large drum: an o-daiko, a hira-daiko, and two okedo-daiko drums: an elongated one used in the Moria sequence and a short one used in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra recording. Sometimes, the large drum is played on both drumheads by two players.
  69. ^ Shore called for a piano where the sustain pedal is pressed by a sandbag. The wires which are then struck by a steel chain wrapped around (and glued to) a gardening glove worn over the player's hand. The original recording uses a grand piano (besides the one played by the keyboard section). A Composer's Journey uses a console piano where the front panel is removed. The recorded Lord of the Rings Symphony uses a soundboard which is removed from the piano for the player to strike. The Chains themselves are also used as rattles and dragged over the floor. Archived 13 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Archived 28 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  70. ^ Shore added brass to several sections: e.g. an added horn for the Sammath Naur sequence (Return of the King, Annotated Score, p. 27), and a fourth trombone and second tuba for the Moria sequence and possibly for some of the Isengard material, as well. Most notably, the charge of the Rohirrim is known to have used eight trumpets and may have called for a similar increase in the rest of the brass section. This would explain why the Hardanger and trumpets had to be recorded separately: "Dermot's fondest recollection of performing on this Hardanger was when Howard asked him to join an eight-strong trumpet session to play the 'Rohan' theme." ( Archived 26 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine). The brass in the Return of the King trailer (which was recorded in stems) was overlaid and "punced up Archived 18 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine" in the mixing to create a similar effect. Live performances vary in size but have been known to use six horns throughout (as the recorded Symphony does) or even seven horns, such as the (recorded) performance of the Polish Film Music Festival from 2017.
  71. ^ According to the Annotated Score Archived 30 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine (p. 24) this is not a Musette bagpipe but a small, Musette-like button accordion, tuned diatonically. In some live performances, including the recorded performance of the Lord of the Rings Symphony, it is replaced by a standard keyboard accordion.
  72. ^ The Sydney premiere of the Return of the King Archived 6 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine featured an expanded string section (36 violins divided, 14 violas, 11 cellos and 9 contrabasses) and added woodwind parts for two cor anglais, a bass clarinet and two contrabassoons and some of the added brass instruments for The Ride of the Rohirrim. The overall size of the choir has been known Archived 13 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine to reach up to 225 singers. The Orensaz performance had 400 musicians on stage. Archived 6 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine


  1. ^ a b Adams, Doug. The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films. Carpentier, 2010, p. 11.
  2. ^ "Lord of the Rings voted 'best movie soundtrack'". BBC News. 7 November 2015. Archived from the original on 20 November 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  3. ^ "James Horner's final Classic FM interview: turning down Lord of the Rings and the trouble with directors". Classic FM. 13 June 2016. Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Polish composer Wojciech Kilar dies, aged 81 | Lord of the Rings on Amazon Prime News, JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit and more |". 30 December 2013. Archived from the original on 10 September 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b Koppl, Rudy (26 December 2013). "Howard Shore on the Lord of the Rings". Archived from the original on 6 October 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  6. ^ "FOTR Appendices Comments – Special Extended Edition DVD disc-4: Music for Middle-earth". Archived from the original on 10 March 2012.
  7. ^ Adams, Doug (14 November 2001). "An Early Look at Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings". Archived from the original on 13 February 2002.
  8. ^ " Message Boards: LOTR Package Update?". Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  9. ^ "The Lord of the Rings Academy Awards Record". Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  10. ^ See Music of The Hobbit film series.
  11. ^ Another case is that of "Gandalf's Farewells" theme, which is used in several scenes that have nothing to do with saying farewell to the Wizard, such as when Frodo and Sam await their fate on the slopes of Mount Doom, or in the Prologue to The Hobbit. However, the theme can easily be said to be used in opposition to its regular association, here implying meeting again with the Wizard.
  12. ^ "Themes – As categorized in The Music of the LOTR Films (written by Doug Adams)". Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  13. ^ "The Music of Middle-earth". Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  14. ^ a b " Message Boards: LOTR Package Update?". Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  15. ^ a b c "Film Score – Vol. 7. No. 10". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Skip Beat – A Mordor Accompaniment". Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Concerning Hobbits – A close look at Shire/Hobbit material in the extended scene". Archived from the original on 13 March 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  18. ^ "'The Journey There' Theme". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  19. ^ Adams, Doug (22 December 2006). " Message Boards: LOTR Package Update?". Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  20. ^ Adams, Doug. The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films. Carpentier, 2010, p. 97.
  21. ^ Adams, Doug. The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films. Carpentier, 2010, p. 120.
  22. ^ Ojala, Mikko (14 May 2015). "SCORE: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore) – Part 1: A Thematic Analysis of the Score and Special Edition Soundtrack Album". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  23. ^ Adams, Doug (31 December 2012). "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021. Doug Adams comments: "It's sort of a hybrid of Thorin, Gandalf, and Bilbo all mixed together. An immensely evocative figure!"
  24. ^ Doug Adams notes Archived 20 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine: "Bilbo's prophetic line ("... and nothing unexpected ever happened") coupled with the ring imagery has redefined the G#-A. In Fellowship it was a bucolic cadence. In The Hobbit, it's an unmistakable movement from the sharp fourth of the chord to the fifth. It is a veiled reference to The History of the Ring theme."
  25. ^ a b "The Themes of Howard Shore's The Hobbit". 6 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  26. ^ Meinerts, Edmund (2014). "Buried Treasure". Archived from the original on 12 March 2014.
  27. ^ Adams, Doug (2012). "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Special Edition -The Hobbit – Liner Notes Original Text" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  28. ^ "Theme noted in a draft of Doug Adams' book". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021. The item is also in LeBlanc's list.
  29. ^ Ojala, Mikko (25 May 2015). "Score: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore) – Part 2: A Track-by-Track Analysis of the Special Edition Soundtrack Album". Archived from the original on 1 November 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2021. a spirited rhythmic reading of the Rural Setting plays and ends in a quote from FotR, the music for the raising of Bilbo's birthday banner in the Party Field being reprised as a reference to the upcoming event.
  30. ^ "The Themes of Howard Shore's The Hobbit". 6 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  31. ^ Adams, Doug (14 January 2015). "Tracksounding – The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  32. ^ LeBlanc, Jason (6 December 2013). "The Themes of Howard Shore's The Hobbit". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021. LeBlanc dubs this theme as "Elven Heroics"
  33. ^ LeBlanc, Jason (21 April 2015). "The Themes of Howard Shore's The Hobbit". Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021. LeBlanc lists "The Power of Galadriel" as appearing in "The Guardians of the Three" 4:29–5:07
  34. ^ Ojala, Mikko (27 November 2015). "Themes of The Hobbit – Chapter 3 – The World of Men, Nature & Old Friends". Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  35. ^ "Howard Shore's The Desolation Of Smaug (Hobbit Part 2)". 29 November 2013. Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  36. ^ "The Prophecy". 29 August 2013. Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  37. ^ "The Mearas – lyrics source text". 2010. Archived from the original on 22 August 2010.
  38. ^ Adams, Doug (2007). "The Music of the Lord of the Rings films, part III: The Return of the King, The Annotated Score" (PDF). p. 28. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 July 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  39. ^ a b "LOTR Package Update?". 25 October 2006. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  40. ^ Miller, Marillyn (24 March 2015). "Skip Beat Ostinato – A Mordor Accompaniment". Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Whether these can be considered variants (as DA sometimes labels them) or just the Skip Beat moving into and out of other material is subjective.
  41. ^ Rawlins, Eric. "Shire: Expansive". Archived from the original on 6 June 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2021. Eric Rawlins identified this as a separate variant.
  42. ^ Miller, Marilynn. "Overview of Themes for The Shire and the Hobbits". Archived from the original on 17 December 2009. Miller also originally separated the Shire B theme from the A-phrase.
  43. ^ Miller, Marilynn. "The Rural Setting of the Shire/Hobbit Theme". Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Miller comments that Doug Adams does not categorise the expansive B-phrase as either the rural or pensive variant – indicating perhaps that it is neither.
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  45. ^ Miller, Marillynn. "Strider's Theme & Aragorn's Theme – Themes Associated With the Fellowship of the Ring". Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Miller identifies it as playing when Isildur stands against Sauron, while also noting the Descending Thirds playing over it.
  46. ^ LeBlanc, Jason (4 November 2006). "The Themes of Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings". Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021. LeBlanc lists it as an "unknown theme" and identifies two occurrences in the Prologue, both playing with the Mordor Descending Thirds.
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  54. ^ Shore calls for one contrabass clarinet in B-flat for a humoristic rendition of Gollum's theme in the Two Towers. Annotated Score, Two Towers, p. 15.
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  59. ^ Shore, in specifying the drumsticks, also calls for the rattle to be used to hit the bass drum in the Moria sequence. In some live performances, it is replaced by Shekere.
  60. ^ The log drums used in The Lord of the Rings have a unique stripe of wood over the slit of the drum.
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  62. ^ The second piano, used largely as a percussion instrument, may double the first piano in select passages.
  63. ^ Various sections call for either two sets of timpani (a player for each) or one large set with two players, including the Moria sequence, A Conspiracy Unmasked, The Argonath sequence. In fact, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra featured in A Composer's Journey, uses two sets throughout the concert.
  64. ^ A fiddle with pairs of strings instead of single strings, crafted specifically at the request of violinist Dermot Crehan, and used for one scene with Eowyn. Film Score Monthly Archived 8 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine, volume 8 number 10, pp. 21, 23.
  65. ^ A light alto sings "Into The West", but sections of the Rivendell and Lothlorien material call for a deeper contralto part. The original recordings used multiple sopranos, and Shore originally intended to use numerous such soloists for the Lord of the Rings, covering the range from mezzo soprano, through lyrical soprano to Coloratura parts in the third score. The Symphony often gives some of the boy soprano sections to a young girl, and also features a bass-baritone part for Elessar's Oath.
  66. ^ Adams originally mentioned a Harpsichord being used in the Shire, also. Nov—Lord_of_the_Rings_CD_Review.asp
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  68. ^ Shore called for a unique bowing technique unlike the traditional style of bowing the instrument. Annotated Score, Two Towers, p. 40.
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  70. ^ For Live Performances, the pan flute may be replaced by a variety of end-blown flutes such as the quena.
  71. ^ Amateur performances such NJYS' Playathon, used over 450-pieces orchestra alone.
  72. ^ Plan 9 and David Longe played this piece on the set of Bilbo's Party. It features bowed Banjolele, Hurdy-Gurdy, Rommelpot, Jaw Harp and Harmonium, Whistle and Bodhran as well as a Goblet drum, castanets and tambourines
  73. ^ Plan 9 created musical sound effects used for the Ring (possibly featuring Plan 9's zither, hasapi and home-made Đàn bầu), the Dead Marshes (featuring violin and voices), Fangorn. They also wrote an unreleased piece titled "Flowers for Rosie."
  74. ^ For the Fangorn sound design.
  75. ^ For the voice of the Ring.
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  77. ^ Adams, pp. 2–4.
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  81. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring trailer used music from outside Shore's score, "Gothic Power." Trailers for further films were slated after the credits of the theatrical release, and featured music from Shore, music in the vein of Shore or existing music from Shore's score. The Two Towers trailer featured the debut of the Evenstar theme and a variation of Lux Aeternae from Clint Mansell's Requiem for a Dream score which was reorchestrated to fit with Shore's score, earning the moniker "Requiem for a Tower". The Return of the King trailer was scored in its entirety by Howard Shore, debuting the Gondor in-Ascension theme. Howard Shore also composed the trailer music for An Unexpected Journey and the Gamelan music for the Desolation of Smaug trailer. Billy Boyd's Last Goodbye was used over the first trailer of The Battle of the Five Armies.
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  84. ^ For Sir James, Shore also wrote a suite that acts like a concerto for flute and orchestra, based on the Shire and Fellowship themes.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, Doug (2010). The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films. Carpentier.

External links[edit]