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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Seem to be plenty of new themes in the hobbit soundtrack ... (minor spoilers)


Dec 11 2012, 10:45pm

Post #1 of 6 (603 views)
Seem to be plenty of new themes in the hobbit soundtrack ... (minor spoilers) Can't Post

Sitting here listening to the hobbit soundtrack (finally now in all its glorious uncompressed CD-quality) I am relishing all the new and reworked material, imagining what it will all sound like this coming Friday accompanied by the visuals.

What has me rather disappointed (and a little annoyed) is that many reviewers, including some TORN staff, claim there is "only one new theme" in this whole movie - the misty mountains theme. I know this has been discussed before when the soundtrack previews were released, but thought it was important enough that all the new traffic to the site this week should be able ponder the depth and breadth of the new soundtrack that is now in many of our hands.

I know not everyone obsesses about the score, but from reading only the reviews one might get the impression that the music is a boring rehash of LOTR themes. I admit I wouldn't pick them all the new themes my first viewing of the movie, but (help me out here), we have at least:

- Misty mountain theme - the most obvious one, and arguably rivals the fellowship theme in its epic-ness
- Thorin's theme features prominently and has such a lovely, stubbornly determined longing to it that I would be surprised if anyone fails to notice it (if they plan on commenting on the soundtrack). It has room to develop over the course of three movies too, I think
- The Erebor theme - similar to Thorin's, but more a bit more grand, and we hear this a lot throughout the soundtrack (I'm assuming whenever they talk about their homeland)
- The Radagast theme - very intense and prominent whenever he is featured
- Many motifs that seem to fit the situations they complement, like the opening mysterious pizzicato when wizard / dwarves meet, the playful roast-mutton music, and the goblin tunnel chants
- Smaug's theme - OK, this is only briefly in the movie twice, but -- it plays when Smaug shows up, so it definitely counts as Smaug's theme?

I can't imagine why anyone would want the old themes to change - the music plays such a vital role in anchoring the new trilogy to its "roots" in LOTR. The way the old themes have been woven together with the new gives me goosebumps at times. We have
- The shire / hobbit theme - absolutely breathtaking re-orchestrations of this at the beginning, esp when Bilbo leaves the shire
- Rivendell - OK, this one always gets on my nerves, mostly because I imagine the elves singing "wel--come to ri--ven--de--llll" over and over whenever it plays
- Gollum - again, what do you expect?
- The ring, saruman, galadriel, elves attacking, nature theme -- all tiny, little pieces that play once or twice and are done. I would be very concerned if we didn't hear these at the appropriate times.
- part of the mordor / Sauron theme being used as the Necromancer or Azog theme ... well, what more could you ask?

Last, I would like to note that the trilogy decision likely pushed several new themes to movie 2. We can certainly look forward to Beorn, wood-elves, mirkwood/spiders, laketown, Bard/Dale, and perhaps Dain themes popping up in the next two movies, with less emphasis on some of the more familiar themes from LOTR. I can't wait!

Aragalen the Green

Dec 11 2012, 10:49pm

Post #2 of 6 (333 views)
I wonder if there will be a version of... [In reply to] Can't Post

"the Wind Was On the Withered Heath". I could see this sung by the Dwarves in the same style as Misty Mountains.

In fact, if Mr. Shore needs some ideas for a tune for this, I have one laying around...(composed when I was 14, lol).

" 'Twas a near thing!" said Spam. "Came nigh to a-spoilin' me pantaloons."


Dec 12 2012, 12:16am

Post #3 of 6 (239 views)
Answered your own question.. [In reply to] Can't Post

"I admit I wouldn't pick them all the new themes my first viewing of the movie"

That's what a lot of these reviewers are basing their opinions off of, and besides, perhaps they more so mean there's only one immediately recognizable tune. As the new films go on, and they move across the very similar pathway of Fellowship (Shire -> Trollshaws -> Rivendell -> Misty Mountains), they'll stop hitting some of the same musical beats.

To be fair though, I think it's an honest criticism. It's easier to pick out new themes when you're specifically listening to the soundtrack to find them, and, the one thing good thing the Star Wars Prequels had was instantly recognizable newly created themes (Duel of Fates anyone?). Perhaps the new themes just simply aren't that memorable, or aren't relevant enough at this point in the story to be worth remembering?

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 12 2012, 1:58am

Post #4 of 6 (231 views)
From the Home Page: JW Reviews The Hobbit Soundtrack [In reply to] Can't Post

J.W. Braun here. Readers of my book, The Lord of the Films, sometimes comment that I must have a musical background and that it'ss obvious I'm a big fan of Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings. Well, both are true! I play the violin, viola, and piano, and I think The Lord of the Rings score is the greatest score of all time.

Today, the soundtrack for the first Hobbit film has become available in a two disc set. While it will probably take me months to truly appreciate it, here are my track by track thoughts today.

Disc 1

My Dear Frodo (8:04)

Reminiscent of “Days of the Ring” from The Return of the King, this track has lush strings leading us into the memorable Shire themes. It's like we never let Middle-earth, or that we're returning to its sanctity, akin to slipping on favorite, old pair of shoes. Then (after a repetitive triangle ding of all things) it gets darker to set the mood for the whole film, serving almost as an overture.

Old Friends (4:29)

This, again, takes us back to The Lord of the Rings, sounding very much like the music that backs Bilbo's narration in the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, At the same time, there are variations, reminding us that these are new adventures. The friendly, homey hobbit theme is in full force, but like the previous track, it turns darker before the end.

An Unexpected Party (3:52)

"Like and yet unlike," as Gimli might say. This one is dark and different - with unexpected starts and stops. Yet it fits right into the musical universe Shore created for The Lord of the Rings. In the second half of the piece, Shore plays around with a 3/4 chromatic theme, like a medieval dance song - which will reappear throughout the soundtrack.

Axe or Sword (5:59)

This one reminds me of the music in Moria as Gandalf talks with Frodo about Gollum. It's not the same theme, but it's a slower number that combines light and darkness in a similar way to fill the soul with a longing to see the wonders of Middle-earth.

Misty Mountains (1:43)

A standout to be sure. Richard Armitage and the Dwarves are great, and the tune is out of this world, being deep, dark, and majestic and expressing an importance that's moving. Tolkien would have been proud. The song sells the whole point of the film, setting up the deep meaning the quest holds for Thorin. It's just so Dwarvish. This will probably be remembered as the signature song for The Unexpected Journey. The song's melody is a cornerstone to the Hobbit soundtrack, reappearing throughout.

The Adventure Beings (2:05)

This one has a beginning that sounds similar to the music that follows Aragorn's tumble over the cliff in The Two Towers - when Legolas and Gimli are looking for him. Then it spills into a quick uptempo frolicking number reminiscent of when Sam and Frodo run into Merry and Pippin in Farmer Maggot's field. It's easy to imagine what's going on in the film here. An unexpected journey to be sure!

The World Ahead (2:20)

Bright and cheery, this track is like seeing the world for the first time, full of innocence and happiness, with strings, brass, and woodwinds trading the spotlight. It continues to play with that chromatic theme before working its way into the "Misty Mountain" theme.

An Ancient Enemy (4:58)

With its high strings, percussion, and choir (and 5/4 time) this one is sure to bring back memories of The Fellowship of the Ring. This is one of those dark, evil pieces sure to scare the kiddies. It even has a hint of that descending third motif that Sauron loves so much. It's reminiscent of Weathertop and Isengard, as if the two had a child.

Radagast the Brown (4:55)

Like Bilbo's song (from the closing credits of The Return of the King), this one uses a children's choir to deliver a sweet melody. Unlike Bilbo's song, it has a demented side (and a bit of a jig). Once it gets going, it moves swiftly and is full of rhythm, including an ascending motif and what almost sounds like a ticking clock.

Roast Mutton (4:03)

Beginning with tremolo and then adding pizzacato, this suspenseful piece will remind you of the music from The Return of the King as Pippin is trying to light the beacon! It has a different theme but the same mischievous smile to its phrasing as it builds up the suspense, like the beginning of "In the Hall of the Mountain King".

A Troll-hoard (2:39)

Just a mood setting piece, this one is dark and ominous but not really noteworthy, lacking a soaring melody to take center stage - probably on purpose.

The Hill of Sorcery (3:51)

This has a bit of "I wish the Ring had never come to me" music to it before reprising Radagast's theme. It's quite a percussive little piece, building suspense with a dark tone.

Warg-scouts (3:02)

As opposed to Radagast's ascending theme, the evil forces have a descending theme, backed by a quick beat, plenty of high strings and percussion. This track is certainly an action piece, full of suspense and thrills!

Disc 2:

The Hidden Valley (3:52)

This one begins somewhat similar to the music in the background when Aragorn is looking at the entrance to the Paths of the Dead. There's a timeless or ancient quality to it that demands respect but simultaneously creates a feeling of unease. And then we get that familiar Rivendell music in all its glory! (Brings a tear to my eye.) The piece ends with an uptempo march with ascending strings.

Moon Runes (3:20)

This slow, somber number uses the various instruments of the orchestera to fill out some very long phrases that build the uneasy mood.

The Defiler (1:14)

Here we have one of them there evil pieces, with tremolo strings and deep brass creating tension above a percussive underscore. It would fit right into The Two Towers, but it doesn't last long.

The White Council (7:38)

This has some of the same themes as "The Hidden Valley" and "Moon Runes" and is more of the same, sounding ancient and majestic - with an occasional choir part thrown in and a tremolo ending.

Overhill (3:44)

After "The Misty Mountains" motif, LOTR fans will jump out of their seats as the track works its way into the Lothlórien theme, the opening notes of The Lord of the Rings prologue! It even has a bit of the Shire theme, stylized the same way as the end of The Two Towers when Frodo tells Sam he wouldn't get far without him (before telling him to go home in the next film). The track begins subtle and quiet before working its way into a more exciting tone, featuring stringed arpeggios over the Misty Mountain motif.

Harry Defeats the Dragon (4:54)

What the? Oops... accidentally switched my ipod on shuffle. My bad. Let's move on.

A Thunder Battle (3:55)

This is one of those "truth in advertising" tracks. It's a battle! The strings climb upwards, built on a swift matching beat (like that in the background of the Siege of Minas Tirith), and the excitement we expect from a Peter Jackson movie builds throughout this piece.

Under Hill (1:55)

We keep the swift beat but change the meter to really crank up the tension, with different parts of the orchestra working their ways in and out of the spotlight and to create one of the most exciting pieces on the album. You can almost feel the Goblins breathing down your neck as a repetitive 5/4 ascending motif plays.

Riddles in the Dark (5:21)

Not surprisingly, familiar music from LOTR pops up here, with the "History of the Ring" theme taking center stage. But there’s another quality about this track that makes it new and different. There's a sad innocence and naivety to the music, with the strings and woodwinds playing simple lyrical lines - like the back half of The Fellowship of the Ring's prologue.

Brass Buttons (7:38)

This is a suspenseful piece that will have listeners on the edge of their chair, with various bits that move and out of leitmotifs previously established. It's clear we're approaching the end of the film! Much like the Dwarven chorus for Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring, deep voices chant a foreign tongue to set the mood before the (long) piece ends with a slower part with a more gentle choir.

Out of the Frying Pan (5:55)

Full of brassy urgency and staccato strings, this number is reminiscent of the great battles from The Lord of the Rings, with an uptempo pulsing rhythm and more edge of the seat excitement. This again uses a choir (and distortion) to accent the drama, with a hint of the "nature's reclamation" theme from The Two Towers.

A Good Omen (5:57)

Full of hope and featuring the choir, this song is, well, a good omen. It has a swift 4/4 tempo and makes you feel like you're soaring through the air!

Song of the Lonely Mountain (6:01)

Neil Finn is wonderful, singing this "Misty Mountains" song in his tenor voice. (It's done as more of a pop song of course.) Guitar and strings serve as the background. It also fittingly includes an anvil being struck.

Dreaming of Bag End (1:57)

This Celtic inspired track conjures up images of the Shire with its whistle and strings, giving the soundtrack a happy ending.

Bonus Tracks!

These bonus tracks are available with the special edition:

A Very Respectable Hobbit (1:22)

With its spritely version of the familiar Shire theme couched in the newer themes of The Hobbit, this is a bright, cheery fun track with that begins in 4/4 time with a heavy downbeat before switching to 3/4 time for a coda featuring the chromatic theme.

Erebor (1:19)

Texturing the background with a rhythmic pulse, this is an exciting piece foreshadowing the coming adventure. It reminds me of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in some ways, actually. However, unlike the Potter soundtrack, this features uilleann pipes to give it a Celtic feel. Very short, but fun.

The Dwarf Lords (2:02)

Reminiscent of The Two Towers and The Return of the King, this track will bring back memories of the men of Edoras and Minas Tirith preparing for war, and yet it has its own charm as well.

The Edge of the Wild (3:34)

String arpeggios lead us into a bright version of the "Misty Mountains" music, conjuring up a spirit of adventure.

Final Thoughts:

There can be no doubt that this a strong start for The Hobbit. There's just the right blend of innocence, familiarity, and excitement. It feels like Middle-earth but also has a new sense of adventure and discovery we weren't introduced to in The Lord of the Rings. It captures the spirit of Bilbo, the dwarves, and the forces of light and darkness in one complete package. Great job by all!

Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.

"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase


Dec 12 2012, 2:00am

Post #5 of 6 (207 views)
Be mindful of the cut themes [In reply to] Can't Post

I love the AUJ score, yet I think it feels a bit sparse compared to LotR. But that makes sense: If things had gone as originally planned, we'd be hearing new themes for Mirkwood, the Silvan Elves, Beorn... on top of all the others. But that entire length of narrative has been cut and moved to the next film. Imagine if Fellowship ended outside of Moria. That would have removed Lorien's theme, Amon Hen, and many other memorable cues. Shore's work on this film began a long time ago. What was likely a fully populated journey through a range of themes ended up being doctored to fit the revised film length. As a result, there's a lot more down time, and substantially more filler music. The pace of LotR meant the score introduced new themes (or new variants of motifs) practically every other scene. Here, like the dialog and exposition, things are delivered at a slower and more deliberate pace.

Just think about the next film. We'll likely get the following:

  • Silvan Elves
  • Beorn
  • Dale/Laketown
  • Smaug (fully developed)
And those are just the guaranteed themes (judging by how Shore has operated in the past). We could get even more new material in the next films:
  • Bard, like Eowyn, might have his own theme
  • Dale might also get a theme, or share one with Bard
  • A theme for the Spiders, likely akin to Shelob
  • Perhaps something more vague, like a motif that represents the corruption of greed. It could accompany the Master of Laketown, as well as Thorin's growing paranoia, like the seduction of the ring motif.
  • Dain/Iron Hill might receive a theme.
  • Each of Shore's scores utilize a (lyrical) song as a motif, so we might see something similar to "Into the West" playing for Bilbo's heroic moments of going "There and Back Again"

Add onto that the almost guaranteed recurrence of everything present in AUJ, plus LotR material, and these films will definitely not be sparsely populated.

Tol Eressea

Dec 12 2012, 3:49am

Post #6 of 6 (185 views)
Wonderful discussion that you've started, thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

I do wonder particularly if it has been the score that has suffered the most due to the 2 -> 3 films transition. Some of my evidence for this is that PJ said that he was still tweaking the score a day before the premiere .. ... hmmm.
Although that may have been a part of a bigger list... or maybe not even what I think it is. How can you get them to re-record anything a day before the film is released anyway? Unless it was simply positioning.

LOTS of food for thought though!

I admit, I was -very- much looking forward to new themes, and this doesn't dissapoint me really. Maybe a tincy bit. But I don't worry about it :)

--I'm a victim of Bifurcation--

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