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CD REVIEW

Two Towers Soundtrack Complements Film

Yet Howard Shore’s Score Cannot Stand Alone

By Kevin G. Der
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Soundtrack

Composed, Orchestrated, and Conducted by Howard Shore

Warner Bros. and Reprise Records

By now, it is safe to assume that you have experienced the wonder that is The Two Towers. If you haven’t, then I very much doubt that you care about the soundtrack. With that said, I’m not sure how much people usually pay attention to the music while watching a film, but it is a central ingredient to the picture, especially in the Lord of the Rings.

Howard Shore, who won an Oscar for his Fellowship of the Ring score, used mostly loud, extravagant themes in that award-winning work, which well suited the majestic fantasy setting of Middle-Earth. In the Two Towers composition, Shore maintained existing music from the first act, while creating more complex, lyrical material to complement the different characters of the broken fellowship.

With the viewers waiting anxiously for the film to begin, Shore immediately quenches their thirst with “Foundations of Stone,” which begins with introductory strings and low brass, followed by the familiar Ring of Power theme during the title sequence. The cue then morphs into a triumphant iteration as we move over and about the mountains above Moria. A bit of reused material from Fellowship’s “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” naturally sounds as the Bridge is revisited, bursting with massive percussion, and then with the same instrumentation and male choral voices, the cue’s huge volume perfectly supplements the opening fight between Gandalf and the Balrog.

“The Taming of Smeagol” is heard in the film immediately thereafter, beginning with the themes representing Frodo and the Shire, and continuing with a light sequence of chorus, when the two Hobbits realize they are lost in Mordor. Gollum’s theme is introduced in this track, but it is quite subtle and really consists of only a few very short conjoined motifs, being played in the background for the majority of the score. The remainder of the track is an action cue during which Gollum is captured, with frantic strings reminiscent of Fellowship’s “Journey in the Dark,” which is heard in the Mines of Moria fight sequence.

The next track, “Riders of Rohan,” comprises several different cues. The first is heard during the appearance of Eomer and his horsemen, the beginning of which is strangely marked by a variation of the Nazgul motif. The next cue accompanies the flight of Gandalf and company to Edoras soon after they are reunited in Fangorn Forest. The beginning of this cue, consisting of primarily agonized strings, is a motif which associates itself with the character of the Gandalf the White, because it next appears when the wizard rides away from Edoras. The Rohan theme, the main new theme of the Two Towers score, is naturally also heard in this track, featuring horn fanfare as well as a solo from a Norwegian fiddle called a Hardinger.

“The King of the Golden Hall” begins as a reworking of the Rohan theme, but it soon evolves into something much more exciting. Accompanying Gandalf’s entrance into Theoden’s hall, the cue soon turns dark with deathly low bass notes marking the presence of the sinister Grima Wormtongue. It changes for the glorious, at the beginning of “The White Rider,” as Grima realizes his fatal mistake when the wizard reveals his staff, with the chorus chants marking the triumph of Gandalf the White as Saruman is expelled from King Theoden.

Shore ports the huge brass representing the Mordor motif into “The Black Gate is Closed,” conveying the hopelessness of penetrating that black wall. The track turns suspenseful with dissonant strings as Frodo and Sam barely avoid capture when they use the Elven cloak to camouflage themselves.

“Evenstar,” the first of three tracks with solo vocalist, of course supplements Arwen. It is in essence an extremely sad mutation of Rivendell’s theme and is heard when we see Arwen grieving over Aragorn’s future death. In terms of film continuity, this is followed by “The Leave Taking,” which consists of adaptations of “Evenstar” and the Lorien and Rivendell motifs. Also quite gloomy, this track accompanies Arwen’s journey as she leaves Middle-Earth.

The intensity of the battle for Rohan is captured in both “Helm’s Deep” and “The Hornburg.” The Isengard motif, tracking the massive army unleashed by Saruman, begins “Helm’s Deep,” followed by rapid, frantic horns alongside the Rohan theme, marking the unorganized, lacking defenses of the keep. “The Hornburg” is yet another track to feature chorus, this time generating an ethereal, sacrificial feel as Theoden and Aragorn prepare to ride out of the keep just as the final hall is being breached. The second half is a cue taken from the actual battle, just as the siege ladders are being raised. Part of it is actually the battle music first heard when Haldir arrives with his legion of archers, denoted by blasts of the horns.

The most climactic moment of the score is in “Forth Eorlingas,” played when the horsemen charge out of the keep just as Gandalf arrives on Shadowfax. The audience looks on in wonder at their assault upon the blinded Orcs, while chorus, strings, and cymbals rise in a massive culminating crescendo, playing through the themes of Rohan, the fellowship, and Gandalf himself.

When the audience last sees Sam and Frodo, being led astray by crafty Smeagol, “Gollum’s Song” begins and also serves as the end titles cue. This track is a reworking of Gollum’s theme and is accompanied by a ghostly song given by a female vocalist. The words are chilling, like Gollum’s final monologue marking the end of the film.

I call Howard Shore’s soundtrack for The Two Towers successful. It enhances the suspense, ferocity, and sadness as needed throughout the film, and serves to broaden the incredibly complex world brought to film by Peter Jackson. But unlike John Williams, who produced four outstanding scores this year alone, Howard Shore will be lucky if he is nominated by the Academy again this year. His work is good, but not good enough. It simply lacks memorability. As such, the soundtrack for The Two Towers is likely to be enjoyed only by fans of both the film and film music in general.