the imaginative conservative logo

J.R.R. Tolkien considered music to be an essential part of life. Not only did he have his characters sing songs throughout the stories of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but in The Silmarillion, he also imagined creation itself as the making of music:

And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendor of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent. Then Ilúvatar said to them: ‘Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.

When director Peter Jackson produced the film versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he turned to composer Howard Shore for the music that would accompany the drama enacted on the silver screen. Mr. Shore’s music brilliantly enhances the story through its use of magnificent Wagnerian leitmotifs (musical themes associated with people, places, or ideas), subtle changes in instrumentation, and musical variations. One analyst has produced the short video below that wonderfully analyzes Mr. Shore’s mastery in terms that all viewers can understand. Enjoy!

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, Paul Elmer More and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism. Some conservatives may look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.” The Imaginative Conservative offers to our families, our communities, and the Republic, a conservatism of hope, grace, charity, gratitude and prayer.

Print Friendly
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
1 reply to this post
  1. Thank you kindly for this exposition of Shore’s outstanding contribution to what I consider to be a remarkably successful adaptation of Tolkien’s epic trilogy. The best movie music often goes unnoticed since it is so organic to the scene being presented, and Shore certainly achieved that harmony (pun intended). He certainly joins Max Steiner, Jerry Goldsmith and many others who have added aural energy to film.

    In the score for Lord of the Rings trilogy I’m sure the use of leitmotifs greatly helped audiences who were not very familiar to the narrative stay oriented to the action being presented while it felt right at home with people like me who did know the story well. So remarkably, the Shore’s music enhanced the experience for a very broad audience while never getting in the way.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: