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Comments about the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Leonard Rosenman)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Jon Turner   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, April 15, 2007, at 6:44 p.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Jon Turner was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in April, 2007)

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: (Leonard Rosenman) J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, does have potential to be a grand film. Unfortunately, in Ralph Bakshi's animated version, that potential barely existed. I was not impressed when I saw it; it was a complete disgrace for J.R.R. Tolkien (he'd probably roll over in his grave if he saw that film) and his magnificent saga. However, if there is at least one thing I could praise about it, it might be its soundtrack, contributed by Leonard Rosenman.

The score itself is musically impressive. The main theme, in particular, was one of the most memorable pieces of music I had ever heard (you should check out the last track, it is a boomy, adventurous, and spectacular march). It doesn't stay that way for long, though. There are times when the music gets extremely dark, particularly on "The Mines of Moria". Rosenman churns this effect off very nicely with low, eerie string passages, and occasionally abrupt bursts of the full orchestra. In addition, Rosenman has the use of a chorus, on tracks such as "Encounter with The Ringwraiths" and "Escape To Rivendell", who sing "Mordor", menacingly. This is a very unique effect, even if it might not be exactly the kind of score Tolkien would have had in mind for his story.

The only time the score suffers is when it becomes loud, dissonant, furious, and aggressive. This is particularly noticeable on the action cues, such as "Escape To Rivendell", "Attack of The Orcs", "The Battle in The Mines/The Balrog", and finally, "Helm's Deep". In addition to having the orchestra go wild and violent, Rosenman uses furious percussion instruments to enhance the tension and excitement of the battle. Another element of "violence" is on "Helm's Deep", where the whole chorus belts out "Mordor", and a creative imaginative language created by Rosenman himself (he mentions, in the album's liner notes that he used his name backwards occasionally; I had to listen hard to hear for it). While these bombastic cues works out nicely for such scenes, it can also get on the listener's nerves after quite a while. Fortunately, there are some refreshingly lovely moments to save the listener from going berserk. One such track is "Mithrandir". This is a lovely song which combines a children's choir with the chorus for a great effect. I consider this a pretty break from an otherwise loud, aggressive score.

The album is a treat for score collectors; this album is 77 minutes long, and there is a lengthy amount of music on here. In addition, as mentioned above, the booklet contains liner notes surrounding the music, and of how Rosenman put a lot of effort into such a complex, spectacular score. Still, while not a great score worthy of Tolkien, Rosenman's version of The Lord of the Rings is a respectably good piece of music for, as Rosenman mentions in the notes, a musical work, and a film score. It even holds well after more than one listening. ****

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