The Lord of the Rings, Part 1


First impressions are unfiltered, and with a glance I liked Daniel already. He was a lanky Brit with mischievous eyes and a crooked smile, topped with a messy mop of brown ringlets, scraggled in every possible direction. Cradled in his left arm was a pile of books.  

He plopped the books on my desk. “Your summer reading material,” he announced.  

Unevenly stacked from top to bottom were five thick paperbacks from Ballentine Publishing: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Silmarillion.

For the next several months, I disappeared into Tolkien’s web of fantasy – wizards and Hobbits, Orcs and Uruk-Hai, Elves and Dwarves, warriors and kings. Threading magically through it all was music. My mission was to understand with authority how J.R.R. Tolkien had envisioned music throughout the breadth and depth of Middle-earth, across all of its ages.   

Each day I spent long hours researching and annotating Tolkien's books for everything they revealed about music. I found passages describing specific musical instruments used by the various races. I found passages describing vocal tone qualities. I found more than 60 different songs in the books and studied them all, including song forms and styles.   

From my literary notes, I drafted a 26-page Tolkien Music Style Guide. This Guide provided guardrails to keep my creativity from drifting mildly or wildly off course. It insured that my composing and producing efforts would remain aligned with the literature, always in harmony with Tolkien's vision.   

Let us dig into the some of those details...

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I proposed to showcase each group of themes by composing five overtures to tell key parts of the LOTR story in music. Not only would this model the Style Guide in a broad range of potential gameplay situations, but it would also provide a plethora of multiple-utility music assets for developers to use directly in their games. These assets would include dozens of high-quality music cues and sectional stems (choir, strings, brass, and woodwinds) from the live recording sessions.

Also included were MIDI files of each composition to start each composer on the right track. Wrapping up the deliverables would be feature-length tracks appropriate for a music CD or digital download.

In order to ensure the broadest possible appeal and safeguard against biases, I composed the five thematic overtures in full cooperation with our development teams, VUG management, and the other Tolkien Directors (Story and Art). Let me describe some of the process we went through...

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