This page explores various official editions of the LOTR film soundtracks, including regular, enhanced and internet versions, and complete recordings.
Link to these other pages for:
- Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings. This page explores music inspired by the LOTR books and the films, other than compositions by Howard Shore.
- LOTR Symphony and Songbooks. Compilation of musical themes from the LOTR trilogy.
- Soundtrack + Film Live Performances. As of 2010, a live symphony orchestra has performed the trilogy at Royal Albert Hall (UK) and Radio City Music Hall (US).
The first film I ever remember seeing at the local Roxy Theatre was a musical; I was at most only four years old. During my childhood, I listened repeatedly to sets of recordings of broadway musicals, operas, and operettas – as well as just about every other genre of music. By age 9, I already thought occasionally about how cool it would be to create a musical or an opera … a goal I achieved before age 30 by scripting, composing, and writing lyrics for a one-act musical comedy.
I didn’t really understand until years later why I’d been so drawn to these kinds of musical stories. I think they appealed to me because they are holistic. They immerse you in a distinct reality of place and time, of costume and staging, where thoughts and feelings are freely sung, not merely said. Operas and musicals heighten the emotion of a situation and guide us as audience members into what the composer wants us to feel about a character or situation.
I contend that The Lord of the Rings trilogy would be a far different and much diminished experience without the brilliant soundtrack composed by Howard Shore. Would our sense of camaraderie and community in the Shire be the same without the Springlering dance and the pub songs of Merry and Pippin? Would we have less apprehension about Gollum’s duplicity or a foreboding sense about Shelob’s lair? Would we have the same level of joy at King Aragorn’s kiss of Arwen Evenstar at the coronation?
If you aren’t sure how music affects a scene, try this experiment. Pull out your special features DVD from The Two Towers THEATRICAL version (not Extended version). On the first page of the menu is a link to “Return to Middle-earth: WB Special.” Near the end of this presentation – approximately 40:00 into it – you’ll find a first look at the scene of the fight between the Rohirrim and the Warg riders of Saruman on the way to Helm’s Deep. The thing is, this two-minute clip happens to have all the sound effects added in, but no soundtrack yet. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to compare and contrast two relatively finished versions of the same scene – one with soundtrack and one without.
So – watch this clip, then immediately get your DVD of The Two Towers and watch the final version with the soundtrack:
TTT Theatrical Edition – Disc 1 – Chapter 26 “The Wolves of Isengard” – about 1:25:50 into the disc.
TTT Extended Edition – Disc 2 – Chapter 34 “The Wolves of Isengard” – about 8:30 into the disc.
You may want to watch each version several times, perhaps noting with the music-enhanced version where the emotional tone changes, or follow the movie past where the preview clip ends and note when the soundtrack drops out for emotional effect.