Howard Shore's significance
Did Howard Shore do more than write brilliant filmmusic? According to an article by Michael Beek in Music from the Movies, Shore's "Lord of the Rings Symphony" is "fast becoming something of a musical and cultural phenomenon". And I think he has a point: the music from Lord of the Rings has reached many, many more people than orchestral music usually does. People from all walks of life; young and old. How is it possible that this work (the Symphony is in it's fourth year 'on the road') still attracts packed houses all over the world? It's even more remarkable since "Lord of the Rings" is no simple music! So what is it that creates this effect?
I think it is a combined effect. First of course the story itself; second the films, that made the book accessible to 'the masses'; and finally the music. It seems as if a lot of people find something in this music that has been lacking from orchestral music for some time. Shore more or less 're-tells' the story in music only, making the meaning easy to grasp despite the complicated musical idiom. Even though he crosses many musical and stylistic boundaries, it is still easy comprehendable. Which a lot of modern day orchestral music is not. A remarkable achievement, with all the themes, motifs, rhythms and orchestrations going on at the same time. Let's hope the people that discover orchestral music through the "Lord of the Rings Symphony" will extend their boundaries and start listening to other music as well!
But I think there's still a little bit more to it: in my opinion book, film and music are very current to our time. They talk about morals and values that can guide people in this complex time. Old values, that were perhaps thought obsolete in this 'I-centered' time. (Yes, I know, I am old-fashioned!) In a way, Tolkien has written a present day Odyssee – that already influences three generations and presents a fitting metaphor for our journey through life. Peter Jackson's films and Howard Shore's music brilliantly complement this. A remarkable achievement indeed.