Official Information & A Magpie's Nest

How does my site interface and support official information?

or... in another life, I was an Ent



My goal for the last few years has been to find a way to responsibly update my website using information found in the Complete Recordings' liner notes, the Annotated Scores, and The Music of the LOTR Films. I seek a fine balance of eliminating old, incorrect information and not treading too hard on copyrighted information.

For new themes introduced in the Complete Recordings (that I had not previously collected) I did not attempt to do any more than a brief cursory 'examination' of how the themes were constructed, how the related to other music in the soundtrack, and how they supported the scenes in which they were used. For new themes introduced in The Music of the LOTR Films, I merely supplied a name, placing them in the category in which they were found, and instructed the reader to consult the book.

Let me back up a minute. Although I have never supplied, nor formally written a Mission Statement for this site, my mission is something I am always thinking about.

To start with, I merely wanted to share some lyrics with friends and html format seemed to be a good way to do it. It allowed me to 'web' information, something that highly appealed to me.

Then I personally became intrigued and then almost obsessed with the idea of leitmotifs in the score. There was almost no official information available when I started. Most of the EEs (with their audio commentaries and appendices features) had yet to be released. I was new to the web and was slowly finding other people online talking about the movie with only a few of them talking about the score. There were others like me doing similar work, but we weren't really talking to each other and different types of score information was scattered over various websites and forums. So then, my goal was to personally learn more about the themes and to develop a resource of all the information that was out there.

I always envisioned my site as a reference/resource library. Someone wanting to know more about the score could use my site to find information that would help them. I was never highly interested in analyzing the music and I wasn't really qualified to do so. Analyses interested me and I had my own personal thoughts about the music. Some of them I shared here and some of them I shared other places and some of them I just thought to myself. But mostly, I wanted to support people such that, by learning more about the score, they could more effectively formulate their own ideas about the music.

So there you have that loosely developed mission statement. Don't make me write it up all polished and stuff.

In the beginning, I was not the only available source of info but I was quickly the most comprehensive source and, after a time, the only source that was keeping current with information. Over time, more info became available but it still was small doses: a magazine article there, a radio interview there, a comment made on a forum over here. Finally, with the Complete Recordings and, now, The Music of the LOTR Films, the volume of official information is tipping the balance such that I am not the go to person any more.

Does this distress me? No. To my mind, my website still serves - and can strive to better serve - the mission I envisioned for it.

First: I have received a fair number of comments from people who appreciate the fact that I am not a musicologist and I am looking at and talking about music from a non-musician's viewpoint. I think the spokesperson for official information, Doug Adams, does a really good job in addressing both the casual movie/music fans and the knowledgeable musicians in the room. But sometimes, the musical terminology is daunting and sometimes only a small amount of information is desired. Towards that, I think my website still serves a decently sized demographic.

Second: I can use the information and resources I have already collected to further support the official information. This information may not (and probably will not) be at all useful to the casual score fan who looked me up on the web after hearing the music. But it could be useful to people who have the Complete Recordings and have The Music of the LOTR Films. This community is full of my friends-in-Tolkien and my friends-in-Shore. It would be my pleasure to serve them.

But if that is what I can provide let me be explicitly clear what I can't provide and what my website is not a substitute for owning. I cannot provide any sort of musical analysis of the score. I do not have (and never have had) access to Shore's notes or archives. I do not have much musical background. (I played trombone in high school... does that count? Not for much, let me assure you.) Even those with only a casual interest in the score might consider buying the Complete Recordings. If you have a good fondness for the score, I think you'll enjoy The Music of the LOTR Films. If you have a strong interest in the score, you need to buy any or all of them. They will be one of the best investments you make and I am sure you'll get your enjoyment's worth out them.

Therefore, I will retain...

information I understand to be unique to my site, and...

was primarily developed through my own work prior to released official information...

and I will understand and respect the limits of...

legal (and ethical) copyright issues and...

my own skills and knowledge...

and seek to...

insure my information is not incorrect, or to...

tell the reader when I am offering an opinion/thought that is contrary to official information, and...

develop additional, unique resources that might support people who own officially release products - (DVDs, CDs, and book)

Howard Shore, Doug Adams & Me - and my right to disagree

I began my work in 2003 by grouping things melodically. If two pieces had similar melodies, they got thrown into the same folder. I really hadn't given much thought to themes in music. I guess I was aware of them. We all recognize the music used with Darth Vadar, for example. But I had no knowledge of music theory or history to draw upon. It started to become clear at some point that the way Howard Shore was going to describe the music didn't follow my thinking, or the organization of this site. Although I have changed some things on this site so as to align it more effectively with official information, I haven't done that with every thing.

First, I don't have the knowledge or the language to express the vision of Howard Shore, even if I had access to his thoughts... which I don't. It is obvious to me that HS's work is complex but my examination of it must be simple. I've gotten a lot of encouragement, however, from friends who remind me that not everybody will relate to the soundtrack as a musicologist might. Many of us have simple relationships with the music and I could argue there's a place for and value in the simple examination. Doug Adams will absolutely be the best source for those who want to know exactly what HS is thinking and doing with this music.

Next, I sometimes like the way I think about something and I'm reluctant to let go of it even when the official word either disagrees or fails to back up my thinking. (And in one case, after being told back in 2003 that a theme I had identified was only 'connecting material', it showed up in the CR-TTT liner notes as 'Nameless Fear'.) It's not that I would claim Howard Shore is wrong. That would be ludicrous. But I like the idea that there may be more than one way to think about something.

I've had a few experiences as an educator. One was as a TA for an online class on the Lord of the Rings. My experience there (and in further literary forums) was fascinating. I've encountered hundreds of people exploring and discussing the books--some reading it for the first time, some for the 20th time. Some have only read LOTR, some have read every thing Tolkien wrote on Middle-earth. What I love is each of us has our own personal relationship to the story and that that relationship changes with every new experience we have in life or new idea we encounter in discussion. In the end, what's often most important in any discussion about the book is what it tells us about ourselves. If 8 people engage in a discussion about Denethor, we could easily have 8 different takes on him. And I'm fascinated about what each of those views says about the person expressing them. 

I think we all get our own relationship with the soundtracks. Howard Shore is the creator. And I respectfully give him the final say in what is an accurate description of his work. But, on the other hand, any created work -- any form of art -- becomes the possession of the beholder, too. It's perhaps important for me to know what the poet intended... but I think it's just as important for me to have my own relationship with the poem. And if my interpretation and use of the poem differs from the poet I say, 'So what?'. It's mine now. I won't argue this view. I won't say I know better than the poet. But I will cherish my own relationship and I won't relinquish it because I'm being told it's wrong. (I explored this thinking more HERE.)

I've tried to be honest about what is my thinking and what is more official information (or commonly held beliefs) when the two collide. Perhaps the biggest diversion from 'official line' is my organization of the Shire Theme. I started my work here by classifying music using melodic similarities. This works for most of the themes but it did not jibe with how Howard Shore classified the Shire/Hobbit Theme. I first thought, "no way am I redoing things", then thought, "ah, come on... you're a perfectionist.. you know you want to do it." but really... the task would be quite difficult. And when I look at the information I would have to erase or delegate to the bottom of the page under "Previous thoughts", I find some of it interesting, in part, because it does look at the music differently. So, I will leave my old work intact, and try to make it clear to you, the reader, what the heck is going on. I would like to see the work that I do and Doug Adams is doing as somewhat complementary... but not identical.