"Lord of the Rings" Music Makers Plan 9 Sound Off

A special preview of what we'll hear on the new home video!

The "Lord of the Rings" movies are as much a thrill for the ears as they are for the eyes. In addition to Howard Shore's orchestral score, music for the films is provided by Plan 9, a troupe in Wellington, New Zealand consisting of Steve Roche, David Donaldson, and Janet Roddick, with assistance by David Long. That wasn't Plan 9 that you saw on stage performing during Bilbo Baggins' birthday party in "The Fellowship of the Ring" ("No, we were too tall," Roche jokes), but it certainly was the musicians that you heard. .

Plan 9 composed and played "cultural music" in the films. The trick was in deciding what this would sound like, plus how it would be played. Roche says, "We're all familiar with the books, but you could go anywhere with the music of Middle-earth. We tried using everything from Indonesian instruments to playing chopsticks on a banjo, different sets of highland pipes, things like that. We played (the producers) a whole lot of demos. The ones that they ended up going for were more traditional Celtic kinds of ones, which they ended up using. They wanted it incredibly direct, a melody you could hum almost instantly on hearing it, a totally feel-good kind of thing."

Roddick adds, "We also tried to think of what the instruments might look like that people are playing, so we researched that as well... We got into almost designing the actual instruments that would play the sounds. We had to work out how many people would be in the band. How many are you supposed to see?"

She laughs.

"We wanted to make it realistic, since it's supposed to be the music of the scene, but we ended up putting in a few extra players that probably weren't there."

The tune heard during Bilbo's party is entitled "Flaming Red Hair." The song of the elves is called "Elvish Lament." Plan 9 also taped a currently-unreleased piece of "hobbit party music" called "Flowers for Rosie" which Roddick says, "was going to be in the extended cut (of the "Fellowship" DVD) but they didn't put it in. They just used more of 'Flaming Red Hair.' 'Flowers for Rosie,' sadly, ended up on the cutting room floor."

As for what's been heard in the second film, Roche says, "The 'Two Towers' stuff, we haven't really (given) titles. It's difficult to describe the music for 'The Two Towers.' It's quite different from the music for film one."

Plan 9 was responsible for sound effects associated with The Ring and the music behind the ents. More of this will be heard on the "Special Extended Edition" home video of the movie later this year. According to Donaldson, the extra pieces will be drawn from preexisting recordings.

"When we started back here this year, we went straight into 'The Return of the King.' There's a whole other team that carried on with the extended DVD of 'The Two Towers'... They make what they can of the material that we've already handed over. I haven't seen the extended DVD of 'The Two Towers.' I think it's half an hour more of footage, but I'm not actually sure of what it is. I think there was some more ent stuff. They would have edited in some of the other stuff that we'd done (for those scenes)."

The "S.E.E." will also add "Eowyn's Lament," in which Plan 9 provides musical accompaniment to a vocal performance by actress Miranda Otto. Roddick says, "What happened is they filmed Miranda chanting this lament at a funeral on the hillside of Edoras. The lyrics were kind of written by David Salo, an American who has worked a lot on the translations into Elvish. The 'Elvish Lament' appears in English in the book, but it's translated into Elvish by David Salo. That is what we sang when we did it.

"With 'Eowyn's Lament,' it's something that's been (translated). We had to set it to music. They had already filmed Miranda chanting these lyrics on the side of a hill, at the funeral, but they weren't convinced that it really worked with her just declaiming the lyrics. They wanted it to be more melodic. Since they'd already filmed, we had to write the music to the picture so that it was in synch with her. That was a bit of a challenge.

"We kind of thought about the Rohan people, what kind of influences they'd have in their music. It seemed quite Nordic, Icelandic, almost. That's how we came up with that. We wrote it so it had a soloist -- Eowyn -- and then a group of women who are standing on the hill singing with her. We recorded those women, and then July of last year, we recorded Miranda Otto. She came over to New Zealand to do some A.D.R., which is Additional Dialogue Recording. While she was here, she sang that for us.

"(The performance) didn't make it into the original cut of the film. It has made it into the extended cut. In the extended cut, it has just her singing solo, not the other people. It's pretty short. It probably goes for 40 seconds, something like that."

Coming up: What you'll see and hear in a documentary about Plan 9 on the "Two Towers" extended DVD, the making of "Gollum's Song," what it's like to work with Peter Jackson, and what we'll hear at the finale of "The Return of the King"! Plan on it!

by Claude Flowers

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Claude Flowers (Reporter)
on 07/16/2003
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