Howard Shore

The gob-smacking symphonic event of the summer has arrived, as composer/conductor Howard Shore — whose 60-plus film credits include Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Ed Wood and After Hours — brings to life his multi-award-winning music for Peter Jackson's cinematic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Appearing locally, Shore conducts four performances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Shore recently spoke with Creative Loafing by phone from London, sharing a few thoughts about how he runs Rings around film to concert stages.

Creative Loafing: Why did you decide to create a The Lord of the Rings Symphony from the film score and tour it as conductor?

Shore: For the sheer joy of playing music live. A lot of composing is done in quiet solitude, and I'm out doing recordings certain parts of the year. But the pure fun of playing music on a concert stage with some of the great orchestras of the world ... that's the thrilling part of it!

That's an enormous amount of music to condense down to a single concert-length work.

It's actually 11 hours for all three films, including the extended versions. John Mauceri [conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra] helped me to edit the 11 hours to two hours, which is the concert piece.

Glancing at the program, it would appear at first to be a large narrative tone poem. Why do you call it a "symphony"?

A symphony takes you on a journey from one world through many, and then returns you. As Bilbo says, "It takes you there and back again." So it is a descriptive piece and narrative, but it is a symphony in that development of journey and leitmotifs [musical themes associated with specific characters, places and objects].

Is conducting in concert much different than conducting on a soundstage?

In the studio, you're doing a few minutes of recording at a time. It's very detailed — a lot of stop and go. It's somewhat of a rehearsal atmosphere. You're preparing the orchestra for "the great take." On the concert stage, it's pure performance, bringing the music to life. There's a different kind of linear feeling to it.

Annie Lennox recorded "Into the West" for the soundtrack. Word is that Norwegian vocalist Sissel, who is singing it in these concerts, is not trying to imitate Lennox, because they have very different voices; instead, with that limpid, flexible, liquid voice of hers, Sissel has found a way to "make it her own."

Of course, you would hope that! It was a dream come true to have Annie sing the piece. She was the artist that [Rings screenwriter] Fran [Walsh] and I completely wanted to work with to do "Into the West." But Sissel captures it in a live performance in a beautiful, amazing way. She brings the audience right to her.

If the concert piece is conceived as a "symphony," what about the complete film score?

The [film score] was created to describe a world five to six thousand years ago. I wanted it to have a sense of history, of antiquity, as if the music had been "found" and miraculously fit Peter Jackson's amazing film. To do that, the voices were extremely important. And if you're writing 11 hours of music, you need a very good architecture. So I looked to opera for form and structure — not anything specific, but in concept. The film score is written in an operatic sense, and it's truly done in an older style of epic filmmaking where the music plays at the heart of the story. When you see a great opera, it all feels very "of a piece," you feel it "as one," and this was the idea behind the writing. It was something I did with the three screenwriters. Once we had that concept, the tale grew in the telling and the music did as well. It's not something you do on your own. You have to collaborate, working with good artists. My work with Peter — we just had a great collaboration and a great friendship. That's really all that's required: a good trust. And people overlook that, I think. The only way we created the movie is with a real fellowship in a sense, and I think it shows. There's real heart to it.

Howard Shore conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Gwinnett Young Singers, boy soprano Daniel Dalpiaz and vocalist Sissel. Thurs.-Fri., June 3 and 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 5, 2 and 8 p.m. Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. $22-$48. 404-733-5000. www.atlantasymphony.com.