Capturing 'Smaug': Peter Jackson Reveals the Importance of Theme when Scoring Music

BTS recording SmaugThough Peter Jackson's prequel series, The Hobbit, hasn't quite reached the level of acclaim as that of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are some aspects, including the score, that harken back to the tale of Frodo and the Shire. In yet another installment of Jackson's production diary, The Hobbit Blog, we're taken behind the scenes during the recording of the original score, which was composed by Academy Award winner Howard Shore, who worked on both series. Continue on to see just how these filmmakers captured the tone and themes for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

This portion of the score was recorded in the Ilot Theatre at the Wellington Town Hall in New Zealand with Conrad Pope conducting the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (consisting of over 80 musicians). With interviews from Jackson, Shore, Pope, and a host of musicians, we get to take a closer look at what goes on during a major motion picture recording session, which includes a lot of Peter Jackson reclining on couches barefoot (just my style).

Though this isn't the most technological vlog post -- we don't get to see the process of setting up the recording or mixing in any real depth -- there are some very interesting, and at the end of the day, pivotal pieces of wisdom to be gleaned from it, including how Shore and Jackson worked together to creatively establish new musical themes in Smaug.

Check out the video, then scroll down for more from Jackson on the new themes:

Since Jackson wanted the serpentine villain to take mostly from the eastern style of dragon, his approach to Smaug's theme was to capture an ominous tone with an Eastern flair. This meant infusing musical textures found in gamelan music (which is very prominent in Indonesia), as well as experimenting with different percussion instruments, like spiral trash cymbals. Jackson spoke with the New Zealand Herald back in October during one of these recording sessions about the new themes:

Smaug is not Jaws or a monster. Smaug is a psychopath. Smaug is literally a cunning, intelligent psychopath who is laying in wait for these guys. So it's sinister clever kind of music.

In the same way filmmakers experiment with visuals in the film, music and sound effects can also be manipulated and toyed with to create moods, tones, and experiences that would've have been possible without them. Jackson reminds us that this is helpful whether or not your film is considered avant-garde.

The score is now available on Amazon.

What do you think about the new themes in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? In what ways have you experimented with musical themes in your films? Let us know in the comments!

Link: Peter Jackson: Return of the King -- The New Zealand Herald

[via FilmmakerIQ]

Your Comment


I personally love Howard Shore's music. The music in the Hobbit I & II is really nice, but the themes and music in L.O.T.R were Great. (with intentional capital "G"). The way those themes magnified and underpinned the sense of , darkness and evil things, but also of light, friendship and mysterious landscapes/nature, was truly magnificent. His music created that part of Middle-earth which the camera's couldn't capture. Sound is a powerful part of filmmaking indeed, but even more so is masterfully composed music.


December 22, 2013 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Erwin (Netherlands)

Shore's music is beyond reproach in all of the Tolkien films. But in every other way, this most recent film.... yikes. Whatever craft Jackson had left was exhausted on the last film (which just barely retained the spirit of LotR), because The Desolation of Smaug was appalling; clunky direction, bloated script, terrible lens choices (presumably for 3D) and just a general sense of selling-out from beginning to end. Very much a "popcorn flick", even Jackson's cameo in opening scene felt completely phoned-in!

December 23, 2013 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Loved this video.

December 23, 2013 at 4:51PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM