Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power composer Bear McCreary (Outlander) is well aware that some fans may not be so receptive to the Prime Video series, which premieres with the first two episodes on Thursday, Sept. 1.
“I understand fans being hesitant to embrace The Rings of Power,” McCreary told RustWire at the show’s Los Angeles premiere. “What I’ve wanted to say to everybody for the last two years is: Every person you would want on every job is there. For a long time, it was just, ‘Who from the movies is there?’ And then they’re not, so ‘I don’t trust you.’”
“I get it,” he adds, “but the person doing the costumes is the right person. The person writing is definitely the right person. The actors, the editors, and me… It’s going to surprise fans in a pleasant way. I think we did it. We made the show I want to see.”
The show is in no way connected to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which featured an iconic score by Howard Shore. (Shore did, however, compose the main theme for Rings of Power.) McCreary, who wrote the music for all eight Season 1 episodes, worked to create a distinct sound that was influenced by Shore but didn’t feel like a rehash of what came before — especially when it came to the Hobbit ancestors, the Harfoots.
“In my mind, the theme that [Howard Shore] wrote is the Shire theme. It’s nostalgia for a very specific place, and that’s not what our show is about,” McCreary explained. “There is no Shire when we open on our show. They are nomadic people. They’re off the grid. So for me, I wanted to draw that influence from British and Celtic folk music that Howard Shore used, but I also wanted something that was more nomadic that took me to another place, and I used West African percussion.”
He went for an earthy vibe with the Harfoots, focusing on the idea that they’d turn a log they found in the forest into a musical instrument. That sets it apart from the British folk music heard throughout Lord of the Rings, which “really takes us to a kind of Tolkienien color, which is an 18th century ideal [with] the homes [and] the farmhouses. It would just be wildly inappropriate and in the wrong story.”
“The theme I wrote for Nori, in particular, has more Howard Shore vibes,” he continued. “It has a little more of a Celtic vibe, because she’s our Frodo in a way, but I wanted to create something different.”
McCreary also wrote a theme for the show’s Big Bad, Sauron, containing “this very ominous melody” that is sung in Black Speech (the language used in Sauron’s realm Mordor). “Every second of the show has a thought put into what language will be there,” he noted.
Sauron’s dark energy looms over Middle-earth in the show, so the TV composer used string instruments to create a sense of urgency. The Dark Lord’s haunting theme is employed throughout the series, even when characters are only talking about him.
“I describe it like the beehive in your mind. It’s like an illness in your mind,” McCreary shared. “He affects people in ways that are really cool. In many ways, it’s like, ‘Is that Galadriel’s theme?’ because she is out to get him. There’s a lot of overlap there, but they each have their own melodies.”