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'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' Soundtrack Honors the Dwarves

Neil Finn on the inspirations for the fantasy film's score

November 30, 2012 8:00 AM ET
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
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Neil Finn had dwarves on the mind when he wrote "Song of the Lonely Mountain," a ballad that plays over the end credits of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. When the New Zealand composer met with film director Peter Jackson and his team to discuss plans for the song – which appears on the film's soundtrack, premiering exclusively today on Rolling Stone – he was told that these stocky denizens of Middle-Earth played a big role in the film.

"They talked a lot about how the movie really, in many ways, is a tale of the dwarves, as much as it's called The Hobbit," Finn tells Rolling Stone.

Most of the film's soundtrack was composed by Howard Shore, who recorded it at Abbey Road Studios in London. Finn occasionally corresponded with Shore over email but worked on "Song of the Lonely Mountain" at Jackson's post-production office in Wellington, New Zealand. He didn't hear the whole soundtrack until he attended the film's world premiere in Wellington earlier this week.

"They were working on the soundtrack up to about 10 days ago," he says, noting that he hasn't yet heard it in isolation. "There's a huge amount of cues. Something would be working not quite right; they'd have to go back and re-record. There'd be notes made. I wasn't aware of the detail, of the minutiae. But I know that there is an obsessive nature that goes along with making these kinds of things, and everyone's aiming to get it to a point where it sounds like it was the easiest thing in the world."

Finn says that "Song of the Lonely Mountain" builds on a musical theme written for the movie by New Zealand film composers Plan 9 and David Long, which a group of dwarves sing in an early scene. To work on the song, Finn put himself in the dwarves' shoes.

"I'd get a little melody and I'd think, ‘Would a dwarf sing that?' And you go, 'No, it's too floral. It's not earthy enough,'" he says. "Even though there's aspects of brotherhood and kinship in the song, I had a line about love and Peter and Fran [Walsh, co-writer and co-producer] sort of looked at me and said, ‘No, not love. There's something not quite right about that.' It's not a love song."

More appropriate are the song's clinking anvil sounds. Though he and his sons Elroy and Liam didn't pound on a real anvil for the recording (he says they used a sample), he brought one out for a performance of the song at this week's premiere. It took four men to lift it.

"It was a really solid anvil," he says. "It sounded great."

The soundtrack for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released on December 11th. The film opens on December 14th.

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