Howard Shore Flys With The Aviator

When composer Howard Shore discovered his ear for music he was barely old enough to tie his own shoelaces. Now, following his Academy Award-winning success with his Wagner-sized score for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, there are those in Hollywood who would kneel down to tie them for him.

Shore has emerged from a history of writing dark scores for David Cronenberg horrors and classic thrillers such as The Silence Of The Lambs, to become one of today’s most bankable movie composers. No surprise, then, that Shore piloted the score for Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator. 

When Shore calls Classic FM during a concert tour in Seville, it’s still unsafe to assume his Aviator score will make the final cut. Scorsese can be ruthless, as late and legendary composer Elmer Bernstein discovered two years ago, when his 75-minute score for Gangs Of New York was axed in favour of Shore’s unperformed concert piece, Brooklyn Heights. So even away from the studio, Shore is keeping watch on The Aviator’s progress. 

“Scorsese’s less interested in film music than music in general,” reasons Shore. “The music he uses in his films can come from a lot of different sources, but I’ve been closely following the editing process.” 

Based on real events, The Aviator tells the glamorous life story of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the eccentric aviation pioneer and Hollywood movie mogul who, between the late 1920s and 1940s, designed and test-piloted three new planes and expanded the fortune that had been left to him by his father – the Texan inventor of a drill bit. 

Also starring Jude Law, Kate Beckinsale and Cate Blanchett, it focuses on Hughes’s early years in Los Angeles, when he produced such classic films as Hell’s Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw. It also delves into the emotional turmoil of his multi-faceted character, chronicling his physical disabilities and struggle to overcome an obsessive-compulsive disorder that he would ultimately suffer in self-imposed isolation. 

In keeping with Hollywood’s silent productions, then, Shore turns to Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Beethoven for inspiration, even weaving Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony – performed in Hughes’s Hell’s Angels – into the score. 

“I want the music to feel as though it comes right out of Hughes’s world, so the composition, orchestration and performances are all authentically re-created,” explains Shore. “I’ve also included forms such as canons and fugues, because their structures seemed to fit the structure of Hughes’s mind in which ideas spin off in all directions.” 

With The Aviator, Shore continues to blur the boundaries between film music and classical repertoire, a process he’s also undertaken in his 11-hour film score, The Lord Of The Rings.