Film composer honoured for ‘sweeping artistic vision’

Howard Shore is one of the world’s most prolific and original film composers, but he came to York with a very simple melody on Monday.

Here to accept an honorary degree, the creator of the lavish, award-winning score of The Lord of the Rings trilogy delivered sage, but succinct, advice to graduating arts and fine arts students.

"What knowledge you have acquired is only the beginning of a long journey of learning," said Shore. "Knowledge is simply all around you. You should never stop learning."

Left: Howard Shore. Photo by CSi/

"Don’t be afraid of displaying your talents," said one who didn’t identify himself as a composer on his passport until 20 years after being part of the musical group Lighthouse.

"What is talent and how do you need it to succeed?" asked Shore. The Canadian actor "Graham Greene insists he has no talent. He’s just willing to put in the time" it takes. "Willing" is the key word, said Shore. "Don’t be afraid of things that are not easy to do," he said. "Trust your instincts and, above all, have courage."

Shore’s "unparalleled journey" began in 1969 as a founding member of the Canadian band Lighthouse, for which he played flute, saxophone and trumpet, said Phillip Silver, dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, in his introduction. In the 1970s the musician became the first musical director of "Saturday Night Live", for which he wrote the theme music and conducted live broadcasts. At the same time, he began composing for film and established his reputation by collaborating with director David Cronenberg. Over the next three decades, he has scored 11 Cronenberg films, including The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, and A History of Violence, and dozens of other movies, such as Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Departed, The Aviator and Mrs. Doubtfire.

His work reveals "extraordinary musical range, responsiveness and inventiveness woven into the fabric of each film," said Silver. Shore draws upon many styles to create "scores of startling originality," said the dean. "It’s a testament to the depth and power of his music that so many soundtracks have been released and sold so well." Shore is a "genius for collaboration," said Silver.

The Lord of the Rings stands out as Shore’s most original and monumental work. The soundtrack has won three Oscars, four Grammy Awards and two Golden Globes among a slew of awards. The recording has gone platinum six times, and Shore has conducted 40 of 120 multimedia symphonic presentations of the score around the world to date. "It’s an ingenious sonic spectacle," said Silver.

Shore, currently at work on scores for films by Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese and an opera based on The Fly, was recognized by York for his "sweeping artistic vision."

Convocation ceremonies take place this week, daily through Saturday. You can watch live Webcasts of the ceremonies while they are on. Archived versions will also be available.