The concept of an internet radio station devoted to music inspired by the works of JRR Tolkien popped into my head about five years ago as soon as I saw the Live365 web site with all of its specialized radio stations. The next step was to acquire all the music. Fortunately, there has developed a large body of music. This occurred over the past 10 years or so. I think the happened because making high resolution digital recordings is so much easier now. Anyone with a music background and a computer can produce a CD. This is no guarantee the music has high esthetic quality but at least people producing great quality music have an inexpensive method to make recordings.
The second influence was the Lord of the Rings movie by Peter Jackson. Howard Shore produced a masterful movie score. In addition, the general popularity of The Lord of the Rings skyrocketed and many musicians and writers jumped on the bandwagon to produce something creative. The music now includes an excellent musical parody, Fellowship!, heavy metal rock music, a number of great classical music works and symphonies, American folk music, celtic folk music and bluegrass instrumentals, in addition to the disco, movie scores and psychadelic rock music that was made in the 1960s-1970s.
The third influence was the growth of the internet iteself. Pre-internet, it was difficult to find even popular music, such as Leonard Rosenman's music score for The Lord of the Rings movie by Ralph Bakshi. Now, the rarest music is available and many albums long out of print are being reissued. The best example of this is the reissue of a wonderful series of Jazz albums by John Sangster, one of Australia's premier jazz composers and performers. He did a set of jazz suites inspired by the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I puttered along collecting music. At times, the project was on the front burner, then on a back burner. I expected that I would not have to find every Tolkien-inspired work before launching the station. I needed a "critical mass" of music that would enable me to fill about three 6-hour radio playlists. I could then add more music as I found it. As you might imagine, I found hours and hours of music. It really was a surprise how much was out there. As a consequence, I had to be selective. Live365 charges broadcasters based on the quantity they upload. Since they mediate radio stations, there are also restrictions on how many works from the same person the broadcaster can play over the course of an hour. In addition, broadcasters can only play three works by the same person contiguously. These rules disallowed playing an entire album as a continuous series. I eventually selected out what I thought were the more interesting works and compiled these into my first playlist. My future plans include making genre-oriented playlists, such as Classical, Folk, Parody and Rock Music lists.
Unfortunately, the rules limit playing spoken word readings and the like. I will work on getting permissions to broadcast readings and radio dramas, such as the BBC series. I would also like to broadcast interviews and scholarly presentations.
I launched on the evening of Monday February 27, 2006. It surprised me how good everything sounds and the relative ease of listening. I now work each day with a contiuous stream of Tolkien music in my ears.
Please send me suggestions and recordings you may have. I think I now have all the music commercially available and a fair amount of the obscure items. If you have something that you think will interest the listeners, please contact me.
Listening is free but Live365 throws in ads from time to time. If you subscribe as a preferred listener, they remove the ads. If you decide to subscribe to Live365, please use this link:
Finding and Purchasing Music
As you listen to Shire Radio, you will likely discover music that you want to purchase. Most of the music is available at Amazon.com and CDNow. In my search for music, I found a number of other sources. I am sure I will discover more in the future and I hope people who visit this site will also send sources.
Here is my current list of general sources:
Amazon.com/CDNow has the largest collection of commercial music CDs. They don't have everything but this is probably the first place to start and the prices are reasonable, especially from the affiliates who sell used and remaindered items. The Amazon.com store and shopping cart are the easiest to use.