Lord of the Hardingfele

Playing for the most expensive TV series

Since last November, Olav Mjelva sat at his mixing board in his studio in Os, Norway, not knowing that he was working on the soundtrack for the new series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Røros, Norway

Last November, Olav Luksengård Mjelva started with the job of recording music for the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which premiered on Amazon Prime on Sept. 2.

The Rings of Power is the most expensive TV series ever created. The first season cost about $1 billion to produce. In comparison, the last season of Game of Thrones cost about $90 million.

The soundtrack to the series was composed by the Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary, who, having a desire to have Hardingfele and nyckelharpa in the music, contacted Olav and bandmate Erik Rydvall. Mjelva and Rydvall have worked together for many years and released several recordings together.

“I think it’s very cool. It’s clearly the biggest thing I’ve been involved with, considering how many people will hear it, since there are many millions who will watch the TV series,” said Mjelva.

Olav Mjelva is one of Norway and North America’s most celebrated Hardanger fiddlers.

Didn’t know it was Lord of the Rings

Mjelva had been working on the music since November and finished the project this past spring but did not find out which TV series he was working on until he received an email from the composer in late August.

“When we started recording, we didn’t know what it was for, because of the strict requirements that it should be so secret until the launch. I only found out that there was a new TV series that was going to be on Amazon Prime. No one from the team said that it was Lord of the Rings until now, a week ago, when I got an email from McCreary in which he informed me about it and thanked me for being part of the project. It was really cool to hear it from him directly. He’s really big,” Olav explained right before the release.

Olav got involved in playing Hardingfele for the soundtrack and worked on the recordings in his own studio in Os, Norway. There, he recorded and played the music on his own, but during the project worked with a producer who was been involved in the process.

“I worked on my own, so I did all the recordings in the studio, but now technology has come so far that there are programs that allowed me to have a producer from Hollywood sit and listen to my studio sessions inside the program, so he heard what I was doing all the time,” Olav explained.

Big and dramatic music

With dramatic orchestral music and elements of folk music, Mjelva understood early in the process that it must be The Lord of the Rings.

“It’s probably quite a huge team that sits with the music, because there were quite a few hours of music like that in total, and there’s an orchestra, other choirs, and soloists from many countries, and it’s kind of cool to be one of them. McCreary has written his own theme for all the characters, also, of course, the theme that repeats itself throughout the series,” explained Olav. “It’s extremely big and dramatic music, so I could almost imagine what it was before I knew it was Lord of the Rings. It’s a very intense mix of large dramatic orchestra and large choirs, down to special solo instrument stuff,” Mjelva said.

This story first appeared in Rørosnytt, Sept.2, 2022, and was translated and published with permission. See: rorosnytt.no/ringenes-herre-spiller-pa-verdens-dyreste-tv-serie.

Photos: Svend Agne Strømmevold

This article originally appeared in the October 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.