Archive for January 5th, 2012

Your Angel

The pain of this world may be here to stay

In an overwhelming burden of grief

But I and my care for you will have our say

And be here for you providing relief


I am at your side from morning until night

In your heart residing

For you I will always put up a fight

My ears available for your confiding


Heaven has had its hand granting us favour

Blessing us each passing day

With love and compassion for us to savour

Enjoying our moments together in every way


I can be your angel with guidance from above

Healing your weary soul entrusted in my care

Showering you each moment with love

For you always will I be there

(This was my first poem I decided to use rhyme in quite a long time! Hope you liked it!)

❤ Me

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(In my Music of the Twentieth Century class, I chose to write my term paper on the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings. Feel free to read my in-depth analysis of Howard Shore’s process. I also focus on one particular piece from The Return of the King, also called “The Return of the King.” It may get confusing at times due to the measure references and some musical terminology, but I welcome any interested in taking the time to read it! I’m not sure how my footnotes will appear, but I will also include my bibliography at the end.)

The Magic Behind the Music of The Lord of the Rings

The first book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published in 1954 by legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien, and since then it has become a monumental and classic franchise that still endures today. Peter Jackson, a movie director, conceived the idea to bring the novels to the silver screen and undertook the gigantic task of bringing Middle Earth and the quest to destroy the One Ring of power to life. In a three-year period from 2001 to 2003, the three parts, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King dominated theatres and built an even larger fan-following than before. The awards for the productions came forth in an unceasing flow, and The Return of the King won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2004. Everything in the process of bringing Tolkien’s books to life was treated with extreme care in detail, from casting the actors to best represent the souls of the characters from the book to creating breathtaking cinematography with the set locations on theisland ofNew Zealand. Yet one of the most amazing and magical aspect of the films was not what could be seen by the audience but what they could hear: the film soundtracks.

Doug Adams, an author, musicologist, and one of today’s leading film music advocates writes in his book, The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films:

“The films required nearly ten hours of musical accompaniment to be composed over an intensive four-year period. Tolkien languages, songs, and poetry had to be reinserted into the films. The author’s literary structure required a worthy musical equivalent…Coursing behind the sets, the actors, and the special effects, the music would be the story’s lifeblood, expressing its poetic heart.[1]

This was certainly no small undertaking, and film composer Howard Shore accepted the challenge of creating the legendary musical experience that would twice win Best Original Score. His music would have to emulate Tolkien’s legacy and “evince a sense of living with an organic style of composition inseparable from the craggy world that hosted it…to invent a rich musical history that was every bit as varied and detailed as Middle Earth’s own.”[2] Shore’s process of writing the music involved reading the books, then watching the films, and then finally sitting down to compose for symphonic orchestra and chorus. He constantly had the books open on his desk at home and would always be referring back to them.[3] The process of bringing the ideas and instrumentation was very complex:

“Elements of folk music with Celtic, Middle Eastern, and African traditions were examined. Two centuries’ worth of Western music was mined for stylistic gems. Guest performers were researched, as were instruments from around the world. And where no appropriate instrument existed, it was invented: Shore began to experiment with the percussive capacity of piano wires, new variations on fiddles’ sympathetic strings, and bowed lutes.[4]

Shore is no stranger to the many types of recording studios and methods and had clear visions of what types of spaces he wanted to use as well as the types of sound able to be produced in certain locations. He experimented with microphone placement, recording techniques, and acoustics in order to create a certain overall sense of sound. Sometimes he wrote with specific rooms in mind, well aware of the care and particularities needed to shape the phrases amidst the orchestration to maximize the spaces’ potentials.[5] His approach to the organization of the orchestra was also more unconventional than typical set-ups:

“Rather than treating the orchestra traditionally as delineated instrumental families, Shore worked with it as a single mass ensemble divided by ranges… into degrees of low, middle, and high sounds regardless of instrument type. Each layer of range could include any combination of instruments, resulting in an interconnected sense of ensemble unity. A high range chord would underscore a tender moment, but within that single shape of sound resided a multitude of aural details: flutes in octaves, oboes emphasizing inner harmonies, violins clustered six ways, shimmering harp tones, and female voices.[6]

This interesting way of placing and layering instrumentation is certainly an innovative approach that perhaps more composers will experiment with as they create their own works of musical art. Shore also used specific styles of instrumentation for the different races of Middle Earth. Adam writes, “The hobbits are painted in Celtic hues. The ancient Elves, like Mordor, are equated with chromatic harmonies and Eastern-shaded tones. Isengard’s escalating industrialism is represented by the sounds of metal—hammered percussion and weighty low brass. Middle-Earth’s Men are set to ruminative minor-mode melodies that speak of tragedy, dissention, and a newly dawning future.”[7] These many unique colours and styles of music create a very intricate and fascinating musical world into which the listeners enter.

The choral arrangements that Shore composed have a wonderful way of bringing the many languages that Tolkien himself created to the listeners’ ears as well as breathe new life to the tongues of the other races and civilizations in The Lord of the Rings. He described his approach to the daunting task ahead of converting the languages of “the most complex fantasy world ever created” into something that could be sung: “I’m holding a mirror up to it, musically, and attempting to create something that’s in the image of it… I had the idea of using Tolkien’s languages to express another layer of his thinking. It’s a way to get the mythology back into the film.”[8] In order to help the performers be able to properly pronounce the six created languages—the Elves’ Sindarin and Quenya, the Dwarves’ Khuzdul, Mankind’s Old English and Adûnaic, and Sauron’s chosen tongue, the Black Speech—Shore had to convert each starkly different language into the International Phonetic Alphabet.[9] Tolkien language specialists were brought in to help with translations and decide the proper context of their use in the music. David Salo, the specialist in charge of translating the choral texts into the languages of Tolkien, shared his methods in regards to the usage of the Elvish tongues, Quenya and Sindarin:

“Quenya is the language of the Noldor, a group of Elves that crossed over the sea into the West…The language that they used died out as a living, spoken language, but was still used in writing and for any matter of great ceremony. I used it for some of the lyrics, for benedictions, and in the spells of Gandalf and Saruman. Sindarin, the language most often heard in the film, is the common language of the Elves…Quenya, like Latin, is associated with pomp and ceremony. Sindarin is a more poetic or romantic language. For Elves, of course, it’s just the normal language that they speak. But humans also use this language… as an elevated speech.[10]

When approaching the choral texts in a compositional setting, Shore took an impressionistic approach, sometimes incorporating the entire poem in the music and other times taking fragments of lines or even syllables to create a more intricate meaning to Tolkien’s words.[11] The addition of voices to the symphonic orchestration adds even more ethereal beauty and magic to the film score.

Referring to the music, Shore said himself, “I want it to feel old. I want to create a very specific sound for this story—I want it to feel like somebody discovered the score to The Lord of the Rings in a vault somewhere.”[12] Certainly he achieved that end due to the many responses from listeners suggesting that his many leitmotifs and themes are similar to the style of German opera, particularly that of Richard Wagner. Jonathan Dean, Education Associate and supratitle translator for the Seattle Opera, gave his own insight as to how the two composers shared motivic philosophies and approaches:

“How do we create a global culture that resists the flattening sameness of corporate sprawl? How can we preserve cultural integrity and diversity and, at the same time, get along together and cooperate? …The point is less what the music is doing moment-by-moment and more what he chose to have for a motive and why. What are those mythical motives in the story that are creating our music? It’s a Wagnerian principal.[13]

Shore’s staggering amount of motifs and their constant state of evolution as the epic journey unfolds create such an endeavor more complex and detailed than many listeners can fathom. Adamsexplains, “Motifs exist in a permanent state of flux so that there is no one fixed setting from which variations are drawn. There is a core of permanent musical colours at the heart of each theme, but it is the rhythmic variations and melody-altering figurations that fuse the themes to the development of their dramatic counterparts.”[14] It is here through the many musical themes that the true genius of Shore shines forth.

The motifs that Shore created span the entirety of all three film soundtracks and return many times throughout the films, maturing and growing yet still retaining their original essence. This is demonstrated particularly in the music, “Return of the King,” a piece from the third film, The Return of the King. In its 193 measures, the piece contains fourteen distinct sections with references to at least eight motifs that can be found throughout the films as well as other new themes introduced, creating a sense of unity that brings together all three soundtracks into one song.

Bright lights bring into view Frodo lying in a comfortable bed as the music to the piece begins with a steady layering of strings building chords, creating the sense of slowly waking. The hobbit hero had been saved by Gandalf from MountDoomwhere he had just destroyed the One Ring. At measure seven, the next section begins with a flute solo by Sir James Galway and steadily builds as Frodo wakes and recognizes Gandalf. He smiles and laughs happily as the rest of the Fellowship enters to greet him one by one throughout measures seven through thirty-one.  When Sam, his best friend and closest companion, enters at measure 32 and continues through measure 38, one hears the Pensive Setting of the Shire theme. It is used in the hobbits’ recollective moments as they remember their home and long for its comfort. It can also symbolize their introspective satisfaction in a quiet reflection.[15]

The next section in measures 39 through 45 shows the camera zooming in up the mountain that is the city of Gondor’s stronghold as it makes it way to the main courtyard as everyone in the land gathers to witness Aragorn’s coronation. The downward motion of the musical line in the treble clef creates a sense of majesty and triumph. Measures 46 through 62 re-visit the Realm of Gondor theme as Aragorn is officially crowned king. The melody originally has two separate settings, each beginning similarly but ending differently. This particular setting in ascending form represents Gondor’s rising return to power. The second half of the ascending theme is built off of the first three pitches of the theme of the Fellowship, creating a relationship between Aragorn, the mission of the Fellowship, Aragorn’s right to the throne, and Gandalf’s return to Middle Earth. All of these entwined elements create a whole new sense of unity and interconnected purpose.[16]

Measures 63 through 72 are comprised of Aragorn’s coronation song, sung by the actor Viggo Mortensen himself. The lyrics are in Quenya, and the translation into English is as follows: “Out of the GreatSeato Middle-Earth I am come. In this place I will abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world!”[17] In measures 73 through 77, there is a small interlude and reference to the Fellowship Theme as Aragorn greets Legolas, the Elf companion of the Fellowship. The theme is steadfast and reflects the mission. The melody is in a minor mode while its harmonization is in major, creating an interesting setting that suggests the lost ancient glory that once reigned in Middle-Earth.[18] Another fascinating aspect behind the Fellowship Theme reveals a hidden numerical message within. It is comprised of nine notes, which is the number of members in the original Fellowship. Reflecting the trinity of trinities, Tolkien placed great importance and meaning behind that number.[19]

The love of Aragorn’s life, Arwen Undomièl, is presented to him in a manner similar to a wedding procession in measures 78 through 110. They had been apart and loving one another from afar since Aragorn departed Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring. She was an Elf but chose to forsake her immortality in order to be with him, a mortal man. Renée Fleming sings the ethereal and beautiful solo melody which is translated into English from Sindarin as: “Tinúviel the elven-fair, Immortal maiden.”[20] It is the same melodic portion as when she was first introduced in the films with a now different text as well as sung without vibrato in a pure ringing voice. The Elvish music mixed with the men’s voices reflects Arwen’s shyness at choosing to become a part of the mortal world. However, when Aragorn kisses her passionately beginning at measure 95, the moving swell of the strings bring out the joy at their reunion and abounding devoted love.[21]

As Aragorn walks with his new Queen and greets everyone bowing to him, he comes upon the four hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. They begin to bow, but he stops them and calls attention to their bravery, saying that they should not have to bow to anyone due to their great and courageous accomplishments. Instead, the king of Gondor as well as everyone else bows to them throughout measures 111 through 122 in the swelling music of the Hymn Setting of the Shire theme. This broad rendering of the hobbits’ harmonic settings are nestled in the richness of the full orchestra. The underlying chords create an atmosphere similar to music of Western religion with a melodic line similar to the Pensive Setting but in a more profound, inspirational, yet sobering form. It sounds as if it could be about their Shire home or a nostalgic song from one of the taverns sung at night.[22]

Beginning around measure 125 and through measure 134, the Journey Back theme is presented as Frodo explains the end of that story and reintroduces the hobbits returning home. It combines the plagal harmonic motion of the Destruction of the Ring motif with the stretched phrases of the Journey There setting as the motion carries the hobbits home. The end of this motif is based on a repeating pair of major chords, E-major and D-major, the same chords as are heard repeatedly right before Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom and again when the Ring is finally destroyed.[23] Measures 135 through 152 reflect the hobbits’ return to the Shire after three years of being away, reflecting new and mature ideas among them as their home seems not to have changed at all.

A fiddle solo played by Dermot Crehan enters at measure 153 and blends into the Toast in the Shire theme through 169. The sweet melodies of the Shire resound but with underlying hints of the Fellowship theme hidden within, reflecting their toast and reminiscence to their accomplishments, pain, and to the unknown future.[24] When Sam spots his love interest and crush from before, Rosie Cotton, he finally gets the courage to confront her and confess his love for her in measures 170 through 179. In that section, the Rural Setting of the Shire shines forth in prominence. The Shire theme is transformed into a spritely, Celtic-influenced melody reflecting the simple joy of the carefree life in Hobbiton.[25] There is also the well-known Hobbit Outline in measures 170 and 171 among the celli and double basses, a simple figure comprised of open harmonies of perfect fifths and fourths.[26] The final section in this piece, from measure 180 until the end returns to the Hobbits’ Understanding motif. It is the most developed theme for the hobbits, blending portions of the Pensive, Rural, and Hymn Settings but complicating them with extended melodic lines and realigned rhythms. However, the music still retains a sweet and tender tone and reflects their special understanding of life unique to their people.[27] So spans the intricate piece that brings full circle to the Quest of the Ring.

Everything that Shore accomplished in bringing music and breathing life as well as history into The Lord of the Rings films is wonderful and groundbreaking. Fran Walsh, writer and producer of the trilogy shared her thoughts on Shore:

“[Howard Shore’s] ability to wrap his arms around a wide variety of musical forms, to embrace both big and small moments on screen—his willingness to take creative risks and, above all else, his understanding that, as composer, his first obligation is to serve the needs of the story…brought new meaning to the notion of what an epic score could be. His work encompassed not only the vast, sweeping, and grand themes of the heroic, but also the intimate, fragile variations of the small…Howard’s music made the worlds of the Shire and Gondor, Rohan and Lothlórien, Rivendell, Moria, and Mordor (to name a few) come to life in a very real way; he gave the cultures of the Elves and the Dwarves and the kingdoms of Men, a powerful authenticity, leading the audience to believe that this universe and these people perhaps at one time really existed.[28]

Shore truly is a musical genius of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These film soundtracks will hopefully stand the test of time and still be beloved in the future years to come.


Adams, Douglas. The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. Van Nuys: Alfred Music Publishing, 2010.

Mortenson, Viggo, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellan. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Platinum Series Special Extended Edition).DVD. Directed by Peter Jackson.New York: New Line Home Entertainment, 2003.

Shore, Howard. 2003. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. TheLondon Philharmonic and TheLondon Voices. CDLS – 2003 [CD].

Shore, Howard. 2004. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Arranged by Tod Edmonson, Ethan Neuburg, and Jackie Worth.New York: New Line Tunes (ASCAP)/South Fifth Avenue Publishing (ASCAP).

[1] Doug Adams, The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films (Van Nuys: Alfred Music Publishing, 2010), 1.

[2] Ibid, 2.

[3] Ibid, xi.

[4] Ibid, 2.

[5] Ibid, 363.

[6] Ibid, 7.

[7] Ibid, 11.

[8] Ibid, 2.

[9] Ibid, 3.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid, 4.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid, 9.

[14] Ibid, 11.

[15] Ibid, 23.

[16] Ibid, 67-68.

[17] Ibid, 192.

[18] Ibid, 73.

[19] Ibid, 82-83.

[20] Ibid, 157.

[21] Ibid, 350.

[22] Ibid, 26-27.

[23] Ibid, 127.

[24] Ibid, 351.

[25] Ibid, 26.

[26] Ibid, 33.

[27] Ibid, 28.

[28] Ibid, xii-xiii.


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