Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2006

One of only two winners of Southern fandom's three major awards, "T.K.F." exercises her musical side...

THE LORD OF THE RINGS:

Notes Towards a Symphony

T.K.F. Weisskopf Reinhardt

What I don't know about music and scoring and orchestration is a lot, but I know what I like ... I was at a concert the other day and while listening to Elgar's First Symphony in A-flat Major and not particularly enjoying it, I thought about what I would do if I had an orchestra to play with. I like programmatic music, and it started coming to me how I could put together a symphony based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

There's too much action to have the music follow everything exactly as it occurs, but I think the major exchanges can be seen And, no offense to the composer of the movie music -- it worked fine in the context of the films -- but that New-Agey stuff just doesn't sound like my soundtrack of the books. There is a LOTR symphony/multi-media extravaganza traveling the country, but it's based on the movie music, so it doesn't count for my purposes.)

So -- I suspect if anyone ever does such a thing (and if I win the lottery, I'll commission it done!), the liner notes will have to read something like this ...

The OVERTURE introduces us to the major themes of the work. The idyllic opening in strings, primarily violin, supported by cello, establishes the pristine, down-to-Earth beauty of the Shire. Frodo's theme, played by the oboe, is introduced briefly, as is that of Gandalf, initially played by bassoon. That beauty is shattered as the violent minor tones of the nine Dark Riders is introduced, only to be chased away as the triumphant chords of Strider's theme are played, leading with the French horns.

The FIRST MOVEMENT (of four -- couldn't fit in all in three) again starts with the strings in the Shire, and in addition to Frodo we meet Merry and Pippin (bright, high, playful sounds in the flute) and Sam, similar in sound to Merry and Pippin, but played by a clarinet. Think Mozart's incidental music. The movement moves on through the wilderness, with the scene again set by the string section, the characters in wind instruments darting over and around, Gandalf's bassoon leading the way. A clarinet echoing Sam's theme in a minor chord skirls behind -- Smeagol. The fog on Barrow Downs slowly turns the major themed music minor, and a fight with the barrow wights (tubas and basses, bass drums) ensues. A wild gypsy music, a folk tune played by violin and piccolo with both major and minor tones reminiscent of Dvorak, overcomes the wights and sends the band on its way. It is joined by the strong major tones of a French horn -- Strider's voice. The dark riders make their entrance and a wild exchange between French horn and the tubas and basses of the dark riders ends with a ride across water and into Elrond's keep -- signified by two harps. The movement ends peacefully, but with the hint of Smeagol's minor clarinet spoiling the harmony of the harps.

In the SECOND MOVEMENT we start more slowly, and meet the other members of the Fellowship: Gimli, a trombone, Legolas, harp & flute, and Boramir, baritone. In this movement we march into the mountains, mountains signified with a sound reminiscent of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and "Night on Bald Mountain". Gimli's trombone leads the way, with Legolas' instruments echoing playfully. The goblins attack and Gandalf's bassoon pushes them back. The music speeds up as the band is chased, and the movement climaxes with the fight at Khazad-dum, as the ancient demon Balrog, heard in the basses and tubas underlined by bass drum, defeats the bassoon of Gandalf as he falls into the fiery pit. The movement moves, adagio, through the sad harp tones of Galadriel's Lothlorien, and ends dissonantly as the French horn and baritone clash.

The THIRD MOVEMENT, though andante, starts brightly, in a spirit of hope, in contrast to the dissonance of the previous movement. We see the flutes of Merry and Pippin in the forest of the ents (woodwinds, obviously -- bassoons and clarinets moving in strong rhythm); echoes of Tom Bombadil's gypsy theme are heard in their music. An intrusion of orcs -- dissonant notes in cello and bass and kettle drums -- into the beautiful glade is quickly defeated by the woodwinds, including the oboe of the transformed Gandalf. The movement strays into melancholy, however, as the celebration after the orcs are defeated melds into the journey of Frodo and Sam into Sauron's lands. The movement ends darkly, with the introduction of Shelob -- basses and tubas again, her movements signified by the bass drum -- with the Dark Lord theme and hints of the goblins and wights, overcoming the high woodwinds of Frodo and Sam.

In the FINAL MOVEMENT, the thematic clashes between Fellowship and Dark Lord finally are resolved. We start quietly with Smeagol's theme, leading the flute and clarinet of Frodo and Sam through the wasteland music signifying Sauron's lands. Their light march is transformed into a louder, more martial march con brio full of French horns and trumpets and snare drums -- the rallying of the riders of Rohan and the men of Gondor. We also hear a piccolo in the march representing Eowyn. Boromir's theme is heard in the trumpets -- it is now Faramir's theme. This proud theme is answered by the Dark Lord's music. The Nine Riders are back, with their forces of orcs and Calormen with their own minor war theme, with vague overtones of Chinese dissonance. They are answered by the lighter march, the light march is overcome, and then the light march is supplemented by a wild, eerie music in harp -- signifying the ghosts of Cirith Ungol and also the elven forces. Sauron's theme is heard again, but much more quietly, as the march of Frodo, Smeagol and Sam continues, up the mountain, and climaxes as the clarinet of Sam and its minor echo fight, ending in the triumphant fiery destruction of the Ring with a clash of cymbals and triangles. The movement ends with the major sounds of the Shire triumphant, with oboe, trumpet and all the instruments of the Fellowship in accord and finally, harp tones echoing, fading in the background.

 

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