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Op. 73 - Musical Chapters from The Lord of the Rings

It was I think while sitting by the lake at Chiddingstone in Kent during the summer of 1967 that I first began to sketch musical material for the works of J R R Tolkien, even before I had begun work on the Nativity Mass which was later to become my Op.1. These first sketches included a lightly rhythmic theme for the hobbits and an early version of the Shire melody, and were followed in the autumn of that year by other elements that survived into later work: the lament for Boromir, for example, and an early version of In the willow-meads of Tasarinan. These short pieces were originally fragmentary, but soon began to coalesce into a larger framework in the shape of a complete setting of Book IV of The Lord of the Rings, originally given the grandiose title of The Doom but eventually to materialise as The Black Gate is closed.

 

Work on this fully operatic setting had advanced far enough for piano rehearsal of the first scene given in the summer of 1968, and the score was substantially sketched by March 1969 including some passages – such as the thunderstorm in Act Three – which would later find their way in largely unaltered form into The Silmarillion. The final chords of the score were written during my Easter holidays that year in a freezing cold cottage near the Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry – as I discovered much later, some years after Tolkien himself had spent a holiday in the same Irish mountain landscape. But even so at that time much of the work was left incompletely orchestrated, and some of the scoring was clearly impractical. The amateur orchestra at the London School of Economics rehearsed a much-reduced orchestral suite in the autumn of 1969, but that was as far as the work ever progressed, despite some interest expressed by those in London who saw the score and a suite from it given by the LSE orchestra in 1971. Indeed I was far from clear in my own mind regarding the function of the three-Act torso, except that it might in due course form part of a complete Lord of the Rings cycle of a massive scale. Having completed the sketches, I soon turned to the more practical subject of Michéal Mac Liammóir’s Diarmuid and Gráinne which had reached completion and indeed partial performance by the summer of 1971.

 

During that period I had not entirely abandoned thoughts on the projected Tolkien work, and indeed this took a new departure with my setting of the lengthy poem The Sea Bell completed early in 1972. The principal theme of this song, which returns several times in varied forms during the progress of the narrative, is in all essential features the same as the extended melody employed initially for the Elves as the second subject in my third symphony Ainulundalë, and eventually associated in The Silmarillion with the elven realm of Doriath. At the same time I finally established a projected form for the putative operatic cycle on The Lord of the Rings, a totally impractical scheme extending over thirteen evenings of performances (including two evenings devoted to The Hobbit); and I went so far as to devise a complete text for this monstrous construction, covering the whole territory in great detail and leaving very little out. In due course I began some very tentative work on this task: the two evenings which set The Hobbit were fully sketched, and some other Acts – Tom Bombadil and The Grey Havens – were also substantially completed in short score (although the end of both was missing). A good many other sketches also date from this period, but of course the whole enterprise was brought to an end by the difficulties of obtaining copyright clearance for the texts, and in due course – following the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 – the diversion of my musical attention to the newly emerging material.

 

I have explained elsewhere how, beginning with my purely orchestral and instrumental approach to the texts in the Ainulindalë symphony and the piano rondo Akallabêth (both dating from the period 1978-79), and with the approval of the Tolkien estate – and encouragement from both Christopher and Priscilla Tolkien – I eventually began work on my epic scenes from The Silmarillion with The Children of Húrin in 1981-82 and then followed this with the other segments of the cycle during the following years. The completion of Beren and Lúthien, the last of the cycle to be composed at that time, in 1996 was followed by a frustrating series of attempts to obtain performance of at least some part of the cycle which was ultimately defeated by the incessant refrain that the work was too long and too complicated, even when attempts were made to reduce the size of the orchestration and forces demanded for suites of excerpts. An attempt to utilise some of the material from the cycle for a setting of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil was equally stillborn, although the use of texts from The Lord of the Rings had been authorised by the Tolkien estate as part of the construction of the Silmarillion scenes. At the same time I assembled the remaining fragments from the Lord of the Rings material, completing the scores for Tom Bombadil and The Grey Havens and putting the other sections into some sort of order.

 

It was only when recording work on the epic scenes finally and belatedly began in 2017 with The Fall of Gondolin that I began to give any further consideration to this material. The indefatigable Simon Crosby Buttle, as I have described elsewhere, began by urging me to bring the legends of the First Age to a proper conclusion with the addition of a further Silmarillion segment based around my existing Eärendil setting, which we eventually decided to entitle The War of Wrath. And it was he who suggested at much the same that it might be an interesting idea to provide an Appendix to the recording – in the time-honoured Tolkien tradition – including some of the Lord of the Rings material which had not been incorporated into the Silmarillion cycle. This would also have the advantage of binding the various scores together, allowing listeners to appreciate the connections between them. The theme of Eru which opens Fëanor also closes The Grey Havens; and this is not the only theme associated with the Valar to make a subsequent appearance in the Lord of the Rings sketches (although as might be expected much less frequently than in the Silmarillion). The themes of Elbereth and Yavanna both re-emerge in The Mirror of Galadriel as Galadriel presents the Fellowship with her gifts; and the ‘Arda’ theme from Ainulindalë and Fëanor also reappears, both in its original form and to represent the downfall of Sauron as in the Akallabêth rondo. Even Morgoth, long-banished from Middle-Earth, returns musically in the Balrog scenes and to menacingly underpin the threat of the Nazgul. Ulmo too reappears at several points; although significantly not Mandos, whose curse has been exorcised during the War of Wrath (even at the death of Saruman).

 

With these considerations in mind, Simon Crosby Buttle began the long task of reducing down my original rambling libretto to a series of relatively briefer musical chapters which would require a relatively more limited amount of new musical composition to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. With the completion of my work on The War of Wrath in the early summer of 2020 I turned back to the earlier sketches, beginning in an entirely arbitrary and fortuitous manner with the completion of the scene of triumph at The Field of Cormallen, and linking Frodo’s song at The Prancing Pony through to the first appearance of Aragorn’s description in the following scene. I then worked backwards through the earlier version of Tom Bombadil, making some thematic amendments; and returned to my 1970s sketch for A long-expected party, again revising and bringing the score into accordance with the existing Silmarillion. The revision of The Black Gate is closed had perforce to be much more extensive – some of the themes, such as that for the Ring itself, had been substantially altered over the years – and the music later written for the Gondorian scenes had to be incorporated into the originally much more basic material supplied for Faramir. Because of the isolation imposed upon me as a result of the worldwide corona pandemic, I found with the opportunity for uninterrupted composition that the new and revised music fell into place with remarkable fluidity and ease; and what emerged was a set of musical chapters which formed a partnership with the epic scenes from The Silmarillion in a manner which reflected Tolkien’s own scheme for his work as envisioned in the 1950s with the two cycles forming part of an integral whole.

 

In some ways, of course, the musical chapters from The Lord of the Rings are quite distinct in dramatic style from The Silmarillion in the same manner as the disparate texts themselves. The role of the chorus in delivering the narration in the ‘epic scenes’ vanishes altogether in the ‘musical chapters,’ which therefore become somewhat more conventionally operatic in form. At the same time the Lord of the Rings texts themselves, generally more closely argued and complex in their development, engender a more contrapuntal and elaborate response in the thematic treatment. The action sequences, for example, which form such a major part of both the Peter Jackson films and the Howard Shore scores for them, are trimmed back considerably with many of the battle sequences taking place ‘offstage’. The chapters focus on the lyrical and philosophical aspects of the text in a manner that goes far beyond the simple restitution of Tom Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire to their places in the tale. One example may suffice; the whole of the chapter The Steward and the King, extending from the Song of the Eagle (written in 1970) to the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen, is condensed in the film to a single scene of some five minutes in which only Aragorn’s speech in Quenya is actually delivered in the actual words written by Tolkien. In the ‘musical chapter’ we not only hear the song of the Eagle developed as part of the coronation scene itself, and the return of the wedding music from The Fall of Gondolin now transfigured in the same manner that Frodo describes in his summons to blessing on the night (his speech on the subject concludes the scene); but we also hear the lengthy philosophical debate between Gandalf and Aragorn regarding the future development of the world and of the realm of Men in particular. And the discovery on the mountain of the scion of the Tree returns us musically past the era of Gondolin to the second scene of Fëanor, with the theme associated with the Two Trees finally reappearing after its age-long absence (all of this omitted entirely by Jackson) as part of a complete structure lasting nearly half an hour.

Orchestra

3 Flutes, doubling Piccolo and Alto Flute

2 Oboes

English Horn

2 Clarinets, doubling Double Bass Clarinet

Bass Clarinet

2 Bassoons

Double Bassoon

4 Horns

3 Trumpets

3 Trombones

2 Tubas

Timpani

Percussion, four players

2 Harps

Pianoforte doubling Celesta

Strings

Characters

MUSICAL CHAPTERS FROM THE LORD OF THE RINGS

HOBBITS:

Bilbo Baggins of the Shire (Tenor)

Frodo Baggins, his heir (Tenor)

Samwise Gamgee (Baritone)

Peregrin Took (Tenor)

Meriadoc Brandybuck (Baritone) 

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Bilbo's cousin (Mezzo)

Otho Sackville-Baggins, her husband (Baritone)

Hamfast Gamgee, Sam's father (Baritone)

Ted Sandyman, the miller (Tenor)

Daddy Twofoot (Bass)

Old Knoakes (Bass)

Rory Brandybuck, Merry's father (Baritone)

Everard Took, Pippin's cousin (Tenor)

Odo Proudfoot, Bilbo's cousin (Bass)

Hob Hayward, a hobbit from Buckland (Baritone)

Farmer Cotton, from Bywater (Bass)

Smeagol/Gollum (Tenor)

Deagol (Bass)

A Stranger (Baritone)

WIZARDS AND OTHER ELEMENTALS:

Gandalf the Grey/White (Baritone)

Saruman the White/Sharkey (Tenor)

Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles (Soprano or Tenor)

Tom Bombadil (Baritone)

Goldberry, his wife (Soprano)

A Barrow-Wight (Counter Tenor or Mezzo)

The King of the Dead (Counter Tenor or Mezzo)

The Voice of Elbereth, Queen of the Valar in the Blessed Realm (Soprano)

RACE OF MEN:

Strider/Aragorn, Captain of the Dunedain (Baritone)

Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor (Bass)

Faramir, son of the Steward of Gondor (Tenor)

Denethor, Steward of Gondor (Bass)

Theoden, King of Rohan (Bass)

Eomer, his nephew (Tenor)

Eowyn, his niece (Mezzo)

Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth (Baritone)

Beregond, guard of Minas Tirith (Baritone)

Wormtongue, Counsellor to Theoden (Tenor)

Eothain, Marshal of the Mark (Baritone)

Hama, Captain of the Guard of Edoras (Baritone)

Ceorl, a rider of Rohan (Bass)

Ingold, guard of Minas Tirith (Tenor)

Ioreth, a handmaiden of the Houses of Healing (Mezzo)

Halbarad, a Dunedain (Bass)

Herb Master of the Houses of Healing (Bass)

Mablung, one of the men of Ithilien (Baritone)

Damrod, one of the men of Ithilien (Bass)

Anborn, one of the men of Ithilien (Bass)

Barliman Butterbur, Landlord of The Prancing Pony (Bass) 

Bill Ferny, a man of Bree (Bass)

A Minstrel (Tenor)

ELVES:

Legolas, son of Thranduil Elvenking of Mirkwood (Tenor)

Galadriel, Queen of Lothlorien (Soprano)

Elrond Halfelven, Lord of Rivendell (Tenor)

Arwen, his daughter (Soprano)

Celeborn, husband of Galadriel (Bass)

Glorfindel, elf of Rivendell (Tenor)

Haldir, Captain of Lothlorien (Baritone)

Lindir, elf of Rivendell (Counter Tenor or Mezzo)

Galdor, elf of the Grey Havens (Baritone)

Gildor Inglorion, of the House of Finrod (Tenor)

Elladan, twin son of Elrond (Baritone)

Elrohir, twin son of Elrond (Baritone)

Cirdan, Lord of the Grey Havens (Bass)

DWARVES:

Gimli son of Gloin (Bass)

Gloin, of the Lonely Mountain (Bass)

Dain, King Under the Lonely Mountain (Bass)

ENTS:

Treebeard (Bass)

Quickbeam (Baritone)

FORCES OF EVIL:

The Voice of Sauron (Bass)

Khamul, a Ringwraith (Bass)

The Witch-King, Lord of the Ringwraiths (Baritone)

The Mouth of Sauron (Bass)

Ugluk, Orc of Isengard (Baritone)

Grishnahk, Orc of Mordor (Tenor)

Gorbag, Orc Captain of Minas Morgul (Baritone)

Shagrat, Orc Captain of Cirith Ungol (Tenor)

Tracker, Orc of Mordor (Tenor)

Soldier, Orc of Mordor (Bass)

Snaga, Orc of Cirith Ungol (Tenor)

CHORUS:

Hobbits, Elves, Customers at The Green Dragon, Black Riders, Wargs, Men of Rohan, Ents, Men of Harad,

Men of Gondor, Orcs, Creatures of Minas Morgul, Guards of Minas Tirith, Heralds, Host of the Dead,

Creatures of Mordor, Distant Voices over the Water. 

APPENDIX I - THE LAY OF BEREN AND LUTHIEN

Aragorn/Strider, Captain of the Dunedain (Baritone)

APPENDIX II - THE LAY OF EARENDIL

Bilbo Baggins of the Shire (Tenor)

APPENDIX III - EPILOGUE: ARAGORN AND ARWEN

Arwen, Queen of Gondor and Arnor (Soprano)

Aragorn, King Elessar of Gondor and Arnor (Baritone)

CHORUS:

Unseen Voices

Synopsis

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

1             A LONG-EXPECTED PARTY

Scene One          In the Ivy Bush tavern a group of hobbits are discussing the forthcoming arrangements for the eleventy-first birthday of Bilbo Baggins. Ham Gamgee (known as “the Gaffer”) explains how Bilbo has come to adopt his young relative Frodo following the death of the latter’s parents, and the two of them are throwing a party to which all the local residents are being invited.

Scene Two          In his garden at Bag End, Bilbo is accompanied by the wizard Gandalf as they discuss some mysterious surprise which the former is intending for the celebrations.

Scene Three       At the boisterous party, when Bilbo finally manages to make himself heard over the dancing and rejoicing, he announces to his stunned guests that he is leaving the Shire immediately and vanishes before their eyes.

Scene Four         Back in Bag End, he is packing for his journey when Gandalf appears and is perturbed when Bilbo refuses to leave his magic ring of invisibility for Frodo along with the remainder of his possessions. He has indeed to threaten Bilbo before the latter finally agrees to leave it behind. When, after his departure, Frodo finally enters, Gandalf warns him that he is going away at once on urgent business, and that in the meantime Frodo is to be careful of the ring.

2             THE SHADOW OF THE PAST

Scene One          Eighteen years later, the Gaffer’s son Sam is drinking with the local blacksmith Ted Sandyman in the Green Dragon inn. They discuss troubling rumours about the manner in which the borders of the Shire are threatened, and that the Elves are leaving Middle-earth.

Scene Two          Gandalf unexpectedly returns to warn Frodo that he has discovered that his ring is deadly perilous: that it is in fact the One Ring, lost by the Dark Lord Sauron at the end of the Second Age and which he is now seeking in order to re-establish his rule over Middle-earth. He explains how the Ring was discovered by the creature Gollum (from whom Bilbo had won it in a game of riddles) and that Sauron had now ascertained where it was to be found. Frodo will have to leave the Shire at once lest he bring ruin and destruction on the land. Gandalf catches Sam eavesdropping on the conversation, and decides that he will have to accompany Frodo on his journey.

Scene Three       Frodo has sold Bag End and his friend Merry is taking his goods off by cart to Buckland where it is given out that he intends to settle. But while he is waiting for Sam and his other friend Pippin, he overhears a stranger questioning the Gaffer about his movements and intentions.

Scene Four         Frodo, Sam and Pippin are going along the road when they are overtaken by a mysterious horseman clad in black, who seems to be searching for them. After he fails to discover their hiding place, Sam and Pippin sing a drinking song, but the horseman is returning when Elves are heard singing in the trees and he retreats. Gildor, leader of the wandering Elves, warns Frodo that his pursuers are sent by the Enemy.

Scene Five          Arriving at Buckland, Frodo is forced to confess to Merry and Pippin that he does not after all intend to remain there but to leave immediately. They astonish him by revealing that Sam has already told them about the Ring, and Merry suggests that the only way of avoiding pursuit is to go through the Old Forest despite its fearsome reputation.

3             TOM BOMBADIL

Scene One          Entering the Old Forest, the hobbits soon become lost and are entrapped by the roots of a willow tree. Calling for help, Frodo is assisted by the mysterious Tom Bombadil who releases his friends and invites them to follow him for food and rest.

Scene Two          At the house of Tom Bombadil the hobbits are welcomed by his wife Goldberry, but during the night Frodo sees a vision of Gandalf imprisoned on top of a tower. In the morning Goldberry bids them farewell.

Scene Three       In a mist on the Barrow-downs the hobbits are captured and entombed by a Barrow-wight which haunts the tombs of ancient kings.

Scene Four         It is only when Frodo calls on the name of Tom Bombadil that the latter appears and once again releases the hobbits from their imprisonment. But he will not pass the borders of his own lands, and he advises them to make for the village of Bree and the inn The Prancing Pony where they can find shelter for the following night.

4             THE PRANCING PONY

Scene One          At the inn the landlord Barliman Butterbur gives them a warm welcome, but Frodo is intrigued by a mysterious stranger Strider who appears in the bar and seems to know more about his business that he should. He tries to distract attention by singing a rousing drinking song, but at the climax the Ring slips on to his finger and he vanishes. Although he tries to pass off the incident as a joke, Strider insists that he must have an urgent and private conversation with him; and one of the other customers, Bill Ferny, slips discreetly away.

Scene Two          Strider warns the hobbits that they are still being pursued by the Black Riders from whom they are in deadly peril, and offers his services as a guide. But it is only when Butterbur delivers a delayed letter from Gandalf to Frodo that the latter decides that he can trust him. Merry warns them that Black Riders have already entered Bree, and Strider says they will have to escape into the wilderness the following morning and make for Weathertop where he hopes Gandalf will meet them.

5             FLIGHT TO THE FORD

Scene One          Reaching Weathertop, Strider and the hobbits find that Gandalf has already been and gone. Strider sings a song to rouse their spirits, but in the dark their camp is attacked by the Black Riders and under their compulsion Frodo places the Ring on his finger. Immediately he can see their spectral forms beneath their robes, but they pierce his shoulder with a knife before they retreat.

 

Scene Two          When Frodo recovers, Strider explains that the wound will progressively bring him under the control of the Riders and that they must now depart for Rivendell with all speed.

Scene Three       On the road, the hobbits come across the three stone trolls encountered by Bilbo and the dwarves on their eastward journey over seventy years before. Sam sings a comic song to rouse Frodo’s spirits, but the latter is sinking increasingly into lassitude and despair.

Scene Four         They are overtaken by Glorfindel, an elf from Rivendell sent to search for them; he persuades Frodo to mount his horse in the very nick of time, as the black horsemen are already in pursuit.

Scene Five          Fleeing to the Ford of Bruinen, Frodo turns in defiance against the Black Riders, but they call to him to follow them to Mordor with the Ring and he is barely able to fend them off. Suddenly the waters of the Ford rise and sweep the horsemen away, just as Frodo finally collapses fainting to the ground.

6             THE COUNCIL OF ELROND

Scene One          Frodo, having been healed by Elrond, is roused by Gandalf, who explains to him how the waters of the Ford rose in obedience to the command of Elrond as the Master of Rivendell. Sam and the other hobbits are delighted to find their companion recovered just in time for a celebratory feast.

Scene Two          At the feast, Frodo is surprised to see Strider in close conversation with Arwen the daughter of Elrond. He is even more surprised to find himself seated next to the dwarf Glóin, one of Bilbo’s companions on his quest, and then to discover Bilbo himself seated in a quiet corner. But when Bilbo asks to see the Ring, Frodo suddenly finds himself uneasy and only a song in praise of Elbereth from one of the Elven minstrels restores calm.

Scene Three       The following morning Frodo and Gandalf are summoned to attend a council held by Elrond. Glóin reports on the visit of a Black Rider to the dwarf kingdom in Erebor. Boromir, the son of the Ruling Steward of Gondor, tells of a prophetic dream regarding the Sword that was Broken; and during the course of the subsequent discussion it is revealed that Strider is none other than Aragorn, the heir of Isildur and rightful King of Gondor. It is he who has helped Gandalf to locate Gollum, and confirm that Frodo’s treasure is indeed the One Ring. Legolas, the son of Thranduil the Elvenking of Mirkwood, reports that Gollum has again escaped; and Gandalf in his turn explains how he was betrayed and imprisoned by Saruman the White, who wishes to seize the Ring for himself. He has only escaped from Isengard as the result of rescue by Gwaihir, the Lord of the Eagles. The council concludes that the Ring cannot be kept hidden from Sauron and his forces, but that it is too dangerous a temptation to be used lest it corrupt the wearer. But only in Mount Doom, in the heart of the Enemy’s realm of Mordor, can the Ring be unmade; and Frodo volunteers to undertake this task.

7             FAREWELL TO RIVENDELL

Scene One          Elrond appoints companions to the Fellowship of the Ring, to assist Frodo on his quest: Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli son of Glóin in addition to the four hobbits. Bilbo gives to Frodo his sword Sting and his coat of mail, and settles down by the fireside in peace.

Interlude             The Sword that was Broken, that cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, is reforged for Aragorn and named by him Andúril.

Scene Two          The Fellowship of the Ring sets out on their journey.

Scene Three       Some weeks later, encamped in the land of Eregion, they feel a shadow pass over the moon and are attacked by wolves. Their only recourse is to take refuge in the Mines of Moria, although Aragorn forewarns Gandalf of danger.

8             A JOURNEY IN THE DARK

Scene One          Arriving at the Gates of Moria, they are at first unable to open the doors, and only make their way inside after an attack by the mysterious Watcher in the Water.

Scene Two          They come to a guard chamber where they rest for the night, although Pippin dislodges a stone into the water and signals are heard from the deep. Frodo on watch sees eyes coming stealthily in pursuit.

Scene Three       They find the tomb of Balin, the last Lord of Moria, and learn of the destruction of the dwarves at the hands of orcs. They are in their turn attacked, leaving Gandalf to defend their retreat.

Scene Four         Coming to the perilous Bridge of Khazad-dûm, the Fellowship are attacked by a Balrog of Morgoth, a survivor from the First Age, with whom Gandalf falls in battle.

9             THE MIRROR OF GALADRIEL

Scene One          Led by Aragorn, the Fellowship escape from Moria and enter the realm of Lothlórien where they are intercepted by Haldir and escorted by him to the city of their rulers in Caras Galadhon. Aragorn upon the hill of Cerin Amroth has a vision of his beloved Arwen and bids her farewell.

Scene Two          Reaching Caras Galathon, they tell Celeborn and Galadriel of the fall of Gandalf, and are offered aid and assistance.

Scene Three       Galadriel leads Frodo to view her Mirror, in which he sees images of ships in the past fleeing from Númenor, in the present coming to the assault on Gondor, and in the future passing into the West; but all of these are overshadowed and menaced by the Eye of Sauron searching for the Ring. He offers the Ring to Galadriel, since it will enable her to preserve her realm against the Enemy; but after an ecstatic vision of temptation, she realises that she must remain true to herself and refuse the power.

Scene Four         Celeborn presents the Fellowship with boats in which they may travel down the river Anduin, together with provisions for their voyage.

Scene Five          Galadriel, bidding the Fellowship farewell, gives each of them gifts including for Frodo a star-glass containing the light of the star of Eärendil.

10           THE BREAKING OF THE FELLOWSHIP

Scene One          Sam tells Frodo that he has seen Gollum following the Fellowship in their boats down the River, and Aragorn decides that they must try and avoid his pursuit.

Interlude             They pass through the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings, and enter the realm of Gondor.

Scene Two          At the lawn of Parth Galen they debate what course they should now take. Frodo asks for some time to be allowed to make up his mind alone.

Scene Three       Boromir tries to persuade Frodo to come to Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, and allow him to make use of the Ring to defeat the Enemy. Frodo refuses to yield up such a weapon of such dangerous potential, and Boromir tries to steal it from him by force. Frodo puts on the Ring and vanishes.

Scene Four         Boromir returns to the Fellowship and reports that Frodo has disappeared. The others scatter in pursuit of him, and only Sam realises that Frodo is trying to escape unseen by boat and intercepts him. Together they cross the river, while the horn of Boromir in distress is heard sounding behind them.

THE TWO TOWERS

This is how the chapters are numbered in the score for live performance in order to reduce the number of performers required in an evening. For the purposes of Volante Opera Productions' demo recording and this synopsis the chapters are in story order

of  11, 12, 16, 13, 17, 14, 15 and then 18.

11           THE PLAINS AND THE FOREST

Scene One          Merry and Pippin, still searching for Frodo, are attacked by orcs and Boromir is killed while trying to rescue them. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli sing a lament for their fallen comrade and set out in pursuit of the captives.

Scene Two          The orcs led by Ugluk and Grishnakh are in their turn attacked by riders from the kingdom of Rohan, and Grishnakh – who is led to believe that Pippin has the Ring – tries to carry them out of the battle; but he is killed, and the hobbits escape into the forest of Fangorn.

Scene Three       There they meet the Ent, Treebeard, who rules the forest, but has taken no part in the struggles between the forces of Middle-earth. He takes them to his far distant dwelling under the mountains.

12           THE RIDERS OF ROHAN

Scene One          The pursuers Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come across some slain orcs, and realise that the intention of the orcs is to take the hobbits to the traitor Saruman in Isengard and not to Mordor. They see the mountains of Gondor in the distance.

 

Scene Two          They now encounter the riders of Rohan led by Eómer the king’s nephew, who tells them that he has destroyed the band of orcs but found no trace of the hobbits they seek. He lends them horses to continue their search.

Scene Three       Pippin and Merry talk to Treebeard of the ambitions of Saruman, and the Ent realises that he needs to intervene to protect his forest; he summons an Entmoot to consider what action needs to be taken.

Scene Four         Coming in their turn to Fangorn, the three pursuers are accosted by a figure in white who they initially take to be Saruman, but who transpires to be Gandalf mysteriously returned from death and now rehoused in a new reincarnation. He now summons his own horse Shadowfax and together they ride towards Edoras, the capital of Rohan.

16           THE BLACK GATE IS CLOSED

Scene One          Frodo and Sam attempt to climb down the cliffs from the Emyn Muil, but are caught in a thunderstorm and only succeed after Sam remembers the rope he obtained from Lórien.

Scene Two          But they are now pursued in their own turn by Gollum, whom they ambush and persuade to lead them towards Mordor. He promises to serve the “Master of the Precious” and takes them by secret paths through the marshes.

Scene Three       In the marshes the hobbits see dead faces in the water, those who died in earlier battles with Sauron before the Gates of Mordor.

Scene Four         Gollum in the meantime is caught in an internal debate between himself governed by the desire for the Ring and his earlier life as the hobbit Sméagol. The appearance of a Ringwraith – a Black Rider on wings – terrifies him.

Scene Five          The three come to the Black Gate leading into Mordor; but the way is barred. Frodo and Sam agree to follow Gollum to another secret way known only to him, through the high pass of Cirith Ungol to the south. As they turn away, an army of Southrons summoned by Sauron enter the Gate.

13           THE KING OF THE GOLDEN HALL

Scene One          Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli arrive at the gates of Edoras, the seat of the kings of Rohan.

Scene Two          Here their way is barred by Hama, who refuses to admit them until they lay aside their arms. He does however permit Gandalf to keep his staff.

Scene Three       At first King Théoden and his adviser Wormtongue scorn Gandalf’s advice and warnings, but when he strikes down Wormtongue with a blast of lightning from his staff, the king recovers his own courage and recognises the worth of the advice he receives. Gandalf realises that Wormtongue has been acting on the orders of Saruman, and he is banished; Théoden himself determines to set forth to war, and on the advice of Hama he leaves his niece Eowyn to lead the remnant of his people.

Scene Four         As the Entmoot proceeds in Fangorn, the Ent Quickbeam sings to Merry and Pippin of the destruction by Saruman’s orcs of the trees that he loves. The Entmoot explodes in a violent outburst of anger, and march towards Isengard to seek revenge.

17           THE WINDOW ON THE WEST

Scene One          Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam have followed Gollum to Ithilien within the borders of Gondor, where they are captured by Gondorian scouts led by Faramir who is organising an ambush of Sauron’s Southron recruits. Faramir reveals that he is the brother of Boromir, whom he knows is dead; and he takes Frodo and Sam with him to a place of safety.

Scene Two          On the journey Faramir tells Frodo that he knows of Boromir’s ambitions and his mission, but that he would not make use of the weapons of the Enemy. Sam realises that Gollum is still following them.

Scene Three       They come to the refuge of Henneth Annun, concealed behind a waterfall, and in the course of their continuing conversations Faramir realises that his brother had tried to steal the Ring from Frodo. But he maintains his principles, and tells them that he will help them to destroy it.

Scene Four         The sentries have tracked Gollum to the waterfall where he is in search of fish to eat. Frodo helps them to capture him.

Scene Five          Faramir demands to know from Gollum where he leading the hobbits. When he discovers their intended destination he warns Frodo that Cirith Ungol is a place of peril, and that he should also beware of the intentions of his guide; but he bids him go with goodwill.

14           THE JOURNEY TO ISENGARD

Scene One          In a series of brief scenes, we see and hear reports of the movements of the riders of Rohan as well as Gandalf and Wormtongue, both of whom have left the army.

Scene Two          Théoden comes to the fortress of the Hornburg in Helm’s Deep where he intends to make a stand against the invading forces of Saruman. Aragorn and Eomer protect the gates, while Legolas and Gimli man the wall; but Saruman has invented a blasting fire that can demolish the stone.

Scene Three       Inside the fortress, Théoden is reduced to near despair; but Aragorn promises to lead forth his forces.

Scene Four         He bids defiance to the orcs, and as he leads a charge out from the gates of the Hornburg, Gandalf also appears with an army of Ents which overpower the orcs. The wizard bids Théoden to follow him to Isengard to confront Saruman.

Scene Five          Arriving at Isengard, the king and his army find the stronghold overthrown and Merry and Pippin feasting in the ruins. The latter tell how the Ents destroyed the fortifications after Saruman’s army left and then flooded the remains. But Aragorn remains puzzled by the fact that Saruman has apparently been undertaking trade with the Shire. Gandalf asks them to come with him to talk to the traitor, but to beware of his voice.

15           THE VOICE OF SARUMAN

Scene One          The reason for Gandalf’s warnings become evident when Saruman in turn tries to seduce Théoden, and the Gandalf himself, with flattery and sophistries masquerading as appeals to self-interest and reason. But Gandalf now reveals himself in his new reincarnation as Gandalf the White, who has been sent to supersede Saruman as the leader of the White Council. He shatters Saruman’s staff, and deputes the Ents to watch Isengard to ensure that he remains imprisoned there. Wormtongue attempts to kill him by hurling a stone from a window above, but Pippin rescues the crystal object and Gandalf takes it in charge.

Scene Two          Pippin is now fascinated by the crystal, and despite the warnings of Merry he goes and steals it from the sleeping Gandalf. Once he looks into it, he is transfixed by the Eye of Sauron, who delivers to him a message for Saruman before he awakens with a shriek. Gandalf realises the dangers of the Palantir in the wrong hands, and delivers it into the safe keeping of Aragorn before riding in haste to Minas Tirith with Pippin. As he leaves a Nazgûl, a Ringwraith, flies over the camp, as Sauron sends his messenger to Saruman seeking for news of the Ring.

18           CIRITH UNGOL

Scene One          Far south in Ithilien a thunderstorm is brewing as Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to the borders of Mordor. In the lightning Frodo sees that an old statue of the king, overgrown with vegetation and flowers, has now been given a crown again.

Scene Two          They pass by the fortress of Minas Morgul, and see the Lord of the Nazgûl leading out an army to storm Minas Tirith on the opposite bank of the river.

Scene Three       Higher up in the mountains Frodo and Sam see a fortress above and find themselves left alone as Gollum suddenly disappears without explanation. But they still manage to take some sleep, and when Gollum returns he seems to repent of whatever actions he had planned. He is surprises when Sam awakens and accuses him of sneaking off, refusing to say where he has been. Nevertheless he insists that they must make haste.

Scene Four         Having led them into a dark tunnel, Gollum again vanishes and leaves the hobbits alone. Now they suddenly hear the bubbling noise of a giant spider, and the monstrous Shelob only falls back when Frodo produces the star-glass of Eärendil. Using the sword Sting, the hobbits are able to cut themselves loose from Shelob’s cobwebs.

Scene Five          But Gollum falls on Sam as soon as he emerges from the tunnel, leaving Frodo to be felled by Shelob. By the time Sam has reached him, Frodo has been stung and apparently killed. Sam drives Shelob off, but is unable to rouse his master and eventually in desperation he takes the Ring in order that the quest may continue. At that moment bands of orcs both from Minas Morgul and the fortress of Cirith Ungol come and seize Frodo’s body; Sam rushes in pursuit of them.

Scene Six             In a tunnel beneath the fortress Sam learns that Frodo is not dead but paralysed;  Shelob does not eat cold meat. Gorbag, one of the captains, looks forward eagerly to a bout of interrogation; but Shagrat, the other captain, says that all captives are wanted intact by Sauron and he will be kept securely in the uppermost part of the tower. Sam is unable to get in through the gates, and falls senseless before the closed doors.

THE RETURN OF THE KING

19           MINAS TIRITH

Scene One          Gandalf brings Pippin to Minas Tirith and is hailed by the guards.

Scene Two          He escorts Pippin before the seat of Denethor, the Ruling Steward, who interrogates the hobbit as to the manner of death of his son Boromir. Pippin swears fealty to Denethor in acknowledgement of his debt.

Scene Three       Beregond, one of the guards, shows Pippin the field of Pelennor before the gates as they feel the shadow of a Nazgûl passing over. Later when Gandalf returns he warns Pippin that since darkness is spreading out of Mordor there will be no dawn.

20           THE PASSING OF THE GREY COMPANY

Scene One          The action returns to the end of The Voice of Saruman. Aragorn is joined by some of his kindred from the North, who warn him that he may have to essay the Paths of the Dead.

Scene Two          The following morning Merry swears loyalty to Théoden, but Aragorn informs his companions that since he has looked into the palantir he has seen a new danger to Gondor which means that he will indeed have to take the perilous journey of the Paths of the Dead. Eowyn is aghast at his proposal, and when he refuses to take her with him as part of her company reveals that she is now in love with him.

Scene Three       Aragorn leads his company, together with Legolas and Gimli, through the paths of the Dead. The spectral king of the Dead agrees that his followers will fulfil their old oath to Gondor, and Aragorn unveils the banners which declare his title as king.

21           THE SIEGE OF GONDOR

Prelude                The chorus describe the ride of the Rohirrim under Théoden, coming to the aid of Gondor.

Scene One          Looking out across the fields of Pelennor, the guards discover that the forces of Sauron are being led by the Witch-King, the Lord of the Nazgûl. The retreating Faramir leads his men back to the city.

Scene Two          Denethor is dismayed to learn that Faramir has allowed the Ring to escape his grasp, and insists that he should make amends by leading the resistance to the force of Sauron.

Scene Three       Denethor laments the downfall of his house and his Stewardship, and his despair is confirmed when Faramir is brought back wounded.

Scene Four         While Gandalf takes command of the defence, Denethor instructs his men to bring fire to the tomb where he proposes that he and Faramir will be consumed. Pippin begs Beregond to protect Faramir, and runs to summon Gandalf.

Scene Five          But Gandalf is confronted by the Witch-King, who has broken the gates of the City. At that moment the distant horns of the Rohirrim are heard as they enter the field of battle.

22           PELENNOR FIELDS

Scene One          Théoden summons his forces to attack the Southrons, but is overthrown by the appearance of the Lord of the Nazgul on his winged steed. Eowyn protects her uncle the King, and with the aid of Merry kills the Witch-King; but both are severely wounded, and Eomer assumes the kingship with a summons to vengeance.

Scene Two          Gandalf confronts Denethor and rescues Faramir from the fire, but Denethor refuses to take any comfort and predicts disaster. He seizes a brand from one of his servants and sets the house aflame.

Scene Three       The men of the Rohirrim approach the city bearing Eowyn, but here it is discovered that she remains alive and she and Merry are taken to the Houses of Healing.

Scene Four         Eomer leads his men towards the river, but it appears at first that corsairs from Umbar are now attacking from the water. It is only when the ships have landed that it is established that the new arrivals are Aragorn and his Grey Company, and he and the Rohirrim ride now to victory.

23           THE HOUSES OF HEALING

Scene One          Aragorn comes to the assistance of the wounded – Faramir, now the Steward of Gondor, Eowyn and Merry – and cures them with the aid of the plant athelas which the Herb Master and serving-woman Ioreth supply. Gimli and Legolas too now have come to the city, and tell Merry and Pippin of the conquest of the southlands by Aragorn with the Army of the Dead.

Scene Two          Gandalf warns the captains of the armies that Sauron will remain undefeated unless they can find time to allow the Ring-bearer to destroy the Ring and fulfil his quest. It is agreed that Aragorn will lead an army to an assault on Mordor, attempting to distract the Dark Lord from the real danger to his position.

24           THE BLACK GATE OPENS

Before the Black Gate, Aragorn proclaims his title as king of Gondor. In response the Mouth of Sauron [bass], as the representative of the Dark Lord, produces the mail-coat of Frodo as a token that the hobbit has been taken captive and his mission has failed. The forces of the West nonetheless prepare for battle, and Pippin calls that the Eagles are coming to their assistance before he is felled by a stroke from a troll.

25           MOUNT DOOM

Scene One          The scene returns to the end of Cirith Ungol. Sam revives and sets out to rescue Frodo; but entering the tower he finds that the orcs are all dead.

Scene Two          It is revealed that the two orc-captains quarrelled over the distribution of the spoils, and Shagrat now kills Gorbag before escaping with Frodo’s mail-coat. Sam is unable however to find Frodo, and sings a song to try and rouse his attention. But only Snaga remains, threatening Frodo with a whip.

Scene Three       Sam finally rescues Frodo, but the latter is disconsolate when he realises that the Ring has been taken from him. When he discovers that Sam has it, he at first accuses him of theft and makes it clear that if he is nearly in its power; and if it is lost to him he will go mad. Sam helps him to recover.

Scene Four         In the parched desert of Mordor, Frodo and Sam are overtaken by two orcs tracking them, who fall into their own argument during which the captain is killed; but they discover that Gollum also is still on their trail. Sam sees the star of Eärendil shining high above in the heavens, and looks upon it as a sign of hope.

Scene Five          Coming to the slopes of Mount Doom, they are suddenly attacked by Gollum seeking to regain the Ring from Frodo. They fend him off, and Frodo continues on his way, but Sam finds himself unable to kill the treacherous Gollum.

Scene Six             At the brink of the fiery pits of Doom, Frodo finally declares that he cannot destroy the Ring, and assumes full ownership of it by placing it upon his finger. Gollum comes up and, biting off Frodo’s finger, falls into the fire together with the Ring. The mountain erupts destroying all the land, the returning Ringwraiths are consumed in the fire, and in a moment of stillness Frodo and Sam prepare for death together, their quest achieved, as Sam wistfully thinks of the songs that will be made of their adventures.

26           THE FIELD OF CORMALLEN

Scene One          The scene returns to the end of The Black Gate opens. Just as the Eagles arrive, Gandalf calls upon the armies to halt as the end of the realm of Mordor is accomplished. He asks Gwaihir as the Lord of the Eagles to bear him rapidly to Mount Doom and they rescue Frodo and Sam from the fires.

Scene Two          In the Houses of Healing, Faramir seeks to comfort Eowyn, who is still devoid of purpose as she fears for the life of Aragorn. But when they see from afar the downfall of Mordor, she realises that hope for the future remains and falls into Faramir’s arms.

Scene Three       Frodo and Sam are brought in triumphal procession before Aragorn and Gandalf, and Sam finally achieves his ambition to hear their story told by a minstrel of Gondor.

27           THE STEWARD AND THE KING

Prelude                Gwaihir the Eagle proclaims to the people of Minas Tirith the forthcoming triumph of their king.

Scene One          To a background of chatter from the serving-woman Ioreth, Aragorn is escorted before the gates of Gondor, and Faramir proclaims his title to the kingship. He is hailed by the people, and asks that Gandalf and Frodo should place the crown upon his head.

Scene Two          High in the mountains, Gandalf reveals to Aragorn that the power of the Three Elven-rings has also perished with the One. Aragorn laments that he has no heir to inherit his title and that his realm will fade after his death; but Gandalf discloses the presence of a scion of the White Tree (descendant of one of the two Trees of Valinor) which restores hope. The old tree is uprooted and laid to rest in the tombs of the city.

Scene Three       Heralded by Glorfindel, Elrond now arrives from Rivendell, escorting his daughter Arwen to become the wife of Aragorn and the Queen of Gondor.

28           HOMEWARD BOUND

Scene One          Frodo comes to bid farewell to the King and Queen, and Arwen promises him that if he is unable to find peace in his home he may take her place on the ship to Valinor in the West.

Scene Two          Following the funeral of Théoden, Eomer announces the betrothal of his sister Eowyn to Faramir, and Aragorn gives them his blessing.

Scene Three       Coming to Isengard, the company are met by Treebeard, who admits that he has allowed Saruman to leave the tower as he is no longer dangerous. Legolas and Gimli also take their leave, and Aragorn dissolves the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring as he returns to his own kingdom.

Scene Four         Entering the land of Eregion, Gandalf, Celeborn and Galadriel together with the hobbits encounter Saruman and Wormtongue, who are seeking a way out of the newly established kingdom. Gandalf fears that the malice of Saruman remains undiminished.

Scene Five          Returning to Rivendell, Frodo and Bilbo are finally reunited; but it appears that Bilbo has now completely forgotten the reasons that his ring had to be destroyed. He only looks forward now to his final rest.

29           THE SCOURING OF THE SHIRE

Prelude                Before he leaves Rivendell, Frodo is told by Elrond that he should look for Bilbo in the autumn of the Shire.

Scene One          Coming to the borders of the Shire, the hobbits find that Frodo’s cousin Lotho, to whom he had sold Bag End, has set himself up as the boss of a gangster-like organisation which is being run by Bill Ferny from Bree. The latter is expelled, but Pippin realises that they still have work to do.

Scene Two          When they arrive at Bywater, the hobbits find that other ruffians have taken control of the country, including Ted Sandyman who is assisting in the despoliation of the landscape. Merry summons the local farmers to rise up against their oppressors, and when Bill Ferny returns in an attack on Farmer Cotton, he is shot by archers. Sam laments the destruction of so much that was held dear, but Saruman who now appears reveals that it is he who has directed the ruination of the land in revenge for the destruction of Isengard. He tries treacherously to kill Frodo, but his blade is turned by the hidden mail-coat and Frodo in his turn forswears retribution hoping that Saruman will eventually find his own salvation. But when Saruman viciously reveals that Wormtongue has killed Lotho, the latter springs on his back and cuts his throat before in turn succumbing to hobbit archers. Saruman’s body gathers a mist around itself, seeking to find reincarnation as Gandalf had done before; but a wind takes it from the West, and it is dispersed.

30           THE GREY HAVENS

Scene One          Frodo, now back in his home at Bag End, is depressed and inconsolate. Not only does he remain in pain from his wounds, and from the loss of the Ring, but he despairs of ever finding the promised redemption in the West.

Scene Two          However in the woods he and Sam encounter a company of Elves from Rivendell and Lórien, with Elrond, Galadriel and Bilbo riding to the Grey Havens and their ship to Valinor. Frodo now bids farewell to Sam, with the foresight that the latter too will in due course be able to follow. The Elves sing as they proceed on their journey.

Scene Three       Coming to the Havens they are greeted first by Círdan the Shipwright and then by Gandalf, who assures them that not all grief is evil. They embark upon the ship to Valinor, and voices from over the water welcome them as they depart for the Deathless Lands.

APPENDICES

APPENDIX I - THE LAY OF LUTHIEN

Chapter 5            In the original version of this chapter the song Aragorn sang to the hobbits in Scene One was a lay describing the meeting of Beren and Lúthien. An expanded version of this setting was however incorporated into that section of the score in the epic scenes from The Silmarillion, and the revised version now substitutes a different poem about the Elvenking Gil-galad, which is in turn employed as the basis for further musical elaboration within the musical chapters from The Lord of the Rings. Listeners may however prefer to substitute this longer section instead.

APPENDIX II - THE LAY OF EARENDIL

Chapter 6            Just before the end of Scene Two Bilbo stands to sing an extended Lay of Eärendil describing the voyages of Elrond’s father; the setting here, originally designed as an appendix to the epic scenes from The Silmarillion, was then expanded and incorporated into The War of Wrath. Listeners may again be wish to hear it in its original place.

APPENDIX III - THE LAY OF DURIN

Chapter 8           A song excised from the original sung by Gimli as the fellowship pass through Moria. [This was cut from the scene due to pacing of the chapter but in discussion with members of the Discord group Paul was inspired to compose a version that could be part of the appendices]

APPENDIX IV - EPILOGUE: ARAGORN AND ARWEN

After a rule extending for 120 years, Aragorn decides that it is now time for him to resign his kingdom to his successors. Arwen however is reluctant to abandon her bliss and is not consoled by his promise of a life beyond the circles of the world. She departs in sorrow to the land of Lothlórien which has now been deserted by its people, and lays her down upon Cerin Amroth. [This section of the score was originally conceived as a work for solo piano, The Passing of Arwen, as a supplement to the musical chapters, a parallel to the Akallabêth and the epic scenes from The Silmarillion; it was subsequently expanded to the form given here, complete with solo voices, narrative chorus and orchestra.]

Thematic Analysis by Paul Corfield Godfrey

Introduction

 

I have already elsewhere explained much of the background to the manner in which my Epic scenes from The Silmarillion came to be written. In fact my first music for any Tolkien script dates back to the summer of 1966 when I can recall sitting by the lake at Sittinghurst Castle in Kent and making my first sketches for a suite which included both the existing ‘hobbit’ theme and an early version of the ‘Shire’ melody. These were followed in the autumn of that year by other elements that survived into later work: the lament for Boromir, for example, and an early version of In the willow-meads of Tasarinan. These short pieces were originally fragmentary, but soon began to coalesce into a larger framework in the shape of a complete setting of Book IV of The Lord of the Rings, originally given the grandiose title of The Doom but eventually to materialise as The Black Gate is closed.

Work on this fully operatic setting had advanced far enough for a piano rehearsal of the first scene to be held in the summer of 1968, and the score was substantially sketched by March 1969 including some passages – such as the thunderstorm in Act Three – which would later find their way in largely unaltered form into The Silmarillion. The final chords of the score were written during my Easter holidays that year in a freezing cold cottage near the Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry – as I discovered much later, some years after Tolkien himself had spent a holiday in the same Irish mountain landscape. But even so at that time much of the work was left incompletely orchestrated, and some of the scoring was clearly impractical. The amateur orchestra at the London School of Economics rehearsed a much-reduced orchestral suite in the autumn of 1969, but that was as far as the work ever progressed, despite some interest expressed by those in London who saw the score and a suite derived from the sketches given by the LSE orchestra in 1971. Indeed I was far from clear in my own mind regarding the function of the three-Act torso, except that it might in due course form part of a complete Lord of the Rings cycle of an unspecified but massive scale. Having completed the sketches, I soon turned to the more practical subject of Michéal Mac Liammóir’s Diarmuid and Gráinne which had reached completion and indeed partial performance by the summer of 1971.

 

During that period I had not entirely abandoned thoughts on the projected Tolkien work, and indeed this took a new departure with my setting of the lengthy poem The Sea Bell completed early in 1972. The principal theme of this song, which returns several times in varied forms during the progress of the narrative, is in all essential features the same as the extended melody employed initially for the Elves as the second subject in my third symphony Ainulundalë, and eventually associated in The Silmarillion with the elven realm of Doriath (and an abridged version of the original setting survives into the final score of The Grey Havens).

At the same time I finally established a projected form for the putative operatic cycle on The Lord of the Rings, a wildly impractical scheme extending over thirteen evenings of performances (including two evenings devoted to The Hobbit); and I went so far as to devise a complete text for this monstrous construction, covering the whole territory in great detail and leaving very little out. In due course I began some very tentative work on this task: the two evenings which set The Hobbit were fully sketched, and some other Acts – Tom Bombadil and The Grey Havens – were also substantially completed in short score (although the end of both was missing). A good many other sketches also date from this period, but of course the whole enterprise was brought to an end by the difficulties of obtaining copyright clearance for the texts, and in due course – following the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 – the diversion of my musical attention to the newly emerging material.

I have explained elsewhere how, beginning with my purely orchestral and instrumental approach to the texts in the Ainulindalë symphony and the piano rondo Akallabêth (both dating from the period 1978-79), and with the approval of the Tolkien estate – and encouragement from both Christopher and Priscilla Tolkien – I eventually began work on my epic scenes from The Silmarillion with The Children of Húrin in 1981-82 and then followed this with the other segments of the cycle during the following years. The completion of Beren and Lúthien, the last of the cycle to be composed at that time in 1996, was followed by a frustrating series of attempts to obtain performance of at least some part of the cycle which was ultimately defeated by the incessant refrain that the work was too long and too complicated, even when attempts were made to reduce the size of the orchestration and forces demanded for suites of excerpts. An attempt to utilise some of the material from the cycle for a setting of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil was equally stillborn, although the use of texts from The Lord of the Rings had been authorised by the Tolkien estate as part of the construction of the Silmarillion scenes. At the same time I assembled the remaining fragments from the Lord of the Rings material, completing the scores for Tom Bombadil and The Grey Havens and putting the other sections into some sort of order.

But it was only when we were coming towards the end of recordings of The Silmarillion that the indefatigable Simon Crosby Buttle, as I have described elsewhere, began by urging me to bring the legends of the First Age to a proper conclusion with the addition of a further Silmarillion segment based around my existing Eärendil setting, which we eventually decided to entitle The War of Wrath. And it was he who suggested at much the same that it might be an interesting idea to provide an Appendix to the recording – in the time-honoured Tolkien tradition – including some of the Lord of the Rings material which had not been incorporated into the Silmarillion cycle. This would also have the advantage of binding the various scores together, allowing listeners to appreciate the connections between them. The theme of Eru which opens Fëanor also closes The Grey Havens; and this is not the only theme associated with the Valar to make a subsequent appearance in the Lord of the Rings sketches (although as might be expected much less frequently than in the Silmarillion). The themes of Elbereth and Yavanna both re-emerge in The Mirror of Galadriel as Galadriel presents the Fellowship with her gifts; and the ‘Arda’ theme from Ainulindalë and Fëanor also reappears, both in its original form and to represent the downfall of Sauron as in the Akallabêth rondo. Even Morgoth, long-banished from Middle-Earth, returns musically in the Balrog scenes and to menacingly underpin the threat of the Nazgul. Ulmo too reappears at several points; although significantly not Mandos, whose curse has been exorcised during the War of Wrath.

 

With these considerations in mind, Simon began the long task of reducing down my original rambling libretto to a series of relatively briefer musical chapters which would require a relatively more limited amount of new musical composition to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. With the completion of my work on The War of Wrath in the early summer of 2020 I turned back to the earlier sketches, beginning in an entirely arbitrary and fortuitous manner with the completion of the scene of triumph at The Field of Cormallen, and linking Frodo’s song at The Prancing Pony through to the first appearance of Aragorn’s description in the preceding scene. I then worked backwards through the earlier version of Tom Bombadil, making some thematic amendments; and returned to my 1970s sketch for A long-expected party, again revising and bringing the score into accordance with the existing Silmarillion. The revision of The Black Gate is closed had perforce to be much more extensive – some of the themes, such as that for the Ring itself, had been substantially altered over the years – and the music later written for the Gondorian scenes had to be incorporated into the originally much more basic material supplied for Faramir. Because of the isolation imposed upon me as a result of the worldwide corona pandemic I found, along with the opportunity for uninterrupted composition, that the new and revised music fell into place with remarkable fluidity and ease; and what emerged was a set of musical chapters which formed a partnership with the epic scenes from The Silmarillion in a manner which reflected Tolkien’s own scheme for his work as envisioned in the 1950s with the two cycles forming part of an integral whole.

At the same time, without the intervention and encouragement of Simon Crosby Buttle, it is certainly justified to say the work would never have been brought to a conclusion. It is with untold gratitude that I dedicate this score to him.

 

Perspectives

In some ways, of course, the musical chapters from The Lord of the Rings are quite distinct in dramatic style from The Silmarillion, in the same manner as the disparate texts themselves. The role of the chorus in delivering the narration in the ‘epic scenes’ vanishes altogether in the ‘musical chapters,’ which therefore become somewhat more conventionally operatic in form. At the same time the Lord of the Rings texts themselves, generally more closely argued and complex in their development, engender a more contrapuntal and elaborate response in the thematic treatment. The action sequences, for example, which form such a major part of both the Peter Jackson films and the Howard Shore scores for them, are trimmed back considerably with many of the battle sequences taking place ‘offstage’. The chapters focus on the lyrical and philosophical aspects of the text in a manner that goes far beyond the simple restitution of Tom Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire to their places in the tale.

Another principal difference between The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings derives from Tolkien’s distinct approaches to the presentation of the narrative. Where in the texts for The Silmarillion there is little attempt made to represent the viewpoint of the characters themselves – the exceptions, such as Beren and Túrin, being very much the exception – in the more conventional novelistic passages of The Lord of the Rings the perspectives adopted are much more varied, and demanded a distinctive approach to the musical styles. This clearly applies most importantly to the reported narratives which form such a considerable part of the text of The Lord of the Rings and present such an obstacle to traditional dramatic methods of presentation. Some of these, such as Gandalf’s narration of his battle with the Balrog and subsequent resurrection, fall much in line with standard operatic narrations of the kind that have become familiar since the days of Wagner; and indeed, some of the examples in Tolkien seek to avoid any threat of monotony by splitting the narrative text between two characters – such as both Pippin and Merry taking turns to describe the fall of Isengard, or Gimli and Legolas similarly telling of Aragorn’s march to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

 

But there are other examples in the score of The Lord of the Rings where the narrative is presented as if in flashback while retaining the personality of the narrator in the description itself. The most prominent of these is Gandalf’s account of his debate with Saruman in Isengard, where the character of the latter is clearly established by virtue of his quite distinctive style of declamation (a subject to which I will return later). But there are many other occasions where the character delivering the narration also has a clearly personal perspective: Aragorn on the summit of Mount Mindolluin, Treebeard singing of his realm of Fangorn, the farewell to Lórien and Galadriel’s Namarië (seen entirely from Frodo’s point of view), Legolas longing for the sea, and so on. In every case the music stands slightly apart from the main narrative, often employing distinctive thematic or harmonic material to emphasise the distinction. Galadriel’s farewell, for example, adopts Tolkien’s own modal declamation rather than the Gondolinesque textures that have characterised the realm of Lothlórien heretofore.

 

Closely related to this issue is the transmigration of musical themes and motives, an extremely complex matter which it would be impossible to explore at other than exhaustive length. When, for example, Faramir talks of the fascination of the men of Númenor with their antiquity, a new theme (originally derived, like that of Beren’s farewell in The Silmarillion, from my Three Songs of Faith) emerges, characterised by mediaeval open organum fifths moving in contrary motion. He later recalls the theme when describing the passage of the Moon over Middle-Earth and the mountain slopes of Mindolluin. But then the theme is taken up, initially by Gandalf, to emphasise the historical background and origins of the Númenorean realms and Gondor in particular, and soon becomes closely allied with the idea of those traditions in the Houses of the Dead in Minas Tirith. They emerge again in full force as Faramir issues the proclamation of Aragorn as King, harkening back to old prescriptions and titles; and then form a background to Aragorn’s own considerations of the future of his own realm and he talks to Gandalf on the slopes of Mindolluin and looks out in his turn upon Middle-Earth.

 

There are other examples. When Aragorn sings of Gil-galad to the hobbits under Weathertop (his song of Beren and Lúthien having of course been thoroughly explored in The Silmarillion) he not only generates another theme to add to his already well-established portfolio, but also underlines his link to Rivendell, the Elvish refuge originally established under the rule of Gil-galad and now governed by Elrond as the son of Eärendil of Gondolin. Themes from Gondolin now combine with the new Gil-galad melody to provide a further rich source of material for the description of the Hidden Valley (in addition to the other pre-existing material carried forward from The Hobbit), and that for Gil-galad then further expands its remit to cover the claims of Aragorn himself to the kingship.

 

These are but two instances of occasions when the close thematic argument of The Silmarillion is further stretched. I have already mentioned the parallels between the Hidden Realms of Gondolin and Lothlórien which are emphasised by the derivation of the orchestral descriptions of the latter from the purely choral hymn to the Gates of Summer heard in The Fall of Gondolin. The Elven kingdoms and their inhabitants of course reflect these further. Arwen, already described in Tolkien in terms which underline her parallels with Lúthien, takes over one of the latter’s principal themes as her own on her very first appearance before The Council of Elrond, and it happily forms a contrapuntal unit with Aragorn’s own ‘Strider’ theme (first heard at the end of Tom Bombadil and receiving definitive form during The Prancing Pony). Moreover Arwen brings her inheritance with her to Gondor; her union with Aragorn is accompanied by the wedding march from The Fall of Gondolin, now happily heard in combination with the ‘Strider’ theme and finally concluding with Frodo’s apostrophe to the night. It will be seen that the precise description and nomenclature of these evolving themes, which was generally possible in The Silmarillion, becomes increasingly difficult under these circumstances.

Results of these considerations

 

One example must perforce suffice here; the whole of the chapter The Steward and the King, extending from the Song of the Eagle (written in 1969) to the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen, is condensed in the film to a single scene of some five minutes in which only Aragorn’s speech in Quenya is actually delivered in the actual words written by Tolkien. In the ‘musical chapter’ we not only hear the song of the Eagle developed as part of the coronation scene itself, and the return of the wedding music from The Fall of Gondolin now transfigured in the same manner that Frodo describes in his summons to blessing on the night (his speech on the subject concludes the scene); but we also hear the lengthy philosophical debate between Gandalf and Aragorn regarding the future development of the world and of the realm of Men in particular. And the discovery on the mountain of the scion of the Tree returns us musically past the era of Gondolin to the second scene of Fëanor, with the theme associated with the Two Trees finally reappearing after its age-long absence as part of a complete structure lasting nearly half an hour. A more detailed analysis of the music structure of this scene perhaps serve to illustrate the degree of complexity involved, where musical material written as far back as 1969 is developed and merged with other and later themes to form a newly unified structure.

 

The opening 1969 Song of the Eagle stands almost alone in all of the Lord of the Rings material, in that it has no thematic cross-references to the rest of the cycle (although the opening bars were later developed as part of the earlier passage leading to the scene on the Field of Cormallen). However immediately after it reaches its climax, now scored for solo voice (either soprano or tenor) and chorus behind the scenes, we are presented with some entirely new material associated with the proclamation of Aragorn’s title before the Gates of Mordor a couple of hours earlier. This is turn leads to a coronation procession where other themes associated with Gondor are presented in combinations with the theme of Aragorn himself (as written in the 1970s and heard as part of the song Strider) and the theme of Lúthien from Beren and Lúthien, which has already been adopted by Arwen herself during her appearance in Rivendell during The Fellowship of the Ring. These two themes are interwoven with each other here, as they were then; but they are then further presented in counterpoint with the Gondorian march originally associated with Boromir, the opening bars of the Song of the Eagle, and the ‘Gates of Mordor’ fanfare. Over all this appears an entirely new theme, which will later become associated with the new Kingdom. The entry of Gandalf and the hobbits brings back their own motifs as originally sketched back in 1967, and heard here almost exactly in the same form as then; over which Ioreth chats busily to her companion, explaining her own part in proceedings and introducing her own musical material from The Houses of Healing.

 

Faramir steps forward to surrender his staff of office. The solemn theme now introduced is, as already mentioned, a sort of mediaeval organum (set in parallel open fifths) and first heard during his description of the antiquity of Gondor in Henneth Annûn; it formed, in full brass augmentation, the introduction to the chapter Minas Tirith; and here, complete with a bass in contrary motion (and also harmonised in open fifths) it brings a suitably mediaeval and ceremonial tone to the proceedings. Faramir then, after his title has been restored to him by Aragorn, sets out a long description of the latter’s heritage and rights to the kingship. At this point a positive phantasmagoria of thematic references erupts: no fewer than eleven previously heard thematic motives concentrated into a contrapuntal web extending over a mere 27 bars – two of these themes, those of Eärendil and Arda itself, originate from appearances in The Silmarillion. And it is to The Fall of Gondolin that Aragorn now turns as he sings the words of Elendil on his arrival in Middle-Earth: singing in Quenya, while the chorus murmurs the Westron/English translation in the background and the orchestra turns to the theme of Men as the Second Children of Ilúvatar, taking the form it assumed in the closing section of Scene Seven of The Fall of Gondolin describing the union of Tuor and Idril.

 

The final section of the coronation itself turns back to the mediaeval ceremony of the ‘antique’ Minas Tirith theme, now combined in harmonic union with that of Gandalf and yet another appearance of hobbit material originally written in 1972 but heard most recently in the Lord of the Rings when Sam rescued Frodo from the Tower of Cirith Ungol. And, as Gandalf sets the crown on Aragorn’s head, he simultaneously reveals himself as the Emissary of the Valar with the theme of Ilúvatar himself appearing soaring above the texture and looking back to the very opening of Fëanor and the creation of the world. The triumphant return of the Song of the Eagle then brings the scene to a close, evoking the sound of an organ (although the church organ finds no place anywhere in either of the cycles based on The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings).

 

The music now introduced from The Fall of Gondolin, however, continues to make its presence felt during the second scene of the chapter, where Gandalf and Aragorn on the mountain tops contemplate the future history of Middle-Earth. After the mediaeval harmonies of the Minas Tirith theme, now transformed into a higher and more mysterious sphere (with counterpoints derived from the Númenor theme familiar from both The Silmarillion and Akallabêth) Gandalf contemplates the coming of the Fourth Age in music already associated with the Mission of the Istari; but when Aragorn raises the question of his own mortality, the music veers back to the themes of the Second Children of Ilúvatar as heard in Scene Seven of The Fall of Gondolin; and it is to this source that the musical development now turns. As in the original Gondolin appearance, where the theme of the Two Trees (dating back to Fëanor) gradually emerged from the texture, so here the same material now gains in triumph as Aragorn discovers the sapling of the Tree of Gondor; and the closing phrases of his apostrophe to the new sign of hope acts as an apotheosis to the love duet between Tuor and Idril in the earlier work. At this point, Tolkien’s text tells us, when the old Tree is uprooted it is laid to rest in Rath Dinen; here, as a symbol of the healing which the new Tree brings, the violin melody associated with the Houses of Healing is heard for the last time before a quiet brass echo of the Minas Tirith theme.

 

And the links between the music of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are established even more securely in the third scene of the chapter, which constitutes in effect an extended wedding procession for Aragorn and Arwen. It is heralded by Glorfindel blowing his trumpet, both motives already established in his earlier appearances during Flight to the Ford and The Council of Elrond, and then moves into other already-heard musical material which in Rivendell had already foreshadowed the union of the couple – employing Aragorn’s ‘Strider’ theme (based on the song written in 1971) in conjunction with the ‘Lúthien’ theme which Arwen appropriated from his ancestress, who had herself originally introduced in her hymn of praise to the nightingales in Beren and Lúthien where the name ‘Tinúviel’ which Aragorn applied to Arwen made its original appearance. The sound of near and distant bells also echoes the wedding march from The Fall of Gondolin, but now the atmosphere of the music is nocturnal rather than illuminated by the glittering light of day. When the principal theme from the central section of the Gondolin wedding march does appear in full orchestral panoply, it settles over the whole of the ending of the scene as an illustration of Frodo’s words to Gandalf as Arwen enters the City. This is not a triumphal wedding march, but a celebration of a nightfall which is however not devoid of hope; and as the procession ascends into the citadel of the city, the three sets of bells – small, medium and large – familiar from The Fall of Gondolin are enhanced by a halo of reverberation from celesta, harp harmonics and vibraphone.

 

The treatment of the action and narrative sequences

 

Quite apart from any other considerations, the medium of music is least well suited (beyond the provision of simple ‘background’) to action sequences of the kind in which the cinematic medium excels. What it can however do is underline the emotional impact of the drama, and also provide a commentary which can indeed supply ‘background’ in a manner that is inaccessible to any other artform. Both these options were explored in the existing film adaptations; the Rosenmann score for the earlier Bakshi cartoon adopted standard ‘action’ music, while Howard Shore for Jackson more imaginatively wrote music that consciously went against the screen images often featuring solo soprano voices (it should perhaps be observed that much of the composition of these “musical chapters” in fact preceded the appearance of either of the films). It seems that, quite apart from the inability of stage production to match cinematic possibilities in depiction of realism, that there is little further to be explored in either of these directions. But there are alternatives available.

 

Two brief examples: when Gandalf describes the prophecy regarding the doom of the Lord of the Nazgûl, the orchestral accompaniment in the ‘musical chapter’ inserts a brief reference to the theme already heard and associated with Glorfindel, so that the listener is reminded of the identity of the one who originally made the prediction. Or then, when Gandalf confronts Saruman and breaks his staff, the authority by which he is able to do so is emphasised by the appearance of the Ilúvatar theme from the very opening of Fëanor and thereafter throughout The Silmarillion, leading to a transformation of the ‘Gandalf the Grey’ theme by modulation into a new key as ‘Gandalf the White’ – a musical effect which in its own turn has already been anticipated at the moment of his return in Fangorn. These are subtleties, but they should be audible even to a musically untrained but attentive listener. Such cross-references reach their apogee at the eruption of Mount Doom, emphasised by the theme of Ilúvatar rising seismically up from below a whole fragmenting battery of themes associated with Sauron and the Nazgûl.

 

The depiction of nature

 

There are also extensive possibilities available for the music to depict the landscapes of Tolkien in the form of miniature tone-poems, examples of which had already been seen in The Silmarillion is such passages as The Haven of the Swans in Fëanor, the depiction of Menegroth in the prelude to Scene Four in Beren and Lúthien, or The forest of Brethil at dawn in The Children of Húrin. Quite apart from the representative Elvish themes in the chapters describing Rivendell and Lórien, there are similar sections to provide impressions of the Great River or the Black Gate of Mordor. One such passage, originally introduced by Aragorn when he talks of Weathertop (and indeed employed in an extended version at the beginning of Flight to the Ford) is then taken up as yet another of his own themes by Aragorn, returning for instance as a conclusion to the Last Debate in The Houses of Healing. Many of these miniature depictions of landscape also feature elements from The Silmarillion, with themes associated with both Sauron and Morgoth heavily featured in the lengthy prelude to The Black Gate opens.

 

In a curious reversal of this procedure, the storm sequence which opens Cirith Ungol was originally sketched back in 1969 during half an hour on a late-night tube journey in London. Although written for just this context, it was heavily revised for Scene Three in The Children of Húrin and then re-emerged in The Fall of Gondolin as well. Another such backward traversal occurred with the extended melody heard in The Lord of the Rings at the beginning of The Grey Havens, where the context was even more complicated.

 

Some eight years later, at the same time that I was writing the Akallabêth, I was also at work on a symphony, based on the programmatic outline of the opening of The Silmarillion as published in 1977 and which resulted in 1979 in the completion of my Third Symphony Ainulindalë. The opening of that symphony, describing the creation of the world, reappears in its entirety as the prologue to Fëanor, the first of the epic scenes in my Silmarillion cycle; but the same theme I wish to examine in more detail now comes slightly later in the dramatic series of events, with the creation of the Elves and their awakening by the Waters of Cuiviénen. This theme, which as we have seen originated in the 1972 setting of The Sea Bell and which we can conveniently call at this stage The Awakening of the Elves, takes the form of an extended melody nearly two minutes in duration and building to a sonorous climax.

 

But, like the Elves themselves, the theme displayed a propensity to migrate. When the action returned to Middle-Earth in Beren and Lúthien, the original theme established itself as a specific representation of the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath. Obviously that melody has no dramatic place in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. But then, nearly at the end of the action, it reappears at full length when Arwen talks to Frodo about the possibility that he may take her place on the last ship leaving Middle-Earth for Valinor. The realms of the Elves in Middle-Earth are ending, but they continue to survive in the Undying Realm, and this is the vision that Arwen holds out to Frodo. And in the very final chapter, The Grey Havens, Frodo takes up the same theme, now seen as representative of the Elven-Kingdoms as a whole – at first in his singing of the first part of Tolkien’s poem The Sea Bell, which tells of his despair of ever achieving rest. And it is this same Doriath theme, now come full circle, which once again describes the Elves abandonment of Middle-Earth and departure to the West, as the Ring-bearers ride to the Grey Havens. This is just one of many examples where, over the course of a musical structure which now extends over some thirty hours of music, themes will emerge and disappear over a period of time assuming changing perspectives on the action – not only in the shape of symphonic development of the material, but also in underlining dramatic and emotional parallels.

 

More on motivic development

 

While the music for my cycle of epic scenes from The Silmarillion displayed a slow evolution of thematic material – from the densely chromatic opening chords of Fëanor to the multiplicity of motifs associated with the Valar, the Eldar, Men and the other populations of Tolkien’s Middle-earth – that for the parallel cycle of musical chapters from The Lord of the Rings depends to a very large degree on the assumption that the motifs of The Silmarillion are taken for granted as a background to the dramatic development, and only slowly reveal new musical facets as the action develops. It therefore makes no sense whatsoever to consider the material of The Lord of the Rings in isolation from The Silmarillion, even when in the actual course of the compositional process music written for the former during the 1970s found itself adapted and reinterpreted in the latter from the 1980s onward. It seems therefore more germane, and certainly more readily comprehensible for the listener, to treat the various thematic elements in the chapters of The Lord of the Rings in the context of their initial appearances in The Silmarillion, making reference to the descriptive system employed in the musical analysis of that work and then adding further citations from the score as required. The alternative involves the very real danger that certain passages, such as the ‘last debate’ or the coronation of Aragorn, with their close contrapuntal intersplicing of a whole variety of individual themes, might degenerate into a complex mathematical series of numbered themes which would bewilder the reader of this analysis and (even more dangerously) convey an entirely incorrect formalistic structure to a freely evolving musical tapestry. And the most comprehensive manner to avoid this, therefore, is to treat the thematic structure of both the Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings works in terms of the peoples, locations and events they describe.

 

While the opening prelude of Fëanor, derived in turn from my third symphony Ainulindalë, laid out for the hearer a whole series of brief (and not so brief) themes depicting the creation of the Valar and their functions, the very more realistic nature of The Lord of the Rings inevitably means that the mythological element is distanced. The theme representing Ilúvatar through the medium of his vicegerent the Elder King, which opens the musical development of Fëanor and is a constant presence throughout The Silmarillion, does not even make the shadow of an appearance until the opening music itself returns to describe the resurrection of Gandalf as the White Wizard in The Riders of Rohan. It is clear however from the music here that it is the intervention of Ilúvatar himself that provides the impetus for the action, with even the densely chromatic opening chords from Fëanor (that is, the primeval chaos before creation) making a solitary appearance; and thereafter the same theme will return at climactic moments of crisis, as when Gandalf reveals his power to break Saruman’s staff (in The Voice of Saruman), during his dispute about his mission with Denethor (in Minas Tirith) or in the passage where he overpowers the Mouth of Sauron (in The Black Gate opens). It makes its final almost ghostly appearance immediately following the death of Saruman, when the wraith of the slain wizard makes an appeal for the clemency of the Valar, and is dissolved by the wind blowing from the west (in the closing bars of The Scouring of the Shire). In The Silmarillion there also evolves a second demonstration of the power of Ilúvatar in references to the Downfall of Númenor, where the original theme evolves a much more violent tone, and this also reappears in The Lord of the Rings with reference to the defeat of Sauron both in the Downfall of Númenor and in the overthrow of the realm of Mordor itself; so that when Faramir, beholding the latter from a distance (in The Field of Cormallen), says that it reminds him of Númenor, that resemblance is not only a simple verbal reference but a musical one as well.

 

Other cosmological considerations

 

The final musical motive from the Fëanor prelude, that identified with Arda as the created realm of Middle-Earth, recurs of course incessantly throughout The Silmarillion. As a depiction of the primaeval planet it has inevitably less significance in The Lord of the Rings; but its opening phrase, with its distinctive fall from the major to the subdominant minor, has already figured in the piano rondo Akallabêth in connection with the fall of Númenor as well as the destruction of one of the Silmarils in The War of Wrath; and this isolated phrase returns at another planet-changing climax, the final destruction of the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. As we have seen, it occurs again as a symbol of triumph when Faramir refers to Aragorn as “victorious”; but before then it has already undergone a major transmutation based on its symbolism as an element of the earth itself. As they prepare to march on Isengard, the Ents gather strength from their roots in the ground to generate a rhythmic variation on the same chord progression; and at the end of The King of the Golden Hall, this is suddenly revealed, as they contemplate the tower of Orthanc by moonlight, as a high fluttering figuration on flutes and celesta. It now becomes a theme associated with the enchantments of technology and magic – it sparks off an explosion as Saruman’s forces demolish the walls at Helm’s Deep, and then becomes attached to the destructive forces associated with the Lord of the Nazgul. Nevertheless, its prime function is to illustrate the machinations of Saruman himself.

 

Saruman is, as Tom Shippey has pointed out, the most modern character in the whole of The Lord of the Rings: a definitively twentieth-century figure as opposed to, say, the idealised late nineteenth-century Victorian Diamond Jubilee Shire of the Hobbits. As such his musical language is inevitably different from anything else in either The Silmarillion or The Lord of the Rings. His elegant use of the language and rounded periods of the Enlightenment are reflected in a slightly florid baroque style; but it is not the natural elegance of Voltaire, but the cultivated double-speak of the Orwellian demagogue, and the baroque style is that of Stravinskian neo-classicism rather than Mozartian cantilena. There are moments, too, when he allows his cultivated style to slip – either in moments of anger and tension, or when he is trying to daunt the hobbits with the threat of his latent power – and at these moments the elegant decoration of his vocal line suddenly reverts to a more brutally syllabic style which is noted even by his listeners – “they shuddered at the change,” Tolkien notes. Wormtongue too, as the creature of Saruman, adopts his more florid style of delivery when addressing Théoden in Edoras, and it is only later that he reverts to a more natural line when he is driven by a sense of increasing servility and desperation. At the end of The Scouring of the Shire, when Saruman is reduced to a sense of futility and despondency by Frodo’s proffered mercy, his vocal line shrinks in an almost Oedipal fashion; but this is no lux facta est. Saurman’s own aspiring theme is now inexorably and grotesquely corrupted by the chromatically distorted ‘Sharkey’ theme heard earlier in the chapter; and as he vents his frustration on Wormtongue, the one object left on which he can still exercise coercion, and the latter cuts his throat, the themes of Isengard are heard for one last time clattering to the ground in ruin.

 

But that, as Tolkien shows in a very late addition to the book, is not quite the end of the story. It is clear that Saruman still has one remaining option; he can return his physical body to the One, in the hope that he may be reincarnated in a new existence, as has already happened to Gandalf earlier in the drama. But whereas Gandalf, in his narration of his spiritual journey, has made it clear that his voyage involved a return to the primordial chaos before Creation – indeed, to the very opening of Fëanor in The Silmarillion – Saruman in his pride and wilfulness is not willing to abase himself so far. He seeks for salvation from the Valar, and the shadow that rises from his dead body makes itself manifest in the music heard somewhat later in the same passage of Fëanor, when the Valar themselves have already come into being. Without that basal structure the shadow of Saruman is simply dissipated by the wind, at the same moment when Gandalf’s new incarnation as the White Rider had come into being. All that is left is dust – “fragments of skin” – which are left to scatter with the last remnants of the Isengard musical material, which are themselves the isolated fragments of the original Arda theme from the Fëanor prelude.

The undying Elves

 

The theme associated with Rivendell was one of the very first motifs written for the Tolkien cycle back in 1966 but reached a more-or-less definitive form in the first interlude in Over Hill and Under Hill in The Hobbit. It is repeated at full length twice in The Lord of the Rings, in both instances before the hobbits arrive at the hidden valley, but it also returns in more developed form during the feast in The Council of Elrond. The descending woodwind phrases in the theme later expanded into the music given to the Elves in the Ainulindalë symphony and then in the opening scenes of Fëanor where they even preceded the melody associated with Doriath (which has already been discussed). As also has been already noted, the music for the Elven-kingdom of Lothlórien is closely derived from the Elvish chant in The Fall of Gondolin. So the greater part of the material associated with the Elves in The Lord of the Rings derives directly from the Silmarillion scores, the only exception being the theme given to Legolas which is an exact copy of that assigned to his father Thranduil in The Hobbit (but also shares the descending phrases of the Rivendell theme). And in the closing bars of The Grey Havens we return to the theme associated with the bearers of the three Elven-Rings in The War of Wrath, as they depart across the seas to Valinor. That theme has already appeared in The Shadow of the Past, both when Sam and Ted Sandyman discuss the sailing of the Elves and when Gildor and his followers encounter the hobbits in the woods of the Shire on their own journey westward. In The Grey Havens the theme is set against the turn of the melody of Athelas! as a symbol of healing.

 

Two other themes from The Hobbit, both of them depicting elven artifacts, should be mentioned here: Bilbo’s sword Sting, with its characteristic repeated notes, and his coat of elven mail with its glittering scoring for tuned percussion. Both remain substantially unchanged even on repetition and when surrounded by the evils of Mordor, rather like the star-glass of Eärendil (to which discussion will return shortly).

 

There is one entirely new theme in The Lord of the Rings which first appears at full length during the interlude following Gandalf’s nomination of Sam as Frodo’s companion when he leaves the Shire. It consists of four phrases which taken as a whole form a description of the White Council, the body of Elves and wizards formed to combat Sauron. The theme will become that associated more specifically with the Fellowship of the Ring from Farewell to Rivendell, but it is also noteworthy because it incorporates within it the theme of Gandalf the Grey (already familiar from The Hobbit) and Saruman the White. Both of these will frequently detach themselves from their context to represent the two individual wizards and their conflicts, and the theme for Gandalf will as already noted undergo further transformation following his resurrection as Gandalf the White. Nonetheless the theme of the White Council and the Fellowship of the Ring as its representative and successor will continue to be heard in its original form until the Fellowship itself is brought to an end by Aragon during the chapter Homeward Bound.

 

Another theme which will make its final appearance in the same scene is that associated with the Palantir. This is first heard at the beginning of The voice of Saruman and then reappears frequently during the following scenes, usually distinguished by the colouring of the vibraphone. With its characteristic rising tones at the end it invariably leads into further thematic developments.

 

The mortal themes

 

The theme associated with Men as the Second Children of the One, which originated in my Ainulindalë symphony, first appears in Fëanor when the title character looks forward to the eventual usurpation of the Elves by their younger kindred during his speech to the Noldor in Tirion. Thereafter it grows in importance throughout The Silmarillion. It appears during the final bars of the tragedy of The Children of Húrin and at greater length forms the principal material for the duet between Tuor and Idril in The Fall of Gondolin. It makes its final full appearance in The War of Wrath when Eärendil and Elwing discuss whether they wish to be adjudged as Elves or amongst Mankind, but thereafter it is only heard in the guise of its opening phrase during the forging of the Ring at the words “nine for mortal Men doomed to die.” It is not therefore surprising that in The Lord of the Rings its initial appearances are restricted to those occasions when the Ring is discussed. But then it suddenly re-emerges at the climax of Aragorn’s coronation, when the newly crowned King recalls the words of his ancestors singing in Quenya (with the chorus providing a simultaneous translation); and then it dominates the later part of the following scene already discussed, where Aragorn laments his mortality and the evanescence of his inheritance; and it blossoms fully as he finds the scion of the Two Trees which heralds the future of his posterity, emerging into a statement that echoes the ecstasy of his ancestors Idril and Tuor and looks forward to his own forthcoming union with his beloved Arwen. It is not heard again during The Lord of the Rings; but it does return during his dialogue with Arwen at the time of Aragorn’s own death in the appendix scene (added some years after the completion of the remainder of the score).

 

Another theme associated with the destiny of Men in The Silmarillion is that originally conceived for the House of Hador in The Children of Húrin which subsequently became the principal theme for the kingdom of Númenor (and formed the principal theme of the piano rondo Akallabêth). This extended grandiose melody returns in The Lord of the Rings much earlier, in association both with the Númenorean realm in exile founded in Gondor and with the aspiration for the refounded kingdom which will be established in The Return of the King. It reappears in its most triumphant guise as Aragorn leads the Fellowship past the pillars of the Argonath, and then with added vainglorious trumpet fanfares as Boromir envisages the forces of Gondor which he will lead in battle wielding the power of the Ring – and here it parallels the similar passage in the Akallabêth where Ar-Pharazôn is seduced by the wiles of Sauron; in both instances the bass line is subverted by the chromatic movement associated with the wiles of the Dark Lord. It is not until Aragorn is finally established as king of the reunited kingdom and bids farewell to the Fellowship at Isengard in Homeward Bound that the Númenor theme is heard in full splendour for the last time.

 

But before then it has also generated a more subdued version in mournful mode (which had been briefly pre-figured in The War of Wrath as Eärendil flew over Middle-earth and heard the cries of lamentation from below). It is first heard here in The window on the west as Faramir describes the downfall of Gondor as a “springless autumn” and is soon adumbrated by Denethor’s vision of the end of his stewardship and realm. This pessimistic outlook, quoted by Gandalf in his report to the debate of the captains in The Houses of Healing, underpins later dialogues between Faramir and Éowyn and then between Gandalf and Aragorn during The Steward and the King. And it is this version of the theme, too, which Arwen adumbrates when she pleads with Aragorn before his death.

Faramir’s first employment of the pessimistic Númenor theme is followed immediately by another theme associated with the antiquity of Gondor, and this is entirely new to The Lord of the Rings. As discussed already although it is first heard as a distant whisper descriptive of “childless lords musing on heraldry” and “moonset over Gondor” it later becomes strident as Gandalf bears Pippin on horseback to Minas Tirith; indeed it opens the chapter of that title at the beginning of The Return of the King. It becomes dominant as Denethor asserts his power, and represents the lineage of the kings and stewards in the Houses of the Dead; and Faramir takes it up formally during the coronation of Aragorn, before it returns to describe the mountain above Mindolluin where he and Gandalf confer about the future. In The Lord of the Rings it only recurs once more, its opening phrase reduced to a whisper, as the withered Tree of Gondor is “laid to rest in Ras Dínen” – but it will again return in the Aragorn and Arwen appendix where indeed it will open and close the music as a sort of antique epigraph and postscript.

 

Aragorn himself has a whole family of themes, all of which are heard exclusively in The Lord of the Rings and which appear during the reading of Gandalf’s letter where the material is drawn from the early song Strider. These generally revolve around a rising scale with a rhythmic fall in the final notes, but there is also a middle section at the words “from the ashes a fire shall be woken” which leads to another characteristic phrase at “renewed shall be sword that was broken”. The material of the song, heard twice in close succession in The Prancing Pony and prefigured when the hobbits see their vision at the end of Tom Bombadil, forms the basis also for the prelude to Flight to the Ford which can be viewed as a portrait of Strider the Ranger of the Dúnedain; the material returns in full as he is joined by his kinsfolk in Rohan in the opening scene of The Passing of the Grey Company, and of course at many other points. But immediately after we hear the song during the reading of Gandalf’s letter, another new extensive melody emerges which is initially associated with Weathertop, the fortress built by Aragorn’s ancestors on the road to Rivendell. It returns twice at full length both before and after the scene of the attack on that fortress, but it then becomes inextricably associated with Aragorn himself especially when he foresees the disaster which will befall Gandalf in the Mines of Moria in the closing pages of Farewell to Rivendell.

 

The Strider material also returns during the prelude to The Passing of the Grey Company, where is forms the middle section of another of Aragorn’s melodies, this time that associated with the Riders of Rohan which he sang to the melody Where now is the horse and the rider? during The King of the Golden Hall. Before then he had also delivered another salutation to the southern kingdoms of men in his paean Gondor! Gondor! (immediately following on a full statement of the Númenor theme) which is then taken up by the orchestra during Minas Tirith when Gandalf leads Pippin into the city to meet Denethor, and returns as a symbol of the reunited kingdom in Aragorn and Arwen where it reaches an apotheosis as a description of their “years of bliss.” And yet another new theme derives from a song by Aragorn, this time his folk-like ballad of the fall of Gil-Galad delivered to the hobbits under Weathertop. This first reappears during the scenes in Rivendell during The Council of Elrond but eventually becomes another element in Aragorn’s armoury; and it is this theme, now transformed to regal splendour, which accompanies his proclamation of his ancestry at the end of The Passing of the Grey Company and his arrival at the battle in Pelennor Fields.

 

The rising theme associated in The Silmarillion with Eärendil as a star and beacon of hope also returns in The Lord of the Rings, at first when Frodo sees the ring on Galadriel’s finger as a star and then when she presents him with the star-glass containing the light of Eärendil’s star itself. It continues to represent the hope which it symbolises throughout; and during the iconic scene in Mordor where Sam looks up at the star in the sky, the music associated with Eärendil in The War of Wrath returns at full length during an extended orchestral interlude immediately before the arrival at Mount Doom. Of similar type are the theme associated with Glorfindel (first heard in the final scene of Flight to the Ford but recurring thereafter) and the reforged sword Andúril, which also returns in conjunction with the phrase from the Strider song “renewed shall be sword that was broken” most notably when it is blasted out by trombones immediately after the sword is reforged.

 

One other theme in The Silmarillion specifically associated with mortal men does return in The Lord of the Rings, but in a somewhat transmuted guise. The rising theme of Beren himself, which had already been subjected to a whole series of rhythmic permutations in Beren and Lúthien, is now taken up and extended into a more warlike and aggressive form which becomes symbolic of the military might of Gondor, and is employed as such by Boromir during The Council of Elrond and more forcefully when he tries to take the Ring from Frodo in The Breaking of the Fellowship. Beregond among others also evokes the theme when he describes the preparations for war in Minas Tirith, and the second part of the theme (now detached from its Beren-derived opening) becomes symbolic of the power wielded by Denethor and the forces of Gondor headed by Imrahil. This is closely related in its turn to two themes associated with Faramir as captain of the armies (both heard for the first time during the prelude to The Window on the West) which are taken up during his wooing of Éowyn and combined with a third theme originally associated with Boromir but which then becomes symbolic of the whole House of the Stewards and forms the principal theme for the rejoicing in The Field of Cormallen before it is taken up into the coronation ceremony in The Steward and the King.

 

Before we turn to the themes associated with the Rohirrim, there are a number of other themes associated with the realms of the Númenoreans in exile which should be mentioned. The sword motif associated with Andúril is transformed in The Black Gate opens into a fanfare during which the heralds proclaim the title of Aragorn as King of Gondor; and at the same time a version of the same theme in contrary motion is heard, which will eventually become associated more specifically with Arwen as Queen of Gondor and the offer of healing which she makes to Frodo following the destruction of the Ring. The latter returns at the opening of The Grey Havens as a counterpoint to the theme of the elven kindred, and here it is combined with a second theme of healing which first makes itself apparent as a representation of athelas in The Houses of Healing before it manifests itself as an incipient love theme as Faramir makes his first tentative approach to Éowyn. It also expands into the more extended lyrical setting of Come Athelas! as sung by the Herb Master, and it is this melodic form which returns towards the end of The Grey Havens where it combines with another theme associated with the Undying Lands – the principal melody from the epilogue in The War of Wrath, which has already been briefly reprised during The Shadow of the Past but not heard for some twelve hours.

 

The music associated with the kingdom of Rohan is entirely new to the Lord of the Rings scores, with no antecedents in the themes for either The Silmarillion or The Hobbit. The principal theme, with its plunging octaves and fifths, is heard at the outset of The Two Towers although it has been briefly twice prefigured at the point of Gandalf’s escape from Orthanc (firstly in a dream sequence in Tom Bombadil and then in the wizard’s own narrative during The Council of Elrond). This theme will recur many times throughout the remainder of the score, but almost from the first is underpinned by a repetitive galloping theme like the hoofbeats of horses, often in a characteristic rhythmic pattern of 3+3+2. This has been heard before during The Fellowship of the Ring to represent the horses of Glorfindel, Gandalf and indeed the Black Riders; and during the opening chapter of The Two Towers it finds itself also in combination with the theme of the Orcs from The Silmarillion, turning their original 4/4 syncopations into an uneasy 12/8 ostinato that underpins the chase across the plains of Rohan. When the pursuers are in their turn overtaken by Éomer, the latter brings with him a whole raft of new themes including his own variant on the Rohan theme (with a falling third replacing the original fourths), and a more heroic rising theme which will eventually become associated with Théoden as both the newly reinvigorated King of Rohan and then the charge of the Rohirrim themselves during the battle of the Pelennor Fields. Other themes also appear during these chapters; firstly a rising and questing theme which in outline is an inversion of that of Théoden, and associated specifically with his sister-daughter Éowyn which remains basically unchanged through its encounters with both the Witch-King and later again with Faramir. Secondly there is an exciting descending theme which first appears as the Rohirrim set forth to war at the end of The King of the Golden Hall, which recurs both during the following battle scenes, and then extended with an air of despair as Éowyn vainly pleads with Aragorn to avoid the Paths of the Dead. There are other motifs also in this group, including a brusque plunging theme for Háma, a rising inquisitive fragmentary series of phrases representing Wormtongue, and a free-floating rising theme for Shadowfax (the latter always associated with the characteristic 3+3+2 galloping rhythm) which has been briefly prefigured during Gandalf’s narrative during The Council of Elrond.

 

Most importantly of all, as Théoden summons his warriors to battle, a marching theme is launched which will represent the Rohirrim in warfare which has several novel features. Unlike most modern military marches in 4/4 it sets out in a swinging 3/4 metre, but at the same time the underpinning rhythm is three-against-four or two-against-three, to represent the irregularity of hoofbeats beneath the precision. This reaches a positive climax of conflicting rhythms not only in the choral Ride of the Rohirrim which opens the chapter The siege of Gondor, but also in the ensuing chapter set against the strict 2/2 rhythm of the march of the men of Harad at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields (which in turns derives from the plodding folk-like setting of Oliphaunt in The Two Towers). In the same scene the choral narrative describing the battle, in a stern 4/4 narrative, is set against a slow funereal rhythm which once again follows the 3+3+2 pattern. And the funeral march for Théoden in Homeward Bound takes the same pattern, slowed down ever further, and counterpoints it with a whole series of contradictory pulses in the choral and brass writing. As such the music associated with the Rohirrim is always contrasted with that for the Númenorean kingdoms with their more regular military formations.

 

The Haradrim’s Oliphaunt song does in fact break into triple rhythm at one point – although it always returns to its forthright 2/2 – but their allies the Corsairs of Umbar have a more fluid and malevolent style characterised by chromatic movements of chains of diminished sevenths which find themselves into persistent conflict with their old enemies the men of Númenor whose rising theme struggles against them at each cadence. Each of the warring peoples also have their own fanfares and battle calls, mirroring their own musical styles and often totally at odds with everything else in their vicinity.

The dwarves, the Ents and other races

 

All the music in The Lord of the Rings associated with the dwarves – or, more specifically, with Gimli and his father Glóin – derives from material previously heard in The Hobbit and written as part of that score in the early 1970s, although none of it figures in the Silmarillion cycle. Glóin in his narrative to Frodo regarding the Kingdom under the Mountain refers back to the extended melody with which Thorin bade farewell to Bilbo before his death with its characteristic falling thirds, and the theme associated with Dáin in the earlier score now returns to represent not only the new King under the Mountain but the dwarf colony re-established in Moria (the outline, an inversion of the Erebor theme, had in The Hobbit first made its appearance with the foundation of Thorin’s new kingdom at the outset of The clouds burst). It returns in a more fully developed form as the company pass through Moria itself in A journey in the dark, and only now is it drawn into the realm of the Silmarillion as the music from the earlier cycle returns to accompany the Balrog. After its recapitulation as Gandalf describes the struggles before his own reincarnation, it disappears almost entirely except when Gimli is speaking.

 

But another theme from The Hobbit, that of Gollum, which also makes a full-scale re-appearance during the Moria scene (it has been briefly referenced in earlier narratives), now assumes of course a major role in the chapters that follow; and from The Black Gate is closed onwards it is now accompanied by its antithesis, a rising and more hopeful phrase heard once during The Hobbit when Bilbo’s sympathy and pity for Gollum is aroused, but which now takes on much greater prominence as a representation of Sméagol as Gollum’s ‘other half’ and instincts towards repentance and reform. In the passage following the destruction of the Ring in Mount Doom, this same theme even finds itself reconciled with the music which describes the slumber of the hobbits on their journey to Mordor, heard as early as The Black Gate is closed and even adapted into the nocturnal interludes of The window on the west. The Gollum theme, incidentally, also occurs briefly at moments when other characters – more specifically Boromir – are tempted by the Ring, but this is a psychological rather than a dramatic reference.

 

The nocturnal music representing the sleep of Frodo and Sam finds a more expressive and expansive development in the rich emotional music which represents the bond between the characters, and which is first heard at the end of The Shadow of the Past when Sam commits himself to follow Frodo to the end. It also underlines the friendship between Bilbo and Frodo – it precedes Bilbo’s “I sit beside the fire” in Farewell to Rivendell – but it returns in full force as Sam laments the apparently dead Frodo in Cirith Ungol and again in the closing scene of Mount Doom when the two hobbits abandon themselves to their expected deaths. The suspended harmonies of the melodic line, always seeking resolution but never quite achieving it, resolve themselves only before the two hobbits depart for the Grey Havens and Frodo finally brings them to a conclusion in the final appearance at restatement of the Shire theme which launched The Hobbit (and was one of the very first melodies written for my Tolkien cycle back as far as the 1960s). That extended melody does reappear occasionally in The Lord of the Rings (as indeed in the later chapters of The Hobbit) but always brings with it a sense of distant reminiscence of times long past, especially with its shifting rhythm undecided between 4/4 and 3/4 time (as heard in the closing pages of The Hobbit).

 

The themes associated with the Ents derive from two distinct sources. Firstly they come from the woods and the forests themselves. The shifting pathways of the Old Forest in Tom Bombadil, and the unrelated harmonic movements associated with Old Man Willow, were taken up in The Fall of Gondolin to represent the primeval forest of Nan Elmoth where the music of the opening of Bombadil is repeated almost exactly, except that the contrapuntal notes of the Ring-theme in the earlier score are replaced by those of Aredhel in the later one. But when we come to the forest of Fangorn, even older and more prehistoric than either of its parallels, the very notion of any other influence or counterpoint is absurd; we here have the shifting strings and unrelated harmonies unvarnished and devoid of any other material at all. Treebeard himself has a personal theme, a rising form developing from the shifting strings, but this largely forms an accompaniment to his own ruminations which include a peculiarly jaundiced view of Saruman’s machinations which he regards as a twisted version of the Númenorean theme, part of the inscrutable designs of modernism and mankind which he cannot pretend to comprehend.

 

But Tolkien also provided in his original text an example of what he described as an attempt to represent the Entish language, and this rambling 12/8 line, like roots stretched across the forest floor, is taken up by the Entish chorus as they assemble for the Entmoot. At first it remains unchanged and immutable, but then it develops into a more lyrical form as an accompaniment to Quickbeam’s lament over the destruction of the forests. Then it becomes steadily more sinister, a threat of gnawing resentment which permeates and overwhelms the description by Pippin and Merry of the destruction of Isengard. But finally it achieves a sort of apotheosis, as the Ents establish their own kingdom in the Treegarth of Orthanc and Treebeard welcomes the company to his new realm in Homeward Bound. The original theme is now completely smoothed out (except for residuary irregularity in its new 7/4 rhythm) and both Treebeard and Celeborn look forward to a new natural harmony in a new era: “The old order is changing.” In this sublimely transformed guise the theme will make a final appearance in Aragorn and Arwen, as the King dies and Arwen falls into silence “as a night without a star.”

 

The principal theme associated with the Eagles was first devised for The Hobbit and was then repeated almost exactly at the relevant points when the Eagles intervene in Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin. The theme should therefore be familiar to listeners when it appears during Tom Bombadil to depict Gandalf’s rescue from imprisonment in Orthanc; but it recurs when Gandalf describes the event in The Council of Elrond, and his transport to Lothlórien following his resurrection. Pippin’s cry in The Black Gate opens of “The Eagles are coming!” echoes exactly the same passage delivered by Bilbo in The Hobbit, but now when the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam the theme assumes a more stately demeanour and is heard in counterpoint with the theme of the hobbits themselves. The Steward and the King opens with the “Song of the Eagle” which was originally written as early as 1969 and originally had no thematic connection with any of the other music in the cycle; but in its final form it now finds its principal theme both anticipated in the interlude preceding the triumphal scene in The Field of Cormallen, and subsequently thunderously declaimed by the trombones in the passage following the coronation of Aragorn.

 

The themes of the Orcs to be found in The Lord of the Rings derive almost in their entirety from material to be found in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit. The combination of the Orc-theme from the second scene of Fëanor with the rhythm of the hoofbeats of the Rohirrim already mentioned is one of the few occasions on which the material is subject to new development, which otherwise centre of the familiar aspects of augments and diminished thirds and upward octave leaps. Likewise the wolves remain unchanged from their howls as heard in The Hobbit and Beren and Lúthien. The Mouth of Sauron when he negotiates with the Captains of the West before the Black Gate is an exact and well-schooled mirror image of the voice of his master in Beren and Lúthien, and only changes when he describes the trophies that he is carrying to entice them into capitulation (the unchanged ‘elven’ harmonies of the mail-coat, sword and cloak of Lórien contrasting startlingly with their context). The Witch-King imitates both Sauron and Morgoth in The Silmarillion in his insistence on a vocal line that shifts chromatically from one would-be unison to another. The Ringwraiths also follow him in this, but also commandeer the theme associated with riding into a descending chromatic scale (heard from their first appearance, but most prominently at the opening of Tom Bombadil) which Strider employs to frighten the hobbits in his description of their malign intentions in The Prancing Pony. When the Ringwraiths gain their flying steeds, these chromatic scales are augmented by screeching woodwinds which continually seek to resolve onto new chords, only to find that these in turn have chromatically modulated.

 

The theme of the Ring itself, deriving ultimately from that associated with Sauron’s enchantments in Beren and Lúthien, remains of course unchanged and immutable throughout, but as in The Hobbit it can manifest itself in many ways: either as a chain of diminished and augmented thirds spreading upwards, or as a cumulative chord, or as a simultaneously sounding chord of the thirteenth which can range from being subtly menacing to overwhelmingly powerful. The rhyme inscribed on the Ring, also heard in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, was first declaimed by Sauron in the closing scene of The War of Wrath; it returns on many occasions in The Lord of the Rings, notably when read by Gandalf in The Shadow of the Past and The Council of Elrond, but also to underpin the menace of the Black Riders themselves (it is delivered also by the Witch-King in The Siege of Gondor, and by the creatures of Minas Morgul in Cirith Ungol) and to underline the menace of the Ring to all who seek to possess it. When heard in combination with the Ring harmonies themselves – as during the temptation scene in The Mirror of Galadriel – the sense of evil rising to overwhelm the music is palpable; in that scene the inverted theme of Galadriel herself soaring in the strings seems itself to become corrupted by its surroundings even as the voice rises in ecstasy and excitement.

 

A new theme appearing in The Lord of the Rings, a sinister and rather antique-sounding two-part counterpoint, describes the first appearance of the Ringwraiths themselves. At first this seems merely sinister or troubling, but when it interrupts the festivities during the orchestral interlude in The Prancing Pony it suggests a much greater sense of menace as the Riders steal towards the unsuspecting Merry in the street. Thereafter it becomes horrendous in its sense of triumph as the Riders storm the camp at Weathertop, and its unrestricted glee in wickedness during the latter part of the score is incontrovertible. After the destruction of the Ringwraiths in Mount Doom, it of course disappears entirely. But the themes of Sauron and the Ring remain to underpin later dialogues and to menace the dreams of Frodo at the opening scene of The Grey Havens. It is only as he bids farewell to Sam that the theme of the Ring is heard for one last time, with its thirds now rising in consonant harmonies to a final resolution.

 

The landscapes

 

The original operatic intentions of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are apparent in the provision for orchestral interludes to facilitate scene changes during the course of the original Acts, and the new division into smaller “chapters” nevertheless preserves many of those original passages. As indicated many of these constitute miniature tone-poems in their own right, or portraits of various individual characters such as Strider (in Flight to the Ford) or the lament for Gandalf which opens The Mirror of Galadriel. But more are basic descriptions of the landscapes: the desolate plain before the Black Gate, the forests of Lórien, the mines of Moria, the glades and waterfalls of Ithilien, and so on. Some – the trickling streams of Rivendell, the wildlands of Eriador – have already been heard in The Hobbit and now reappear. Others – the realm of Eregion, for example – re-appear from The Silmarillion. Minas Tirith, as we have seen, has a whole host of various theme associated with the city and its population; but other more rough-hewn series of chords represent the rocky landscapes of Helm’s Deep and Cirith Ungol. Out of this latter theme emerges a motif specifically associated with the baleful enchantments of Minas Morgul which will later also be linked to the similar features of the Tower of Cirith Ungol itself and its stone Watchers. And this legendary association has already been communicated by Gollum, remembering not only the tales of his youth but his murder of his friend Déagol seen in retrospect in The Shadow of the Past. This is one of many such allusions in the score which will clearly be missed by the listener on first hearing, but will only become apparent with later acquaintance.

 

Tolkien himself was particularly prone to such teasing anticipations of later narrative in his original text; one thinks of the shadow of the Nazgul passing across the sky in Eregion, or the appearance of Gollum’s eyes in the darkness of Moria, neither of which are immediately explained and the meaning of which only becomes clear on second reading. Both of these examples are paralleled in the musical treatment during Farewell to Rivendell and A journey in the dark, and in the second of these scenes a further refinement is added, as a whispered anticipation of the theme of the Balrog is heard in the violins suspended high above the depiction of the darkness of the mines. The theme of Shelob (itself a derivation from that of her forebear Ungoliant in The Silmarillion) is already heard as early as The Black Gate is closed, as Gollum formulates his plan to seize the Ring; but the listener is left as much in the dark as the listening Sam as to whom “She” might be. When the Ents pause in the darkness above the Nan Curunir before their assault on Isengard, we similarly hear a whisper of the theme of Saruman’s wizardry which will only become all too apparent in the following scenes when he contrives to explode the walls at Helm’s Deep, only reaching a conclusion with the trickling celesta following his death at the door of Bag End.

 

The theme of the Shire itself, which was the first material heard in The Hobbit, is heard twice during A long-expected Party but in the first of these interludes it is now transformed into a more self-satisfied and grandiose form which then becomes the basis for the corruption of the Shire during the final stages of the drama. In this latter form it becomes embroiled both with Orc-themes from elsewhere but also with a distorted version of Saruman’s theme which echoes the description of him as “Sharkey”. There are many other occasions when existing material is repeated in conjunction with new material, as for example when Strider leads the hobbits into the wilderness following the attack on Weathertop, where the musical material from The Hobbit is overlaid with vulgar trombone interjections of the troll music from the same score, anticipating Sam’s song of the troll which he sings in a vain attempt to cheer up the wounded Frodo. His failure in this aim is reflected in the following interlude which depicts Frodo wandering in a haze of pain – and that in turn is the same music which will precede his awakening at the beginning of The Council of Elrond. The song of the Barrow-wight in Tom Bombadil will reappear again when the prospect of the re-awakening the Dead arises, not only in the Dead Marshes (Frodo’s description of his vision in The Black Gate is closed) but also at greater length in the words of Malbeth the Seer regarding the Paths of the Dead and Aragorn’s apostrophe to the Oath-breakers (both in The passing of the Grey Company). And of course the original reference by the Barrow-wight to the forthcoming apotheosis of the “Dark Lord” brings the theme of the Ring rising from the depths to compound the uneasily chromatic shifting vocal line.

 

Some conclusions

 

The thirty individual chapters which make up The Lord of the Rings are, with a couple of exceptions, shorter than the triptych structure which unified The Silmarillion. This means, of course, that the music has twice as many conclusions which break up the other continuous development of the music. But it is notable that, just as with The Silmarillion where only two out of a total of fifteen of the triptychs ended on a climactic note (most of the others ending quietly or even insubstantially), in The Lord of the Rings just three chapters end with an unqualified forte and only the conclusion to The Field of Cormallen could be described as triumphant. (Compare that, for example, to Wagner’s Ring where out of ten final chords only two are quiet.) That might be held to establish a difference in approach between German and English sensibilities – after all, of Vaughan Williams’s nine symphonies only two end loudly and most fade into niente or morendo silences – but it also emphasises the decidedly mixed tone of Tolkien’s own narrative where the note of undiluted victory is almost never present.

 

There has become a fashionable tendency in modern scores to simply interrupt the music in mid-flow, no doubt with the intention of emphasising the onward flow of the development; in some cases, this has become an annoying habit. I have done it myself twice in the cycle, on both occasions when Tolkien has specifically written the narrative from the mental viewpoint of one of the hobbits. The first occurs when Frodo faints at the Ford of Bruinen, when the violent music representing the Ringwraiths suddenly fades into an abrupt diminuendo. The second comes when Pippin before the Black Gate is crushed by a troll; here the violent battle music simply comes to an abrupt halt, with a fluttering harp as he falls into oblivion. But the latter is then counterpointed when, nearly an hour later, we return to the same historical moment; and this time the abrupt halt is interrupted by the sound of distant thunder as the explosion of Mount Doom indicates that the Ringbearer has achieved his Quest. (The same, or similar, music will be heard again, this time from the Tower of Minas Tirith as Faramir and Éowyn return to the same moment once more.) So these interrupted cadences are not simply a novel or trendy method of bringing the music to a halt; they have a dramatic purpose on each occasion.

 

The opening of the final chapter, The Grey Havens, consists of an abridged setting of Tolkien’s poem The Sea Bell which he described in his introduction of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil as “Frodo’s Dreme”. The music here is an extensive restatement of the theme associated with the Awakening of the Elves first heard in Fëanor, but as has been noted this does not reappear in The Lord of the Rings until Arwen introduces it in Homeward Bound as her gift to Frodo – his right to take her place on the last ship departing for Valinor, and so seek healing for his wounds. The same extended melody has been extensively heard throughout The Silmarillion – a complete restatement of the material concludes the First Triptych of The War of Wrath with the ruin of Doriath – but now, at the end of the Third Age, it is shrunken and diminished with an unsteady triplet rhythm underpinning its normal progress. The fact that it is counterpointed with Arwen’s own theme of healing indicates that Frodo himself is uneasy and unhappy with the solution it suggests, and that he seeks and requires something more. When he sees the dark caves under the cliff edges, the sudden emergence in the bass of the themes associated with Sauron and the Ring gives some indication of the reasons for his uneasiness. Nonetheless it is this extended Elvish melody, shorn of its Doriath implications, which dominates the first part of the opening scene, in contrast to the more straightforward presentation of the theme of the Elvish ship offering passage (first heard in the Second Triptych of The War of Wrath, hinted at during The Mirror of Galadriel and Legolas’s apostophes to the sea) which now assumes a more certain predominance. The following scenes – Frodo’s lapse into despair, the final parting of Sam and himself in the woods, the passage to the Grey Havens themselves, and the boarding of the ship – are almost entirely built around this same material, with extensive statements of the Arwen-Doriath melody counterpointed and juxtaposed with material from earlier chapters in the score: Frodo’s statement of the walking song, the hymn of the Elves to Elbereth (both from The Return of the Shadow), the music associated with Elrond and Rivendell, and the decision of Frodo to accept the burden of the Ring (from The Council of Elrond), the dialogue between Frodo and Sam after the Ring’s destruction (from Mount Doom), and Galadriel’s farewell (from The Mirror of Galadriel and – before that – Beren and Lúthien). 

 

The arrival of Gandalf at the Grey Havens (his own theme now hardly hinted at in the harmonies) leads the listener almost entirely back into the territory of The Silmarillion. The theme of the last ship gives way to the music associated with the Night of Nought heard originally in the prelude to Fëanor and then to the theme of Arda itself from the same passage. We hear for one final time the theme of the Valar, again in the same form that it assumed in the Fëanor prelude (it has hardly featured at all earlier in the course of The Lord of the Rings), before an offstage chorus sing the wavering melody associated with Galadriel’s creation of the Stars, and this in turn leads to a full restatement of the material from the epilogue to The War of Wrath which Sam himself conjured up in his description of the Elves sailing over the seas in the opening scene of The Shadow of the Past. This is indeed almost the sole reference in these closing pages to any substantial passages in the score of The Lord of the Rings; as the ship sails into the Uttermost West, it is the music of The Silmarillion cycle which brings the whole structure to a close: the music associated with the lament for Númenor (in The Fall of Gondolin and The War of Wrath), and even one solitary reference to the theme of the Silmarils themselves – the one appearance of this in the whole of The Lord of the Rings. But the final theme is that of Ilúvatar, the One, the very same theme that launched The Silmarillion and now brings a final conclusion. Those who wish to observe such niceties may perhaps observe the progression in tonalities over the whole cycle from the opening of Fëanor (C to D) to the final chord of The Grey Havens (E flat). Then compare this with the very opening chords of The Fall of Gondolin, where exactly the same sequence (transposed down by a minor second) is displayed in just two bars; or indeed the identical sequence at the opening of the appendix Aragorn and Arwen.  

 

And the appendices

 

Aragorn and Arwen is the third of the appendices presented as an adjunct to the score of the musical chapters from The Lord of the Rings, and it is clearly appropriate at this juncture to say a few words about these. The first, Aragorn’s song of Beren and Lúthien, originated as the ballad sung by Strider to the hobbits before the attack on Weathertop. In the context of the scene itself in Flight to the Ford, the whole song at some quarter-of-an-hour duration would have been an intolerable hiatus in the action building towards a climax, and during the refashioning of the text in the 1970s I had already made provision to substitute the Song of Gil-galad (originally sung by Sam) at this point. However it may be of interest to hear, once in a while, the full ‘Lay of Leithian’ at this juncture and the excerpt which constitutes the first Appendix provides for this, leading out of and back into the music of Flight to the Ford at the appropriate point. The music itself is of course almost entirely derived from the treatment of the text in Beren and Lúthien (with the exception of the second verse, which was omitted in that version, and the penultimate verse which adopts the parallel setting of the melody in The War of Wrath) with simplification and transposition to eliminate the choral sections of the score.

 

The second Appendix is even more straightforward. As has been explained elsewhere, it was not my original intention to complete the Silmarillion cycle with a final segment (which would eventually emerge as The War of Wrath) but as a means of bringing some sense of closure I had made a setting of Bilbo’s song in the House of Elrond which was intended not only as an addendum to The Silmarillion but also as a potential episode in The Lord of the Rings - during the closing pages of the second scene of The Council of Elrond. To that end I had actually expanded the text from the version published in The Fellowship of the Ring to incorporate material excised by Tolkien (under circumstances which remain unclear) but this of course compounded the problem that we now had a full-scale song setting of around half an hour, during which the drama completely ground to a halt – although admittedly not so calamitously as with the situation under Weathertop. The full text of The Lay of Eärendil found its way into The War of Wrath, further expanded with additional material and with added chorus, but it seemed that here would be an appropriate point to insert the original setting as sung by Bilbo in its context (which would be immediately after Lindir’s singing of A Elbereth Gilthoniel where there is a suitable pause in the music). If it were ever to be performed in this manner, of course, it would be necessary to make a break at the end of the Lay and recommence the chapter after a suitable interval.

 

The final Appendix is rather different. When I was asked to write a substantial piece for pianist Duncan Honeybourne in 2023, the thought crossed my mind to provide an adjunct to The Lord of the Rings in the same manner as some forty-five years earlier the Akallabêth had served as a field for further exploration of the thematic material of The Silmarillion. The piano work concentrated on the actual death of Aragorn and the grief of Arwen, and allowed for considerable further development of a number of themes from The Return of the King which could perforce find no part in the cycle of musical chapters themselves. In any case the events described in The passing of Arwen – as the piano piece was entitled – take place a full 120 years after those in The Lord of the Rings. But as part of The passing of Arwen I did have perforce to take account of the deathbed debate of the lovers, and it did occur to me that there might be some interest in a further setting of that dialogue for solo voices as well as for a choral part relating some of the narrative contained in Tolkien’s own appendix which could otherwise find no role in the cycle. The use of narrative chorus, only encountered briefly in The Lord of the Rings itself in the alliterative sagas of the Rohirrim, links the extended dramatic scene not so much with the “musical chapters” as with the “epic scenes” and the realm of The Silmarillion. The new material, given the title Aragorn and Arwen since it now shifts the focus to the farewell of Aragorn himself in its earlier pages, may therefore be regarded not simply as an appendix to The Lord of the Rings but as an epilogue to the whole of my Tolkien cycle: “no more is said in this book of the days of old.”

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