If you haven’t heard Howard Shore’s ‘Radagast The Brown’ yet, you’re missing out. I can only urge you to go and have a listen. Some people have described the leitmotif (I spelled it right this time) as Slavic in nature, or rustic. Others discern hints Hans Zimmer’s work on the TV series Sherlock. Here at TORn, a few of us have been listening to the track pretty closely, and deciphering what makes it tick.

TORn Staffer Tehanu:

I think it’s more adventurous than a lot of the LOTR score — lots of sudden tempo changes and unexpected rhythms.

I can never hear a big open string fifth like those first few seconds, without thinking of how Beethoven Nine begins: poised to unfold a world of possibilities. It’s E major not Beethoven’s D major, so very close. Then within seconds we move into a different mood. The choir is usually Shore’s voice for things of the past, of mystery and magic.

Then the fast 6/8 time, with the amplified violin and drum/tambourine — it reminds me of of English folk music, a reel or something, but racked up in speed to a level of high tension, and combined with that lurching, angular string theme you mentioned. It’s very unusual.

Barliman’s chat regular Viola:

It looks like he’s going the “violins for rustic/folksy imagery” route again, but I don’t hear any odd instrumentation like the hardinger fiddle/all the extra crap he used in Return of the King and The Two Towers. I’m wondering if some of the percussion isn’t nature inspired as well — there’s a trend now for “natural” sounds. I know he does the triple rhythms because there’s a lot of recognizable folk stuff in 6/8… The percussion in the background kind of reminds me a little bit of the Bartok concerto for orchestra. Also people are reading slavic because of the whole cello with the main motif/minor key thing. By and large (with the exception of some Smetana and Dvorak), music from the Slavic countries is super depressing.

It’s scarily similar to the Pictures movement “With the Dead in a Dead Language”. Listening to it again I’m getting less rustic, more gypsy. Percussion sounds like it could be a specific type of stick as well.

Barliman’s chat moderator Xanaseb:

Visually, Radagast does have similarities to Russian Orthodox hermit-like clergy in his WETA design. Also, Tolkien possibly drew upon the Slavic god Radegast for his name.