If you’re a regular reader here at TORn, you know by now about composer and sound engineer Jordan Rannells’ immersive audio soundscape of music and ambient sounds, bringing to life Middle-earth. His soundscape is designed to be listened to whilst reading The Lord of the Rings – and in fact, is timed perfectly to fit with Andy Serkis’ recording of the books.
The Hobbit and The Silmarillion
Following the success of his Long-Expected Soundscape, Rannells is at it again! This time he’s tackling two more of Tolkien’s works, in epic scale. Read on below to find out what Rannells told us about his latest projects.
A new kind of Middle-earth experience for Hobbit Day
Jordan Rannells composed an original score, designed sound FX and recorded nature ambience to match all 60+ hours of Andy Serkis’ The Lord of the Rings audiobooks. Each moment is timed exactly so that when you hear Serkis describe Grond tearing through the gates of Minas Tirith, you hear it happening; when the eucatastrophe happens, we hear its theme; when the water of Wellinghall rains down around us, we hear it come and go. It is so simple to put the Soundscape together with the audiobooks, but you can also listen without them and just escape to Middle-earth any time you need to. Listen to the wind in the grass on your way to Edoras; hear the turmoil in the score as Boromir confronts Frodo; duck as the wings of the fell beast fly over you.
Rannells uses Dolby Atmos to achieve the highest level of 3D immersion possible, using the latest technology and sound design tools used in big franchises like Marvel, Game of Thrones and more.
Now, after spending a year and a half designing his first soundscape experience, An Unexpected Soundscape and A Soundscape of Eä are on the way. The Hobbit and The Silmarillion are next on Rannells’ journey, as he seeks to complete the Legendarium in this new immersive adaptation.
Listeners will be able to hear the dwarves as their barrels crash by; catch whispers of Gollum and the spiders of Mirkwood; witness the Coming of Tuor to Ulmo, and even the creation of Arda itself. New challenges present themselves in bringing the up-close-and-personal world of The Hobbit to your ears, such as recording movement and footsteps for each of the dwarves. Then, in the opposite direction, large scale and epic abstract sound design are required for moments in The Silmarillion.
Find out more about Rannells’ epic undertaking on his website. You can also experience the first chapter of the Long-Expected Soundscape on his YouTube channel. Celebrate those Baggins’ birthdays surrounded by the sounds of Middle-earth!
Now, The Towers Collection (for The Two Towers) is available – and we have some promo codes for TORn’s followers! Read on below to find out more…
The Long-expected Soundscape is designed to be listened to whilst reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (and is timed specifically to sync up with the Andy Serkis audiobook recording). It is created with Dolby Atmos for full 3D immersion in headphones, and includes an original score, ambient nature and environment sounds, and designed and recorded sound effects. The soundtrack is downloadable at https://jordanrannells.com/ – and can also be accessed very easily through all usual podcast apps.
Ways to listen
Rannells suggests various ways to enjoy his creation:
1. Simply experience the atmosphere alone, without the books
2. While reading Tolkien’s works (yes you might read a bit faster, but all you have to do is wait and enjoy the music and sound effects for a bit until you hear the next significant sound or cue, and then keep reading)
3. Synced up (perfectly!) with Andy Serkis’ audiobook so you can enjoy them together (step by step process on how to do that on Discord)
4. Just as background for DnD, Lotro and so on…
Exclusive promo codes
If you’d like to get your hands on this wonderful soundscape, you can use the code TORN25 (for a discount on the whole collection), or TORN10 (for a discount on an individual book). These promo codes are good only until June 10th, so don’t delay!
Once you’ve experienced this beautiful aural world, you’re definitely going to want more! So you’ll be glad to know that Rannells has plans for The Hobbit and The Silmarillion soundscapes! He’ll be launching a Kickstarter for these, this coming December; if you’re interested in getting involved, and perhaps even having a small voice or performance role on one of those projects, join the Long-expected Discord. Happy listening!
Amongst my earliest recollections of being introduced to Tolkien there remains one etched in my memory that I remember so clearly to this day. It was an evening in the fall of 2001. I was accustomed to step out at dusk to catch the sunset near a plumeria tree outside my house which would shed its leaves and yellow flowers around that time of year. I’d watch for the first of the stars to appear, and then head home.
I lived in a little city in India back then, and after a day at college, I was relaxing in my living room watching MTV, when the video for Enya’s “May It Be” happened to come on.
That evening after watching Enya’s video for the very first time, I was ponderous in a way I hadn’t really been before.
Perhaps it was the season, or the stage of life I was at. But something about the visuals, the words, the characters, had touched me, spoken to me; and it set me on a journey of discovery into the Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth, and Tolkien.
It’s been over 20 years now, and though I now live far from that home in a land where the stars are strange (to borrow a Ranger’s phrase) and a lifetime seems to have passed since those days, the music of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films has somehow managed to remain a constant companion through the seasons of my life.
Howard Shore’s score has always been, for me, the singular aspect of those films that contributed immensely in elevating the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
So when it was announced that the score for Amazon’s The Rings of Power TV series would be scored by Bear McCreary, I was both apprehensive and excited.
My apprehension stemmed from having spent two decades associating Howard Shore’s music with the sound of Middle-earth – how could anyone surpass, or even match, the heights of that achievement?
And yet my excitement was hesitantly brewing, as I had recently watched Apple TV’s Foundation, fallen in love with the soundtrack, and discovered that it was scored by a composer named Bear McCreary. Only time would reveal whether Bear’s music for Middle-earth would move me in the same way Shore’s did 20 years ago.
And so finally last weekend, on a grey and rainy Spring evening in Australia, separated in time and space from the once young college boy who accidentally discovered Middle-earth, I settled in, this time willfully, and with a slight shiver running down my spine, to journey anew, back to that place of wonder.
PROLOGUE: GALADRIEL & FINROD, MORGOTH & SAURON
As the first strains of choral music play over the dark screen and a voice begins to speak, the mood feels aptly Tolkienesque, in an Elvish sort of way – ancient and fair – but also young and fresh, in a manner of speaking, as if the song were newly written, and being newly sung, within the world unfolding before me.
It coalesces in my mind when the Elf-children are revealed – this is the music of the Elves in their youth in Valinor, in a time when their world is still young, their children numerous, their happiness untainted.
The choral music gives way to a subtle thematic melody as a small girl crafts a boat and sets it upon a stream. The music rises delicately as the boat floats downstream, then slowly unfurls to take the shape of a swan, wings outspread, and begins to sail proudly upon the rippling water; before its course is interrupted by a stone pelted by one of the Elf-children.
As a tall, fair Elf comes over and lifts it up out of the water, the theme weaves its way back into the music. It segues from doubtfulness to hope as Finrod the Elf-lord converses with his little sister Galadriel under a tree in a verdant field of grass, counseling her regarding the nature of darkness and light. Then leaving her to ponder his words, he departs homeward; and the theme builds gloriously, reaching a crescendo in a chorus of Elven song as he mounts a hill and gazes upon the fair city of their home, Valinor, whose tall towers and rippling waterways lay bathed in the golden light of the Two Trees.
But soon another theme asserts itself – strident and dissonant. The Two Trees begin to darken as the shadow of the Great Foe, Morgoth, looms over them, and we witness their destruction and the consequent darkening of Valinor.
It made me wonder if this is what Morgoth’s theme might’ve sounded like woven amidst the Music of the Ainur. It is not immediately discordant, but rather rallying, and depending on one’s predisposition could very well induce a desire to ally oneself with it.
Now amid the darkness of their home, the Elf-lords unite to take an Oath in resistance of Morgoth’s evil, and leaving the land of Valinor behind, they sail in legion across the Sundering Seas to Middle-earth, and to war. The soaring music ushers their arrival in this land of untold perils, where battling for centuries against strange creatures beyond count, on land and high in the flaming skies, they witness the ruin of Middle-earth. Galadriel’s theme bears out a sombre tone as she treads the ashen, smoke-filled battleplains in the aftermath of war – laying in reverence the high-helm of a fallen Elf-lord upon a mound of countless others borne by those who fell in battle beside him.
As the Age rolls on, Morgoth’s theme comes to represent the evil that has spread across all Middle-earth. It is soon assumed by Sauron, his most devoted servant, and a choir intones in Black Speech as we see his armoured form in a forbidding Northern fortress commanding forces of Orcs that have multiplied and gathered under him.
We learn now that Finrod was killed in attempting to fulfil his vow to seek out Sauron, and once again, the Galadriel / Finrod theme plays out solemnly, as she weeps over his once-fair body now marred and lying in state.
A mysterious motif interrupts this moment as she looks upon a mark branded cruelly upon his breast. Her theme rises once again as she takes the dagger from Finrod’s hands and claims his vow as her own.
Despite his brief appearance, Finrod’s death felt extremely poignant, and I found I had a lump in my throat when he lay in state. It is clear to see why Galadriel assumed his task to hunt down the Enemy.
Galadriel’s theme now sweeps up dramatically as we are told how the Elves hunted for Sauron to the ends of the earth, over mountains and across seas, as year gave way to year, and century to century. And though for most Elves the pain of those days was all but forgotten, for Galadriel the fight against Sauron had become personal, and so she ever led her company on.
Now far in the Northernmost Waste, the Forodwaith of Middle-earth, menacing vocals sound out as she and her company descry the towers of an ancient fortress rising like black mountain-peaks amidst the frost and bitter snow. Then Sauron’s theme blares out as deep within a chamber they discover an enigmatic sigil – the same mark that once branded Finrod’s body – left here now as a trail for Orcs to follow. They had finally found a trace of Sauron.
RHOVANION: THE HARFOOTS, ELANOR ‘NORI’ BRANDYFOOT
We are now introduced to the Harfoots in the region of Rhovanion, the Wilderland of Middle-earth. They are a simple wandering folk, a little people living in closeness with the earth, never settled in one place but moving their dwellings with the passing of the seasons.
Their music is rustic and sylvan, almost nomadic, like it could precede what later becomes Howard Shore’s themes for the Hobbits and the Shire in their comfortable refinement.
There’s a separate theme for Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, who along with her companion Poppy Proudfoot, and the other Harfoot younglings are thrilled in their perky-eyed cheekiness to find a blackberry bush. Delighting in simple pleasures seems to be an innate trait of the Little Folk since their beginnings.
Nori’s theme is appropriately lighthearted and sprightly, if tinged with hints of wonder and expectation of something larger than might exist just beyond their horizons. It grows pensive as she asks of her mother Marigold…
Haven’t you ever wondered what’s out there? How far the river flows or where the sparrows learn their new songs they sing in spring?
The music for the Harfoots too takes a poignant turn as Marigold, her deep brown eyes filled with kind understanding, reminds Nori of the simple truths that keep their kind safe.
Elves have forests to protect, Dwarves their mines, Men their fields of grain, even trees have to worry about the soil beneath their roots. But we Harfoots are free from the worries of the wide world. Nobody goes off trail and nobody walks alone. We have each other.
It is a tender moment of motherly wisdom imparted to a daughter, and a reminder that although the Harfoots may be simple, they are not unwise.
I found myself already loving the Harfoot characters, despite their fabrication for this series, and I think it is a testament to the cast, the writers, and everything else that went into making the Harfoots believable within this world.
Elrond, the Herald of Gil-galad, is ushered in with strains that seem reminiscent of Howard Shore’s Rivendell theme, as he sits (Frodo-like) quite carefree on a tree-branch in a golden wood.
Here his theme seems to be in its inception still, yet in a reflection of his person, it soars briefly, bordering on aspirational, offering glimpses of greatness.
He greets Galadriel, now returned from her journeying, and as they look upon the tapestry of a ship sailing West to Valinor, a choral motif is briefly heard.
Then as he reflects upon the tapestry while conversing with Galadriel, he wonders aloud…
“I hear it’s said that when you cross over, you hear a song. One whose memory we all carry.”
… and the choir intones a lyric to a different melodic line.
We will later discover that this choral lyric is indeed the very song Elrond is talking about.
LINDON & GIL-GALAD
Now the choral music builds as Elrond, Galadriel, and many other Elves assemble in a court encircled by many golden-leaved trees deep in the heart of Lindon, summoned there by Gil-galad.
The high and lofty vocals might represent a motif not dissimilar to Elrond’s Rivendell theme in The Lord of the Rings; for in this Second Age, Gil-galad is the High King of the Elves in Middle-earth, and though their capital city is in Lindon in the North-west, his authority is acknowledged by all their companies even to the furthest Southern and Eastern lands.
It sounds out victoriously as he declares that their days of war are over – their days of peace now begun.
But now Galadriel’s theme softly presents itself as she kneels ceremoniously before Gil-galad and he lays a circlet upon her head, bestowing upon her and the other Elven heroes of her company the permission to leave his realm and board the ships, to return home once more to Valinor.
Later that night, while the Elves celebrate, Galadriel’s theme plays out in poignant tones as she regards the carven image of Finrod in a forest-glade and converses once again with Elrond about the choice before her – to accept the gift of Gil-galad and depart Middle-earth forever, forsaking her vow, or to refuse his gift and persevere in her search for Sauron.
A LEITMOTIF FOR VALINOR
A subtle rising choral piece plays when Gil-glad mentions the Blessed Realm.
It is the motif briefly heard earlier when Elrond looked upon the tapestry when he greeted Galadriel.
It is also the same melodic line which played at the beginning when we saw Galadriel with the other Elf-children in Valinor and we heard how…
Nothing is evil in the beginning. And there was a time when the world was so young, there had not yet been a sunrise, but even then, there was light.
THE SOUTHLANDS, BRONWYN & ARONDIR
The theme for the Southlands is bucolic but dismal, as the Men who live here seem to be a rather simple farming folk settled in villages, but it is said their ancestors once sided with Morgoth, and the Elves still distrust them for that treachery.
The theme is shared by the Elves too; for they have established their presence in these regions for decades in their duty to watch over these Men and their lands.
It ushers in two Elves, Arondir and Médhor, who arrive at the village of Tirharad and head to an inn seeking news.
Arondir steps out onto the inn’s backyard to meet a woman, Brownyn, standing there beside a well, and a tender new theme forms as she hands him a bottle containing seeds of alfirin, a flower which he once knew as a child, but whose petals she herself crushes to form a healing salve. The theme continues as she questions him regarding healers among their kind, and he in turn explains the nature of their wounds and the role of Elvish healers.
The theme for the Southlands returns once again as Arondir heads back with his companion Medhor to Ostirith, an Elvish outpost set high upon a cliff-face. Upon receiving news that Gil-galad has declared the days of war ended, and the Elf-watchers free to return home, Arondir looks morosely across the wide vales far below, the theme sounding ever more forlorn.
As Revion the Watchwarden joins him atop the tower and they regard the lush green fields under the golden sunlight, Arondir remarks about the change to this once-barren land, and the Southlands theme brims briefly with new hope; but it returns to grimness as Revion reminds him that although the land may have the changed, the people have not.
The theme for Bronwyn & Arondir returns as he considers their impending separation, and later reminds her that although he seems unable to articulate why he has returned to see her, he has already spoken it in every way but words.
Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a man who has brought his sick cow to Bronwyn, and Sauron’s theme hints amid the music as they learn the cow has been poisoned from grazing near the neighbouring village of Hordern. The theme rises prominently as Arondir and Bronwyn set out urgently for Hordern.
While Bronwyn is away, her son Theo shows his friend Rowan a mysterious broken sword he had discovered in a nearby shed. It bears the enigmatic sigil of Sauron, and now it holds Theo’s gaze as he holds it up, seemingly alighting in fire as the choir erupts in Black Speech over Sauron’s theme.
Arriving on the borders of Hordern, the theme for Arondir and Bronwyn returns as they share a tender moment when he confesses that hers is the only kind touch he has known in all his days in that land. But dark clouds formed from a rising smoke remind them of their purpose in coming to Hordern, and Sauron’s theme rises in urgency as they run up a hill to look down upon the village all aflame.
CELEBRIMBOR & THE RINGS OF POWER
Meanwhile in Lindon, Elrond and Gil-galad discuss Galadriel’s decision to return to the West, and having passed beyond his sight, Elrond shares his doubts about convincing her to take ship.
But Gil-galad counsels him to look to his own future in Middle-earth now, and thereupon Celebrimbor joins them.
His first appearance is accompanied by a short, rather ominous choral line.
It is the same piece that played over the title card of the show “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER” (S1E1 at 17:27).
Celebrimbor is of course the primary artificer of the Rings of Power – their threads are bound by this motif.
THE SONG OF THE ELVES
Away upon the Sundering Seas, Galadriel and the Elven heroes gather on deck and prepare in ceremony to pass into the Uttermost West.
The leitmotif for Valinor heralds their arrival to the confines of the Blessed Realm. The choir begins to intone as the dark and forbidding clouds part, permitting the golden light of Valinor to shine forth, and a phalanx of white birds flies out to greet them.
Gazing in wonder at the ever widening cloud-wrack and the light of Valinor blazing forth ever brighter, the Elves in unison begin chanting a verse, almost as if the memory of a song long-forgotten were suddenly wakened fully in them.
It is the choral piece we heard when Elrond conversed with Galadriel by the tapestry in Lindon.
But while the accompanying Elves sing it and begin moving forward to enter into the light, Galadriel remains silent, filled with doubt about her choice to leave Middle-earth, and steps slowly back. Thondir’s call to take his hand grows distant.
The music rises and she recalls her discourse with Finrod when as a child she had questioned him about discerning which lights she must follow – the ones shining in the sky or those reflected as brightly in the dark waters below.
The Galadriel / Finrod theme rises profoundly as she remembers his counsel:
Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.
Perceiving now his words and comprehending her choice, she turns away from the light, a tear escapes her, and she leaps from the ship.
The clouds close in again to shut out the light, darkness engulfs the waters, and all music is silenced.
Above the lands in Middle-earth the skies have grown strange. The music grows portentous and a queer motif begins to take shape. From Lindon and Eregion in the North, to Rhovanion and as far as the Southlands, Elves, Men, and Harfoots gaze in bewilderment as a star seemingly in flight streaks across the firmament leaving a blazing trail in its wake. The wind picks up and the trees too herd their young nearer to safety.
Gil-galad picks up a leaf that falls before him and regards it questioningly. The motif builds as he turns it over and sees a darkness spreading across its veins. Sauron’s theme interleaves with this new motif.
Away in Rhovanion, Nori approaches the crater where she descried the mysterious heavenly body crashing in an explosion of flame. Sauron’s theme segues into the new theme and the choir erupts as she looks down into the crater in amazement to see a man lying curled up at its center.
I find it interesting how the themes for the Stranger and Sauron seem intertwined. I don’t necessarily think it suggests the Stranger and Sauron are the same person or that they are allied – the Stranger could be one of the protagonists sent to contend with Sauron – but it certainly seems to hint that there is a close connection between them.
WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE
The music for the end credits is strangely ominous, the choir transitioning from deep male guttural voices to high female vocals, culminating on a seemingly unresolved note.
If I may say so, the credits sequence quite gave me Gollum’s Song vibes, and felt very reminiscent of the end credits of The Two Towers, which itselfhad a powerfully ominous ending complemented by Emiliana Torrini’s haunting vocals.
I am the type of person who likes my first experience of a soundtrack to be within the context for which it was written, and I am refraining from listening to any music until I watch the show. My thoughts here are therefore based on first watching the episode, and then subsequently listening to its accompanying score (Amazon is releasing definitive albums for each episode after their respective airdates; here is the album for Season 1: Episode 1: A Shadow of the Past).
After having watched Episode 1, I feel I can lay aside my apprehensions about Bear’s association with the music for Middle-earth. I was afraid it might’ve sounded like any other “epic” movie music (which my ears have become a little more aware of in things I’ve watched ever since discovering the music of The Lord of the Rings films); but I am so ecstatic that Bear’s score feels uniquely organic to Middle-earth, and evocative of it.
While it is different from Shore’s, it still feels complementary to it, and in the words of Bilbo Baggins, I sheepishly venture to admit that “I think I am quite ready for another adventure”.
About the author
I have been associated with TheOneRing.net since the early 2000s. I consider myself a casual fan of Tolkien, Peter Jackson’s films, and Howard Shore’s scores. I am not a writer or musician, but I enjoy pondering over and talking about the music and songs of these adaptations in my own amateur way; and describing how they make me feel. I am more interested in the thematic and evocative nature of this music than in the analysis of its structure and composition.
Here are some interviews I have conducted in the past with vocalists from The Lord of the Rings films.
Plan 9 & David Long – Composed and performed diegetic music for Frodo’s “chicken dance” at Bilbo’s Birthday party, Merry and Pippin’s Drinking Song at the Green Dragon Inn, “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” which Frodo and Sam hear when watching the Wood-elves leave Middle-earth, and Éowyn’s Dirge at the burial of Théodred.
Miriam Stockley – Performed “The Footsteps Of Doom” in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Hilary Summers – Performed “Gilraen’s Song” in The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition).
While McCreary has crafted Season One’s score, Shore’s contribution to the show is the title theme. Shore has won three Academy Awards for his music for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit feature film trilogies. McCreary is an Emmy and BAFTA winner for his music scores on Outlander and God of War.
In this new segment, two of our Discord regulars, Reading Room Moderator DrNosy and composer Mike T, debate the show’s title theme and whether it is ‘musically’ suited to the score of The Rings of Power.
The French horns.
It is that instrument that I closely relate to the music of The Lord of the Rings, particularly in the soundtrack Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All. Hearing them again, in the first second of the Main Title, I was immediately pulled back towards the story and events that launched the Third Age — Sauron with the One Ring in hand laying waste to the armies of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves.
However, as I keep listening to the track, I start to feel something is off. This music sounds like a watered-down version of that track from The Lord of the Rings. A “lite” version of The Lord of the Rings is absolutely not what the Second Age should sound like. It is also almost completely at odds with the rest of the themes in the album.
Listening to the entire album, it is clear that McCreary (following in Shore’s footsteps with the film tracks) has created a succinct soundscape for the Second Age, complete with themes for each character and narrative arcs for the events of Season One. Shore’s theme does not seem to fit with any of McCreary’s tracks.
I think this might be the biggest thing driving negative reactions to Main Title, as well as the opposing negative reactions that favor the theme over the score, and it’s definitely a misstep on the part of the people behind the show, but is it a problem with the music itself?
Not from where I stand: both composers have done what they were tasked with, and done it well.
If there is a question to ask, it’s this: why wasn’t part of that task, for either of them, to strive for more musical unity with each other. For now, it seems pointless to speculate on that.
Perhaps we’ll get more insight into the circumstances of the composition eventually, or maybe we’ll even have a situation where Bear does start to weave some of Shore’s ideas in. In any case, some of us just seem more willing to “bridge the gap” ourselves, and to take Shore’s theme as a welcome bit of torch-passing that will nicely frame each episode of the series.
While I take your point about “bridging the gap” between the films and the show, I simply do not see how or why they should be linked in Main Title itself.
Main Title’s fairy-esque tones simply do not fit with the characterization of the factionalized, bloodied, and catastrophic ending of the many races of Middle-earth in the Second Age. Not to mention how it completely seems to miss the themes and leitmotifs of the other peoples of Middle-earth, i.e., the Dwarves, Harfoots, Númenor, and Orcs.
I appreciate Shore’s use of the musical leitmotif representing Galadriel (ethereal ‘Elven’ feminine vocals at 0:35), but that moment also rings along the lines of a ‘fairy lady in the woods singing to the birds’, which is closely followed by ‘evil has come to the woods and it threatens the lady and her birds’ (0:53). It is the ultimate mischaracterization of the Galadriel of the Second Age, especially as the Galadriel we meet in The Rings of Power is an Elf at war with herself.
Why is it that we don’t hear that conflict in Shore’s theme?
As you noted at the outset, from the very first notes heard it is clear, from both the voicing of the chord and the way it is orchestrated, where this music is supposed to take us. It follows exactly the rhetorical and stylistic precedents Shore first set over 20 years ago. And yes, his writing is indeed always committed to very tightly-woven leitmotivic processes. His Main Theme does in fact seem to make reference to a number of musical structures that are present in his previous Middle-earth music, related to the various story elements you mention.
Whether this is explicit enough for every listener, I certainly can’t decree… but there is an argument to be made for their presence (the specifics of which I will not bore readers with here!).
As for your feeling that the theme mischaracterizes Galadriel, I would simply argue that the vocal element in question is not meant to represent Galadriel in the first place. It sounds to me more like an incidental orchestration choice by the composer, rather than being intended as a direct evocation of anything or anyone previously associated with that specific color, and likewise, the darker turn you mention is a more abstract musical turn to represent the overall tumult of the events of the Second Age, not anything specific to Galadriel’s arc.
The whole piece in fact centers around this dramatic “triptych” structure, in which we are introduced to familiar-sounding material which begins confidently but then takes a darker turn, and is briefly restated in a more pure way before ending in a quite unresolved place.
This feels like an apt encapsulation of what we’re going to see play out here, a sort of grand overview of events rather than a focused musical commentary on specific characters. Does it do so in weighty enough tones for what we will experience in the substance of the show?
Again, I can’t decide that for everyone, I can only explain the possible thinking behind things.
I see Galadriel as the main protagonist of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings Of Power.
If the feminine vocal element isn’t Galadriel, it would seem that Main Title doesn’t weave any element of McCreary’s sounds for the Second Age, which is curious to say the least. I was also disappointed how Main Title drastically falls short of iconic sounding title themes we hear in other fantasy/epic shows such as A Game of Thrones, The Wheel of Time, The Witcher, Westworld, His Dark Materials, The Sandman, and others.
The whole purpose of title music is to leave a lasting impact or memory of the show on the audience every single time they tune in to watch. I still remember how I binged the entire glorious Season One of The Crown in one night. At that time, I did not dare to skip the titles (even to save time) because of my need to let the music (and title sequence) wash over me as I savored and reflected on the episodes I’d watched previously. I did the same with The Witcher, His Dark Materials, and The Wheel of Time.
It is hard to ignore the impact of ‘good’ and ‘catchy’-sounding theme music, especially because its sole purpose is to transition the audience from the opening events of the episode (or even the previous episode) into the central story arc.
I find myself forgetting Shore’s title track music even after having listened to it about 20 times now.
It’s true, there are ways to open with a bang and to set up a musical hook that will immediately grab the audience. It may simply be that Shore’s approach as a composer tends more towards subtlety than the expectations formed by the examples you mention, for better or worse.
There are surely important musical structures in Shore’s prologue to “The Fellowship of the Ring” which, if not for the subsequent hours of music building on them, might not be clear to us as meaningful, and which would not grab us by the heart, so to speak, without that reinforcement.
I think we have a situation similar to that hypothetical here. Nothing of Howard’s new theme is, at least based on what we’ve heard so far, built on in Bear’s score.
Those elemental structures are not reinforced. We go right from an echo of the Middle-earth sound that we know, to a younger and more vibrant Middle-earth, with no real bridge between that and the grand but poignant “civilization in decline” soundworld we’re used to.
The power of familiarity shouldn’t be underestimated though. Given what I’ve seen happen with some other scores’ themes over the years, I’m willing to bet that quite a few of those who are currently unimpressed by and unattached to this one will feel differently once they’ve heard it fifty or so times accompanying each episode, when this new journey reaches its end.
About our chat participants
DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion, and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.
Mike T is a composer and near-lifelong Tolkien aficionado. After obsessively relying on TORn for spoiler reports during the early 2000s, and pursuing a musical life in large part due to the experience of hearing Howard Shore’s scores in darkened theaters dozens of times, he is delighted to find himself back amongst the TORn community for this new journey through Middle-Earth. You can listen to his music at https://michaeltrapasso.bandcamp.com and reach out to him on Twitter.
Editor’s Note:we reported in September last year that McCreary was being brought onboard to work with Shore on scoring the series. It was rumored at the time that Shore didn’t “necessarily want to compose the whole series”. We now know that Shore and McCreary ended up composing the music separately.
In order to get into Hall H for the Rings of Power panel, which was scheduled to be the first panel on Friday, July 22 at 10:30am, a group of fans needed a plan to camp out in line. Staffers from TORn, members of the Discord community and a bunch of fans from the UK banded together to have group members take turns standing, or sitting, in line, starting at Midnight Wednesday night, all day on Thursday, and overnight into Friday morning.
It was a blast to see the trailer, but the special footage that accompanied some of the cast discussions really showed us what type of show this is going to be, and those subwoofers that blow through the room during the first video emphasized the Power of the Rings.
Here is an accounting for the exclusive scenes shown to the 6500 fans in attendance.
Ring Verse video and sound:
The panel began with Bear McCreary conducting a small orchestra with choral and violin solos of several minutes of his newly created music for the series, which was released a couple of days ago. Once the music ended, Stephen Colbert was introduced as the moderator, and very soon we’ll be giving a rundown of those cast and showrunner Q&A sessions in a separate article. But the first group of guests comprised the show runners and producers of the show. One said that the thing he had most wanted to see on screen was the moment when Sauron puts on the One Ring and invokes the Ring verse for the first time, sending a ripple across all of Middle-earth, a moment when the Elves especially, realized they’d been had.
Shortly after this, we got our first Exclusive video footage, and it is this moment recreated for us in Hall H.
The sequence opens with the image we’ve all seen, of Finrod walking up the grassy hill to see the Two Trees, and at this point the black curtains on the side walls pull back to reveal the screens that stretch more than half the length of the hall (approximately the distance of two semi-trucks back to back). This allows us to see the mountains and valleys to either side of the main image of the city and the Two Trees.
But then we push in closer to see the trees better, and they are fading. As the light begins to dim, and the leaves fall, there is a giant shadowy figure of Morgoth in the sky. We are then transported to a realm of burning ground that seems to be disintegrating, and the Ring Verse appears in a golden circle on a black background.
We hear the first line, read by Morfydd Clark, ‘Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky’, a quick glimpse of an elven realm, and the Ring Verse enlarges and rushes towards us as a giant burst of sound emanates from some very large subwoofers at the front of the stage, the whole room shakes and you can literally feel the blast on your face.
She reads the second line, ‘Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone’ and a quick glimpse of Moria in it’s glory, then the same rush of the Ring verse rushing towards the screen and the burst of sound from the speakers, just a wave of sound rushing the screen.
Next comes the third line, ‘Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die’, and a look at Numenor from above, and again with the Ring Verse and Sound bursting through the room.
And finally, we get the final lines, ‘One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie’ and a glimpse of destruction before the final burst of sound with the Ring Verse.
And thus, everyone in the audience, and everyone who came back onstage were just dumbstruck by that experience. It was one of the most visceral experiences to ever happen in Hall H.
Elrond and Durin IV’s relationship:
Elrond and Durin IV, set up like a prize fight as Elrond walks past male and female dwarves singing and chanting, but not necessarily in a good way, then big cheers when Durin IV enters. Again, very much like the bravado of two competitors before a big fight.
Durin IV announces the challenge, to break rocks until one or the other cannot. If the Elf loses, he is banned from ALL Dwarven realms, if he wins. . .Durin IV sniggers, as if to say that is very unlikely, and then the big rocks are carted in.
Durin IV gives a big swing and easily splits his rock, Elrond hesitates just a moment and then gives a big swing as well. . .fade to black
Elrond and Galadriel’s relationship:
Elrond greets Galadriel, and then each looks at the tapestry of a ship sailing into the sunset, and mentions in somber tones what it is supposed to be like, of a song welcoming one to this realm. The moment is very contemplative, and almost fearful on the part of Elrond.
Then in a lighter tone, Elrond says he expected Galadriel to be covered in mud and dirt, she replies “more like frost bite and troll blood”
Galadriel and Halbrand saved from the sea:
We got context of that regal ship sailing into the Numenorean port. It is Elendil’s ship, the circular sails have the sunburst sigil on them, and two guests were aboard, the rescued Galadriel and Halbrand. Elendil recognizes Galadriel as one of the Eldar, and she asks what ship this is, he tells her and it does not ease her mind. Halbrand then asks where it is they are going, he doesn’t recognize anything about the port.
But Galadriel does, she recognizes the carved stone faces they sail by, the glorious waterfall next to what may be a statue of Ulmo, and announces to Halbrand that it is the island nation of Numenor. This sequence also gives us a heavy dose of the grandeur of the music Bear McCreary is creating for Numenor.
Arondir in chains:
The Arondir scene where his ankle is chained is an Orc prison gang thing, several elves, and maybe some men are all chained and working at what looks like a quarry. The Orcs have those white membranous cloaks (could it be flesh?) on to protect them from the sun, but they don’t work well
We see one Orc wince from sun exposure and retreat to a covered area made of wooden beams and canvas. Arondir looks at another elf, giving a signal, and they and other prisoners attempt a jailbreak using the long chains to whip the Orcs off their feet.
The prisoners cross their chains and then take turns smashing with their hammers where the chains intersect. One chain breaks and that prisoner takes off running and scales the walls of the pit, until he is shot down.
Thus comes the scene where Arondir pics up an axe and leaps high overhead, but not to attack an Orc. No, he goes for the wooden crossbeam and collapses the structure protecting the Orcs. . . fade to black
Nori and the Stranger
Nori appears at the top of the burning crater and looks down to see the ‘Stranger’ curled up in a fetal position unconscious. Her friend Poppy comes up from behind and tells her to get away from the edge, it’s dangerous. Nori says that they should help the man below, and Poppy says that they can’t, he’s a giant and it isn’t safe.
At that moment, the edge of the crater collapses and Nori falls into the crater, landing amongst the flames. As she scrambles to regain her feet, she realizes the flames don’t burn, they aren’t hot. This gives her enough courage to approach the figure at the center of the flaming crater.
She slowly reaches out to touch him, while Poppy pleads for her to stop. Nori pokes his face and nothing happens, and again Poppy pleads for her to come back. Nori says that we can’t leave him here, not for the wolves to get, and then suddenly he wakes enough to reach out and grab her arm.
Nori turns back to him, stunned and surprised, he looks just as perplexed and starts to cry out, the camera cuts back and forth between them, while the cries of surprise or pain or confusion escalate, the fire goes out. And then, Nori is able to pull away, and the Stranger falls unconscious again, and the flames return.
Poppy urges Nori to get out as fast as she can, and Nori says we have to help him, and Poppy retorts ‘how are we to carry a giant’, but Nori says that they can, that this is who they are, and Poppy reminds her ‘no, this is who you are’.
This last interchange between Nori and Poppy is very much like the Shire we know, where most of the Hobbits never go anywhere and never have any adventures, and then there are the Bagginses and Tooks, who do go places and have adventures.
Thus ends the Dispatches from Hall H at San Diego Comic Con, at least as far as the exclusive video content goes. There will be a synopsis of all the cast and showrunner Q&As forthcoming.
We’re excited to share with you news from the London Philharmonic Orchestra about an upcoming episode of their podcast LPO Offstage featuring Howard Shore.
During the podcast, Howard Shore talks about the recording sessions for the Lord of the Rings films. He is also joined by Principal Percussion, Andrew Barclay and Principal Trumpet, Paul Beniston, who both took part in the recording sessions. They cover a range of topics such as the timeline from Shore’s initial ideas, through drafts to the final version. They discuss the recording process, and Howard making changes overnight. Howard also tells why he decided to work with the LPO for these movies.
The episode is hosted by YolanDa Brown. It will be available for your listening pleasure on July 7th on the London Philharmonic’s website at LPO Offstage.
LPO Offstage is in it’s 4th series and takes you behind-the-scenes of the Orchestra, bringing you closer than ever to the world of classical music. Past episodes have covered things like performance anxiety, the logistics of how a full symphony orchestra goes on tour, and how the music gets from the library to the music stand to name just a few. Tune in to hear from players and special guests to get your access-all-areas pass to the Orchestra.