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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Hark to those herald angels singing

squire
Valinor


Jan 1 2013, 2:35pm


Views: 539
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Hark to those herald angels singing [In reply to] Can't Post

...it’s a big departure that Creation came from a Great Music. Googling various creation myths, I didn’t come up with any that were based on music, so Tolkien wins the innovation prize. Or prove me wrong: does anyone know of a creation story based on music?
It’s not simple music: “Sing! A world!” Instead it’s a dramatic story of competing themes, where original beauty and harmony clash with vanity and discord in a near-war. Not only does the Great Music create, it spells out the fate of the world and its peoples. On first read, I was confused by the complexity of all this, but now I enjoy it. What’s your first reaction?

You got me thinking about the Ainulindale's complex choral music as a metaphor for the Creation, and the question of why Tolkien apparently was the first to write a creation story based on music.

Obviously, the primary issue is the basis on which we should be comparing this early 20th century work of fiction with "various creation myths", as you put it. As always with his "legendarium", Tolkien is emulating a mythology, not creating one anew. No one believes in the Silmarillion in the sense that hundreds of generations of people have believed in the various creation stories of the world's pre-industrial cultures - which were told and retold orally long before they were ever written down by later recorders. In short, every real creation myth dates back at least several thousand years before the present.

Now, how old is the tradition of polyphonic choral music (choruses with more than one vocal line) - the apparent model for the Silmarillion's song of creation? As far as I can tell from a quick scan of the internet, this form came into being in the late medieval era and during the Renaissance - thanks to the institution of the Catholic church. Tolkien, I don't doubt, was entranced by this then-traditional music every week when he attended Mass throughout his life. Nor was he the first to transpose cause and effect: surely it was from the inspiration of hearing an earthly choir in full voices that he, like so many Christian mythologists, imagined the angels of heaven as a series of choirs singing to the Lord in His own presence.

In short, no real Creation myth uses a Great Music because such Music didn't exist and had never been imagined before about 1400 A.D. in Christian Europe.


It was Tolkien's idea to make this the vehicle for a Creation itself, which he does quite wonderfully with his harmonies, themes, chords and discords. (His squabbles between a conductor/composer and a prima donna soloist often remind me of A Chorus Line or Drum Line or other oldie-but-goodies of generic musical fiction that I'm sure had their equivalents in Tolkien's time.) But this relatively modern invention that he uses is, in many ways, as anachronistic to the style of story he is writing as the famous set of steam locomotives is that whoosh through his later Middle-earth fiction.





squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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(This post was edited by squire on Jan 1 2013, 2:37pm)

Subject User Time
The Silmarillion discussion: Ainulindale CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 31 2012, 3:38am
    Thanks for kicking this off, CuriousG! Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Dec 31 2012, 4:14am
        Why not sing the Aunur? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 31 2012, 10:22pm
            Tolkien seemed to have the same sentiments about evil CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 31 2012, 10:31pm
                Where it starts... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 31 2012, 10:53pm
        Nice--thought to music to sound CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 1 2013, 10:30pm
            Ulmo Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 2 2013, 5:15pm
                Sorry, I wasn't clear CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 2 2013, 6:37pm
                    Well, no... Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 4 2013, 12:41am
        Regarding Ulmo Cyberia Send a private message to Cyberia Jan 2 2013, 8:09am
            I actually don't see the similarity Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 2 2013, 5:19pm
        saying Eä Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Jan 12 2013, 9:32pm
    Hark to those herald angels singing squire Send a private message to squire Jan 1 2013, 2:35pm
        Excellent point CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 1 2013, 10:04pm
            Stop me if you've heard this one, O Muse squire Send a private message to squire Jan 2 2013, 7:19pm
                Excellent insight--many thanks! // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 2 2013, 8:14pm
        Another sung creation- the Kalevala noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 3 2013, 4:54pm
        Creation is song The Gardener Send a private message to The Gardener Jan 5 2013, 6:00am
            Where's Eve? Or Varda? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 5 2013, 7:40am
                No women were mentioned by name Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Jan 12 2013, 8:45pm
            Worship of Creation is song squire Send a private message to squire Jan 5 2013, 2:49pm
    Should have read the brochure? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 1 2013, 7:14pm
        It does strike me every time I read it CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 1 2013, 9:25pm
        If we read that passage, perhaps it is not so clear Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Jan 12 2013, 9:02pm
            I wonder about Tulkas leaving CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 3:30am
    Modern myth from modern things Mim Send a private message to Mim Jan 1 2013, 7:42pm
        Thanks--great points, especially CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 1 2013, 9:21pm
        myth and music (and Manwe) telain Send a private message to telain Jan 8 2013, 6:11pm
    I wonder if the creation myth of Arda was analogous to Plurmo Send a private message to Plurmo Jan 2 2013, 3:26am
    He was not far off of reality either............ Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Jan 4 2013, 9:31pm
    Tolkien's Representation of the Trinity KingTurgon Send a private message to KingTurgon Jan 4 2013, 9:45pm
        Jesus is Jesus Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 4 2013, 10:12pm
        For JRRT the events of ME were prior to Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Jan 4 2013, 11:18pm
        Gandalf, in some ways CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 4 2013, 11:32pm
            Allegories - Contrast to The Lord of the Rings? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 5 2013, 9:03am
                Earlier post KingTurgon Send a private message to KingTurgon Jan 7 2013, 8:25pm
        Jesus Aragalen the Green Send a private message to Aragalen the Green Jan 6 2013, 5:56pm
            Interesting idea- glad you posted it // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 6 2013, 7:09pm
            I know this isn't really a religion thread, but... Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 6 2013, 8:02pm
                Maybe "reluctant" isn't quite right, Aragalen the Green Send a private message to Aragalen the Green Jan 6 2013, 8:41pm
                    Ah that passage Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Jan 6 2013, 11:20pm
            Everyone's welcome to join in CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 6 2013, 9:14pm
                Thank you, and my apologies to Ardamire Aragalen the Green Send a private message to Aragalen the Green Jan 6 2013, 10:19pm
    Without wishing to curtail this discussion- what are our plans for the next chapter? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 6 2013, 10:15pm
        We can take turns. Whoever wants to do the Valaquenta, just say so, and post when you'd like.// CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 6 2013, 10:28pm
            Didn't get my edit inserted in time. More info: CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 6 2013, 10:51pm
                I will take the Reading Room to Valaquenta, though I... do not know the way. :) noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 7 2013, 1:02pm
    A Beautiful Creation Aragalen the Green Send a private message to Aragalen the Green Jan 6 2013, 10:24pm
    I looove this "chapter" Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Jan 11 2013, 6:20am
        Good point about no one to sing to CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 3:28am
    Late for the party sador Send a private message to sador Jan 16 2013, 10:52am

 
 
 

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