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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
The Beethoven Connection: A Brief Analysis of the Cellular Structure in Azog's Motif

bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 9 2013, 11:11pm

Post #1 of 23 (895 views)
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The Beethoven Connection: A Brief Analysis of the Cellular Structure in Azog's Motif Can't Post

There hasn't been much discussion here about Howard Shore's music lately, so I thought I would offer up a brief and semi-formal analysis of Azog's motif, which is, for me, one of the more memorable new themes from the AUJ soundtrack due to its simplicity, angularity, and musical structure. NB: This post will only pertain to the music and it's extraopus connections, and function in the film's story; at the moment I am setting aside my personal feelings about Azog's inclusion in the film.

To begin let's examine Azog's motif (figure 1). The motive is comprised of two descending thirds (G-Eb, major third; F-D, minor third). This is followed by what I will be referring to as "the tail." The tail features three notes (Eb-D-C#) which descend chromatically (i.e. by half-step). Having the tail of the motif descend chromatically helps to increase tension as the motif reaches the final note C#.

This ending note is of some importance in itself when compared to the beginning note of the motif, G. G and C# share a special relationship in that they are six half-steps apart; this distance is referred to as a (tri-tone) and is considered to be one of the more dissonant and jarring intervals in traditional Western music. For a while it was considered "diablos in musica" (the devil in music) and a compositional system was devised to avoid the interval entirely. Yet here it is present in Azog's motif in order to aurally cue us in to the character's "devilish" nature.

I have briefly touched on the main structural features of Azog's motif and how the range it spans (a tri-tone) is related to his character. Now I will dissect the motif to highlight some extraopus influences that I have noticed, and I will try to tie these influences together into the character's role in the film.

Howard Shore's work on LOTR and TH is typically compared to the music of Wagner through his use of repeating leitmotifs. However, for my analysis I will be focusing on cellular structure (i.e. smaller motifs made of a few notes as opposed to lengthier themes). Well, one might ask, "Azog's motif is so short, doesn't that qualify it as a 'cell'?" Well that's the tricky thing about musical analysis, there's no set rule for how big a cell or a theme or a motif has to be.

Here I will be highlighting the two cells that form Azog's motif (hint: I already mentioned them). These two cells are the pair of descending thirds and the chromatic tail. Here you can see how I have parsed the motif, placing a red box around the descending thirds, and a blue box around the tail (figure 2). I chose to divide the motif as such because the first four notes follow a similar pattern which is then broken by the chromatic tail. Rhythmic unity in the first four notes (all half-notes save for the one at the end) followed by a sudden change to descending quarter notes also led to my feeling that dividing the motif in this way is completely justified.

Now that I have explained and justified my cellular division process I will explain the extraopus influences on them. What extraopus means is any force outside of the composition that may or may not have influenced it. (DISCLAIMER: I will not state that Howard Shore had in mind exactly what I am going to say. I do not know everything he had in mind. This is my own independent analysis.)

Let's examine each influence and how it pertains to its corresponding cell in turn.

First: The descending thirds pattern (G-Eb-F-D). These notes, in succession, stick out to me like a sore thumb. They are part of one of the most ubiquitous motives in Western music history, the two statements of the opening motive from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (G-G-G-Eb, F-F-F-D) (figure 3-boxed in red to correspond with figure 2). This motive is arguably a cell in itself due to its simplicity (G-G-G-Eb). Beethoven's motif is commonly referred to as "fate knocking", because of a disputed account from Anton Schindler who stated, long after the composers death, that Beethoven referred to the motif as: "Thus Fate knocks at the door!" This account may or may not be true, but due to its "door knocking nature" and because he was composing the fifth symphony while he was coming to terms with his hearing loss, this monicker has remained. This "fate knocking" motif can also be heard in an altered form in his Op. 57 which was written around the same time (1805-1807ish).

We can clearly see that Shore has streamlined the two statements of the motif, fusing it into one cell (G-Eb-F-D) and removing the "door knocking" rhythm, replacing it with heavy thuds, like someone descending a staircase. I have shown the first extraopus influence: descending thirds from the fifth symphony, now on to the second.

Second: The second cell, the chromatic tail (Eb-D-C#), can also be found in an equally important moment in Beethoven's music, Symphony No. 3 (opening of the first movement) (figure 4-boxed in blue to correspond with figure 2). To understand the importance of these three notes let's start at the beginning of the movement to put them into context. An interesting aspect of the third symphony is that it begins with an ending, two strong declamatory chords which establish the key of the piece, Eb. After these two chords the primary theme of the first movement is presented in the cello, it is tonally pure and arrpegiates an Eb chord (Eb-G-Eb-Bb-E-G-Bb). This simple theme becomes complicated at the descending line Eb-D-C# which begins in measure 6. Once landing on the C# the chord changes from Eb major to G diminished (G,Bb, C#) (a chord which is not native to the key of Eb). This change from familiar tonality to a jarring, dissonant, and unexpected sound creates tension and foreshadows the tumultuous nature of the entire movement (and would have been a big surprise to audiences in 1805). Give a listen to it yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-uEjxxYtHo

In comparing this brief cell from the third symphony's primary theme to the second cell in Azog's motif, the only difference that is notable is the altered rhythm (Beethoven placing more emphasis on the Eb by using a half note, whereas Shore applies a quarter note to it).

Okay, so where does this leave us? We have two cells that can be tied to Beethoven. The first: fate; the second: tension. Azog's sole purpose in these films (as given him by the screenwriters) is to "wipe out the line of Durin." He will stop at nothing to kill Thorin and will most likely see to that during the Battle of Five Armies. It is Thorin's fate that he come to the tragic end that he does, due to his greed and nearsightedness, and Azog represents that fate which is barreling across Middle-Earth "astride a white waarrgguh." He is coming for Thorin and will pursue him as far as the edge of Mirkwood, and we know that some of his cronies will pursue Thorin & Co. into Laketown. Screenwriting 101 says that now that the screenwriters have established Azog as Thorin's primary enemy and the whole vendetta each has for the other, that they must face in combat again. At this point Azog can't simply be taken out by anyone before the showdown at the BoFA. It's Thorin's fate. And of course the inclusion of Azog provides tension and urgency to the early stages of the journey, and will most likely provide an identifiable villain at the BoFA (besides Bolg).

I have provided an analysis of Azog's motif, performed a justifiable cellular division, found extraopus influences, and tied them into the storyline. Fate and tension are two very Beethovenian concepts, and they are present in not only the music, but also the story as well.

I'd like to hear what others think about Azog's motif. I have presented one way of looking at, and analyzing it. Other viewpoints could highlight similarities between Azog's motif and the other motifs associated with Middle-Earth villains (an intraopus analysis Tongue) (e.g. use of a "tail", descending thirds associated with Mordor, etc.).

If none of this makes sense or you have a question, just ask and I'll try to answer. I just want to warn others that music analysis is NOT science.Unimpressed 1+1 does not always equal 2, and there are never truly right answers.


swampB
Bree

Jul 10 2013, 12:52am

Post #2 of 23 (367 views)
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Nice [In reply to] Can't Post

Good stuff. The logic is undeniable. Azog will mortally wound Thorin in the BOFA...


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 1:12am

Post #3 of 23 (341 views)
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Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for reading! I've been mulling these ideas around in my brain for a few months and decided to write them out today. Once I got done writing the post I saw how long it was and was afraid no one would bother to read it.


Lieutenant of Dol Guldur
Gondor


Jul 10 2013, 12:43pm

Post #4 of 23 (281 views)
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It's basically a variation of the IMPENDING DOOM MOTIF from LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Other viewpoints could highlight similarities between Azog's motif and the other motifs associated with Middle-Earth villains (an intraopus analysis Tongue) (e.g. use of a "tail", descending thirds associated with Mordor, etc.).


That's excatly what I thought when I heard the AUJ score for the first time. AZOGS MOTIF is... if you look at it very careful basically only a variation of the
THE DESCENDING THIRD MOTIF from LOTR. There you'll find it (like the THREAT OF MORDOR MOTIF) sometimes used as an ostinato (with e.g. THE EVIL OF THE RING/SAURON THEME or the REVELATION OF THE NAZGŰL THEME) or sometimes alone. It's a sequence of descending thrids... that's why it's called this way. Sometimes it's also called IMPENDING DOOM MOTIF (I like this name better) too because it appears almost everytime just before something sinister is going to happen (like the Nazgűl attack on the Weathertop). That's it's use in LOTR.

In AUJ you've got new uses of the motif. It's the basis of one of the two NECROMANCER MOTIFS (heard on tracks Radagast The Brown, The White Council and Hill Of Sorcery), a faster version of it is basis of the WARG RIDER MOTIF (heard on tracks Warg Scouts and Out Of The Frying Pan) and finally the AZOG MOTIF (heard on An Ancient Enemy and The Defiler). The motif is played in different tempi and instruments but basically it's all the same or at least very similar. What makes sense because if you take the second name of this motif IMPENDING DOOM and look at it's use within the Hobbit trilogy (until this point) it is very useful. We've got the rise of the Necromancer (impending doom) and we've got the dangerous Orcs with their leader Azog becoming a threat to Middle-earth as well. AND there is this hidden connection between Sauron/Necromancer and Azog which we haven't discovered yet but it is in the music. It shows us again the genius of Howard Shore.

That was an analysis focussed on it's use within the trilogy and it's connection to already used motifs and themes from the musical world of Middle-earth. Tongue



"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power."

(This post was edited by Lieutenant of Dol Guldur on Jul 10 2013, 12:47pm)


Imladris18
Lorien

Jul 10 2013, 2:27pm

Post #5 of 23 (250 views)
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Exactly [In reply to] Can't Post

It's stuff like this that makes me rage when people rip on the Hobbit score/music. There's a reason Shore does what he does, and it's very complex.


Timdalf
Rivendell


Jul 10 2013, 3:30pm

Post #6 of 23 (229 views)
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Resemblance proven [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you have proven there is a definite resemblance. Whether there is actually a connection is open to question. Probably it is just coincidence or perhaps subliminal on Shore's part. Western classical music often has shared harmonic and melodic tropes through its long history. (See Deryck Cooke's "The Language of Music") As Doug Adams in "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films" points out on p.354: the only intended homage to any classical composer are the arpeggiated chords at the end of RotK, a reference to Wagner's finale to Götterdämmerung.

Timothy Fisher alias "Timdalf"



bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 3:43pm

Post #7 of 23 (216 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

I simply wanted to challenge myself with an extraopus analysis. I don't own Adam's book, so I couldn't use it as a source.


Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 10 2013, 4:10pm

Post #8 of 23 (228 views)
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Wow, great analysis [In reply to] Can't Post

Really enjoyed reading it, as I am a huge music lover.Smile

Do you think the tied-note D over the bar line also adds to the dissonance, and therefore tension? Just a thought.

As I can't remember off-hand from listening to it, what was the articulation for this motif? Btw, really awesome to tie it up to Beethoven; I didn't notice that myself.

Also, out of interest, what key is the whole of the piece in?

I agree with you about the fate and tension of the motif probably leading up to Bo5a; it does seem to make sense.

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


Lusitano
Tol Eressea


Jul 10 2013, 4:17pm

Post #9 of 23 (222 views)
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Unleash your rage! [In reply to] Can't Post

Give in to your anger and your transformation to the dark side will be complete!

Vous commencez ŕ m'ennuyer avec le port!!!


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 4:35pm

Post #10 of 23 (206 views)
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Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the tied D could add dissonance/tension, but now that I go back and look at how I transcribed it and how it sounds on the soundtrack I think I may have made a mistake with the rhythm. I'm not the best at transcribing by ear.

I'd say the articulation of the motif is usually marcato. As for a key? Well there goes my bad ears again. If we had the written score we could probably pinpoint a specific mode or scale that's being used. We only have five notes to work off in finding what mode the motif is in. C#-D-Eb-F-G, the step pattern is: (H-H-W-W). That pattern isn't present in any of the regular church modes (Ionian, Dorian, etc.). So it could be any altered mode. The fact that I was having trouble pinpointing a mode for it led me eventually to performing a cellular division.


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 4:39pm

Post #11 of 23 (204 views)
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Goood. [In reply to] Can't Post

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnQ_mp9TzZY


Timdalf
Rivendell


Jul 10 2013, 4:43pm

Post #12 of 23 (193 views)
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Understood... [In reply to] Can't Post

but I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand the LotR score. It is suitable to both those who know their music theory and those who find it too technical. Doug and Howard have both often said that any musical resemblances of those scores to any musics living or dead is purely accidental (so to say!) ;-)

Timothy Fisher alias "Timdalf"



Timdalf
Rivendell


Jul 10 2013, 4:54pm

Post #13 of 23 (192 views)
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The key? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, if one looks at the musical examples in Doug Adams' book, we see there are rarely if ever any key signatures. I asked him about that once and I learned that Howard from his jazz background tends not to use key signatures but accidentals as needed. So I don't think even if the score were available it would overtly indicate a key... one would have deduce it. But you would have to ask Doug about it as he and Howard's staff (and Ludwig Wicki) are the only ones who have seen complete scores (and perhaps the instrumentalists at the Live to Film concerts of LotR). They remain unpublished.

Timothy Fisher alias "Timdalf"



bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 5:07pm

Post #14 of 23 (202 views)
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As with most film scores they probably will remain unpublished. [In reply to] Can't Post

In terms of accidental relationships to other music. I feel strongly that while analyzing the music on its own terms, in its own world (the music we associate with Middle-Earth), along with the moving image is good, but it's limiting in its scope. Tying the music into a greater, musicological picture is important. And if we have to do that through happy accidents, then that's fine with me. If we only stick to one way of looking at the music, then we'll only have one book about it. As for Adam's book, maybe if they were to release a paperback version; forty dollars for one book is kind of stretching it for me at the moment.Unsure


Timdalf
Rivendell


Jul 10 2013, 7:43pm

Post #15 of 23 (169 views)
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That's too bad... [In reply to] Can't Post

... because the book is beautifully produced with many colour stills from the film along with many sketches by Alan Lee and John Howe. There are numerous musical examples of all the themes and how they interelate is discussed extensively. At 400 magazine stock pages and given that it is thorough musical analysis as well as how the score relates in detail to the film this book is worth every bit of $40.
And one can only lament that film scores are not published. To do so would only serve to enhance the respect the genre deserves by enabling analysis.

Timothy Fisher alias "Timdalf"



(This post was edited by Timdalf on Jul 10 2013, 7:50pm)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 10 2013, 9:47pm

Post #16 of 23 (153 views)
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From the interviews I've seen with Shore [In reply to] Can't Post

he doesn't over-analyze his creative process, so we will only see Doug Adam's analysis of the score. I can understand why Doug thinks the connections are accidental because the creative process is not purposeful - it doesn't lend itself to a structrured process that deliberately key off other music. It's like Tolkien talking about the writing process in On Fairy Stories - Tolkien draws from what he calls a soup of memory and recollection to create Middle-earth, and Shore in a similar fashion draws from his life experience to create his music. Shore's experience includes exposure to all types of music and he draws from that in creating a film score.


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 10:29pm

Post #17 of 23 (141 views)
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But shouldn't others try to find those influences. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
so we will only see Doug Adam's analysis of the score



As a musicology student it seems very stifling to settle for one analysis. It's like "ok here's the music, now you can't talk about these things because x,y,z." It feels like shutting out room for conversation and debate and new perspectives. I would love to see an analysis that focuses on the music and gender, or the music and race, or extraopus influences, as I have attempted.


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 10 2013, 10:44pm

Post #18 of 23 (129 views)
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Oh, I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's just that we have to do it without confirmation or denial from Howard Shore. He trusts Doug Adams, but since he doesn't like to analyze his own process, it's unlikely that he will have any further participation in analyzing his own work.

Without his contributions, the best we can do is speculate. But we do that all the time here, with Tolkien's books to Jackson's movies. Let's add Shore's to the music, for sure!


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 10 2013, 11:59pm

Post #19 of 23 (117 views)
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Of course. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
we have to do it without confirmation or denial from Howard Shore


We do it with dead composers all the time.Evil



Lusitano
Tol Eressea


Jul 11 2013, 12:24am

Post #20 of 23 (113 views)
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To cheer you up [In reply to] Can't Post

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sagg08DrO5U


Wink

Vous commencez ŕ m'ennuyer avec le port!!!


Doug Adams
Bree

Jul 11 2013, 12:25am

Post #21 of 23 (121 views)
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To be fair ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... the Music of LOTR book was created with nearly a decade of Shore's input and supervision, so you do have his unequivocal thoughts and comments in there, they're just not always set into quotes. Certainly doesn't mean there should never be any additional analyses—in fact, have at it!—but it should be pointed out that the composer's thoughts have been registered ... even if you often have to absorb them through my words.

As for the Beethoven, it's purely coincidental—I asked!—but I did think it was cool. That's why the motif is referred to as "fatalistic" in the liners. It was one of two geeky classical music in-jokes that I stuck in there to amuse myself ... and whoever else noticed. :)

We will hopefully have more to say about Azog's theme later down the line. Hang in there!

All best,

Doug


bungobaggins
Lorien


Jul 11 2013, 12:37am

Post #22 of 23 (102 views)
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Well now I know what I'm doing for the next ten hours! [In reply to] Can't Post

Tongue


swampB
Bree

Jul 11 2013, 3:20am

Post #23 of 23 (148 views)
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Cool [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow... I just read your Wiki page and now I'm interested in reading your book...

But regarding the OP... You have to admit that the evidence is compelling, and he wasn't just relying on the music to make the probable case that Azog will mortally wound Thorin. We see it in the dialogue as well in the first Hobbit film... It also now seems reasonable to also think Thorin will kill Azog moments after Azog landed his final strike... They are going to kill each other... My two cents!

 
 

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