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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
TORn AMATEUR SYMPOSIUM ESSAY: Music & Race in Howard Shore's score for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey" by Ida
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TORn Amateur Symposium
Bree


Nov 17 2013, 11:24am

Post #1 of 58 (771 views)
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TORn AMATEUR SYMPOSIUM ESSAY: Music & Race in Howard Shore's score for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey" by Ida Can't Post

Welcome to November 2013 TORn Amateur Symposium, the second TAS!

We are very pleased to present the next essay for TAS2:

Music & Race in Howard Shore's score for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" by Ida

Abstract:

In this essay, I aim to find out how Howard Shore approached the task of writing music for the different races in Middle Earth. In order to do this, I have analysed the music used in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ relating to the races of Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits. I have done so from a musicological perspective, looking at (amongst other things) pitch; tempo; use of instruments; and what this says about the cultures and the associations they evoke in the listener. The essay will also focus briefly on what we might expect to hear in the upcoming “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”.

To view the essay, please click on the link above.

Our authors have written essays and analyses that are concerned, in some way, with the legendarium of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. These essays may be philosophic opinions, scientific theories, or analytical approaches to understanding or highlighting some facet of Tolkien's writings and world. These pieces are written with the goal of amateur scholarship at their core - thus inspiring our Symposium title. Authors may choose to include citations or footnotes, but they are by no means required. Keeping in mind the dual spirit of enjoyment and inquiry that we believe in (as much as we value cheer and song), and which is of paramount important to both the TAS team and our authors, we fully encourage discussion of the essays presented.We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy posting it. The TAS is open for discussion, and any comments, questions or thought you wish to share about this essay can be posted in this response to this thread.

We have quite a full schedule of essays - essays will posted approximately every other day. The full schedule can be found here:

http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=663582#663582

So please, go forth and enjoy all of the works we have posted for this 2013 November Session. The entire TAS Team, (Elaen32, DanielLB and Brethil), is both delighted and proud to present the essays our TAS members have crafted, relating their interests and skills to the world of JRRT that we all love; a world most intricately crafted, and one that "takes hold of us, and never let's go."



Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 17 2013, 1:54pm

Post #2 of 58 (312 views)
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Elven notes [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a wonderful read Ida!

I like your points about how Rivendell and Lothlorien compare. Interesting that Elronds' Rivendell, though he is half-Elven, has more of a quiet, 'eternal' sort of notes versus the more pointed notes found in Lothlorien, the realm of a full Noldor. Could that reflect the personalities of their founders, in a way...Elrond kind as summer and safely tucked away in his hidden realm, whereas Galadriel is the more forward moving, more of an active and restless spirit - and maybe more 'foreign' to us as humans?

And those sad, soaring notes of what 'used to be' in Moria. There is something I would love to have in a flashback!

The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 2:02pm

Post #3 of 58 (289 views)
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Thank you so much [In reply to] Can't Post

for your kind words!

I think the music of Rivendell is kept as calm and warm as it is, because Rivendell is considered "the last homely house", whereas Lothlorien is clearly much more distanced from the rest of Middle Earth, if that makes any sense?

A few days ago, I found a link to some snippets of the new DoS soundtrack and I can only say that I am so excited to hear the rest!


DanielLB
Immortal


Nov 17 2013, 4:37pm

Post #4 of 58 (284 views)
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I hope ... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
A few days ago, I found a link to some snippets of the new DoS soundtrack and I can only say that I am so excited to hear the rest!


You decide to write another updated essay with your thoughts and ideas once DOS has been released. It will be interesting to see how your ideas evolve over this trilogy. Smile

I think it is very easy to get classical music wrong. But Howard Shore does a remarkable job of keeping his score focused. His challenge was to create separate musical themes for a number of different races: hobbits, men, dwarves, elves, orcs. Each theme had to capture a mood suggestive of the traits that Tolkien wrote into that race in his books. Which makes certain themes identifiable within seconds of hearing it. So as the events of the story develop and events unfold, the themes in Shore's score interact in the same way - just like Tolkien did.

It would have been very easy for the audience to become confused trying to distinguish between the many peoples of Middle-earth. Giving each of these elements a musical theme makes them live as individual races, all contributing to the essence of Middle-earth.

Thank you for a great essay. Smile



Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 4:57pm

Post #5 of 58 (277 views)
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You have captured [In reply to] Can't Post

the flavor of each of the races beautifully.

I too like the new dwarf theme. It has a solid underpinning that speaks to that low center of gravity of the earth quality, but it also, even in it most majestic forms the orchestration has a bit of a lilt to it. Dwarves are serious and sometimes grumpy but even with the most serious business, there is something uplifting. I love that the orchestration expresses both.

The Rohan theme immediately sounded bittersweet to me. Theoden losing his son, Eowyn chaffing at the constraints of being a woman in a world that valued men more - all that was spoken in that theme. It also sounded.... and I don't know how to describe this... wide open, like the grasslands of Rohan. I got the impression of wide open spaces, grand vistas, .... That theme never ceases to amaze me at it's ability to be so intimate to a character and then so grand as to encompass the land.

Again, beautiful summation!

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings



Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 5:04pm

Post #6 of 58 (277 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

To be honest, the moment I heard the bits of music from DoS, I was so excited that it fitted in with the rest!

Mirkwood sounds dark and somehow the high strings reminded me of Shelob in RoTK; of course, it doesn't have to be those strings, but my mind made the connection.
Smaug's theme seems menacing and reminded me of the shark from Jaws, and "The House of Beorn" just seemed, well, big. It seems Shore starts out from a certain point and continually expands on our musical picture, to make the music fit with the character.
In short, there is plenty of new music to analyse and ponder over.

And you're right, Shore had some task in front of him, when he took on these films, but his music just fits absolutely perfectly.

Thanks again for your comments, it is much appreciated!


Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 5:08pm

Post #7 of 58 (275 views)
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Rohan [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
It also sounded.... and I don't know how to describe this... wide open, like the grasslands of Rohan. I got the impression of wide open spaces, grand vistas, .... That theme never ceases to amaze me at it's ability to be so intimate to a character and then so grand as to encompass the land.


I feel exactly the same! The music of Rohan is probably my favorite I love how it just perfectly encapsulates this culture and their troubles.

Thanks for your kind words!


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Nov 17 2013, 6:45pm

Post #8 of 58 (285 views)
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Progressively building up the themes... [In reply to] Can't Post

Congratulations Ida - a lovely piece to read. I think that a musical score in a film often works subliminally (at least for many of us,who lack highly tuned ears). All the more effective for that perhaps.

On the other hand, the sequence in which Peter Jackson's film does a long panning helicopter shot of the Southern Alps with the beacons being lit is a wonderful piece of cinema: it's also one which brings Mr Shore and his musicians fully into the spotlight, where they do not disappoint. Try watching it with and without sound: the music completely makes it. So it works both ways!


Something which I learned from watching the documentaries on the DVD was how Mr Shore takes a theme and builds it up. The examples they had were:
  • The Fellowship theme - Sam has stopped near a scarecrow in the Shire. If he takes one more step, he'll never have been so far away from home. As he takes that step, we hear a bit of the Fellowship theme, as if the score is saying that's where the Fellowship starts.
  • The Gondor theme - first heard as solo French Horn (I think) when Borormir is speaking about Gondor at the Council of Elrond. Never fully orchestrated until Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith.
I was wondering whether it would be fun to discuss thse effects (and whether there are other examples):
- "planting" a theme early in the film, then letting it grow
- using themes to draw perhaps unexpected parallels or make points

On the latter, I've failed to find a post by Roheryn (I think) in which she mentioned one of her children noticing that Azog rates a snatch of the Nazgul theme. At least I think that was it - I recall hearing something about falling thirds, (...and perhaps a bit about a Ring, a Dark Lord and the end of the world Wink. ??)


I also think Mr Shore is good at not letting the whole theme thing get out of hand - watching the later Star Wars films I became irritated by the music for the scene in which R2D2 and C3PO first meet: "yes, yes, I know this is a massively significant moment for the characters of the ongoing story, but because of the order in which the films were made we know that already: do we have to have the music emphasize it so much?"

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 7:28pm

Post #9 of 58 (272 views)
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The Beacons [In reply to] Can't Post

I reacted to the lighting of the beacons physically - the music, the cinematography, the build-up of the story.... I could feel my heart rate pick up as if I was being summoned. I remember having tears in my eyes as I watched all those solitary men, living high on the peaks with only that single task to perform, racing to perform their duty. wow... still gets me going...

Planting the seed of a theme:
I remember reading or hearing (in teh commentary maybe?) that Howard Shore developed the Fellowship theme is a very deliberate manner starting with a theme and the bringing in the fully orchestrated version only once, when the strength of the Fellowship itself was at its peak. That particular scene occurred directly after leaving Rivendell when we see each of the Fellowship crest a crag and make their way through a place in the rock - Gandalf first followed by the rest. The next shot (I believe) is another pan over with the whole Fellowship strung out in line. The music served to underscore the strength of what had been formed and when we heard that theme again coming apart in pieces, it underscored the fragmentation of the quest. Masterful!

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings



Mikah
Lorien

Nov 17 2013, 9:24pm

Post #10 of 58 (261 views)
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Thank you... [In reply to] Can't Post

For giving me an excuse to watch "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy for the ummmm....7th (or 100th) time. This time with a completely new perspective. I had always thought of the music of Lothlorien to be very mysterious. As you so aptly stated "this darkens the tone of the music, and we feel less certain of the Eves intention." I had never been able to pinpoint exactly what it was about the music that lent to the mysterious feel of Lothlorien, but I believe that you captured it perfectly and put into words exactly how I felt about it.

I am no student of music, but I have always been captivated by the music that we hear in Isengard as well. It seemed to so perfectly catch the destruction of the trees, Middle Earth, and the general violence of Sauramon and the Orc's. The music indeed called to the mind the fires of Isengard and Sauramon's "mind of metal" as Treebeard called it.

This was a great essay and I know that when I see DoS I will now be paying more attention to the contribution of music to the film than I would have before I read your essay. I will also be curious what Howard Shore has in store for Mirkwood.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Nov 17 2013, 9:43pm

Post #11 of 58 (244 views)
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Isenguard music! Yes! [In reply to] Can't Post

The music for Isenguard is very different again. It reminds me of Mars from Holtz's The Planets ( I think both are in 5/4 time? Is a common point intended about misused technology ?)

Maybe Wizard-gone-wrong is yet another musically illustrated race ?

I'm thinking here of the Fellowship of the Ring scene which my DVD calls "The Spoiling of Isenguard". A theme with lots of low brass covers the panning shot, then female (or trebles?) choir breaks in to cover a moth bringing news ( and ultimately rescue) to Gandalf. Then a neat seque back to psycho trombones and drums…

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Nov 17 2013, 9:45pm)


Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 10:10pm

Post #12 of 58 (241 views)
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To noWizardme: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for all your lovely comments I'll try if I can answer some of them.

About film music in general:

There's this idea that you don't hear the music, if it's good; meaning that if the music succeeds in complimenting the image on screen, then you don't notice it. I'm not quite sure that's true, it might work on some levels, but I also believe that some film music is meant to be 'heard'. Like when the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell: you are meant to hear that music, because it makes the scene so much more epic.

About themes and leitmotifs:

Basically speaking, a theme is a piece of music that signals something, but stays the same, and a leitmotif is made up of little elements but can, and often do, change. Now, this is nitpicking, and Shore himself didn't describe his music for the films as leitmotivic, which is weird, seeing as they definitely fit the description!
There is SO much to discuss when it comes to themes and leitmotifs in the LoTR and Hobbit films, if you want to read more, I can recommend Doug Adam's book "The Music of the Lord of The Rings Films" which goes into a lot of detail. It is quite heavy on the music theory side, but so interesting to read, nonetheless.

When I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the first time, I had a moment of confusion when Thorin goes to fight Azog, at the very end. As Thorin runs across the tree trunk, we clearly hear the music, that I at least, associate with the Ringwraiths, and I just couldn't understand why Thorin suddenly got that music. Now, I've just had a noodle around on youtube, and it turns out that the Ringwraith theme is slightly different, but the one that plays when Thorin fights Azog, is actually the same from the battle in the prologue in the Fellowship of The Ring, so it's basically a "good vs. evil" theme - you learn something new everyday :)

That was a lengthy reply, I hope you don't mind! I feel like I've barely scraped the surface on the music in these films, but the fact that you can keep listening and finding new aspects, is what makes it such a good score.


Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 10:20pm

Post #13 of 58 (238 views)
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To Dame Ioreth: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I remember reading or hearing (in the commentary maybe?) that Howard Shore developed the Fellowship theme is a very deliberate manner starting with a theme and the bringing in the fully orchestrated version only once, when the strength of the Fellowship itself was at its peak.


Again, Doug Adam's book is amazing, and talks at length about this. You are absolutely right, the first tender beginnings of the Fellowship theme happens when Sam "leaves" the Shire. Shore then adds to it, bit by bit, until it swells as the Fellowship leaves Rivendell. After the breaking of the Fellowship, the theme shatters, so as to accompany the different characters on their separate journeys. It swells one last time at the gates of Mordor when Aragorn and the others make a last stand, which I think is such a poignant moment.

Thanks for your comments! It is a wonderful thing; how music can move us :)


elaen32
Gondor


Nov 17 2013, 10:21pm

Post #14 of 58 (235 views)
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Thanks Ida, for an enjoyable essay [In reply to] Can't Post

The music of these films is very dear to me and some of the themes are so emotional, without being mawkish or obvious.
Re the Elves, I wonder if some of their musical themes relate to their rulers. In Rivendell, Elrond is leader and whilst some of his "subjects" (for want of a better term) are High Elves of the West, such as Glorfindel and Erestor, Elrond himself is half elf, half human. The music representing his domain is more accessible and perhaps more "comprehensible" to humans and the way they experience emotions. In Lothlorien, things are a little different- the Sylvan elves there are a little more primitive in some ways, have had less contact with other races. They are ruled by a very High Elf indeed- one who has dwelt in Aman. I feel the music here is trying to represent the complete "otherness" of these people. The meaning of the phrases appears mysterious and unsettling. There is an alien quality initially, which makes it unclear how these elves will react. However, by the time the Fellowship leave, the music is less sinister, but also much sadder, speaking of the losses that Galadriel has experienced over the millenia. I love the music from the "gift-giving" scene- especially when Galadriel gives the light of Earendil to Frodo- this always brings me out in goosebumps and a tear to the eye!


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



elaen32
Gondor


Nov 17 2013, 10:28pm

Post #15 of 58 (234 views)
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Mechanised music... [In reply to] Can't Post

The instrumentation in the Isengard scenes gives it the industrial edge- there is a lot of interesting percussion going on This includes chains, hammers and anvils and "prepared piano" whereby objects are effectively rattled around over piano strings. I think that I read somewhere that some of the effects were made by hitting light steel chains on to the inside of a piano. To my sensibilities that certainly indicates malice and industrial-scale destruction!!


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 10:32pm

Post #16 of 58 (240 views)
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To Mikah: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you so much for your kind words! It's such a nice thing to hear that my essay was received the way it was intended: as an introduction to the music and a encouragement to go see the films again :)

I think there's a whole other essay to be written on the baddies of Middle Earth; Saruman, Sauron, the Orcs, and the Ring itself (although I think the Ring could probably fill an essay on it's own).

Isengard is self is so industrial and harsh, it sounds like the musicians are hammering on great big sheets of metal. There's a brilliant video on youtube on the RTE Concert Orchestra, preparing for the performance of The Two Towers, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6dU6G050gU


elaen32
Gondor


Nov 17 2013, 10:36pm

Post #17 of 58 (224 views)
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Isengard & Mars [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your point about mis-used technology No-Wiz. In Mars, Holst was effectively was writing about the horrors of WWI (what an awful lot of art of all kinds that terrible conflict engendered!!). This was, in many ways, the first industrial, mechanised war- the introduction of tanks, aerial combat and bombing etc. This is reflected in Holst's music and in Tolkien's writing very strongly imo. Howard Shore seems, intentionally or otherwise, to recognise this in his industrial Isengard themes


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 10:39pm

Post #18 of 58 (220 views)
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To elaen32 [In reply to] Can't Post

You are absolutely right! I think someone else pointed out the connection between the rulers of Rivendell and Lothlorien and the different scoring. I cannot wait to hear the full Mirkwood theme, it's going to be so interesting to hear what Shore has come up with!


elaen32
Gondor


Nov 17 2013, 10:46pm

Post #19 of 58 (227 views)
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Re the Beacons [In reply to] Can't Post

I felt exactly the same Ioreth- when I first saw that sequence, my heart was beating so hard and the score seemed to reverberate right through me! I have told the following story here before, so to anyone reading who has read it already- apologiesAngelic- I have been fortunate enough to visit NZ twice. On the first occasion I took a helicopter trip over the glaciers where a lot of the Beacons sequence was filmed. Whilst waiting for everybody to board etc, the ROTK soundtrack was playing in the cabin. I could swear that it was still playing as we skimmed over those wonderful mountains, even though, logically, there could not have been music due to aviation rules etc. It must have been in my head, but it was an amazing experience, and recalling the film music on this trip enhanced it even further for me!

Regarding your comments about the Rohan music- I agree that it really described the wild wide spaces and the hard life of the Rohirrim


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 11:09pm

Post #20 of 58 (217 views)
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I wish I could find the citation [In reply to] Can't Post

A few years ago, there was a study on genetic predispositions where they found a possible link between genes and physical manifestations or reactions to art. I thought it was very interesting (as a former researcher) to hear that some of us may be hard-wired to get that buzz from the arts and why some people just don't "get it".

I can remember sneaking in to a rehearsal (I had a friend... long story) of the Cleveland Orchestra during a dress rehearsal of Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Talis by Vaughn Williams (the music, coincidentally I used in my head to score Rohan when I first read LOTR before it was replaced by Shore's theme). It was the same physical symptoms I had years later when I finally saw Waterlilies by Claude Monet in person. I sat down on the floor both times and sobbed it was so intense a reaction.

Maybe someone with better internet skills than I could find it but it was an interesting study and might tie in to why some notice and "feel" how the score enhances film and possibly why some people don't.

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings



Ida
The Shire

Nov 17 2013, 11:15pm

Post #21 of 58 (211 views)
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Fantasia on a theme [In reply to] Can't Post

There's quite a lot of research on music and emotion, and it's all very fascinating stuff! I adore the Fantasia you mention, it makes me incredibly sad, but it's also cathartic for me; if I'm having a rough time and need to have a good cry, that is the music that I will put on :)


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Nov 17 2013, 11:18pm

Post #22 of 58 (217 views)
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That Thomas Talis theme [In reply to] Can't Post

was also in the movie Master & Commander, so now I always associate it with HMS Surprise.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


elaen32
Gondor


Nov 17 2013, 11:33pm

Post #23 of 58 (213 views)
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Ditto.... [In reply to] Can't Post

I too have linked the Fantasia with Rohan in my mind. Great minds think alike, I sayAngelic


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



cats16
Tol Eressea


Nov 17 2013, 11:35pm

Post #24 of 58 (215 views)
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A wonderful piece, Ida. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm itching to watch the trilogy right now, after reading that! Smile

For some reason, I've been very interested (and have posted about it in the past) about what Legolas's theme will sound like. The music during the Múmakil sequence is one of my favorites--such a culminating moment for his character--and I can't wait to see if a tiny hint to that will be heard in the next two films (perhaps in the BoFA?).

But overall, a very enjoyable essay. I really like your thoughts on the Elven realms and their respective themes.


Mikah
Lorien

Nov 18 2013, 12:50am

Post #25 of 58 (220 views)
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You are so very welcome... [In reply to] Can't Post

And I did sit down to watch the Fellowship of the Ring...see the inspiration (and excuse) Smileyou have given me?

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