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<<  -- 3 --  Gordon Rumson    MUSIC OF THE ELVISH WORLD


The first movement, The Mirror of Galadriel begins in a shifting haze underpinned by a basso profundo resonance. As with the mirror itself, phrases shift inwards, outwards and around through this haze. A theme arises only to fall back into the mist. As with the mirror of the High Elvish Queen, the music tells what might be, what it is we hope for, but not necessarily the whole truth [listen -- first movement, harp version, 0:00-1:26].

Perhaps the most uncanny portion of The Lord of the Rings, without terrible horror, but with an air of hopeless regret, is the traversal of the bog created by the battle which ended the previous age centuries before. On these fields died the hopes of thousands before the gates of Mordor. Their visages still haunt the pits and pools of this ominous landscape. Tolkien is sometimes accused of writing poor battle scenes, of not understanding such matters. But the fact is he was a soldier in the hopeless fields of World War I and saw first-hand what his critics have never experienced. Allan Rae uses avant-garde methods of temporal flexibility and notation to conjure the moods of irrevocable fate and dread.

Passage of the Marshes - page 32 of the full score

The mood shift to the next movement is startling. Purely tonal and triadic, the strings pulsate an introductory accompaniment figure in the manner of the best lieder composers. We know that a tune is about to arrive. And it does. Played upon the euphonium (a perfect choice for the high baritone Hobbit, I think) it is simple, gay and carefree. It's not quite something you will go home humming, but then Bilbo Baggins was probably never that kind of singer. [I must point out that the words to this song of Bilbo's actually appear in The Hobbit, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but they are a leitmotif for Frodo in The Lord of the Rings as he recalls his uncle Bilbo]. Let it be said this road is not without its bumps, but then it is always the Hobbit walking upon it.

The Fog on Barrow Downs returns us to the misty realm of the half-light, the half-seen and the half-alive. In terms of the story of The Lord of the Rings the episode has little import, except to demonstrate how silly Hobbits can be for going off the path when they are advised not to. The Hobbits are trapped by ghostly forces that inhabit the burial mounds of an ancient, dread kingdom. Allan Rae gives spikes of sound, like shrill bells, in a shifting stream of ominous gestures. And as the ghosts remain even after the Hobbits have been saved by the intervention of the merry Tom Bombadil, the music fades away to silence waiting for the next heedless traveler [listen -- fourth movement, harp version, 0:00-0:37].

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Copyright © 1 January 2002 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada






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