<< -- 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.
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].
Copyright © 1 January 2002
Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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