"I feel as if I was inside a song"The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

Now after we have had a look at how Middle-earth music came to be, how it sounds like in terms of both style and instrumentation and, perhaps most importantly, the great importance it has in the inner workings of the world, we will turn to a number of musical pieces composed in our time based on The Lord of the Rings.
The focus of this section will lie on songs and poems from the original text and their renditions. We will analyse these for coherence, in how far they fit with the stylistic guidelines we have discovered and in which way they could be seen as successful renditions of the particular situation in the book. Of some texts there are no recorded songs, but only accompanied declamations. These will also not be forgotten, but their value is limited, because the declamation without melody is heavily dependent on the rhythmic and tonal properties of the language. Because all such texts are printed in English, which Tolkien employed as a representation of Westron, a language we have no information about, we cannot say anything about these features.

Some pieces, finally, at the first glance have no direct connection to Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle-earth music at all. Still these are claiming to in essence be true to his work, so they merit some investigation.

For reasons of space, this section only deals with a selection of pieces. They were chosen for their ability to give insights about the way in which their composers transferred the concepts and ideas discussed before into music. The selection made here does not in any way constitute any judgement of the musical or artistic quality of the pieces not included – it is merely that these pieces were best suited to bring across the point of this paper. For the reader to place these pieces into context and to evaluate the validity of the finding detailed here, it is recommended to listen to the full recordings of all discussed works.

The pieces discussed here are listed under the names given to them by the Tolkien Ensemble, with the exception of all songs under 4.2, whose names are prefixed by the topic from the book they are dealing with. Most of the time, in addition to the song mentioned in the heading, we will also have a look at songs with similar content, sometimes based on that particular song. At the beginning of every section all the musical recordings and/or sheet music sources are printed. Running times in the text refer to these recordings detailed at the beginning of each section and are in the format [minutes]:[seconds].

A note about score excerpts and lyrics present in the text: All score excerpts as well as lyrics are transcribed from the recordings of the pieces, unless indicated otherwise (see 6.2). The lyrics of songs performed by the Tolkien Ensemble are taken from The Lord of the Rings book. Metric beaming and syllabic slurs are used throughout for readability.