I didn’t know what track I was starting on, were they playing in order, where was the beginning, the ending? Was this Weathertop or Khazad Dum?
I loved what I heard, but had no idea where the music fell into place. I didn’t have context.
Today, the mail carrier became my most favorite person in the world, as she handed me an envelope that I tore open to find the promo-CD for the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: LORD OF THE RINGS: The Fellowship Of The Ring!!!
As fast as my twisted body could carry itself, I hurried into my room. Placed the CD into my sound system. Primed my sub-woofers, did a sound check to make sure everything was perfect. Checked my equalizer to make sure my evil nephew KublaKhan hadn’t shifted things, and then… Then I held the plain white covered CD casing with all the track listings and followed along. I listened to the soundtrack 5 times straight. Nearly 6 hours that is and then I took a break.
I needed to type this part here and all the track titles and time lengths. You see, the review I’m going to write is going to be in real time. What you’ll find written below will be my thoughts, feelings and reactions to the music… written live as it plays in an awesome sound system. Without further ado… Let’s get this started:
1. THE PROPHECY – (3:54)
Not sure what is happening on screen here… You hear voices singing in a strange tongue, very sad. There is a low rumble and a bit of a hopeful hero motif that builds to a concussive choral pouring of emotion. Is this a telling of things that have happened, things that will happen? After building to a crescendo, we return to a light theme… I don’t know who’s theme… what’s theme. The ring? But there seems to be an ease and relaxation now. Like absolution. Ah, here come horns, the heroic theme, once… then the track is over
2. CONCERNING HOBBITS – (2:55)
There is the thump thump thump thump of violins before a lute a flute a fife… something plays a happy theme, then comes the fiddle/violin to play a theme of idyllic simple times. I feel movement, like I’m running about Hobbiton checking up on various things. Perhaps there’s gathering of veggies? Smelling of flowers. Not an ounce of foreshadow or darkness. Here’s the flute again. This feels like a dreaming theme. Like having your mind wonder to that which is beyond.
3. THE SHADOW OF THE PAST – (3:33)
Begins with a settling down piece, like you’ve sat to tell a tale. And the ring theme perhaps plays out and you get the idea that perhaps we’re listening to a story here. Is this Gandalf telling Frodo some history of the ring? Suddenly the themes build, and suddenly there is a discordant conflict, as though there is clashing, then the voices… Towering above as if to scream about some violation. Then the drums… pounding pounding pounding then letting of, then again, then off, now the simple theme again, as if to say all this from that small band of gold. Then more instruments lend strength and forcefulness to the theme… Then a building as if a decision must be made. Then pulling back. Then there is a strange little theme that touches and goes. Really lovely
4. THE TREASON OF ISENGARD – (4:01)
Begins with soothing voices almost sigh singing impacted by drums, then just soothing… then bam instruments join in to give a feeling of discomfort, now it is building building, calmer as a French horn-ish sound sings a bit of the heroic task ahead.. is this Gandalf’s theme or an overall Fellowship theme. He must be arguing back to Saruman, then evil music… This Saruman… whoa… Horns, horns, low woods and cellos descending, whoa… sub woofer kicking a rumbling sound, violins building, then power… horns build to Voices… Voices in Elvish, I can’t make out but there is a sound of appeal here… now horns, more horns more voices and the timpani begins, and the voices are rising as are the drums, then nothing..
5. THE BLACK RIDER – (2:48)
Begins with simple Hobbit Music on the road, you feel a bit Huck Finnish here. Happy good times, the violin the flute. More instruments join for a crescendo of fun, then nothing. Then a dark feeling. Like Frodo feeling something, then a feel of movement, like I can feel the Black Rider coming, there is a sense of urgency, I feel the hobbits have hidden, but the voices… is that the black rider or the ring, I think the ring, the ring asking Frodo to put it on, intense feeling of fear here. The voices are not happy… horns, and then that cello theme… now a stumbling off.. the evil has almost past, then calm
6. AT THE SIGN OF THE PRANCING PONY – (3:14)
This starts with a creepy feel, I believe something is afoot here. Dripping sounds… then an upbeat of happy, and then an oozing of other instruments to signal a bit of dread. Creepiness. That’s what this is. Quiet… calming… Then a shake of evil, the gong is ringing, or a cymbal is being beaten with a soft stick, Now the voices. BLACK RIDERS are here now… are they about to chop at the beds? Is that what this is? Now there is a sense of running or motion, drum poundings, metal being beaten… then a feeling of security… is that the sound of Aragorn?
7. A KNIFE IN THE DARK – (3:34)
Weathertop, there is a feeling of searching around, looking around, waving torches, circling, the music is swirling.. Now voices from a distance getting closer and closer, the Nazgul talking to Frodo, now the swirling and ringing… waving of torches? Now louder voices, the ring asking to be put on? Calming, he hasn’t put it on yet has he…. Low sound, He did put it on, there is metal, now loud baritone horn, this is in the ringworld… Frodo is battling… Now high voices, now the boy’s choir… Frodo has been stabbed, he’s become visible, I know it. Know Aragorn has him, but there is still a threat, they are fleeing? Running? A there is a sound like the shaking of chainmail? Now there is a calming end..
8. FLIGHT TO THE FORD – (4:15)
Starts with a woman’s voice… soft and high then sighing to clarity, more voices joining in, comfort… soft instruments join in, Violins and woods… a touch of light drums, now a comforting theme. There is safety here. Now strong instruments counter that, and discordant sense of urgency, drums beginning to rumble.. Horns shouting out, louder and louder, a cymbal crash, the drums, now the horns again, Voices crashing in, beckoning on, there is a feeling of acceleration, voices pursuing, trying to keep up, and now the horns rushing forward and forward gaining distance and moving forward, then a crash of evil… almost quiet with an unsettling rumbling sound… Now soft innocent voices calming… Was that crash the Ford hitting the Nazgul, now he’s safely on the other side.
9. MANY MEETINGS – (3:05)
Angelic opening here. Harps, angelic voices comforting, and a feeling of peace giving way to what I believe to be the Fellowship theme by many instruments, followed by what sounds like a simple single instrument version… Bassoon? Clarinet? Now the violins have it, and they are holding their notes and stretching and sweeping with them, then the single again, low support from larger instruments, then a haunting higher register instrument gives way to some voices… A reprisal of the more sweeping hero themes… Is this Gandalf and Aragorn? Who is here?
10. THE COUNCIL OF ELROND – (3:49)
This starts with what I will call memory and calling to order music. Someone is talking here… Now the beginning of ANIRON by Enya starts, what a lovely sweeping lite touch of a voice… Very breathy and relaxing. Very magic, not a language I know, so I say Elvish. Very Celtic and old sounding, like a northern Ireland yodel after good sex…. It gives way to violins and cellos that beat out the heroes’ theme with drum support, now horns, giving way to hobbit flute music, joined my more hobbit music supported with other music, giving way to the hero theme full on, very powerful… drums rumbling below, THE FELLOWSHIP is here.
11. THE RING GOES SOUTH – (2:03)
Starts like a sunrise, like birds landing on branches, very easy going, there is a theme underneath this, I don’t recognize it. Gives way to a shimmering sound, with a horn in the distance growing stronger and stronger, drums and the whole horn section pounds out the Fellowship them, noble, majestic and big, a bit of a march beat underneath and a touch of evil at the end.
12. A JOURNEY IN THE DARK – (4:20)
Low rumbles and male voices, drums pounding in the distance, violins shiver the spine, Voices growing, dark rumbling, vast feelings accented by long held notes, while the voices echo something old, drums pounding in the distance but closer now, settling… settled, now that Ring theme. Is here where Gandalf tells of Gollum? There is a sweeping bit of melancholy here with the ring theme. Now an odd horn unsettles me, the voices have stopped. There are higher registers, a series of builds and humbles, the instruments are getting vaster with their notes BIG, They’ve entered the huge room of columns in Moria, Gandalf says, "We need more light" and we see it in all its majesty… we walk, now Gimli spots Balen’s tomb, he’s running with the violins, weeping at the affirmation of his lost relatives… The pounding comes from the looking about the room to see the battle that had occurred there… I believe.
13. THE BRIDGE OF KHAZAD DUM – (5:57)
Here this is the full hero theme as the descend the stairs of Khazad Dum, this music is right after they survive a perilous encounter on the stairs, now they’re on the bridge… The Balrog is before Gandalf…, Big Crescendo, we see it full on… QUIET… Low black speak, this is the approach, now the conflict sound between Gandalf and the Balrog, tumultuous pounding of drums… Building, getting closer and closer…. Building building, louder horns, alternating high brass and low brass, pounding chromatic two steps, middle brass, top brass pounding, voices now building and building, the speech growing loud, and louder, its coming to a head everything, explosion and the hero theme, the Balrog has fallen, one play through then darkness, the whip has Gandalf’s feet, building, Gandalf is holding Discordant crescendo and quiet… Gandalf has fallen…. Then the drums… broken with silence, quiet post rumble, now sad melancholy low voices, a single innocent boy voice out of the darkness… immense sadness, noble and heartfelt here. Sadness.
14. LOTHLORIEN – (4:34)
Very mystical almost Muslim feeling here. A strange Middle Eastern instrument is in there… a sitar? The horns accent majestically, but without over powering, a rumble like thunder in the background as the voices come back with an enchanting undercurrent of harps dueling in the background, now they are swaying, the voices are…. Very mystical and peaceful. I feel blues out of this music. Quiets to a strange silence, then a build, then quiet to an echo-y prayer chant style, very Mosque-sounding. I love this. I can just smell the incense. There is mist here. The voices trail, never ending with a staccato. Now that’s halted and the horns are back. They are telling a tale of sadness to quiet.
15. THE GREAT RIVER – (2:43)
Here we start with voices and violins stirring about. Now more voices, male and female, majesty being hinted at, a drum pound and small Fellowship riff, then pounding drums, then completion of the Fellowship theme then trailing… Sweeping sounds being pushed and pushed, the voices building and building, high lady voices, then BIG BIG SWEEPING groWING THEn diminishing aND GROWING And shrinking. Very noble.
16. AMON HEN – (5:02)
Began with a pound of a drum, voices trailed sadly after, more drums more more more more, flutes, drums drums, the brass starts a combatant theme, standing up to the drums and more drums there is danger here. More drums, there is a strange sense that the rest of the orchestra is trying to defend against the drums and winning, now the brass is getting softer, there is a sense of urgency, now all drums and low brass… There is a sense of complete danger and overwhelming danger… QUIET, then pounding, quiet, pounding, quiet… Now innocent voices murmuring supported by sweetness around them. Again someone has fallen. Boromir? I feel like someone has died here, I’m not sure, there is sadness to this music. Couple of drum poundings in the distance beneath all this sadness.. Growing calmer, a sad telling of the Fellowship theme… quiet and not glorious or triumphant… very funerary.
17. THE BREAKING OF THE FELLOWSHIP – (7:21)
This begins like a prayer verse and then sweeps as a hopeful reminder of music not heard since they first set out with the ring. Now this seems to be music telling us of something new and hopeful… is this a theme we’ll hear more of in the second film? Is this the sound of Frodo and Sam in their boat alone or of the other members of the Fellowship discussing them… Uh oh, the Hobbit flute theme is back, definitely on Frodo and Sam in the boat now. It ends into sadness with a musical sense of quiet grandeur, of being alone… This is Frodo and Sam music, and man I like this. It’s building, into the Fellowship theme… are we now back on Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas…. Wow, this feels like there is running, yes, the three pursuing the orcs…. That’s what is happening here I believe. The percussion underneath is running. Now the Hobbit theme, a single flute thing… those old Celtic tunes… are they talking about Hobbiton here? There is a settling then the boys voice singing in English. My ears can’t pick up the words, but now he has a supporting choir of boys… Now the Fellowship theme beneath the boys comes out as the boys are silenced, "When the season’s mountains…" can’t grab the rest. There is a sense from this song of more needing to be done, of continuing. The voices are over… The track music segues straight into…
18. MAY IT BE – Enya – (4:16)
I love this Enya song. Especially at the end of this soundtrack. This is the end credits music. I wonder if Peter’s name is held till Enya begins? Her voice is so pure and lovely. The song seems to be about a long journey and hopeful. 2 minutes in the tune becomes lovely as can be, very haunting and like something you would cuddle with. Really sad conclusion. With 45 seconds to go, it is a reprisal of the overall FELLOWSHIP themes… the journey, a bit of the ring here and the Fellowship and builds to a new beginning… where it ends.
Ok… That took 70 minutes of state of consciousness typing. Wow that is a great frigging score. I’m not sure what my favorite track is… I love THE BLACK RIDER, AT THE SIGN OF THE PRANCING PONY and A KNIFE IN THE DARK as a trio of continuous tracks. It takes you from the innocence of the Hobbits, through to the deepest most threatening and sad melancholy in the score. However, THE BRIDGE OF KHAZAD DUM and AMON HEN win for overall sweep of emotions. Especially KHAZAD DUM… the heroic accomplishment giving way to the dark chanting, to the pounding evil drums, to the Victory over evil, followed quickly by Evil’s vengeance followed by immense sadness. This is a very very emotional score.
Now having said that, it seems this is less than half of the overall music in this epic. I want a 2 disc set… Or a DVD that has the score and screensaver of like 500 images from the film that plays at the same time.
What a score. Howard Shore, wherever you are… Well Done. VERY WELL DONE!
I’m dying to hear the WATCHER IN THE WATER music, the musical cue for when the gates of Moria come to life and open, the actual CAVE TROLL music, the snowy travels music. The Hobbit songs, especially Frodo’s at the Prancing Pony. There is still so much more music. Is there Bilbo themes? A Sting theme? Gollum music... can you imagine? Oh I want more music!!! Wonderful work!