The Tolkien Professor

Corey Olsen

Arts, Literature

Chart Positions

Literature 62

The Tolkien Professor podcast is a series of lectures, discussions, and seminars on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien by Corey Olsen, Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland. Find me on Facebook at "The Tolkien Professor," on Twitter at @tolkienprof, or at my website at www.tolkienprofessor.com. I have also begun a grand new venture: the Mythgard Institute, offering courses on Tolkien studies for credit at the MA level, or just for fun! Join us at www.mythgard.org.


SilmFilm Session 1-19: Music

April 27th, 2016

Episode 310 of 366 episodes

Introduction – Music and Score Today, we will have John DiBartolo of the Lonely Mountain Band as guest contributor. Those of you who have listened to Riddles in the Dark and other Middle-earth podcasts may recognize that we use clips from The Lonely Mountain Band for podcast intros We will be listening to clips from Philip Menzies Today’s episode What kind of instrumentation do we want? What kind of score? What are the arguments for/against classical orchestral score, or a hybrid? Hybrid would be best case scenario…the Ainulindalë would depend on all of the other music, and how the story is framed. From what viewpoint is that story being told? How the story is told will dictate the score. You’re trying to put the viewer into the movie/show, and if the music is too familiar, it brings us out of the fantasy/secondary world being created Need to attain an Otherworldliness with the music, especially with regard to the Valar. Use as many uncommon instruments as possible But it can’t be too unfamiliar, as the Valar are the archetype of all things and experiences on Earth…so the tuba would have to sound like The Tuba Upon Which All Other Tubas Are Based Would we use an electric guitar? There could be several characters to which one could apply…then there’s the effects pedals/synth effects Uilleann pipes (Braveheart) – an invention based on bagpipes, but instead of blowing into the instrument, the air bag is squeezed at the elbow. It’s a sympathetic sounding instrument, meaning it draws in the listener emotionally), and as such would be good for Melkor or maybe Mairon/Sauron, as he’s always subtle and a bit of a tempter. It would have the range of emotion (pipes soft and clean in the beginning as Mairon, and becoming more corrupted with distortion pedal effects as he becomes more like Annatar/Sauron the Deceiver Each main character would have their own voice/instrument/theme The Ainulindalë can be presented as a musical composition without narration, and correlate the mythology with the instrument voicing. Major theme this season is the path downwards to The Void Character themes should change over time, but there should be some kind of recurrent theme/motif The theme of one Ainu can be corrupted by the Melkor sounds Echoing the fall theme each time a character falls (From Melkor to Sauron to Fëanor down to Denethor and Boromir) Atonal music, switching from major to minor key Classical instruments with guitar/synth effects to cue that something magical has happened First episode could start with a 4-5 min. musical piece…grand, orchestral…the music would depict the different Valar’s powers…then scale down the arrangement to an Elvish quartet in Elrond’s library It can be like the Music is the story, everything else is just commentary Horns for Ulmo, Aulë would be more percussiony, Bassoon for Mandos (kinda doomy) The Ainu aren’t playing instruments as they have no fingers, but their voice isn’t a humanish voice Choral/vocal stuff for Elves, Men and Dwarves…no human voices for the Valar The Elves can sing the Ainulindalë as a hymn of worship in 3-4 part harmony, recalling the grand orchestral Ainu version The moment the Elves awaken, the choral theme would come up at the end of Episode 13 (and would end Season 1 to anticipate seeing the Elves next season) Blind Guardian for the Elves? When Men awaken, their version can be more folky, perhaps a minstrel in a pub We can have different songs for the closing credits at the end of each episode…perhaps the “Elvish choral” version was sung by a character in the TV show, but the “modern” rock band version plays as closing credits Excellent hybrid soundtrack: Excalibur by Trevor Jones (classical, medieval pub, and Wagner) WE COULD HAVE A REAL SOUNDTRACK FOR OUR IMAGINARY SHOW. It’s likely the one thing we could make that the Tolkien estate couldn’t stop Individual Themes provided by Philip Menzies Iluvatar Theme: Trish likes it for Pelennor Fields His theme should show up in key moments Starting with one note and becoming polyphonic is an excellent idea The show should start with Iluvatar’s theme (as he is The One) Having both major and minor key harmonies is appropriate, as he is everything Clear connection between Sauron falling into the abyss in Numenor and Gollum falling into the lava: should be a “recalling” Music can connect moments down the line in ways that dialogue cannot Looking at Star Wars and Indiana Jones themes: the themes stick with us, and yet they are only 4-5 notes Darth Vader’s theme, the Jedi theme, Cantina music…simple series of notes that really have meaning Would Star Wars have been as successful if the soundtrack wasn’t as good? There is no higher pressure situation for soundtrack than the Music of the Ainur Instrumentation: perhaps a single male voice singing the initial note in a mysterious way could connect to the Children (they are of Eru) Melkor’s themes Melkor’s Pride Sustained note: imitation of Iluvatar’s theme Melkor’s music was brash and repetitive like trumpets braying on 1-2 notes There should be a link between themes There should be similarity/imitation between Melkor’s and Iluvatar’s themes. Melkor’s and Manwë’s themes should be related somewhat, as they’re brothers, although Melkor’s would be imitating or mocking, as opposed to just being similar. Melkor the Deceiver Using the same concepts from Melkor’s pride and slowed it down, higher-ranged instruments (sweet, but underlying uneasiness) Melkor changes the most over time, so his themes change Melkor’s themes need a majesty about them (the point from where he falls needs to be elevated/grand) He is the greatest of the Valar after Iluvatar Morgoth the Dark Enemy Still needs work Trying to illustrate what could be done with the same theme but changing timing, voice, etc Mairon theme: Reworked The Ring theme (connection to The Lord of the Rings’ movie Sauron Theme) Something Mr. Bingley would dance to at a ball It could easily become melancholy It could also fit in with the deceiver idea Aulë’s theme Percussion and male voices…works from a Dwarf point of view (but would take away the connection between Iluvatar and the Children…but that’s kinda what Aulë did anyway, so in that regard, it sort of works) How do you do a thing differently that was nailed perfectly in the film? (Howard Shore did so many things so perfectly, so it’s hard to outdo him or not copy him) Songs of the Dwarves – the Anvil Procession (from the LMB): they used craftsmen’s tools as the basis for the music. The clanging of weapons, tools and steel begins arrhythmically and becomes the music, morphing over different instruments Starting from Aulë’s forge and progressing to the history of the Dwarves Natural sounds of the forge turned into music by the Dwarves Aulë’s theme could have male voices after the Dwarves are made Dominant theme would be percussion Would be used when someone was making something (like the Silmarils) Definitely liking the arrhythmic pattern. Yavanna’s theme Casting Yavanna as an African woman brought out all the tribal rhythms and music Deconstructed another LOTR theme (Nature’s Reclamation – the Ents and Eagles’ theme) to develop this one Lighter percussion counterpoint (perhaps the heartbeats of all the small animals, or the sounds of woodpeckers or the thrush at the rocks) contrasting with the slow forge hammer sounds Yavanna’s and Aulë’s themes need to go really well together (they need to harmonize even more b/c they’re married.) There should be a sense of when listening to just Aulë’s theme or just Yavanna’s theme that you’re only getting half the picture Same with Manwë and Varda The Dwarves should be out of sync with Yavanna…Aulë and Yavanna work together, and Aulë and the Dwarves work together, but all 3 ends up being chaotic Manwë – wind instruments for the Lord of the Eagles Manwë’s has to rise and keep rising, but it can’t do it forever. But it’s a regal theme Could be transplanted into Aragorn’s coronation theme Flutes and violin Varda Tinkle of notes to depict twinkling stars (glockenspiel) Underlying melody Ethereal Also used as part of Melkor’s theme (but gets cut off) The Ainulindalë is the Overture, and would be written last, as it has pieces of ALL the themes Tulkas A fanfare sorta makes sense, but then, he’s not a trumpet kind of guy He’s more of a rock guitar and drums kind of guy Strength and laughter…Tulkas is having fun when fighting He can’t sound like the high drama, heroic charge…”a romp in the playground” is what he’s doing when he’s fighting Playful themes that blend into serious sounding orchestra – Oromë would want him to be more serious, but he’s just laughing Tulkas can hum his own theme song He’s the only Valar that would do that Especially if it’s The Rock who’s playing him His theme would have to go well with Nessa’s Oromë Hunting on horseback kind of music, very brisk Ulmo Kind of the source of everything. “Profound horn” Next session: Script outlines…the final session of Season 1 Plot outlines for all 13 episodes all in one podcast

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