An Ode To… The “Lord of the Rings” Film Score

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An Ode To… is a series of “dedications” to some of my favorite musicians and bands. Perhaps you’ve heard of them before – or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, An Ode To… is a fun way of sharing one of my passions and helping you discover new music to add to your collection. So, sit back, listen, and relax – or, in some cases, headbang. 😉

Ohhhhhhhh I’ve been DYING to write this Ode since launching the series last year! And I think many readers will enjoy this one, too, since… well, you know, it’s Lord of the Rings. 😀 Not everyone listens to its score outside of the films, but I think we can all agree that the soundtrack is packed with some of the most memorable musical themes and moments in film history.

Today’s Ode will use a slightly different format than past Odes. Instead of picking one song from each album and a few additional songs, I’ll highlight my three favorite compositions from each of the LOTR films. Some picks are bound to be popular among the crowd, while others might surprise you. I’ll also provide links to each track’s respective scene in each movie, for your convenience. 

Also,  the clips below can be found on the limited edition Complete Recordings CDs, not the original motion picture soundtracks. The Complete Recordings feature more (for lack of a better word) complete versions of the music heard in the films than the original soundtracks do.

So, let’s start with…

Three Favorites from The Fellowship of the Ring

“The Shire”

Corresponding Scene: Frodo arrives in the Shire for Bilbo’s party

This piece reflects the Shire and the Hobbits perfectly. It’s whimsical, light-hearted, and peaceful. The tin whistle and violin solos also give it a rustic feel that matches the Hobbit’s simple, peasant lifestyle. It’s quite a contrast to the more exciting and bombastic pieces that come later in Fellowship. But bombast wouldn’t have fit well with the Hobbits, would it? 😉

“Rivendell”

Corresponding Scene: Frodo wakes up in Rivendell

Ah, Rivendell. This Elven outpost is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Middle-Earth, so it’s no surprise that its “theme song” in Fellowship matches that tone. The orchestral arrangements glide and ascend while embodying the wisdom and stateliness of the Elves. Ethereal choirs, chiming bells, and flute and oboe solos add to the overall elegance.

“Khazad-dûm”

Corresponding Scene: The Fellowship flees from the Balrog in Moria

Calling this piece “brilliant” doesn’t do it justice. Every element replicates the peril of the final chase through Moria. The all-male choir with Maori grunters, thundering percussion, frenzied strings, the brass section’s piercing reminder of doom – it really does feel like a demon is bearing down on you. Then, at 5:42 comes the heart-wrenching “Fall of Gandalf” denouement. Mabel Faletolu’s cry of raw grief is so powerful that words aren’t necessary. The emotion is all there in her voice.

Three Favorites from The Two Towers

“Glamdring”

Corresponding Scene: Opening of The Two Towers (a.k.a. Gandalf’s duel with the Balrog)

After a gentle opening, “Glamdring” hearkens back to “Khazad-dûm.” It only makes sense, given that this scene brings us back to Gandalf’s duel with the Balrog in Fellowship. All three LOTR overtures feature this duality of soft intros climbing into sweeping spectacles. Yet the contrasts are most noticeable in “Glamdring.” Up to 1:43, the strings carry us back to Middle-Earth and cradle us in quiet, mournful memory. After that, the brass, percussion, and commanding choirs storm in, battling each other yet collaborating in a frantic, discordantly beautiful way. It’s just as primal and chaotic as “Khazad-dûm,” and a fantastic way to start the trilogy’s second act.

“Edoras”

Corresponding Scene: Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrive at Edoras

I’ve always liked the “Fanfare of Rohan” theme, so I wanted to include a Two Towers piece that featured it prominently. It first comes at 0:08 on a fiddle, and then at 3:09 from both the fiddle and the brass section. It’s not as heroic and sweeping as the Fellowship theme that recurs throughout the trilogy, but its Celtic-influenced air sings with nobility and triumph. Overall, “Edoras” is a subdued piece, its low and wistful moments alluding to a kingdom that has known better days. Yet the added instruments and rise in volume at the end suggest that, perhaps, Rohan hasn’t seen the last of its greatness.

One of the Dunedain” / “Evenstar”

Corresponding Scene: Aragorn’s memories of Arwen (a.k.a. the “Evenstar” scene)

I think most LOTR fans love this piece, and so do I. 🙂 It’s forlorn, brooding, and bittersweet, matching the tone of its scene. If you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of the Rivendell theme that only tie the piece more tightly to Aragorn’s internal struggle between his love for Arwen and his responsibilities to Middle-Earth. Not to mention Isabel Bayrakdarian has the perfect voice for the “Evenstar” section. It’s otherworldly like the Elves, yet colored with sadness and uncertainty.

Three Favorites from Return of the King

“The Grace of Undómiel” 

Corresponding Scenes: Arwen’s Vision / The Reforging of NarsilGandalf and Pippin Arrive at Minas Tirith

“The Grace of Undómiel” has a bit of a split personality. At first, it feels like a Elvish requiem. Renee Fleming’s lilting soprano gives voice to Arwen’s heartache over leaving Aragorn. Shades of the Rivendell theme emphasize her undying hope not only for her future, but for that of Middle-Earth. But at 3:35, the hushed, wistful melodies escalate once again for a more resplendent Rivendell reprise and then – to signal Gandalf and Pippin’s arrival in Minas Tirith – the regal Gondor theme. It’s a wonderful example of how gifted Howard Shore is as a composer. His mastery of transitioning from low notes to high, soft sections to intense, helps make the trilogy’s score so thrilling.  

“The Lighting of the Beacons”

Corresponding Scene: Pippin lights the beacon at Minas Tirith

Confession: I picked this piece mostly for 3:53 through 6:00. (*lol*) Listen to how the higher-pitched strings pipe and leap and tumble over the brass and lower-pitched strings, and how the overall effect they create is one of soaring majesty. This segment makes me feel like I’m flying over mountains, sort of like the “bird’s eye view” shots as beacons are lit from Minas Tirith all the way to Gondor. The rest of “Lighting” is wonderful, too. But.. yeah, that 2-minute span. I love it.

“The Sacrifice of Faramir” (featuring “The Edge of Night / Pippin’s Song” by Billy Boyd)

Corresponding Scene: Faramir and his soldiers ride out for Sauron’s army

It’s weird to end this post with “The Sacrifice of Faramir.” It’s quieter and more restrained than most of the LOTR score, and eerily haunting. But by being what it is, “Sacrifice” leaves a huge impact on the audience. It suits the futility of Faramir’s final charge on Sauron’s army as well as the general sense of despair that the characters feel now that they’re on the edge of war with Sauron. Billy Boyd’s “The Edge of Night” (which his character Pippin sings in the film) augments that melancholy even more. If anything, “The Sacrifice of Faramir” reminds us that there’s beauty not only in music’s lighter or more triumphant moments, but also in its sorrows and anguish.

Are you a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy? What are some of your favorite tracks from its film score? 

25 thoughts on “An Ode To… The “Lord of the Rings” Film Score

  1. Yes, I’m a huge fan too! My eternal favourite is “The Lighting of the Beacons”. I mostly listen to it when I’m feeling low because it fills me with hope. I also listen to the albums while writing fantasy because all the elements of a magical world are incorporated into them. I have great respect for the musical genius of Howard Shore and meeting him one day is on my bucket list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay for “The Lighting of the Beacons”! 😀

      I’ve been listening to the LOTR albums a lot while working on my WIP, too. In fact, one of the songs on this post is on the novel’s playlist. 😉 I won’t say which one, though!

      But yes, I agree that the soundtrack itself sings “fantasy.” It’s magical, regal, emotional, and bombastic – everything you’d expect from an epic fantasy. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the soundtracks of LOTR! I admit I haven’t listened to them much while I write, because it takes me back to the trilogy, and then I can’t focus on what I’m writing. 😀 But I still love these all the same. Shire, Rivendell, Faramir, Lighting of the Beacon are among my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! 🙂 It’s just such a beautiful soundtrack, isn’t it?

      I totally understand the distraction bit. Do you listen to music when you work on the V Chronicles or Madnes Solver? (I can’t remember if we’ve talked about that before…?)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t listen to any (if you can believe it) until this past draft #3. I would get in “editing slumps,” unable to get in the mood and feel of a scene, but I didn’t know what to do about it, and it made the process long. But since entering the blogging world and hearing about how you and others use music to get into the feel of a scene I tried it out. And…it worked! So while I don’t constantly listen to music, I will for scenes or days when I need to get in the story’s mood. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice! Music-listening isn’t for all writers. Some prefer silence, nature sounds, or background chatter. But it’s great that you gave music a try while editing and found it helpful. 🙂 Which song(s) or genre(s) did you listen to, out of curiosity?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been trying out movie soundtracks, like HTTYD, Gladiator, and game ost like Fable; also suggestions from Rebekah like Secret Garden. The ones that help me create a mood or scene, and are subtle enough not to distract me. I’m always on the search for more lately, it seems. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Before I forget again: Were you looking for instrumental music featuring flutes? I sort of remember you saying something along those lines recently… I might have a CD to recommend, but I don’t know the artist or title yet. (Working on getting that info, though.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love ALL OF THESE selections. Actually, the LOTR soundtracks are one of the VERY few things I apply the word “perfect” too.
    You nailed every reason why they’re fabulous too – from fitting the scene, to being absolutely gorgeous, to just making you feel like Middle Earth is real, they are the bomb. Each culture, each character, each moment – all written out in ways that even non-musical people (like me) can appreciate. Howard Shore deserves all the brownies, cake, chocolate, and other important awards.
    Both The Shire and The Sacrifice of Faramir are some of my favorite pieces of all time – the first, because it basically sounds like hobbits. And the second, because it is moving, dark, haunting, elegiac, anguished, and yet, there’s still a touch of hope underneath it all. It gives me chills.
    Love this well-deserved Ode 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!! I’ve wanted to do this post for a while, but I thought that making it my first Ode would be a little ambitious. But it was a lot of fun to write, mostly for all the geeky analyzing I got to do with each piece. 🙂

      “Howard Shore deserves all the brownies, cake, chocolate, and other important awards.”

      And ice cream too, right? All the ice cream sundaes he could ever want? 😀

      I sort of want to do an Ode to the Hobbit soundtrack in the future. It’s not as good as the LOTR soundtrack, and not as well-known, but it still has its moments. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      • *gasps* I can’t believe I forgot ice cream . . .

        I agree about The Hobbit soundtracks. They are better than most anything, but not as good as LOTR. HOWEVER – Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” is one of the best things ever. It so beautifully captures the drama of Durin, in my opinion. There are other definite gems too, and I love some of the instrument choices. And as I basically stated above, Howard Shore is always a win with me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You know, you really shouldn’t post funny comments like that when I’m eating. I almost spat out a mouthful of granola bar. 😄 😄 (*blushes*)

        Um, I actually don’t like I See Fire… But I did like Neil Finn’s Song of the Lonely Mountain and Billy Boid’s Last Goodbye. Though I admit, I was hoping they’d let someone cover The Road Goes Ever On for the last Hobbit movie. But it wasn’t meant to be, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, not sorry :p
        You should see me watching YouTube videos (or maybe not). I’m usually eating, because it’s the only time I have to do stuff like that. I usually end up half-choking. And I do it anyway . . . #perksoflivingalone (well, or with your sister)
        I stand by Ed. But I’m biased because I like Ed Sheeran’s voice so much, lol. However, it doesn’t really fit the rest of the soundtrack – it sticks out a bit. But I just love the song.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great selections, Sara! As you know I’m a massive fan of this series. 😄 I love all of these pieces so much but I really like Faramir’s Sacrifice and Edoras the most. Two Towers for the win! It’s my favorite film/book.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! 🙂 I think I remember you sharing The Council of Elrond piece recently on your blog. I almost thought of including that under Fellowship… and there were a couple other pieces I was debating between, too… GAH! It’s so hard to limit yourself with the LOTR soundtrack. *lol*

      Anyways, I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Tori. I don’t think I can pick a favorite between the three films / books, though. They’re all equally awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

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