The Dead Marshes

From: Odds & Ends - Not quite themes but interesting, nonetheless.


In the Dead Marshes, it's all about voices.




The sound of the Marsh is all a bit disorienting and surreal. If one listens carefully enough, one can hear faint echoes of voices... presumably from across time. The faces in the Dead Marshes were from those lost in the Battle of Dagorlad. This was not the final battle in the War of the Last Alliance, which we see in the prologue to FOTR. But I think, for the movie's sake, we are meant to make that connection. In fact, if one listens closely in the Dead Marshes, one can hear Elrond call out in Elvish, "Tangado haid!" (Hold positions)


VOICES IN THE DEAD MARSH - from the score

Voices are employed in unusual ways within the score music for the Dead Marshes.


Isabel Bayrakdarian provides three portamentos-- vocal slides between two pitches. -- for the movie. The first is heard as Sam glimpses a dead thing in the water. The second comes after he brings this to the others' attention and Frodo sees more dead things for himself. The third comes after Gollum gives warning about following the lights and we see even more dead things.

Aleatoric Singing

As Frodo walks toward the water and becomes mesmerized by a dead Elf laying there, the notes of the choir and strings increase in pitch. The sopranos (and possibly the soloist) are each singing the same ascending notes in each bar but at their own speed so as to create a aleatoric and slightly dissonant sound. This section ends as the dead Elf opens his eyes and Frodo falls into the water.

Sprechstimme Voices

In the movie, the score drops out as Frodo falls into the water but the CR-TTT and the TTT OST contain the music originally scored for his underwater adventure which uses Sprechstimme voices -- a vocal technique between singing and speaking that doesn't emphasize any particular pitch. The choir is directed to either murmur or whisper randomly words from the source text, The Dead Marshes.

For more information, visit the lyrics info for this scene.

Ligeti's Lux Aeterna

Michael McLennan pointed out in his TTT Analysis that the combination of the music, voices and sound effects in the Dead Marshes creates an effect similar to György Ligeti' s work. I think this is especially so of the Sprechstimme voices.