Inside a Song*



 *regarding the phrase, "Inside a Song"

Tolkien the philologist would certainly have been aware that this is a literal translation of the word "enchant" (en=in, chant=song, chanson, canto, etc.). "Incantation" is a related word. We have the sensations of time being altered, of senses being heightened when listening to certain music and people in earlier times must have understood this.

John Foley


I talked a little bit on my Final Thoughts page about why this music means so much to me. When I wrote that, in August of 2004, I said PJ was a genius and HS contributed to his work of genius, the LOTR movies. Since then, I have to say, that the movies have fallen slightly in my esteem. I always loved the books best and I certainly did (and still do) love the movies for what they contain. But the little niggly parts for me just get nigglier every time I watch the movies. I get just as annoyed (and perhaps even more so) at comic-Gimli, Gandalf clunking Denethor and the mystery of the dying Arwen. But, over that same time, my passion and love for the music has grown. I phrased it in a conversation as, "I've emerged the other side of my obsession liking HS's score quite a bit more than I like PJ's movie." I don't say this to denigrate Peter Jackson in any way... only to illustrate how much my affection for the work of Howard Shore has not just endured, but grown.

Also, over the last few years, I've been in conversation with, or received emails from many people regarding the soundtrack. Some had a question. Some corrected a mistake. Some offered an observation or bit of information. But a pattern of a different sort started to emerge. These were the comments and emails from people who just wanted to be heard. They loved the music with a depth and passion they found hard to rationally understand or explain. Often, they talked of friends or family that thought they were a little nuts and they were grateful to know there were others besides themselves that felt the same passion. But for any lack of rational understanding, I think many felt there was something that just felt intuitively 'right' about the music. It was this dual sense of feeling a completely whole connection to the music while not being able to articulate in a rational sense that really stood out. It's the same sort of feeling I get about the books sometimes, and I think it's a feeling Tolkien tried to describe when he wrote this:

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain.

He turned and saw that Sam was now standing beside him, looking round with a puzzled expression, and rubbing his eyes as if he was not sure that he was awake. `It's sunlight and bright day, right enough,' he said. `I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song. if you take my meaning.'

Howard Shore is most certainly gifted, experienced and well trained in music and film scoring. Having little formal musical training, I am not a good one to discuss those attributes. And actually, I don't believe those fine attributes are what elevates this music beyond 'good', or even 'great', to something indescribable. I honestly think there's something in Howard Shore's spirit which, provided with the fodder of Tolkien's Middle-earth, shone through all the brighter. I wrote this to a friend:

I'm beginning to think that Howard Shore has woven something magical into the score. And part of me would like to believe that for all his talent, for all his gifts, for all his conscious intentions, in the end there's a bit of Tolkien magic that possessed him and elevated the work past that of an ordinary score.

I was so taken with a particular radio interview with Howard Shore that I transcribed it for this site. Howard talks about reading and researching the books... about letting that go to form an emotional attachment to the music... about feeling the weight of responsibility to adequately reflect the remarkable world of Middle-earth. He came to a point where he admitted being obsessed with the project:

You know, at first it seemed daunting. But as you wrote your way into it and started to create music into it, it became more and more interesting actually. And the complexity of it became even more and more interesting. And at some point, I’m sure there were loved ones saying, “Maybe we should take Howard away from Tolkien for a little while because he’s seems a little obsessed by it.” But that was the kind of a joy of it.

There's an edge to his voice that I find compelling. It the sound of one who knows one is obsessed... obsessed enough that others might think it strange... but who also feels a joy in that obsession - no, not joy in the obsession but joy from immersion in the subject of that obsession. This was what Tolkien made me feel. I think this obsession is something Tolkien himself felt. I think Tolkien just kind of grabs some of us, and we are found and lost at the same time. I think Howard was one of those people.

But enough of what I think. I would like to share some of what other people think. Below is a collection of comments I've received by email or had in conversation. Enjoy.



Lots of times when I listen to the music, I don't think of scenes from the films. Many times I just get swept off somewhere. Lose track of thinking, lose track of time, lose track of 'me'. And I find that it is just so beautiful, it somehow gives me hope, not to give up, it inspires me, makes me cry, makes me smile, makes me strong, makes me remember what incredible achievements some humans are capable of. And that ties into all of LOTR I guess, about not giving up hope, about being inspired ... both the themes of the story and how the books and films and music came to be despite all the struggle and obstacles and odds against them.





I read the books at least once a year, sometimes twice and I watch the movies when I get the chance. The soundtracks, though, are a different story. I listen to some part of them daily. And I mean daily. I don't always have the opportunity to listen to all three, but I always find a way to listen to at least one of them. I can't tell you how much this music means to me. I am completely satisfied by it emotionally and spiritually. I even used the soundtracks to relax me while I was having (surgery). I can't tell you how much they helped. I hear this music and it's like coming home.





Do you remember the passage in the book while the Fellowship was in Lothlórien, and Sam asks Galadriel to show him some "Elven magic"? She is confused, because she doesn't really understand what he is meaning by that phrase. What is magic to a mortal (hobbit or man) is merely natural for an Elf. Tolkien explained that Elves, through intense concentration, were able to extend their "will" or "essence" into things they grew, made, built, crafted, etc. (i.e., lembas, Elven cloaks, Arwen's banner) Perhaps mortals also have something of that ability. It is usually possible for us to detect something made with intense love and dedication. I'm sure that Tolkien's writings are built this way, and I'm sure that Howard Shore's music is colored by his love for music, and the intangible themes that run through the book. From the moment I read LOTR - I felt something that compelled me to read and re-read. I have cherished the story and those feelings for more than 30 years. It is the same with the music - and most of the movies --- the feelings generated "felt" like I did when I read the book. Something in LOTR draws me in, as does the music. They have the same effect on other people. There must be something real in that fact....

Gwen L.




The next day (after watching ROTK) I ran to the record store and bought the soundtracks. I then proceeded to listen to them every morning and every evening while commuting on the train to and from work. And the music started to become an obsession with me...For the last two years I have literally spent hours and hours listening to the soundtracks (now on my IPOD!) and watching the DVD's over and over to make sure I knew every nuance of the music.

Michele A.




When I first heard this upon viewing the ROTK EE, I felt stunned. It is hauntingly beautiful. Sadly, I do not possess a musical bone in my body, but I know spiritually uplifting music when I hear it, and this almost makes me want to drop to my knees.

regarding Sissel's song in the ROTK Fan Credits