The Five Beat Pattern

A Theme for Isengard and the Orcs realigned in ROTK to Mordor


THE FIVE BEAT PATTERN is a clanking, clamoring motif that represents "the industrial might of Middle-earth." (Howard Shore per Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 20). In the FOTR and TTT, it was assigned to the category of Isengard and the Orcs and can be heard alone to represent Isengard, underlying the Isengard theme, or alone to represent forces of Mordor (other than Isengard). In the ROTK with the dimming of Isengard's power, the Five Beat Pattern was realigned to Mordor.

HS COMMENT FOTR Appendices Comment

HS COMMENT FOTR Audio Commentary

HS COMMENT TTT Audio Commentary

DA COMMENT via a fan


Places this pattern is heard in FOTR:

(The Five Beat Pattern is consistently paired with the Isengard theme. I've not tried to list all those scenes, only ones where the Five Beat Pattern is used in another manner.)

Places this pattern is heard in TTT:

(The Five Beat Pattern is consistently paired with the Isengard theme. I've not tried to list all those scenes, only ones where the Five Beat Pattern is used in another manner.)

Places this theme is heard in ROTK:

  • As Orc troop stream out of Minas Morgul. It's played first under Sauron's Theme then under the Witch King / Orcs of Mordor Theme.

  • When the large trolls beat their drums as the Army of Mordor advances across the Field of Cormallen towards Minas Tirith.

  • As Grond is brought forth and the troops chant, "Grond! Grond! Grond!". The Five Beat Pattern is used, here, in conjunction with two themes. When the focus is on Grond, Sauron's Theme is used. When the focus is on the Orc troops, the Witch King / Orcs of Mordor Theme is used.

  • When Grond assails the gate and Gandalf rallies all the troops to "Make for the gate!". The Five Beat Pattern is played under a hybrid of the Gondor Theme and Sauron's Theme.

  • As Grond continues to hit the gate and Gandalf bids the troops to stand their ground. The gates break open and trolls burst through and the fight enters the city. Sauron's Theme is paired with the Five Beat Pattern here.

  • As Frodo and Sam, disguised as Orcs, get caught up in the Orc Army moving toward the Black Gate. Here, both the Five Beat Pattern and the Threat of Mordor function as ostinatos under a melodic line that wavers between the old Isengard Theme and its Fourth Age version, the Witch King / Orcs of Mordor Theme.  (EE Scene)

  • The Five Beat Pattern continues from the scene above as the camera cuts to the Army of the West which is also moving toward the Black Gate. However, instead of the aggressive, brutish Mordor music, we hear what Doug Adams calls, "Mankind's brass". (AS-ROTK)

  • The same mix of Five Beat Pattern, Threat of Mordor, Isengard and the Witch King/Orcs of Mordor Theme is heard as infighting (instigated by Sam and the weakened Frodo) breaks out among the Orc troops.  (EE Scene)

  • The Five Beat Pattern continues but the overlying music switches from Mordor to Man's brass (see comments above) as Frodo and Sam sneak out and away from the fighting Orc troops. (EE Scene)

DA COMMENT - I haven't seen this discussed in more current official information but it's interesting to consider how the Five Beat Pattern gets accented.

I have some new info about 5/4 rhythm from Doug Adams

I've posted here earlier about 5/4 being a rhythm motif for Orcs in general not only Isengard and according to D.A. this is correct.

5/4 represents Isengard and Mordor threat to Middle-earth and Howard used it because of the reasons he explained in FOTR EE DVD commentary.

Difference between Isengard music and the rest 5/4 music is in orchestration and the fact that in Isengard music accents are on first and fourth note so it gives the feeling of irregular two and three combination: 1-2-3-1-2 1-2-3-1-2 while the other 5/4 music doesn't have those specific accents.

Danijel Legin (Bârîn_Katharâd) at the SMME Forum 4-29-04







hidden text: a link to this comment on Doug's blog is present above but it archived here just in case it goes missing.


plus follow up comments Nov 3, 2009



A short question; I'm listening to Fellowship right now. Is there a specific reason why Aragorn's fight with the Ringwraiths on Weathertop is written in 5/4?


Ah, a very interesting topic! Let's see if I can help...

The first thing we need to remember about Weathertop is that it comes between two very important Isengard scenes. In the finished film, the Isengard scene that follows Weathertop introduces the Five Beat Pattern and the Isengard theme. However, these were originally meant to debut in the Isengard scene just *before* Weathertop. This is the scene that originally held the infamous "choral Isengard music" that many have noted in the DVD's making-of features.

So originally Weathertop was going to have a touch--just a suggestion, really--of the five beat pattern to create a bit of flow between the two Isengard scenes... and to make it clear that Isengard and Mordor were now essentially moving in concert. The Weathertop music, of course, never really reveals the Five Beat pattern, but that shape lurks pretty near the surface-level presentation of Aragorn's music. It was subtle, but it got the point across, I think.

Anyway, when the first Isengard scene was rethought and ended up without its Five Beat eruption, Weathertop was examined closely. Happily, it was decided that the semi-Five Beat still effectively foreshadowed both the Isengard scene (and music) to come... and, thanks to Aragorn's theme, Amon Hen. So Weathertop was left as it was.

This was an interesting case where music editing actually changed the function of the composition. What began as a bridge became a double premonition.

Oh and yes, the choral Isengard music is on the Rarities! :)


Is a part of that cue still on the OST, in "A Knife In The Dark"? There are a few bars of metallic Five Beat pattern near the end of "At The Sign Of The Prancing Pony", on the Original Soundtrack. I'm just wondering if that has something to do with it.


This is part of a truncated version of this composition, yes, but the full version -- which is what you'll get on disc -- is much more developed. :)