"I feel as if I was inside a song"The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Tolkien Ensemble is a Danish group of musicians, founded and led by composer Caspar Reiff. The ensemble came together in 1995 with the goal to create the first complete musical interpretation of all of Tolkien’s poems in The Lord of the Rings. With permission from the Tolkien Estate, the ensemble recorded two albums. In the course of the heightened public and media attention after the release of the Fellowship of the Ring film in 2001, the Ensemble met Christopher Lee, the actor playing the part of Saruman in the film trilogy, who would then take part in the group’s third album as a narrator and singer. This album gained the group wider public and media attention. After releasing a fourth album with the poems and songs still missing in the previous albums, all the songs and poems from The Lord of the Rings had been recorded. Composer Caspar Reiff explains the idea behind the four releases as follows:
The four albums that led to the 4CD box were called An Evening in Rivendell, A Night in Rivendell, At Dawn in Rivendell and Leaving Rivendell. The reason for this is that the whole production could be seen as a fictive evening, night and morning in Rivendell where the main characters and the population meets up after the War of the Ring to share the songs and tales of the recent war.
Reiff, e-mail 1
In 2006, a 4CD-set of all songs and poems was released, which is what Reiff is referring to as “4CD box” in the quotation above. This set presents the material in chronological order and features quotes from the book in its liner notes, which underscores the Ensemble's intention to bring Tolkien’s verse to life as a part of the actual narrative. The chronological order furthermore makes it possible to listen to the renditions of the songs while reading the book. Because the Ensemble deliberately chose this approach for their definitive collection of Tolkien’s songs and poems – as opposed to the single album releases, which were not chronological – we need to take this into account. In this paper, the Tolkien Ensemble’s compositions as elements of the actual story will therefore be the focus of attention and the basis from which we will analyse the music of Middle-earth, with a number of pieces analysed in greater detail as to how well they work as renditions of actual story elements.