"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

It is naturally impossible for an author to be completely oblivious to the things going on around him, nor is it desirable. As a professor and well-learned man, Tolkien was keenly aware of what was happening around him, including musical developments. As such it can be no surprise to see that music and other elements from our real world have influenced the way in which music, most notably songs, work in Middle-earth. Gregory Martin has looked into this subject matter in detail in his article Music, Myth and Literary Depth in the "Land ohne Musik" (Martin), providing a concise overview of real-world influences with some focus on Tolkien’s intention of creating a pure-English mythology. For the purpose of this paper, there are a few points worth mentioning:
Martin shows a striking similarity in general appreciation and thought as pertaining to folk music between Tolkien and Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of England’s most notable composers. Vaughan Williams is quoted with a passage about one of his friends dying, that “he could no more help composing in his own national idiom than he cold help speak his own mother tongue” (Martin, 131). Tolkien shared a similar idea of not only a common language, modelled after and uniquely fitting to its speakers, but also of the same phenomenon in music. While Vaughan Williams took this idea into action by collecting folk songs and using them extensively in his works, Tolkien did the same by making music and its performance an integral part of his stories. The amount of music in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is staggering – not only the high number of musical performances, but also in the lengths the characters take to actually make these performances by bringing a whole Dwarven orchestra to Bilbo’s “unexpected party” or singing at every possible opportunity in The Lord of the Rings.
What we can also gather from this is one more reason why it makes sense to set Tolkien’s poems to music and then analyse these renditions. Martin writes:
There is a mutualism between music and language to which both Tolkien and VW [Vaughan Williams] attested. Tolkien’s consistent equation of the two in his letters has already been noted. Similarly, Vaughan Williams linked music with language, contending that it arose from emotionally-charged speech.
Martin, 133
So trying to compose suitable music to the poems is very much in Tolkien’s spirit and is the intended use of the poems, or rather songs. Every time a song is mentioned, someone actually sings it in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit alike. Songs are sometimes just recited as lyrics, but it is made clear that there is a melody to the text.