Musical Analysis of The Fellowship of the Ring

Analysis of Track 15: The Great River

Music Analysis of Track #15 by Talagawen First we have strings and the women choir sing what I consider the “Morning of Lothlorien” melody. It is a quiet and peaceful tune with no harmonization within the choir. It has a sad and heartrending quality to it as the fellowship is forced to leave the beauty of Lothlorien and continue with the quest.

Overlapping the women choir is the Fellowship theme played solemnly by the horns. Both are distinct melodies that work well with each other much like the elves of Lothlorien and the fellowship.

At :15 the Fellowship theme seems to die away as if it doesn’t have much heart left. As the horns finish the Fellowship theme and the strings start their own melody which sounds very much like what the choir is singing but a few bars behind.

When Galadriel raises her hand in parting at :36 the full SATB choir and strings enter with very rich and expansive chords.

The music in this track up till now has been simple and light in its harmonization. With the full choir and the absence of movement in the orchestra it seems that time has come to a stand still and we are caught in the moment. Time is supposed to travel slower in Lothlorien and we get a sense of this in the music in this section as we see Galadriel and her ring. The sense of movement is brought back at :50 with the entrance of the percussion section and the Fellowship theme played by the horns. The theme seems to have more heart to it now that the fellowship is finally on their way.

At 1:02 the percussion sections stops and we hear the brass section play pieces of the Fellowship theme. With the clear sense of movement gone and the richness of the horns, we become aware of the vastness of the river.

The choir enters at 1:27 as the horns fade. The choir modulates through different keys traveling up and up with the harmonization seeming to be compact then expansive with the entrance of the new key, then compact and expansive again with the next new key growing louder and louder with the addition of the horns until…

1:53 when the tension reaches it’s apex with the majestic ring theme. This theme is built on tension which doesn’t resolve until the very end of the phrase. It is very difficult to explain what it sounds like to me with only the use of the written word. I think of the tensions in this as a popcorn kernel getting hotter and hotter on the fire until it pops releasing the tension within the kernel and in doing so becomes something larger and fuller, and in a sense, blooms.

At the end of the release in the phrase, theorchestra reduces volume so that it can start over with the tension of the next phrase. My research has shown that this is the ring theme which has confused me on why it is in this track. Perhaps seeing the Aragonath reminds us of a time before the ring was created and that the evil of the ring was so great that it destroyed the reign of kings which had seemed grand and undefeatable in its time.

 At 2:31 the track ends with an unresolved chord leaving us with the feeling of uncertainty as the quest continues.

- Talagawen