Musical Analysis of The Fellowship of the Ring

Analysis of Track 17: The Breaking of the Fellowship

First we hear Frodo’s theme broken into short segments and with a more solemn kind of harmony. This reinforces the feeling that Frodo is los within himself, trying to find the courage to go on without his friends, to go on alone. His theme is so broken it’s hardly distinguishable at this point

Starting at :52 a new melody appears, one we haven’t heard before. It is in a minor key to help give a sense of loss. If you listen carefully yo can hear that the second note is much higher than the first and then the third note is just a step below the second, i.e. low - leap - down – leap - down - leap - down……. low – leap – down – leap – down – leap –down. The “leap” note is an ornamentation of the “down” note which give a sense of: tension – release – tension – release – tension - release. This gives the feeling of weeping

At 1:02 the high strings enter using counterpoint. That basically means that there are two melodies playing at the same time. Notice that th high strings are traveling up while the lower strings are traveling down. There are suspensions used at this point too. A suspension i basically two notes played at the same time that create tension that wants a sense of release. For example, go to your piano, if you hav one, and play the beginning of chop sticks. The first thing you play is F and G together, right? Notice that the next thing you play is E and together. F wanted to resolve to E. That’s a suspension which resolves. Even if you are not a musician, you can still unconsciously feel th tension there and that greatly helps the scene

At 1:12 the melody that we heard at :52 comes back with the slightly lower strings harmonizing below. At 1:18 low strings are added and a 1:32 they continue by themselves to help us feel the depth of the water as Sam sinks to the bottom

At 1:43 there is a big suspension chord there! Is Frodo going to save Sam in time? Of course we know he will, but the music gives us a small doubt

At 1:45 Frodo’s broken theme returns if but a little stronger and faster this time. However, he doesn’t become whole again until he gives int Sam’s determination and lets him join with him and you can hear that when…

2:15 starts. Frodo’s theme returns very similar to it’s original form with the flute playing the melody. Frodo is feels more whole now tha Sam is back with him as it was meant to be. However, it is accompanied by low strings to show that even though things are better now that Frod and Sam are together, things are far from being all right. This is also communicated through the music by the final note in Frodo’s theme. Hi theme is in a major key and you expect that it will end with a major chord, but it doesn’t! It ends in what we call a “deceptive cadence”…

At 2:41. The chord it ends on is in minor and it’s not based in the key that Frodo’s theme is in. This starts a funeral march with low string and brass for Boromir. This works so well because we become a little happier in hearing Frodo’s “happy” theme, even if it is a bit subdued and then we are brought back into the grim reality of the situation by hearing Frodo’s theme end sadly and the appearance of Boromir’s body The low strings and brass hold their note, then stop, then hold, and then stop without giving a sense of motion. This conveys a feeling o grief. For those of you who have felt real grief, it seems constant and without end. So seems the music in this passage

At 3:06 the music picks up a little speed to support Legolas’ desire to continue on with Frodo and Sam. However, since Aragorn has no intentio of following, the music remains without a clear sense of forward motion. Howard Shore shows us this by breaking the fellowship theme int fragments like he did with Frodo’s theme earlier. This clearly supports the breaking of the fellowship. You can also tell by the swelling of th brass that the theme is desperately trying to become majestic again but cannot with the pieces missing

At 3:35 when the fellowship decides to rescue Merry and Pippin the music is allowed to become majestic again and to be heard in full form. Still the theme is in a lower key than usual to help convey the underlying sadness of their loss

Drums enter at 3:54 with a strong beat pattern which finally gives us the sense of movement which we have been craving for. Frodo’s them appears again in broken form but not as broken as when he was standing at the shore without Sam. It seems to have changed more into a travelin theme with the addition of the rhythmic percussion and the change in harmony. It sounds more hopeful

At 4:38 Frodo’s theme is heard in its original form with the tin whistle. Notice that the harmony underneath is actually quite sparse Could this be since our characters are alone? In music, the low notes are the foundation of the harmony. If it is weak or out of tune then th whole piece suffers. The others in the fellowship were Frodo’s foundation and now that they are gone the supporting low strings an bass are also gone. It can make you feel a little unbalanced, especially if you have heard quite a lot of bass up till then. However, Frodo’ theme never falters. This shows the silent determination of our Hobbits to continue on though the odds are against them

Being a harpist I cannot but mention that the harp has the last say in the movie at 4:59. This perhaps gives us a sense of hope

For the rest of the track, since it is not a part of the story, I shall not go into it in detail. I have to applaud HS’ choice of using a bo soprano. There is a kind of innocence in the sound which I think fits Frodo perfectly. Also, I have to mention that at the end of track #1 the low strings hold their last note like a drone, and they continue even when Enya starts to sing. This creates tension until it is allowe to resolve down when she sings “star”. It makes that chord sound expansive and rich

- Talagawen