Musical Analysis of The Fellowship of the Ring

Analysis of Track 5: The Black Rider

First we hear two big short chords; the first is as Merry runs into Sam and the second when Pippin topples over Frodo.

:08 As Sam says, “Get off him!” to Pippin a variation of the shire theme with the flute playing the melody accompanied by bassoon. The pattern of the bassoon is 13531 which is very basic in its form. This simple bass pattern reflects the simple life of the hobbits. The theme is light an airy and presented in a staccato (detached) fashion with only parts of the whole shire theme played. This gives the music a feeling of playfulness and could be considered Merry and Pippin’s part of the shire theme.

:15 The strings run up a scale which helps give a sense of surprise as they hear Farmer Maggot’s voice. Then the theme becomes more animated as Sam realizes that he’s holding the loot.

:24 The harp does an upward glissando to help Sam in his getaway. The bassoon accompanies the strings now but it is faster. This creates suspense, will Maggot catch them? The strings and flute still play very short notes and starts to accelerando (get faster).

:41 The lower sounding instruments enter and the bassoon stops which gives the sense of being suspended in time as they teeter on the edge of the cliff. You can almost hear an “uh-oh” in the music.

:43 A cymbal crash is heard as Sam rams into the other hobbits and sends them tumbling down the hill. There is lots of activity in the orchestra here as different instruments play almost in a circular type motion so we can hear their tumbling.

:51 The orchestra abruptly stops as they hit the road and the menace is felt by the low instruments slowly pulsing.

1:06 Now we’ve jumped to the night scene as the Dies Irae is played by the basses and the choir enters slowly climbing up a scale adding to the tension. The Dies Irae is a prayer in Latin and the most well known adaptation of this text to music is what we hear here. One of the uses of the Dies Irae is for a funeral mass. This could be taken in a couple different ways. Either it was used because of the nature of the Ring Wraiths or it could be construed as a force against the hobbits. The strings are playing harmonics which make an eerie, soft, screeching sound adding to the creepiness of the scene.

1:28 The brass section enters playing a short ascending pattern as the hobbits run increasing the amount of tension.

1:41 The Nazgul theme is heard as Frodo runs. The brass keeps the short ascending pattern, each one almost more dissonant than the last.

2:03 The choir sings the Nazgul theme again as the hobbits run on the ferry and untie it from the mooring as Frodo is still on shore running from the Nazgul.

2:19 The choir holds a dissonant chord as Frodo prepares to jump onto the ferry as the Nazgul closes in on him.

2:22 The sopranos move up a step while the rest hold theirs giving the chord more tension as Frodo jumps.

2:25 Almost everything stops as the Nazgul ride away except for a residue of the their theme played by bassoon and other low instruments.

- Talagawen