page 4: Mood Music

The category of Middle-earth Mood Music allows quite a bit of latitude. This is the sort of music that would likely comprise the score of a film based on the stories, provided the film were faithful to the text and to the spirit of Tolkien's Middle-earth works at large. I've composed several tunes in this vein, and mangaged to get a couple of them recorded. Feel free to download the mp3s:

As an aside, it's my opinion, for whatever it's worth, that the recent film trilogy by New Line, produced by Peter Jackson, and the film score by James Horner, were only somewhat faithful to the spirit of Tolkien's work. I enjoy the films a great deal, especially The Return of the King, and have bought all the extended DVDs and all that, but I think that it's an essentially different story. Even though the plot was very close, and even though I think Jackson captured the look of Middle-earth uncannily well in the vast majority of the shots (Minas Tirith took my breath away!), the story itself is still a different one. Tolkien's version is an essentially pre-modern, Christian story (see my article, Christian Truth and Middle-earth Myth), with a cheifly Romantic sensibility heavily informed by Medieval cosmology. Jackson's version is an essentially modern and post-modern story, heavily informed by a Freudian worldview. Some of Tolkien's Christian elements were left in, others were stripped out or changed. I doubt that the writers thought about it in those terms. Probably they conformed it to their worldview because they thought it would make a better film that way. However that may be, the film's story and its lovely soundtrack have little place in Tolkien's Middle-earth in my view. They're a good but fundamentally different version of the story. This is not to impugn Horner's work in any way. If the soundtrack had been what I would consider really good Middle-earth mood music, it wouldn't have been appropriate for the film.

A variety of musical styles might be appropriately used for Middle-earth mood music. Even rock probably has its place. Celtic folk music may be a good point of departure and guide to compositional development; not modern pop music imbued with a little superficial Irish flavor, I'm talking about music originating with the commoners of Ireland and Scotland at least 300 years ago. Gothic music, by which I mean European music of the late medieval and early Renaissance periods (say, 1000 - 1500 A. D.), comes from the culture on which Middle-earth is modeled; musics of the British Isles, Brittany, and Scandinavia from that period are probably especially relevant. Consider that Tolkien based his invented Middle-earth languages largely on Finnish and Old English.

Tunes imaginatively extrapolated from old European, especially British, folk tunes should be appropriate. Tolkien made much use of the fact that words wear down over time. In fact, the very word hobbit is an imaginary worn down version of a hypothetical Old English compound word made up of hol, hole, and bytla, builder. He elaborated on that idea by applying it to nursery rhymes and other bits of folk poetry. An example would be the song Frodo sings at the Prancing Pony, which Tolkien imagined as the source from which "Hey-diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle" came. Similary, tunes that have come down to us from ancient days, such as Three Blind Mice or Sing a Song of Six Pence, could be imagined to be (and quite possibly are) worn down versions of longer and more elaborate melodies. What Tolkien did with words, musicians can do with music, to similar Middle-earthish effect if done with care and imagination.





If you don't see a colorful navigation bar on the left side of this page, please go to the first page of Music for Middle-earth.

Written by David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL, USA

Page last updated 26 February, 2002