General texture and inspiration for the score


New Member
I'm really exited about this project and wanted to get into the community. I never got involved with RitD because I hadn't, and still haven't, watched the films ... which raises questions about why I listened to RitD. But anyway, I'm totally qualified to imagine and have read the Silmarillion, so here is where I think I can dive in.

I think the discussion of music should start at a high level, focusing on the texture of the music, genre influences, and most importantly, building a list of musicians and works to reference (I'm going to be taking an orchestral score as granted, but it'd be cool to think of alternatives ... but I can't think of any so I won't mention it again)

I'll start of with a few thoughts on the most obvious source to work with: Howard Shore's works on the PJ films.

I think the most successful aspect to Shore's work is how he portrayed Hobbits and the Shire: the simple melodious songs arranged chiefly for strings with some woodwind felt honest, friendly, and innocent.
Concerning Hobbits is of course, one of the most recognisable pieces.
In general, Shore did an amazing job characterising cultures, King of the Golden Hall did a similarly good job capturing the men of Rohan. Shore also wrote great music for all the helicopter shots of New Zealand.

What I think is less successful in Shore's work is that the mythic feeling is a bit lost; it is surely epic but the sense of age and mystery that comes with myth is not as present (I'll propose an alternate source of inspiration for that in a moment). And though it's not a failure, the way Shore depicts evil is not appropriate for the Silmarillion. Evil in LotR is extremely industrial (which Shore does a great job with), but it is less so in the Silmarillion.

I think Shore's work could be the basis of the music for the frame narrative(s). It has less of a mythic feeling, making it more familiar to the viewers, and it is already associated with the third age from the movies. Drawing from Shore for scenes in the frame could be a good way of differentiating myth from frame.

To get a feeling for the mythic, I think Ralph Vaughan Williams is the person to look to.

Vaughn Williams is characteristically British (Tolkien would appreciate that), and his work is inspired by old English folk music. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is a great place to start. Vaughan Williams has a very rich texture and a slight touch of mystery and sadness that I think fits the diminishing of the elves and the splendour of the Valar.

There are many pieces by Vaughan Williams that, to me, feel like the perfect fit for many scenes:

Sinfonia Antartica is clearly the music of the Helcaraxë.
Serenade to Music seems like the kind of thing the Valar would sing on a lazy afternoon.
A Sea Symphony feels kind of 'burning of the boats' in the second movement.
Dona Nobis Pacem is very 'war of wrath' once the brass really kicks in, especially about the 4:00 mark.

Then there's Benjamin Britten. I think he has some great stuff for the darker and more dramatic stuff.

War Requiem I think could be a good starting point for Melkor/Morgoth; you'd need to rough it up a bit, but the atmosphere is there.
String Quartet no.1 is a bit Turin Turambar.
(Though in general, Britten's music is a bit to avaunt-guard to be appreciated by most; especially your average T.V. viewer.)

That's as far as I've gotten in thinking about it. What does everybody think?


New Member
I think that's pretty fantastic Kilby. Many parts of Vaughan William's symphony's have the kind of feel that I imagine music for those scenes would have. Dona Nobis Pacem at 4:00 mins is pretty incredible. It's frightful and tense. Just what you would want for a battle sequence. The War of Wrath would need something very dramatic.( If done properly, the eucatastrophe that that battle is ,would be incredible.)
The Sinfonia Antartica has a tragic, eery sound that really matches what you would want for that scene. It's a great idea to look at other composers works for inspiration.

Do you think we could actually reuse some of Howard Shore's themes ? Themes like "Natures Reclamation" are powerful and memorable and would be (I personally think) hard to improve upon. Some of out hobbit lietmotifs could come back as well (If we get a hobbit frame).

I think the Ainulindale is an interesting task for any composer. Tolkien gives quite a detailed description of how the music should sound and the feel of it. So there is a lot to work with there.

I think that the first theme (once its built itself up to the point where the melodies harmonize together) would be mainly in a major key since Melkor hasn't brought evil. (Minor is often used for darker characters). However I would probably make the third theme a minor but with a completely different kind of tone and feel. Slower, more sorrowful and beautiful.

[[Just to give a little intro (concerning music) for myself. Though I have composed little themes, melodies and songs and put some of Tolkien's poems to music, I am in no way an expert film composer. Nor do I have much experience when it comes to recording and mixing music(the techno stuff). However, I am an Intermediate to advanced pianist and violinist.
One of my fun musical hobbies is listening to film soundtrack's and identifying the story via listening and observing how themes and melodies come in and out and change. Not only can listening teach you some tricks and succesful clichés, but I also find it an incredibly enlightening and engaging experience.]]


New Member
'Nature's Reclamation' would be the perfect theme to hold until the war of wrath; have it play as Beleriand is claimed by the sea. Maybe a variation on it could be used for the creation of the world by the Valar.

Any leitmotifs for characters from LotR or the Hobbit could be re-used for the chracters that are still around, but for some character's doing that might distract from the core of the story. Elrond and Galadriel are pretty minor characters in the Silmarillion; giving them their own themes might be over-reaching. But if they're in the frame, that makes it justified.

With the Ainulindale ... yea, that's going to be hard. I think it would almost be beneficial to drastically restrict the arrangement of the piece; I can see it working well as a sting quintet. I know that it's not at all like what Tolkien described, but I don;t think what he described is possible.

"Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Iluvatar to a great music; and the sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights."​

Not Bach or Motzart, or Grieg or Schostakovich, or any number of great composers working together, could actually do that; and if they did it would be completely chaotic and inaccessible to the vast majority of listeners. It might be best to just not try to do that, but to focus on the representation of the themes and personalties in a more concentrated format.

[[My own musical bio is that I am an intermediate pianist and a casual guitarist. Most of my compositional attempts have fallen flat because I lost all the fun of improvisation and ended up writing the boring kind of stuff you find in lesson books.]]


Active Member
In terms of finding some very mythic music. I like elements of Wagner, but don't really like listening to it by itself. I assume that if I were to watch his operas in person with the actual performance my opinion would differ... BUT the cut of his music that was used in the Siegfried trailer really does it for me.

Besides that, I think I need to take some time to do some musical research with The Silmarillion in mind to formulate a clearer idea of what music I'd think would best fit the film. However, I would want to at least try to fin music that matched various instruments and tones that are associated with particular cultures and individuals mentioned in the test (i.e. certain characters being associated with harps or trumpets).
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Phillip Menzies

Staff member
Like Kilby I am a big fan of Howard Shore's scores for LOTR and the Hobbit movies and in a way he has set the tone for Middle Earth. I am by no means suggesting to limit ourselves to his work, but it is a good starting point. Some of the features that make his music so successful are things like themes are built around cultures, and very rarely individuals, although there are a few exceptions to that ie. the White Rider, Eowyn, Gollum. Themes are also presented in a variety of styles giving one theme countess interpretations. A good starting point is to read and refer to "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films" by Doug Adams. He appears to be the authority on Howard Shore's work and apparently he is working on the follow up "The Music of the Hobbit Films" and with the length of time the SilmFilm will take, hopefully it should be available. Doug Adams also regularly tweets and post on his blog at and if you go back through the archives therre are some gems.

There are existing themes for the cultures of men, elves and dwarves that can be built upon although we would want to avoid the diminishing of the elves themes as this is the heyday of the elves and elvish culture reached its zenith in Valinor. Another good reference is the two fan created movies "The Hunt for Gollum" and "Born of Hope" both of which successfully created original music reminiscent of Howard Shore's themes.

[[ My musical bio is, I am an intermediate pianist and love to sing. I have been playing for over 40 years now. I often play the music from the movies and I was lucky to come across a full piano score for the extended version of FOTR online. I immersed myself in the soundtracks of the Hobbit movies before I saw them and found that it helped me to appreciate and integrate the music into the movies better. I have not written any music but I have a good ear and I am keen to try my hand at some themes (full orchestration will be beyond me).]]

This aside will give an indication of the complexity of Howard Shore's music. Corey in Riddles in the Dark and I think Unfinished Tales commented that he would love to see the scene at the White Council meeting where Gandalf blows the smoke rings around Saruman. I am letting him know that this theme already exists in the movies, but it is in the music. There are two scenes where Bilbo blows smoke rings, once in FOTR sitting outside Bag End with Gandalf, the second in AUJ in the prologue (on the same day) where Bilbo blows the smoke ring once again outside Bag End. The music is the same both times and moves from the Shire theme to end on the first two notes of the Ring Theme. I think that is quite profound and ominous.


New Member
Right now I'm trying to get the a hang of using MusicScore for making a nice clean, formal music sheet. Here is the address.
If anyone knows any other good scoring sites feel free to share.

As Phillip Menzies said, we will have to change the tone of the elvish and dwarf themes. We're at the beggining so it should be more positive and hopeful.

The Natures Reclamation theme is (from memory) played in the scenes with the eagles, the ents and the Riders of Rohan. In my head I also call it the Eucatastrophe theme. Im not entirely sure what the tone of the music should be in the scenes at the end of the War of Wrath when Beleriand sinks. It's sinking destroys a lot of Morgoth's stuff. But it's an entire continent. Maybe it could play off the same idea in lotr: To save something there has to be a sacrifice. I assume it would be a positive scene.
Natures Reclamation would be great for the some of the scenes of the creation of Arda. Though how that's going to be portrayed is still being debated.

When it comes to the Ainulindale. Kilby you are right. Trying to do everything that the text says could become quite messy. I don't think we could do everything. However, with some control ,it might be possible, but still hard. Organs are nice (they give a religious feel to the music). However, their inclusion could be argued against. Viols, trumps and choirs sounds manageable if anything is.
When we are composing we could start with a string quartet (there are different methods ,but I think that's where many composers start when they have the components of the music) and see how we go from there.


Active Member
Hi, fellow Middle-earth music lovers,
First, a little suggestion. Everyone should read Doug Adams' book "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films".... It is a detailed analysis and description of Howard Shore's themes and how they inter-relate. It's a beautiful book, first of all, and in addition brilliant in its understanding of the music (which one would expect since Shore was consulted throughout the writing).
Second, a huge suggestion. Everyone should at least once go through Wagner's Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen)... Yes, it's huge. But it is worth it. And I think it is in some very significant ways not unrelated to LotR and The Silm. And like Shore's score it is built on somewhere around 100 themes (and in many ways it was the paradigm for Shore). Shore expands on the orchestral resources beyond the 19th c. instrumentation that Wagner used.
Third, (and I will open a discussion thread devoted to this) no work of art can really begin without having some sort of central focus... If we begin with this or that (however important and interesting) particular aspect, event, or character without having some overall conception (which of course may and probably will change as this project develops), then I suspect we will get lost in endless detail (however fascinating and worthwhile)...
Total Vaughan Williams fan, love the ideas.

A few more things to look to:
Sibelius strikes a good tone for many of the Elvish themes. Especially parts of the 5th and 6th symphonies and some of the tone poems.
The music of Arvo Pärt has a wonderfully ethereal and mythic tone to it.
John Corigliano wrote some interesting things, I need to dig up what would be useful.
The flute concerto of Christopher Rouse has wonderful slow movements, very deep and sorrowful but slightly distressing in some harmonies, that would be perfect for some deaths.
For one of the great battles, the Dies Irae from either Verdi or Berlioz requiems would be the right tone. Overwhelming and inescapable doom.

I also think there are some great solo piano works and chamber works that could fit certain scenes.

I particularly liked the score to Broadchurch (BBC series) which used only strings and electronica for most of the time. Very effective at setting a more human tone, that might work well with some scenes as well.
Piano solo - Ravel, Gaspard de la nuit, 2nd movement - someone morosely wandering alone. Beren? Turin?
Debussy, "Voiles" - preludes book 1, #2 - sailors searching in vain for Valinor
Prokofiev, Piano Sonata #6, 1st movement - cocky easterlings strutting in camp before the Nirnaeth Arnoediad :)

Other instruments:
Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata, Op. 19 - 3rd movement - two people are deeply but sadly in love. Possibly the relief death for someone.
Britten - Gemini Variations - just a cool piece that we need to find a home for?
Hovhaness - The Prayer of St. Gregory (trumpet and strings). very open, mournful but a little hopeful. Maybe Tuor just discovering Vinyamar.

Chamber group:
Saint-Saens Piano Trio 1, 2nd movement, first minute or so - wandering in an open landscape, maybe atmospheric music for someplace broad and open?

I need to start thinking of the happy times :)
So maybe the apotheosis of Mahler's 2nd symphony for one of the great victories.
the last movement of Sibelius' 5th, or the end of the 1st movement of the same.
There has to be a place for something like the blazing trumpets at the opening of the 4th movement of Sibelius' 2nd symphony. Maybe Tuor emerging from the dry river and first glimpsing Gondolin on the plain.
I mentioned Sibelius tone poems before - got to have same Karelia. It's the type of mythic story Tolkien often had in mind anyway.

Anyway, enough thinking for one night.


New Member
One of the first things that hit me was that the tone and lyric of the opening movement of Vivaldi's Gloria would be perfect for the Ainulindale "First Theme".


Active Member
Hi, fellow Middle-earth music lovers,
First, a little suggestion. Everyone should read Doug Adams' book "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films".... It is a detailed analysis and description of Howard Shore's themes and how they inter-relate. It's a beautiful book, first of all, and in addition brilliant in its understanding of the music (which one would expect since Shore was consulted throughout the writing).
I meant to include this:


Active Member
In terms of finding some very mythic music. I like elements of Wagner, but don't really like listening to it by itself. I assume that if I were to watch his operas in person with the actual performance my opinion would differ... BUT the cut of his music that was used in the Siegfried trailer really does it for me.

Just to explain the Wagner music here... It is from the very opening of the entire 4 night cycle of Wagner's Ring... Ignore these visual images... What Wagner is depicting here is the birth of Nature from the element of water out of darkness... There is no sunrise, no snow, no other figures, just the bottom of the flowing Rhine in greenish light. Similar to what Tolkien describes in his Silmarillion opening, the rising theme is that of Nature itself from which spring all the other leading motives (main themes) of the Ring Cycle as the Iluvatar theme inspires the other themes.
I recommend a film version of Das Rheingold (the first opera in the Cycle) produced and conducted by Herbert von Karajan as being the best to get a feel for his Ring. Unfortunately the funding was lacking for completing the other 3 parts of the Cycle.

The closest video to what Wagner wanted (with vivid stage pictures of natural realism) is the first Met Opera Ring from the early 1990's conducted by James Levine.

The best purely audio version is the Ring conducted by Georg Solti from 1958-1966. This Blu-Ray audio is incredible... all was remastered in the 1990's and then fully transferred to a format that no cd can equal.

Aaron Dunn

New Member
My thoughts - Since the Silmarillion is largely a story about the Children of Iluvatar, and mainly the Elves - is that much of the music could derive from the theme for the Children of Iluvatar, then mingling a theme for Elves and Men. This wouldn't work as a fix all solution, as new things are birthed throughout the book, and of course every Elf/Human has their own personality, which we would do well to illuminate in a score.

I've been composing Silmarillion based themes for the last 18 months, and the one thing I want most is that the pieces depict a depth and time of an age long past. Distant, yet all too real.


Staff member
I think the discussion of music should start at a high level, focusing on the texture of the music, genre influences, and most importantly, building a list of musicians and works to reference (I'm going to be taking an orchestral score as granted, but it'd be cool to think of alternatives ... but I can't think of any so I won't mention it again)
I agree that most definitely what we want as a finished product is an orchestral score.

I do, however, think that there will be opportunities over the series for characters to be engaged in making music. There are a lot of parties and celebrations over the course of the Silmarillion, which you would expect to have some instruments, singing and dancing. Daeron and Maglor are known principally for their music, but they aren't the only ones who sing 'on camera' either. Magic is also highly associated with singing in the Silmarillion. (I'd say the argument could be made more for spoken word in the Lord of the Rings, but not in the Silmarillion.) All of this is just to point out that there is (possibly) room for some folk music in the series as well. Not primary world folk songs, of course, and not all 'low' campfire songs, as the music-makers could be more of the grand halls types. But a variety of songs to reflect the particular scene and culture, drawing on whatever traditions we think might be appropriate.

To help with ideas there, I would suggest considering the work of musicians who have made a career out of adapting folk songs in some way. Either writing original songs in a particular style, or taking a traditional tune or song and making it their own in some way. I am not suggesting we lift any of the songs from these artists and put them (unchanged) into the TV show! That would be a terrible idea. But it might be a helpful starting point to choose what type of style we would like for an original piece for a particular scene.

Some of the artists I'm going to list have stuff that is way too modern to be what we are going for. Under no circumstances should there be electric guitars in Middle Earth, obviously! (Well, maybe if we cast Sting as Melkor.... no, not even then!) get it out of the way. Blind Guardian, a German metal band, did a Silmarillion concept album in 1998 called 'Nightfall in Middle Earth.' I am not a fan of heavy metal in general (too much....screaming and despair), but I will admit that they did a good job. But it's metal; it's not the music of the elves, not even angry despairing First Age Noldor elves. So....just no. Great to listen to while attempting to do physics problems, less so in a film adaptation of the story. Title track: 'Nightfall' They do have a nice tradition of considering themselves Bards, at least.... 'The Bard's Song' (this one is much less 'metal')
If we were going to use bands who already play music based on Tolkien for inspiration, I'd be much happier with the Italian band Lingalad, as their style is much more compatible with Middle Earth. 'The Grey Wanderer' or 'The Forest of Fangorn'

What I have in mind as inspiration would be more represented by the samples below.

Loreena McKennitt
Her songs include poems set to original music (The Lady of Shallot, The Highwayman, The Dark Night of the Soul) as well as original works and often have a Celtic influence without being tied to one particular musical tradition. She is often filed under 'World Music'
While this one is not my favorite of hers, it does illustrate how she adapts songs: 'The Holly and the Ivy'
'The Star of the County Down' is more traditionally arranged.
For an original piece: All Souls Night
Yeats' poem: 'The Two Trees'
She has a *copious* body of work and is a very prolific artist.

Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson is famous for declaring that 'the flute is a heavy metal instrument.' I think Jethro Tull's music is often classed as progressive rock, but it certainly does have a folk influence. Lots of the songs have an air of nostalgia.

'The Whistler' (1977) came out the same year as the Silmarillion. I don't think they were particularly good at making music videos back then.....
This fanvid of 'Broadsword' makes it very clear that this musical style does not fit with the visuals of Tolkien's world, even if the lyrics seem to fit well enough.
Well, the music videos are getting better, anyway. Nostalgia much? 'Heavy Horses'
And I think 'Cup of Wonder' is the type of song that made me even think Jethro Tull was worth looking at for this project. It's clear the songs can't work as they are, but there's some really awesome stuff here, certainly in the lyrics. Obviously, this band is too rock-and-roll for First Age Middle Earth, though!

Steve Winwood (Traffic)
John Barleycorn Must Die
Here we have an actual English folk song. It is a bit unusual for Traffic, though. There other stuff is more like this: 'The Low Spark of High-heeled Boys'
Awesome song, but too jazzy for our purposes here. Also, the lyrics probably make more sense if you are very high.

An Icelandic folk group. I can't tell you what they're singing about, but it sure sounds cool!
'Ljóð í sand'
'Á meðan jörðin sefur'
And an English one: 'Ages'

Dead Can Dance
Mix of traditional and modern
'Tell Me the Ways of the Forest'
'I am Stretched on your Grave'
Flute Solo

Bluegrass (various artists)
Appalachian music has various old world influences, but is of course identified by that high lonesome sound..... I am not suggesting that Middle Earth needs banjos, but of course a fiddle is a violin and mandolins are quite nice. And why not a dobro?
'Don't Let the Smokey Mountain Smoke Get in Your Eyes' by the Osborne Brothers
'Down to the River to Pray' by Alison Krauss (a cappella)
'Wayfaring Stranger' by Bill Monroe
'Salty Dog' by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

Celtic Woman
Again, some of their choices are too modern and very polished/showy. But some good stuff here too.
I prefer their instrumental pieces, such as 'Granuaile's Dance'
And my favorite, 'The Butterfly' (which appears in the film The Secret of Roan Inish)

And, randomly, I want to toss in 'Seven Bridges Road' by the Eagles

Pretty eclectic mix to start with, but I felt specific samples would be the way to go, and these were the first artists to come to my mind for this.

Edit: Okay, I will stop adding stuff to this post now! But as pointed out by Rowen below, they made some interesting musical choices for the Lord of the Rings musical. I was able to see it in both Toronto and London, and agree that it had some great moments and some parts that fell flat.
Värttinä, a Finnish folk/world music group, helped write the music. Here is one of their non-LotR songs: Kylä vuotti uutta kuuta
Using Finnish folk music as inspiration for Silmarillion elves makes a lot of sense, of course.
Finnish Folk Songs:
MeNaiset - Kuulin aanen (I Heard the Voice)
Ville Valo - Kun Minä Kotoani Läksin
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New Member
It's REALLY REALLY subtle in this piece, but A.R. Rahman added some Indian textures, especially to the Elves, in the Lord of the Rings musical (which... has a few high points, amid some ... wtf moments), which I think is a really cool direction.


Staff member
So, clearly I had the wrong Jethro Tull album when I was trying to select a sample of Ian Anderson's work that would have a good sound for this project.

'The Secret Language of Birds' (2000) is a much better example of how his style could be applied to a modified folk sound for elves or other invented cultures.

It also seems worth mentioning his solo album Divinities - 12 Dances with God as that (instrumental) effort seems to include some of what we'd be going for with having themes for the different Valar, etc.

Part of me wants to pull out a bunch of examples of how traditional Irish music has been used (or adapted) to be a prominent theme song in films. The two main examples to me are 'The Butterfly' in The Secret of Roan Inish and 'The Blood of Cuchulainn' in Boondock Saints. But surely there are more varied examples that aren't just limited to Irish music. And, more significantly, Irish music is too recognizable, so we'd want something a bit more novel/alien/foreign for new cultures. Perhaps one could achieve that by blending influences.
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Well-Known Member
I was thinking Trevor Jones, particularly his score for "Last of the Mohicans".

This is one of his works, known as "Promentory".


Well-Known Member
Also thought this was cool, excellent strings part, fierce and frantic. It plays during the Battle of Castle Black in "The Watchers on the Wall."