The Lyrics

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What is the difference between 'Lyrics' and 'Source Songs/Texts'?

The difference on this site is this:

  • Source Texts are the entire bodies of text from which were drawn the lyrics as sung in the movie's soundtrack. Doug calls this the 'original complete format'. Sometimes, the source text exactly agrees with what is sung. Sometimes, only select lines are sung. Sometimes, only syllables are sung. A particular source text might be drawn upon for more than one instance of singing.

  • Lyrics are what is actually sung. I tend to label them with a description of the scene. For example:

    • The lyrics for The Fellowship leaving Lórien, extended scene, draw from the source text, Namárië.

    • The lyrics for Haldir's wounding and death also draw from the source text, Namárië.

What other info about 'songs' can be found on this site?

Info regarding lyricists, languages and translations, and vocal performers are all found on the Source Text pages.

Where does the information on what's being sung come from?

Well, it's been a process and at different stages of the process we had different sorts of info available to us. As more info became available, certain tactics fell by the wayside. But they all contributed to what you find on these pages.

  • Sheet music : mostly, this was the lucky break. If the singing was found it sheet music, we were mostly home free. But some sheet music did contain mistakes and so it always meant examining what we knew carefully.

  • Closed Captions : well, it worked for some songs. Gandalf's, Bilbo's and Merry and Pippin's songs.

  • Looking at Source Texts and listening. Sometimes this was fairly straight forward and pretty easy to tell what was being sung. Sometimes it was much harder.

  • Listening without benefit of knowing what the Source text was. This was very difficult to do. Some people made a guess as to what piece of Source text might be used. Or maybe they just tried to hear syllables and make them into Elvish words that made sense. Sometimes it worked. But frankly, as more information became available, we found we were wrong more often than we were right.

  • The LOTR Symphony and FOTR Live sheet music. Choir members involved in the LOTR Symphony received scores containing phonetic lyrics. Instead of "Hlasta! Quetis" they would read "Lahss-tah Kweh-tess". Sometimes it was clear what the phonetic syllables pertained to and sometimes not so clear. But they contributed to obtaining a fair number of 'lyrics as sung' successes.

We all hoped that information released with the Complete Recordings would provide us with the 'lyrics as sung'. It didn't. What we got was a list of Source texts and the first instance when that Source text is heard. No information is provided about what lines are sung where, or if that text is used later in the soundtrack. Just having the source text isn't enough for an easy 'sing along'. Doug Adams said this in the FOTR Annotated Score:

Shore often uses the texts in a nonlinear fashion, much as one would find in modern opera. Verses are often begun mid-stanza and certain syllables are repeated to create a beautiful vocal mosaic of the languages of Middle-earth. At other times, the writing is presented unaltered with full verses acting as counterpoint to the immediate action. Seen here (in the Annotated Score) is the text in its original complete format, just as it was presented to Howard Shore before he set it to music.

He also wrote:

Shore took a very modern approach to the Middle-earth lyrics in LOTR. They’re really used more for the sound of the languages than for the meaning. In other words… Take Mary Had a Little Lamb:

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

Using Shore’s treatment of the LOTR texts as our model, this poem may well be applied as:

Mary lamb
Mar
Snow
Ev went

Does it retain its sound in terms of characteristic vowel or consonant combinations? Sure. It’s a pretty fair representation of characteristic sounds of the English language. Depending on pronunciation intricacies, it could be made to suggest the culture of the American South, or the English Countryside, or French Canada. Had it been sung as a lamb was on screen, it would have plenty of dramatic resonance. Still, it’s a fairly modern approach. In terms of literal, communicative language, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s more about sound than about meaning.

I suspected this 'original complete format' may be as much as we ever get and Doug has since confirmed that this is, in fact, the case. He will not be providing any more information on what is being sung than what we can find in the Annotated Scores. If the lyrics - as actually sung - have not been published in sheet music or ferreted out from the LOTR Symphony, then they may be left for the die-hard fans who drive themselves crazy or deaf listening over and over and over....

I will repeat what I've said elsewhere:

Keep in mind that, although we all are exacting in our labors, our ears are human, not Elven. We are making our best guesses sometimes. One of us hears 'ah' and the other hears 'nah'. I also am beginning to suspect that there's quite a bit of counterpoint singing going one, either between a choir and a soloist, or between different sections of the choir. We may never know what some of these lyrics are for sure. If you think you hear differently, you may be right.

For a list of people who have contributed to Lyrics found on my site, visit my THANKS page.