A Magpie's Nest : A History

 

 

A PASSION BORN: c. 2002

 
 

I had this kind of Tolkien epiphany the summer of 2002 which profoundly changed my life. I had purchased the FOTR soundtrack for my son's birthday in May but as I became more obsessed with the books, movie, and score, I bought my own copy to listen to. Then I bought another - one for the car, one for the house. I listened to it in the car non-stop and wrote - in August of that summer : "Now at the end of the summer it still makes me cry."

I, being someone who likes to sing (although that's not to say I sing well), wanted to sing along with the singing in the soundtrack. I took what I could find in the liner notes and online (mostly from Gwaith-i-Phethdain), put on my headphones, and listened intently trying to figure out what the lyrics were. It was not straightforward, nor often successful nor satisfying work.

The fall of 2002, I entered into an online class about (the books) The Hobbit and LOTR at Barnes and Noble University (BNU). It was an exciting time to be talking Tolkien and I met a lot of kindred spirits. As I started to figure out the lyrics, I wanted to share them with my new friends in Tolkien but couldn't find a file format that all of us could access (I didn't use Word and never have). Putting info into a html format that could be opened in a web browser seemed like a good idea. At this point, I had no intention of using html to create a 'website' that would reside on the internet.

 
     

FINDING INFO ON THE WEB -- and -- A WEBSITE IS BORN: c. 2003

 
 

As I looked online for information about the lyrics, I stumbled onto other sites discussing score themes and providing audio samples. An article on TheOneRing.net led me to Camillu's cue by cues of the TTT OST (at moviemusic.com). My interest in the music expanded from just lyrics to themes and matching action on screen to music on cd.

I started listening intently to the score, pulling my own audio samples, and sorting like sounding music into folders. Some theme names were already being bandied about but I came up with names for other music. Some original names I used were 'Dies Irae' (for Descending Third), Circling Melody (Threat of Mordor), 'Help Unlooked For' (Nature Theme), and 'Will of the Ring' (Nameless Fear).

For more information, I listened to and transcribed Shore's audio commentary on the FOTR EE disc and the appendices material, Music for Middle-earth. I accumulated bookmarks of all the info I was finding online.

As my topic areas expanded, so did my dreams. Maybe I should put this stuff on the web. If I had a website, what would it be called. I had signed up for the BNU class using my real first name. But then it was hip to adopt an 'online' name. In a conversation about what my online name might be, lots of Tolkien names were suggested. Finally, I realized I had a nickname I'd actually earned... 'magpie'. I signed up for a yahoo account which gave me a geocities site.

After working through the summer of 2003, the 63 page website, "A Magpie's Nest" went live November 3rd, 2003 at the web address: www.geocities.com/a_magpies_nest/ (screenshot of old design)

 
     

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS: c. 2003

 
 

That summer and fall before the site went live, I privately contacted Danijel Legin (Bārīn_Katharād) who was working on the LOTR score lyrics (as sung) on the yahoo group for Tolkien languages, elfling. Over the years, he has contributed a lot of effort and results to the lyrics, especially early on with the Andūnaic and neo-Khuzdūl text.

And on a Filmtracks forum, I reached out to someone (Kurt Milano / Ridan) who had posted his thoughts on the themes of FOTR saying I was very close to publishing a website with a similar analysis and perhaps we could start a discussion about the soundtracks. Someone else (Jelle Vanooteghem / jaav) saw that post and asked to be included. I started corresponding with them and Michael McLennan (franz_conrad) first with reply to all emails and then in a yahoo group.  René Puls (Kianga Jaguar) joined us and when the yahoo group got cumbersome, Jelle set up a MSN group called 'SMME: Shore's Musical Middle-earth'.

I also joined the moviemusic.com soundtrack forums, actively participating in discussions instead of just lurking. It was at this time that the name Doug Adams became known to me but, to be honest, I had no clue who he was or what his position was in the soundtrack community was or what his connection to the LOTR score was. His story is interesting but not pertinent to this history. :-)

It's a bit sad to me that it's hard to track down when I first met people or joined forums. I did not keep emails and I abandoned old email addresses. But I was corresponding either privately or on SMME or moviemusic.com's forum with a LOT of people. Some just wrote to connect with a fellow fan or to say thanks for the website. But many of them contributed information that I was always appreciative of. I've always seen this site as a collaborative effort.

 
     

A NEW DESIGN & NEW WEB ADDRESS: 2004

 
 

I spent the summer of 2004 not only updating info on the site but redesigning the look to something close to what you see now. I finished in August but geocities wouldn't talk nice to the ftp uploader I was using and essentially shut me out of the a_magpies_nest address. So I moved the whole thing over to a geocities address connected with a yahoo email I had been using: magpie930. 

 
     

WORK CONTINUES WHILE WAITING: c. 2005

 
 

After the release of the ROTK movie, discussion at SMME continually waned (the essentially dead forum was officially shut down in the Spring of 2007 and then lost completely when MSN quit business). But discussion of the LOTR was increasing at moviemusic.com. A thread discussing the upcoming release of the Complete Recordings of the FOTR at moviemusic.com got so long that the owner closed it and started another. He did that seven times, I think. Doug Adams was a frequent contributor to the threads and he would provide some information on the music and the upcoming Complete Recording releases.  It was during this time that I came to understand he was writing a book and would be writing the liner notes to the Complete Recordings. (I'm sure it was known and apparent to other fans much earlier than it was to me!)

While we waited for the CR-FOTR, I was busy catching up on working the ROTK OST into the website. I had always done the bulk of my soundtrack work in the summer when my job in the public schools was on hiatus. But now that job was over and I was back in school as a student in graphic design so soundtrack work got put on the back burner for awhile.

 
     

INCORPORATING OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND EXPANDING THE LYRICS AS SUNG SECTION: c. 2006 - 2011

 

THEMES

Before the Complete Recordings were released, I had worried and pondered a lot about how this would impact my site. I felt what I offered was in many ways unique and distinctive from Doug and Howard's approach and I had a lot of feedback that my site was highly appreciated, in part, for some of its unique approaches and offerings.

When someone commented on a public forum that I would surely take down my site once Doug's book was released, I pointed out some of the unique forms of information I provided and defended the value of some of my own personal observations on the music - even if they were, at times, somewhat contrary to 'official' views. Doug Adams weighed in by saying:

...it would be absolutely heartbreaking if [Magpie's] site were to go off-line. I hope it’s around forever.

Okay... deep breath. :-)

But - that said - if information on my site was proven to be incorrect by these upcoming releases of 'official information', it would have to come down. On the other hand, I was hesitant to add a substantial amount of information that was derived solely from Doug's writing. If I was forced to remove too much incorrect info, I might be left with a site too spotty in coverage to be of any use.

Fortunately, that was not the case. Very little of what I had was proven WRONG by the liner notes and annotated scores of the CRs. I certainly had to tweak things (mostly names of themes and the organization of them) and some of my 'contrary' views were left and labeled  as 'contrary views'. But the bulk of what I had was left intact. I wrote this to someone recently:

With all the official information that is now available. I'm not sure if people coming to my site now realize how much of that is all my work. Or rather, the result of my work with the collaboration of other fans. I did not just copy what Doug wrote. Doug was working on his book (I've come to learn) before my website was up. But I was already working on my website at that time and I didn't even know who Doug was for quite some time. So, I didn't want to ever dissuade someone from buying a product because they thought my site somehow substituted for owning it. But I also felt that I had earned the right to display my research and that I approached the music differently than Doug (and even Howard, sometimes!) and that I covered slightly different stuff.

The release of Doug's book, The Music of the LOTR Films, affected my site even less than the CRs. That's to be expected. Most of the info in the book had been presented in some manner in the CRs. (This is not to imply the book is a copy of the CRs. It is not. It's just what little of that info would affect my site was already in the CRs) New theme information presented in the book was only minimally mentioned (if at all) on this site. Most of it was stuff I never intended to cover anyhow.

LYRICS

The other area of my site again getting attention was the lyrics as sung area. My original work on the lyrics as sung was mostly derived in one of three ways:

my listening, with headphones on, intently over and over again to audio clips - sometimes I got my son to listen

someone else - mostly Danijel Legin (Bārīn_Katharād) - figuring out the lyrics and giving them to me

collaborative discussion among fans of what we could hear, mostly on SMME - although this method was not often very productive and did not result in a high percentage of what I had

But the Complete Recordings now let us listen to more singing without the sound effects and dialog of the movie laid over them. And there was some spotty lyric information provided by the written resources of the Complete Recordings. I started to get more people emailing me with what they thought they heard in different areas so, to facilitate communication, I opened a forum just to discuss lyrics. Lots of people were active on that forum but I have to say that Sabsi Fronek was the most consistently active and the most productive (in terms of 'correct lyrics') of them all. I owe a great debt to Sabsi for all the lyrics work that now sits on my site.

The forum format was certainly a productive way for lots of people to discuss music. I still have only moderate faith in any of us trying to determine what is sung. We were often convinced we had it pretty close only to find out later we were completely wrong. And what helped us understand what we had wrong was some information that became available to through the LOTR Live to Projection concerts. The choirs sing in those concerts. The lyrics they are given to sing are phonetically written but we can usually extrapolate what that all works out to be in terms of language and source text. At this point, we may know all we can about the lyrics as sung and although that old soundtrack forum still exists (for the moment), I will (at some point) either archive or publish the discussions of unresolved lyrics and delete the forum from the web.

As a result of all this new lyrics as sung info, the lyrics section was greatly expanded. Previously one found timestamps for what was sung in the cue by cues of the OST tracks. Now I have a master list of all the songs for each movie and information for any place one can hear that music (OST, CR, movie, etc.).

 
     

A BLOG: 2008 -- and -- NEW DOMAIN: 2009

 

Since my updates came in large doses but sporadically, I tried to figure out a way that people could be alerted when new content was available. What I decided to do was to create a blog that people could follow (through RSS feeds). I would make a new post with every website update outlining the new content. I suppose I could figure out if anyone actually follows it if I had more web savvy... or cared more. Since I only expect a few more updates to this site, the blog will either be converted - at some point - to a place for actual soundtrack discussion, to a personal blog of some sort, or simply abandoned.

Geocities closing down was a kick in the pants I needed to find a new web host and with that, buying a domain for myself. Can you believe amagpiesnest.com was available?!

 
     

CONTENT EXPANDS: 2009 - ongoing

 

The same part of my personality that took a passion for the LOTR score and turned it into a website works its magic on other content and projects as well. The trailers for LOTR don't necessarily use LOTR score music but when people asked about them, I knew the answer. I decided to put the info in an easily accessible place and what better place than A Magpie's Nest. I wanted more info on Shore's comedic contributions to Saturday Night Live (Howard Shore and his All Nurse Band, et. al.). Why not share what I found by putting the info and transcripts in A Magpie's Nest?

And then I gathered up info and images of things that often got discussed for "A Closer Look"... and got it in my head to document the "Characters and Actors" for the bit/cameo/extra roles in the movies. This stuff wasn't even peripherally related to the LOTR score but a magpie collects and this magpie has a large nest. So the section called "Magpie has lots of Shiny Things" was born.

As the new content for the LOTR score trickles down... this area may keep growing. You never know what you'll find in A Magpie's Nest!

 
     

FORWARD: June 2012

 

This just marks the spot at which the history ends. Not because the website ended. But because what lies forward is not yet history. My hopes and expectations on my site are outlined elsewhere. Those have to be realized to make it to this page.

The road goes ever on....