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Vocals and Lyrics

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  • **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie, 12/6 @ 9:25 (5/15)
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    Vocals and Lyrics
    Howard Shore seems to have written particular vocal pieces with either a certain type of voice or even a certain performer in his head.
    “A friend of mine gave me a CD of her singing, and I asked her about performing very early on.” (HS re: Isabel Bayrakdarian; Annotated Score-TTT)
    “Shore encountered one of her indipop records and immediately noticed her unique voice.” (Doug Adams re: Sheila Chandra; Annotated Score-TTT)
    “I was very keen on using the voice of a Northern European singer, and Icelandic singer. It’s that certain dialect.” (DA on Emiliana Torrini, TTT appendices)
    “I used the sound of the boys also around the sound of the Ring, of the Seduction of the Ring.  Part of the seduction of it, I thought, was the regaining of lost life.  And I thought the boys were such a great sound of that, of the seduction of it.” (HS; FOTR Audio Commentary)

    Care also seems to have been given to use the appropriate Tolkien(ish) language for each song.

    As you read the comments regarding the vocals of TTT, consider how much and in what ways you noticed or paid attention to the singing in the soundtrack.

    Isabel Bayrakdarian
    Music Playing: Evenstar
    On Screen: Arwen at Aragorn’s tomb

    Howard Shore: I wanted to expand the cultural aspect of Lord of the Rings in the singing. I thought of each part of the trilogy having its own cast and I wrote the pieces very specifically for their voices. So the scenes in Rivendell are now performed by the soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian.

    Paul Broucek: She’s a Canadian based, up and coming, operatic soloist.

    Sheila Chandra
    Music Playing: Breath of Life
    On Screen: Aragorn floating in water - Arwen on couch to Aragorn on shore

    Paul Broucek: Then there’s another wonderful vocal solo moment created around the Aragorn/Arwen story. After Aragorn has fallen off the cliff and he kind of comes to. And that’s sung by Sheila Chandra, who is an Indian singer. And she has a deeper voice and it’s very haunting. She was a wonderful discovery for us for this film.

    Howard Shore: Sheila Chandra is a very different singer than Isabel. I mean, she has a very exotic, almost Eastern quality to her singing.

    Elizabeth Fraser
    Music Playing:  Gandalf’s Lament from FOTR - Lament for Haldir
    On Screen: Fellowship resting in Lórien - Haldir’s death at Helm’s Deep

    Paul Broucek: Elizabeth Fraser has now been a guest vocalist in each of the first two films. Elizabeth Fraser’s sound in the Cocteau Twins was kind of what we were after. We’ve already established her as part of the Elven world and so when we wanted to strengthen Haldir’s death, it was an obvious choice. Well let’s see what Elizabeth Fraser’s up to.

    Howard Shore: And by using her voice, it was a reflection of Gandalf’s Lament from the Fellowship.

    London Voices
    Music Playing:  Rivendell Theme
    On Screen: Elves leaving Rivendell

    Paul Broucek: And then we have a 60 piece Voices of London (London Voices); male, female adult choir, conducted by Terry Edwards -- same people that we’ve used on the first film.

    Howard Shore: They had to learn the Tolkien languages phonetically. And I think they’re getting very fluent in Elvish and in Black Speech.

    London Oratory School Schola
    Music Playing: March of the Ents

    Paul Broucek: We wanted to use the London Oratory Boy’s Choir again. This particular boy’s choir sing in a lot of films. They had sung on Harry Potter the week before. They’re like movie stars. Pretty soon they’ll have their own trailer.

    Howard Shore: And Ben Del Maestro did all the boy soprano parts. Beautiful singing in “The March of the Ents”

    Emiliana Torrini
    On Screen: score entitled Gollum’s Song
    Music Playing:  Gollum’s Song

    Howard Shore: Fran Walsh wrote a beautiful set of lyrics for Gollum’s Song.

    Philippa Boyens: She was playing around with this lyric to this beautiful piece of music that Howard had written. And I said, “So what are you doing there?” and she... it was kind of like one of those moments where she said, “I think this is Gollum’s song.” It was like it was coming to her. She was discovering it for herself as she was writing it. That that’s in fact what it was. That was the voice that was coming through.

    Howard Shore: I was very keen on using the voice of a Northern European singer, an Icelandic singer. It’s that certain dialect. The sound of it seemed appropriate for Gollum. Emiliana recorded different early versions of it, actually, that were beautiful. And they were just haunting and they stuck in our mind.

    Paul Broucek: We were quite lucky to have discovered a half-Italian, half-Icelandic, wonderful vocalist named Emiliana Torrini.

    Old English - Rohirric
    Music Playing:  Éowyn singing Lament for Théodred
    On Screen: Théodred’s funeral

    Philippa Boyens:Philippa Boyens: One of the things that we got to do, yet again, one of my favorite things to do on this movie, is to work with Howard and to write lyrics.

    Howard Shore: Fran and Philippa wrote poems, based on the scenes, that are translated by David Salo who’s a Tolkien scholar. In The Two Towers we use a lot of Old English.

    David Salo: For the most part what Fran and Philippa were writing was very close to Tolkien’s words. And I would do a translation of them and I would try to do it in a poetic style with a meter.. rhyme.

    Philippa Boyens:Philippa Boyens: It was set that Old English would become the language of the Rohirrim. In the very first instance you see it in a lament at the graveside of Théodred.

    David Salo: It’s written in an Old English meter, similar to that in Beowulf.

    Magpie Shiny Bits of Information:
    Plan 9: The melody for Théodred’s Lament was written by Plan 9. They also wrote and performed the Hobbit music from the Long Expected Party and the Passing Wood Elves song to Elbereth.

    The Languages of The Two Towers’ soundtrack: The singing in this movie uses the languages of Quenya, Sindarin, Old English, Neo-Khuzdûl, and English. (Black Speech and Adûnaic are used in the other two.) For a full list of TTT languages/song list, visit the supplemental web pages. Link in my footer.

    Past TORN discussion led by Menelwyn: The Funeral of Theodred: "A song shall sing...

    Magpie Conversation Prompts:
    Different Voices: Does it make a difference to choose a particular voice for different scenes? Which ones did you notice the most or think were most effective? Have you heard any of the covers of various LOTR songs done by other artists? How do you feel about hearing those voices? In what ways is this approach different from other movie scores/soundtracks - or even other versions of LOTR - that incorporate singing?

    The Artists: Were you aware of any of these artists before LOTR? Did hearing any of these artists in the soundtrack make you check out other music by them?

    Languages: How important to you is it that each song appropriately utilize a particular language? Is it just a matter of philosophical principle or integrity or does it make an aesthetic difference in the soundtrack? If you’re a student of Tolkien’s languages, what do you think of David Salo’s work?

    Odds & Ends: Any thoughts on... Old English? Any particular song? The poems of Boyens and Walsh? The diegetic music of Plan 9?


    Responses to Vocals and Lyrics:


    Elvenesque 12/6/2006
    In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie
    Sheila Chandra

    The Artists: Were you aware of any of these artists before LOTR?

    Sheila Chandra!

    I have alway thought listening to her songs and the 'many' voices of Sheila Chandra was like taking a journey - steering the imagination somewhere inaccessable - another place, another time.
    I was SO pleased when I realised she was ornamenting the music of Middle-Earth. She was well chosen indeed! Meant to be!

    Her voice is a weaving of many cultures.

    "The voice is the first and ultimate instument - it is the one means of expression used by every culture" ~ Sheila Chandra.

    She can recreate an Irish ballad from a 1000 years ago, interweave a Muslim style vocal drone, sing a Spanish lullaby with overtones of Moorish(Islamic ) influences, draw from the rythms and traditions of India,  improvise with Asian influences.

    "Some people seem to be interested in analysing the 'differences' between different cultures and traditions. I'm interested in comparing the 'similarities' and weaving them together - to take threads of thought that come from different techniques and singers and weave them into my own pattern" ~ Sheila Chandra.

    I think she has not only an incredable sounding voice, but has a deep intuitive understanding of how to translate a 'voice' or the 'sound' of the places/scenes) that she was chosen to embellish.

    The quotes are from the insert of "Weaving My Ancestors voices" 1992 Moonsung Productions/ Real World Records Ltd - produced by Steve Coe.

    In Reply To: Sheila Chandra — Elvenesque
    Can you recommend one of Sheila's recordings

    It seems like she might do different stuff from cd to cd. Is there one you would recommend over the others? Is there anything you could tell us that would help us (me) decide which to try first?
    Elvenesque 12/8/2006
    In Reply To: Can you recommend one of Sheila's recordings — aMagpie
    You ask a hard question there m'dear!
    sorry aMaggpie - I did this great long post ... AND LOST IT!! ACK!!!

    so this is short and sweet ...
    I do like "Weaving My Ancestors Voices" although it an earlier set of recordings, it doesnt age.

    The first track, Speaking in Tounges I, and further along Speaking In Tounges II, are purely vocal percussion and are very vibrant.

    A beautiful and haunting all vocal piece (no instrumentals) - Dhyana and Donalogue is very melodic - she makes it sound so effortless.

    Ever So Lonely - a track she also recorded in 1982 - sounds as fresh as ever, as theres the good ol' Om Namaha Shiva as the last track - but this is a version you'll want to reincarnate for LOL!! ;)

    The album is very personal - if you close your eyes you can feel her presence in the room -

    But I must add, so is your choice on this one - if you can grab a listen to the entire album - I dont think you'd be dissappointed at all.
    Get through track one, and move forward - theres plenty to find hidden in this album the more you listen to it!

    Just some thoughts

    end subthread

    aMagpie 12/6/2006
    In Reply To: Sheila Chandra — Elvenesque
    Have you ever listened to Sound and Spirit?

    It's a radio program that I like a lot and is available for listening as an audio stream. Shelia figures into a couple of the programs.
    Bicultural Women
    Sound & Spirit seeks out those women musicians who straddle two worlds - the culture of their immigrant parents, and the culture of the new country in which they were raised - incorporating a synthesis of both in their words and their music. Join host Ellen Kushner and enjoy the stories and songs of the "Afropean" women of Zap Mama with roots in Zaire and Belgium, Mexican American singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa, Ingrid Karklin and her Latvian American heritage, and Anglo-Asian singer Sheila Chandra.

    For some, creative inspiration is constant as the sun; for others, it is fickle and elusive as the moon. Host Ellen Kushner speaks with Indi-pop star Sheila Chandra and looks at the lives of some of the world's most celebrated composers, poets and artists - and through their inspired words and music explore the wonder, joy and frustration of the creative process.

    The host, Ellen Kushner, has also done programs on LOTR, Fairy Tales & Riddles (both mention JRRT), and the Kalevala.

    LilyFairbairn 12/6/2006
    In Reply To: Have you ever listened to Sound and Spirit? — aMagpie
    Sound and Spirit is great
    I was fortunate enough to be there when Ellen played her LotR program at a World Fantasy convention and spoke about the reasons for her choices in it. She deliberately ignored Shore's soundtracks for lesser-known artists and even included some comedy songs. And she spoke of the appeal of LotR.

    Ellen's novels are very good, too. Try "Swordspoint"

    end subthread


    weaver 12/6/2006
    In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie
    voices, artists and languages...
    I don't have much discriminating ability when it comes to music or voices, so I didn't pick up a lot of the nuances between the different solo vocalists they used.  I did pick up the differences between the times they used the boys, women, or the male chorus (for the dwarves), so I got it on "level one". Seeing the Symphony performed live really helped me to appreciate how much the vocals contributed to the music.  Renee Fleming is a graduate of the Crane School of Music near me, so I recognized her name, and her talent; Crane is very close to St. Lawrence, where Viggo attended college as well. So I'm partial to both of these folks since they have a connection with where I live now.

    I've commented before about how the vocals are the equivalent of the poems for me in the films, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment; when you couple the use of them with the different languages used, it adds layers to the story that you wouldn't get if they had used just straight music or all English vocals. I'm astounded at how much care went into the lyrics of those songs, though 99% of those that saw the films would never ever know the translations.  I really doubt whether another film team would have gone to that much trouble.

    I particularly loved the quote you included from Phillipa about Gollum's Song -- Fran Walsh really does seem to let certain things "speak" through her. I'm not nuts about that particular song, but I admire what she tuned into in creating it.


    Annael 12/7/2006
    In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie,
    using different voices was brilliant
    I owned "Blue Bell Knoll" by Cocteau Twins and knew of Elisabeth Fraser, but the other artists were new to me. I've since purchased a CD of Isabel's and will look into Sheila Chandra.
    aMagpie 12/7/200
    In Reply To: using different voices was brilliant — Annael
    Elizabeth Fraser
    I was not familiar with the Cocteau Twins at all. When I went searching for the artist's official sites (to provide links on the web pages) I was hoping those official sites would have audio samples so I, and others, could hear what Howard was hearing that drew his attention toward them. Elizabeth's site for her solo career does have some audio samples but the Cocteau Twin's site does not and I just checked Amazon and their listing for Blue Bell Knoll does not have audio samples.

    Do you think Elizabeth's solo work is a good sample of what she sounded like in Cocteau Twins - either in terms of her vocals or style of music? Should I check out Cocteau Twins? I'm really curious about what they sound like. I'm such a miser, maybe I could find them at a used cd store.

    What did you buy of Isabel's and did you like it?

    majorpopinjay 2/23/2006
    Late reply to aMagpie
    Re: Elizabeth Fraser
    She's hardly had a solo career so far - just guest appearances and collabs.
    Her voice has changed a bit over the years.  A few recommendations for a Cocteaus novice:
    Both volumes of the LULLABIES TO VIOLAINE compilation series.
    The TINY DYNAMINE/ECHOES IN A SHALLOW BAY double header is a good showcase for her more aggressive and/or weird vocal style
    HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS is the best place to appreciate her more "mature" style

    end subthread


    RosieLass 12/7/2006
    In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie
    I adored all of the vocals in all of the soundtracks!

    I'm confused, though. I thought Gandalf's lament in FOTR was sung by the boy soprano, Ben Del Maestro?

    Our church organist sings in the Colorado Chorale, who did the choral parts for the recent LOTR symphony here in Denver. I think she sniffed a little at the languages (they didn't have the actual words, just the phonetic pronunciations), but she commented on how difficult some of it was because of the intricate harmonies -- eight (or more?) parts simultaneously. And not always a tune framework under it.

    The only track I don't ever listen to is "Gollum's Song," not because I object to Emiliana Torrini's singing, but because the song bothers me. Gollum is a murdering monster and the "poor me, I had such a hard life" sentiment just rings false. Especially when it's clear that the Ring only encouraged him to follow his own natural tendencies.

    I had not heard of any of these vocalists before, although I ran across Elizabeth Fraser on the soundtrack to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    aMagpie 12/7/2006
    In Reply To: I adored all of the vocals in all of the soundtracks! — RosieLass
    Gandalf's Lament - Gollum's whine
    The solo for Gandalf's Lament (heard in Lothlórien) was Elizabeth Fraser. The keening heard outside Moria was by Mabel Fatelou. The boy soprano used for FOTR was Edward Ross, not Ben.

    The LOTR symphonies has the keening outside Moria sung by a boy soprano, which may be confusing you. I think it's a misguided choice but probably has something to do with how people get paid. (*resists going into a symphony review*)

    I like Gollum's song partly because he does say, "poor me". I don't think we're meant to believe it. I think we're supposed to 'roll our eyes' somewhat at his claim for victim status. I think the song does a great job of subtly showing both characters: Sméagol and Gollum. Both Sméagol and Gollum are essentially insane. They just manifest it differently. They use different tactics of manipulation. I don't even think it's a matter of: I'll try tactic X (I'm a victim) and if that doesn't work, I'll try tactic Y (I'm going to sneak around and kill you). I think it's more a blanket approach: I'll try both X and Y and see which one works first.

    I think 'like' and 'dislike' is all subjective and I wouldn't try to convince anyone this is a great song. But this subject came up at another board recently and someone there was really ragging on the song and Emiliana's voice.

    I wrote up the following in response. Keep in mind, I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong... only sharing my thinking.

    I've been preparing some material for a TTT music discussion and was just looking over the music for Gollum. There's a subtlety to the music that's kind of interesting to think about and may influence how one feels about Gollum's Song.

    First, the two themes of Gollum:

    Consistent with the dual nature of Sméagol/Gollum, this character has two themes. As quoted in the liner notes for the CR-TTT, Shore says, "Gollum is a schizophrenic character. By birth he is Sméagol who becomes corrupted by the Ring and becomes the creature, Gollum. He's constantly at battle--each side is fighting the other. Sméagol is more reasonable than Gollum. Sméagol is needier and requires more care. Gollum is much more independent and deceitful. Sméagol is a little more sympathetic and pitiful, so that theme is more emotional. Gollum's is sneaker. These two characters are fighting each other in one body. Gollum needed two pieces of music to work against each other." (CR-TTT liner notes, page 4)

    THE PITY OF GOLLUM, aka as "Slinker" and representing the Sméagol personality.
    This is the music heard in FOTR. It can be heard when Gollum finds the Ring in the prologue and when Gandalf and Frodo discuss Gollum in Moria. It's sad and lyrical. Doug Adams says, "The theme is based on a series of loosely related minor arpeggios, through which a knobbly, twisted melody traipses, bestowing an unusually slippery profile."

    GOLLUM'S MENACE, aka as "Stinker" and representing the Gollum personality.
    This is the jittery, cimbalon (hammered dulcimer) music that debuts in TTT when Gollum creeps down the rock face toward the sleeping Hobbits. Shore says, "This melody line slithers up and down through chromatic harmonies without ever establishing a comfortable tonality."

    Now onto Gollum's Song. In the liner notes for the CR-TTT, Doug Adams writes:
    "The melody line is a further exploration of the Pity of Gollum harmonies, here set in a more conclusive vein. Like the Pity of Gollum it is built off gnarling rises through distantly related minor chords, though here the lines are more step-wise -- less pitiful and more collected in purpose. It's placed as the perfect cliffhanger for the second score -- a moody recollection of Gollum's state as he threateningly promises to deliver the hobbits to her."

    Now I don't have enough musical training to fully understand that but what I did get was that the harmonies of the Gollum's two themes and Gollum's Song are related and they're minor. I think I was subconsciously understanding that but it was nice to think about 'out loud'.

    The thing I really like about Emiliana's voice is what she does with it. The first half is a bit whiny and pitiful. This voice feels like a victim. But the second half does this really subtle shift. The voice becomes just slightly threatening. The first voice said, "And we will weep to be so alone" but the second says, "And you will weep when you face the end alone". Sméagol feels slighted by Frodo but Gollum wants revenge. Gollum wants the Ring.


    The response was mixed. Someone who knew nothing about music said they appreciated the song a little more after reading my post. Another accomplished musician said he could appreciate the analysis but he still just didn't like the song.

    end subthread


    grammaboodawg 12/9/2006
    In Reply To: **TTT Music for Middle-earth: Vocals and Lyrics** — aMagpie:
    oh... the voices...
    the music, the sounds, the emotions in all of the vocals just thrills me throughout all the films. 

    In Two Towers... the very quick lament as Haldir dies is chilling.  Aragorn in the water and Arwen's vision as Elrond speaks to her are so hauntingly beautiful!  The music and voices immediately throw me into high emotions when I hear them.

    I will say, even though they aren't from TT, that the angelic voices as Gandalf speaks to Pippin of the grey rain curtain and then when Frodo is free of the Ring and lies back on the rocks remembering the Shire as Sam cries for Rosie and his life that could have been... those tear right through me.


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