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The Ride of the Rohirrim- Musical Analysis

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on 11 April 2014

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Transcript of The Ride of the Rohirrim- Musical Analysis

The Return of the King
The Return of the King is based on the final part of the book 'The Lord of the Rings'. In this film, Frodo Baggins continues on his journey to destroy the One Ring while the Free People of Middle Earth unite in battle to defeat the Darkness that threatens their lives. Meanwhile, Aragorn finally accepts his heritage and takes his place as the King, and leads all his armies into war. In this excerpt, the Rohirrim come to help defeat the evil army.

Howard Shore is a Canadian composer of all three 'Lord of the Rings' films, whose music earned him three Academy awards. For the Return of the King he received a Golden Globe award, along with a Grammy award. He has composed scores for over 80 films, including the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, as well as the Twilight Saga. He has composed over 10 hours of music for the Lord of the Rings. Howard Shore uses violins and choirs a lot, and a trademark of his is dark, ominous themes.

The scene begins with a low pitch and at forte to achieve a grim, strong and powerful tone, reflecting the inevitable deaths that would occur in the following battle and the heroism that would be shown. The range is wide, using a variety of notes. The phrases in this excerpt are not repetitive, but a few are instead variations of each other. The chords are simple in sound, expressing the simple courage of the Rohirrim. There are repeated chord patterns that build up to the climax. The beat of the music is kept by the slow, steady beats of the drums and the rhythm is even and on the beat.There are repeated rhythmic patterns during most of this excerpt (a long brass note followed by a short drum beat). There are trumpets, lower brass and drums. This section is played in major key at 4 beats per bar, common time, and the music is deliberately slow in the beginning to symbolise the brief break before the bloodshed. The tempo then increases with the dynamics as the army becomes restless and determined, being aroused by their king's speech. The contour generally ascends by step during this excerpt, and with the crescendo, the anticipation is built up slowly and firmly. This excerpt is played in legato, with accents. The instruments play warmly, brightly and clearly. The trumpets play in a majestic manner, reflecting the majesty of the King and his army.
This excerpt has three different layers- the brass section and the percussion and the voices- and becomes thicker in the climax of this section to create more texture to the music. All three layers work together with one another. The brass is resonant and with the percussion, they build the intensity and fierceness of the Rohirrim, and incorporate a sense of increasing battle-lust. Added with the strong, low voice of the King Théoden and the determined, passionate shouts of his army, the music is brave and exciting. The sound of the Orcs' armor and weapons clanking, as well as the metallic noise made when the King's sword hitting the spears makes the music more expressive. The dynamics for the majority of this section is loud, with a general crescendo that leads into the climax. The volume of the excerpt partly changes according to the mood of the army. For example, at the end of the King's speech, when the army shouts, the music becomes louder. There is a gradual, uneven ascend to a higher pitch, which leads into the climax of Section 1. The beginning of the climax is at fortissimo, played by the brass and drums. There is then a decrescendo into forte, and the texture thickens as trumpets play briefly. The last few notes of Section A ascend by step and leads into Section B.
Section B begins right after Section A, and is played in minor key to achieve a slightly melancholic mood. The range is wide, and some of the phrases in the excerpt are repetitive, but are played with different instruments and have slight variations. The contour both ascends and descends, as the entirety of Part B is made of a series of short phrases played at a constant forte, with some accents. Most of them are in the same range, and end on the same note on which they started. In the individual phrases, the contour generally either:
Ascends and descends in steps
Ascends mostly in steps and then ascends by leaps for the last few notes
The chords are simple and have a little bit of a dissonant quality to them , showing the lives that would be lost in the battle. However, the main mood of the music is bold, proud and strong. These emotions are achieved by the Hardanger fiddle, a traditional Norwegian stringed instrument, as well as the trumpets, horns and lower brass and strings. The brass and the Hardanger fiddle work together, the brass sometimes underlying the Hardanger fiddle and enhancing the battle-lust and courage of the army. The brass and the fiddle play in a way that creates somberness.
The strings and the horns play in legato, keeping the smoothness of the music which represents the unwavering determination of the Rohirrim. The music is slightly desperate, reflecting the impossibility of victory against such a large force. The phrases played by the brass are short, quick and exciting, and usually end with a longer, drawn out note, which provides short rests in the music and stops it from becoming only a series of notes, which would make it too rapid and based on the action. Instead, by doing this, the emotion is maintained throughout their charge. The rhythm is even and on the beat, and there are repeated rhythmic patterns throughout the entire piece.There are also voices in this excerpt: the chants of 'Death' by the Rohirrim as they ride towards the army and the low, guttural grunts of the Orcs add a somberness to the piece. There are three layers: voices, brass and strings, and they all work together. The texture of Section B is thicker than the first section. There are repeated chord patterns in the music which end when the Rohirrim clash into the Orcs. The time signature is 8 beats per bar. The beat of the music is similar to that of Section A, but slower. Other things that make the music expressive in the way it is performed is the similarity of the phrases, which give this excerpt a fluidity in the way they stem from one another. The crescendos and decrescendos in the small phrases also make the music expressive. Section A and Section B together make an engaging, wonderful piece.
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