Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: Piano Music from The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings piano musicFor anyone who has seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies, the soundtrack to the movies becomes as familiar as the faces of Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn.  As someone who loves these movies and who also plays the piano, I was very excited, then, when I came across arrangments of the music from Lord of the Rings for solo piano, published by Alfred Music.

Separate books for each of the movies are available, but I purchased the volume containing songs from all  three of the movies.  The selection is quite good and very representative of the trilogy as a whole; the volume contains the most recognizable theme music for the various characters (such as "Concerning Hobbits"), as well as many of the vocal pieces originally performed by artists such as Enya, Emiliana Torrini, and Annie Lennox.  What is perhaps most impressive about the collection is the way it maintains the sound of the original orchestral arrangement while still being easily playable by an intermediate-level pianist.

As I play through these arrangements, I have been struck by two things in particular.  First, I am amazed at the scope of collaboration that has gone into many of the songs.  In one of the final pieces included in the book entitled "The Return of the King," for example, most of the music for the piece is written by Howard Shore (the main composer of the film's score), but Sir James Galway is credited for his performance of the section entitled "The Fragrance of Ithilien" and J.R.R. Tolkien is listed as the author of the lyrics.  Perhaps most interestingly, Viggo Mortensen--the actor who played Aragorn--wrote and performed the section of the song entitled "Araogrn's Coronation."  This collaborative process transcends medium, as authors, musicians, composers, and actors are all included in the process.

And then, as I play through the songs, I, too, become part of this creative process.  I am now the one playing the music for the hobbits.  I am the one providing the soundtrack for the Riders of Rohan.  And by becoming part of the creative process, I become a part of the story.  I am the one unleasing the fury of the Ents on Isengard.  I am the one defending Minas Tirith against the forces of darkness.  I am the one bidding farewell to the Third Age.  Performing the music draws you into the story in a way that makes you feel like the story belongs especially to you.

Because of this, it doesn't surprise me that there are quite a few people who have posted their own performances of Lord of the Rings music on YouTube.  You can find performances on piano, guitar, and even ocarina!  Performing these songs is a physical act that in some way, provides a tangible connection with a fantasy world so many of us would love to visit.