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Old 02-09-2010, 03:42 PM   #1
Faramir Jones
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White Tree "Bring Out the Instruments!", Heidi Steimel

I'm starting a thread here on Heidi Steimel's '"Bring Out the Instruments!": Instrumental Music in Middle-earth', which I was glad to see in print; because I had wished to see and hear her present it at Oxonmoot 2008 when I was there, but was unable to do so.

It was great, in reading the article, to not only have an overview of the many musical instruments in Tolkien's works, but to see Ms. Steimel's take on 'those who construct and play them, at the effect they have, and at their significance within the narrative'. (p. 91)

I agree with her that the harp was 'the instrument most often mentioned in connection with Elves'; (p. 95) and that horns and trumpets were 'frequently mentioned instruments among Men' in LotR. (p. 96)

While I also agree with her about the Horn of the Mark having in its description 'a marked similarity' to '"magical" ancient heirloom weapons', (p. 97) I would add that Boromir's horn, carried by generations of his family, was certainly one of the same, its magic being quite evident.

Faramir told Frodo and Sam about this horn's particular magical property: 'it is said that if it be blown at need anywhere within the bounds of Gondor, as the realm was of old, its voice will not pass unheeded'. (LotR, Book 4, Chapter V) This was what had happened; when Boromir blew the horn before he was killed, it was heard by Faramir, far to the south. Since I read that, I've always been impressed by a horn that could be heard over such a distance!

I particularly enjoyed her description of the concert held in Bag End by the dwarves at the beginning of The Hobbit. (pp. 100-104) As she rightly said, not only was it the 'one orchestral performance of which Tolkien writes in detail ' (p. 100) describing all the instruments and who played them; it was an extremely important musical performance in the history of Middle-earth:

Bilbo felt within himself the spirit of the Dwarves and awakened to an understanding of their nature. This identitifcation with his guests made it easier for him to join in their adventure subsequently. The music had an important part in preparing him for what was to come. Without the music, there might never have been a "There and Back Again"! (p. 103)

Well said, Ms. Steimel!

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 02-09-2010 at 03:44 PM. Reason: There was a gap
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Old 02-11-2010, 06:27 PM   #2
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Indeed, well done Esty!
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Old 05-03-2010, 12:49 AM   #3
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I would be just stating the obvious if I was also only repeating how well written and informative this chapter is. Indeed, well done, Esty! But as to avoid being repetitive, and also to prove the point that there is always something to improve, let me be constructive here.

There is something missing in the chapter.

*dramatic pause*

Yes, well, that happens. It's a rather minor thing, but maybe I should now tell myself "Sam Gamgee, if you had been paying more attention when Esty was asking for help around here, you might have brought it up and prevented this incorrectness in the article!" (But maybe not, it is usually rather random what kind of associations spring to one's mind.) Anyway, as to not to walk around the subject for too long time... there was something in the article about the use of horns as signal instruments and instruments of war, very well written, but the whole paraghraph is concluded with the words:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ms.Steimel
"Horns and trumpets are mentioned as belonging to the enemies during battle scenes. Since it is never said elsewhere of Orcs that they have and play such instruments, it is fairly certain that they must have been used by Sauron's human allies: Easterlings, Haradrim, and others."
Where I, of course, have to oppose this and stand in defence of the Orcs' musical culture. Well, I assume you cannot call it "music", but as I read this text, one quote sprung automatically into my mind. Do the words "hideous clamor" ring the bell?*

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Very End Of Two Towers
Sam heard a burst of hoarse singing, blaring of horns and banging of gongs, a hideous clamour. Gorbag and Shagrat were already on the threshold.
I doubt you can call it real music, but then again, it definitely is music at least for the Orcs - and quite complicated one (at least compared to what one would expect from Orcs)! We have "percussion" just as the essay mentions, but of a different, unmentioned type (gong!) and we also have horns, which proves that, in contrary to the above-quoted statement, the Orcs likely did use them as much as other races did (it is likely, in my opinion, that they "stole and twisted" the horn from other races, just as they do it with everything, but anyway, they are using it now). What more, the Orcs sing, which, put together with all the rest, makes quite an amazing "symphony", doesn't it? I have always seen Gorbag as one of the Orc "philosophers of metaphysics" (because of his peculiar words about "darkness on the other side"), now is his counterpart Shagrat a secret musical talent?

Cirith Ungol was anyway a "musical tower" by itself. In the continuing adventures of Mr. Gamgee, we read that upon passing the Silent Watchers for the first time,
Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK
Far up above, like an answering signal, a harsh bell clanged a single stroke.
An automated glockenspiel? Most curious, anyway, since this thing operated by itself, it is likely that it was connected to the magic of the Watchers, i.e. some "black magic" not used by the Orcs but put there by some more powerful servants of Sauron, nevertheless, it is an instrument and in any case, you had to have a bell there in the first place for it to be able to make a sound. The Orcs had really all things needed for starting a small orchestra on their own! Personally, I'd think the bell was up there since the Gondorian era (as the tower of Cirith Ungol was built by them and we know of the use of bells in Minas Tirith, however, here the bell is used as a warning signal - just like in Dale, by the way -cf. the Dwarves' song! Ai, ai, I don't think this is mentioned in the article either).

The bell of Cirith Ungol rings again when Frodo and Sam escape the Tower (and the gate with the Watchers is destroyed) and later, as they are running away,

Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK; Land of the Shadow
Away behind them, now high above on the mountain-side, loomed the Tower of Cirith Ungol, its stones glowing dully. Suddenly its harsh bell clanged again, and then broke into a shattering peal. Horns sounded.
That's when the reinforcements of the Orcs called by the Nazgul are coming to the Tower to investigate. Probably this is announcing their coming (much like in the original quote about Gorbag and Shagrat) or maybe it's a signal to begin the search (something like "assembled, ready, go!").

In any case... I actually found this fascinating (I started originally with that one quote and thought of the rest in the middle of writing this), and hopefully it was also helpful - maybe, Esty, if you are at some point re-publishing your article or making a similar presentation elsewhere, this could give you a little more material to consider

*I had no idea yet, when writing this, that I will be actually mentioning a bell itself in here as well Could be interpretated as poetic joke, if it had been intentional.
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Old 05-03-2010, 03:50 AM   #4
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Thank you for adding that reference, Legate! I do appreciate thoughtful and knowledgeable readers! I did miss that orc passage and have noted it for future use.

It's a dangerous business, Esty, stating conclusions in a published work. You write them in a book, and if you don't keep your head, there is no knowing what you might miss.

As to the bells, I left them out deliberately. I could find no passage (prove me wrong! ) that states their usage as anything other than a signal.

More when I have time to do your post justice...
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Thank you for adding that reference, Legate! I do appreciate thoughtful and knowledgeable readers! I did miss that orc passage and have noted it for future use.

It's a dangerous business, Esty, stating conclusions in a published work. You write them in a book, and if you don't keep your head, there is no knowing what you might miss.

As to the bells, I left them out deliberately. I could find no passage (prove me wrong! ) that states their usage as anything other than a signal.

More when I have time to do your post justice...
Well, you're welcome. And from now on at least you will be more careful, on the other hand, had you not mentioned that in there, I might not have been reminded of the Orcs' horns in the first place, so I guess in the end it was positive. After all, learning is a process, and that goes even for learning about the depths of Middle-Earth.

As for the bells, I have mentioned it mainly since you mention the bells in Minas Tirith (even though briefly) in there as well. But true, they were not really used otherwise than for signals.
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Old 05-03-2010, 08:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
As for the bells, I have mentioned it mainly since you mention the bells in Minas Tirith (even though briefly) in there as well. But true, they were not really used otherwise than for signals.

Which ties back nicely to the renaissance Italy analogy as the reason that Italian towns had such high church towers during this period was

a) they doubled as watchtowers, helping watch out for enemies
b) rining the bells in a certain way could be used to signal to the next village that help was needed.

Also, at the time, church towers were often occupied by watchers whose job it was to keep their eyes strained for and signs of fire breaking out in the cramped streets of old cities. To assure citizens that the watcher was not asleep he had to play his trumpet at given intervals. The tunes they played were set and passed on from one generation of watchers to the next and so remained virtually unchanged for centuries. In Cracow such a watch still exists today although it is more for tradition as I assume other fire protection mechanisms now exist.

Later, as clock-making arts improved, church bells were mechanised and so could play the tunes without needing a watchman. This coincided with improvements in the ways cities were built so reducing he risk of fire. Today tower chimes (as for example that of Big Ben in Westminster) thus hail to a much older tradition which would once have seen the tunes being played manually.
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:03 AM   #7
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Interesting historical facts, shadowfax! Maybe a chapter on the use of bells in Tolkien's works would be a further project - though I'm not sure that there's enough written besides the mere mention of their use.
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:23 PM   #8
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Silmaril Bells in Valmar and Dale

I agree with what Esty said here to shadowfax

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Interesting historical facts, shadowfax! Maybe a chapter on the use of bells in Tolkien's works would be a further project - though I'm not sure that there's enough written besides the mere mention of their use.
I can think offhand of two cities or towns Tolkien said were famous for their bells. In The Silmarillion, Chapter 1 said that 'when Valinor was full-wrought and the mansions of the Valar were established, in the midst of the plain beyond the mountains they built their city, Valmar of many bells'. Was their maker Aulë, I wonder? Whoever made them, I'm sure that those bells must have been wonderful to hear, their sound staying in the memories of those Elves who returned to Middle-earth, and presumably getting into the historical record.

A second place is that of Dale, as described in The Hobbit. While Thorin spoke in Chapter 1 of its bells being used as a warning of Smaug's attack: 'By that time all the bells were ringing in Dale and the warriors were arming', that city is also later mentioned in Chapter 3 as being known for its bells, Elrond being 'grieved to remember the ruin of the town of Dale and its merry bells'.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 05-25-2010 at 02:24 PM. Reason: I left something out
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:47 AM   #9
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I had already listened to Esty's lecture on this topic more than two years ago in Jena, and now enjoyed very much reading the essay in print (and extended to cover all of Middle Earth.)
I have nothing more to add, only that this was so much easier and more enjoyable to read than "A Speculative History of the Music of Arda" which I have read right before.
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:07 AM   #10
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I agree wholly.

I heard Heidi's talk at the Jena Tolkien Confeence in 2008 (?). I believe the article was developed from this talk. It provided me with a whole new insight on an episode about which I hadn't really thought much until then.

The average Tolkien reader will probably start with The Hobbit, moving on to The Lord of The Rings and then the Silmarillion . In this respect, of the many songs and ballads that the reader will encounter on his journey through Tolkien's universe, the Dwarf concert at Bag End is the first and hence it is an introduction to what is to come. I don't have the text to hand right now but I think the text of the The Hobbit says that Bilbo particularly liked one of the lines. I can't remember which one it was now but I think it was an element that was repeated chorus-like throughout the song. The song also made him dream about distant treasures and adventures. So in a way we actually see some primitive analysis/appreciation of the ballad going on in Bilbo's head which is a sort of didactical device inserted by the author to introduce the reader (it's a children's book, remember) to poetry. So in a way the entire scene is a type of gateway or introduction leading us as readers into Tolkien's poetry (and music).
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:00 PM   #11
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Like Guinevere and Shadowfax, I know Heidi's chapter in its earlier incarnations, although for me in print rather than in lecture at Jena. This is as much a pleasure to read as the earlier versions were.

Heidi's writing is a delight for me, for she can provide rhythm, vary sentence length, add rhetorical asides, and develop exposition in a very entertaining way. Her writing has rhythm and movement, as one perhaps would expect of a musician. One thing in particular I want to point out is the very interesting style of her first sentence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bring Out the Instruments!
Music is more than mere entertainment in Tolkien's Middle-earth.
I don't know whether Heidi planned that consciously or not, but the alliteration, using both stress and first placement, although not exclusively, immediately brought to mind Tolkien's love of Old English poetry.

While I'm not a musician myself, I have had a course in drumming and wanted to add a few observations about the power of drums. They have a long history of military use, in both eastern and western warfare, so perhaps it is not surprising to hear of orcs and drums in Moria. Think of how those sounds must have reverberated in that deep chamber!

Yet drumming is more than this, and more than simply keeping a beat. Drums and drumming have a therapeutic effect, inducing deep relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety. They also provide an experience of connectedness, creating unity and synchronicity. The experience Bilbo has of the dwarven concert is something I have experienced simply through drumming. It was a creative experience that brought the twelve of us who were drumming together in a very unique feeling. It is thus strange for me now to think of orcs drumming, for that must have been a powerful form of social connectedness for them. Or possibly for the Druedain also.

I thought I'd add a comment, too, concerning Heidi's footnote about the Anvil Chorus in Verdi's Il Trovatore. I know she knows this, so it's not new to her, but perhaps will be to others here. Here's a rather entertaining version of The Anvil Chorus . Note, no beards!
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