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Old 04-06-2014, 12:32 PM   #1
Pervinca Took
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Phil Dragash's LOTR Readings

I did ask a Downer who has been a Downer much longer than I have if she remembered there ever having been a thread about this, but she didn't recall one. Also, I gather the recordings were still being posted (on YouTube) about a year ago, so had there been a thread here on the topic, I think I'd have seen it. And as the BBC dramatisation threads are also in the Movies subforum, I guess this would be the place to discuss these rather wonderful readings.

First of all, this really is quality stuff, and very sensitively handled. I have listened to a few chapters (there are apparently 48 hours of material in total!) and will just make a few observations for now:

1. As someone who found the films "good in parts" but was unable to really enjoy them as dramatic "wholes" (with the possible exception of FOTR), I am very impressed at how this reading seems to take some of the best aspects of the films (such as the music) and mingle them with a lot that was so brilliant about the BBC dramatisation. I don't know if Phil was familiar with the latter, so this may not even have been a conscious thing. Also, hearing the film music in the background reminded me of the scenes from the film that I did like ... such as Aragorn and Arwen's scene on the bridge near Rivendell. I also found "Into the West" moving on the final chapter, even though the film itself failed to move me at this point.

2. I have heard bits of Rob Inglis's readings, and even seen his one-man-stage-show of LOTR, but I never really felt tempted to buy his version. I like Dragash's narration. He sounds rather like John McAndrew (BBC Pippin), but with subtle elvish tones blended in. I'm particularly reminded of BBC Glorfindel and Elrond.

3. There is so much detail. There are odd slips on words, but nothing to really mar the listening experience. One thing that is wonderful is "background acting" ... it is a full reading of the text, but with "continuous acting" or sounds in the background ... for example, when the narration says that Sam put Frodo in front of him and "tried to encourage him with clumsy words," you hear him doing so in the background.

4. Some thoughts on the individual voices (all by Phil, as far as I can make out). They seem to follow the film in many ways. I have only listened to selected chapters so far, but:

FRODO: Quite similar to the voice of the narrator, but a little higher-pitched. This has the effect (for me) of making him sound rather like BBC Pippin, added to the fact that Phil Dragash's voice reminds me of John McAndrew. (However, if modelled on anyone, it might have been Elijah Wood's voice. As the reading sticks absolutely to canon in words and character development, this is not actually a problem!) This contributes in part to the effect that Phil's Frodo has the sweetness and "youthfulness" (you know what I mean, appearing young even though older and maturer than the other hobbits) of Canon Frodo, which is lacking from Ian Holm's portrayal. On the other hand, I do find myself missing (in a way) the gravity of Ian Holm's gravelly voice as well. This is interesting, because Ian Holm's voice was always very different from Frodo's voice as I imagined it, but it was such an overwhelmingly moving performance that it stuck, even though Book Frodo is described as having a "small voice" in the book and Merry and Pippin are described as having "clear, high hobbit-voices." Ian Holm's tones were so good at sounding the depths of despair and world-weariness, and I do find Phil's Frodo a little too passive at times, just as I found Ian Holm's often far too aggressive. It's great to have two good and very different versions at last. Accent: RP, which matches both radio version and film, although the voice is high and somehow youthful, like Wood's performance or the BBC elves.

SAM: Very canon, quite like William Nighy. Sean Astin used roughly the same accent as Nighy did, as I recall, and the voice Phil uses is similar to both. What I do like is that Frodo and Sam are not forever going for conflict and confrontation as they were in the BBC version, due to a perceived need to make it different and more interesting. Jane Morgan (the older and more experienced of the two BBC directors) said that she took her hat off to Ian Holm and William Nighy, because every one of Frodo and Sam's scenes was more or less the same in the book, but they always made them different. They are both outstanding actors, of course, and both gave virtuoso performances, but I had difficulty thinking of them as a pair. And here's the dichotomy: Phil's much gentler Frodo is more canon, and I enjoy it immensely while also missing the heart-stopping places Ian Holm took this character to. Phil's warm, caring, loyal, brave Sam is wonderful in the Mordor episodes and especially as they climb Mount Doom, and the way Phil incorporates the film music is very moving and appropriate.

MERRY & PIPPIN: The accents follow the film. I know I am showing how the BBC version became canon in its own right to so many of us when I say this, but I wish Phil had gone for RP with these two as well (Tolkien himself advised that all but Sam would speak with received pronunciation, or something very similar). On the other hand, Frodo and Sam's voices follow the film too ... but because they match BBC canon in some ways (even if not for the same characters), I personally liked them very much. And of course it must be very difficult to make each voice sound different, especially if you are doing all the voices yourself!

GANDALF: Very impressed so far. Again, closer to McKellan than Hordern.

GOLLUM: Also very good, and appropriately Gollumish.

MABLUNG and DAMROD: Beautifully done (listened to "Of Herbs And Stewed Rabbit" last night!)

These really are beautiful recordings. I hope I have not caused offence by comparing them with the BBC version, but it is hard for many of us who heard it long ago to do otherwise.

Many thanks for all the labour that went into these, Phil!
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:29 PM   #2
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Nice post,Pervinca. Phil Dragash's readings sound intersting. I haven't heard BBC's. Can you tell me where can I find it? Ian Holme's Frodo is appreciated a lot of people. Your description of the characters sound good as well.
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Old 04-07-2014, 06:49 AM   #3
Pervinca Took
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Lotrelf, you can find Phil Dragash's audio recordings here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jYdU...37F361D68B836E

This particular link is where he introduces his project, and he does actually say that he intended it as a hybrid of an audiobook and a radio drama (I think I missed this when I listened to it the other day, because lots of noisy adverts kept popping up on my computer).

All the chapters, I believe, follow on after this on a loop.

Although Phil's first recording said that he had made/was making an experimental audio of a chapter from The Two Towers but would NOT be recording the whole book, I think he did actually proceed to do just that!

You can also download them as MP3's.

I warn you that I am perfectly capable of carrying on a chapter-by-chapter discussion of this. All forty-eight hours of it.

The BBC dramatisation is available to buy, BUT the way Amazon displays them is confusing. So much so that some people have even ordered it and ended up with the *awful" American version by The Mind's Eye (do *not* buy this!) It's also very confusing what is the BBC LOTR and what is Rob Inglis's audio reading.

There is a chapter-by-chapter discussion of the BBC LOTR in this subforum, but it might well be better to wait until you have heard it before you read that thread, to avoid spoilers.
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Old 04-13-2014, 07:14 PM   #4
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Thumbs up Phil means Me

well, this is certainly incredibly flattering and amazing!! Your review (so far, I hope) was very helpful and insightful.

I hear this Phil guy is trying to update all of the chapters (and re-record a good deal of the early ones) at the moment, and reading an analysis would be most helpful to him, as well as understanding others' "professional opinion" on what he's done. Both negative as well as positive, of course.

It would also be really, reaally stupendously honorable if there were a read/listen-through using that particular audio version of the books, because - wow. Flattering is too trivial a word!

In any case, Phil says thanks!
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Old 04-14-2014, 04:25 PM   #5
Pervinca Took
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Pervinca says thanks too, for all your work on this splendid project!

Is there any particular order in which you'd like the episodes reviewed/commented on?

Ah, the early ones (meaning Book 1, I guess). Well, I haven't listened to those yet. So when I can find a bit of time I will do so. Anyone else want to join in?

One particular reason I have enjoyed the episodes so far so much is that I am so busy that I find it hard to find time to read as much as I used to ... and when I do find time, I feel I should be reading new things. Also, knowing the text so well, it's easy to lose concentration and sleep through my favourite bits. Hearing a good reading is different: it awakens me again to the beauty of the language. Plus it is half reading, half dramatisation. It brings the text alive again, and means I can enjoy the story all over again.
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:15 AM   #6
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No, not any particular order. It all is up to you. I'm satisfied already!

It's really lovely that the things I recorded/sound-edited were able to reintroduce the story to you in a newer way. I totally understand where you're coming from in that regard: and I'm also rather thankful that such a thing is possible too, especially for most of us that re-read the books so often.

I'm definitely trying to re-record the first two chapters so first-impressions are strong enough to get people more engaged in the story. Especially since the youtube video of the first two chapters were made in August 2010. Definitely needs to be re-done.
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:50 PM   #7
Pervinca Took
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Don't delete the originals, though! You might lose something of merit - a nuance or quality of tone in a line that is different in a subsequent version. Little things like that are so important in radio/audio work.

Book 1 Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party

One slip - "The eldest of this was Bilbo's favourite, was young Frodo Baggins." (The first "was" should be an "and.")

September 22nd - Saying this aloud, I would say September THE 22nd - but maybe that's just a British thing? Not sure.

10.49 ish "reported the Gaffer" should be "retorted the Gaffer."

Shortly after: My Sam says that everyone's been invited to party" (a missing "the"?) Makes it come across a little like Yorkshire dialect "to t'party." (Maybe I notice this more than most, being a Yorkshire girl myself).

AFAIK, "Nasturtiums" is generally pronounced "nasturshams," not "nasturteeyams." (Not that it's pronounced that often!) But we had some in our garden when I was a kid, and it was "nasturshams."

"A draft (draught?) of cooks" - should sound like "draft," not "drought."

It's "elevenses," not elevensIes."

'PROvender" - I think the stress should be on the first syllable, not the second. However, the second may be North American pronunciation? In which case both are right. I would hate to point out things as mistakes when they are only different/regional varieties of correct.

Am enjoying both the narration and the voices of the rustic hobbits at the Ivy Bush. Also enjoying the party in the background, although at times it's a little too loud and nearly drowns the narration. Listening to the fireworks at the party at the moment - there was a little bit that sounded like the audience at a live football match! - just for a moment, and then the narrative says "like an army" and yes, the sounds resemble those of a battle.

It's interesting that Bilbo's party speech sounds as is if it's coming from a distance, as it would to those nearer the back in the party tent. Just for a moment I thought of BBC Saruman's voice! Bilbo's voice sounds like Frodo's, but less high. (Another place where the deep impressions made by the BBC version stick for me - but I have always imagined Bilbo with a heartier, more hobbitlike voice, a contrast with the more "elvish" Frodo, even though they are both Elf-Friends).

Rory Brandybuck's line was fun! Nice accent and delivery here.

I feel a little pause was needed before "Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing."

The earlier part of Gandalf and Bilbo's conversation in Bag End feels slightly rushed. (In fact quite a bit of this chapter feels a little rushed, I think).

Bilbo hesitating to hand over the Ring echoes Ian Holm's performance - in this case his performance of Bilbo, not Frodo! Especially "Here it is in my pocket ...." And I can see Sir Ian's eyes as he says "My Precious ..."

Gandalf: "It will be my turn to get angry soon. But if you say that again, I shall." There shouldn't be a "But."

"Mr Bilbo Baggins has gone away [AND] as far as I know, for good." The "and" isn't in the original text - but I don't know if you are strictly going for an absolutely exact reading. (It's far better to get the effect right, I think).

Bilbo singing: "The road goes ever on and on." Personally I'm not really a fan of the tunes used in the film for existing songs in the tale, especially this one. However, legions of your listeners probably love it, and their views are just as important.

Just heard Merry's voice for the first time. I personally think Merry and Pippin work better with Received Pronunciation, but I won't go on about it. Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins are quite rustic, too. I think RP is more appropriate for the middle-class and aristocratic hobbits (as Tolkien said when he was consulted regarding a very early radio dramatisation of LOTR which has not survived. I think it featured Oliver Burt as Frodo and Prunella Scales as Ioreth). However, using the same accents for Frodo, Pippin and Merry would make it much harder to tell them apart with one person providing all the verses, of course.

N.B. Please note that when I comment on voicings of different characters, that is just my own reaction. I think the variety achieved is brilliant. And my comparison of the effects with previous versions (especially the radio one) are not judgements, just observations.
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Old 04-24-2014, 10:16 AM   #8
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Finally replying!

Not to worry, I have no intention of deleting anything! I'm incredibly sensitive to eliminating anything permanently and therefore keep things archived. I'm very glad you appreciate the older effort, though. It's quite nice of you.

Here are my responses to "Chapter 1":

Firstly, have you listened to the updated MP3 version or just the embarrassing one that's still on youtube? I ask this because I have later re-recorded that chapter sometime in 2011, and fixed issues - however - neither of these now reach my current 2014-standards and I dearly wish to re-do this chapter in the near future.

Thank you very much for your detailed notes, I will of course remember them next time I'm ready to record this one final time. Usually these slip-ups occur when I have a hard time pronouncing a sentence as fast as I want to, so I subconsciously add or detract words, and I don't even notice! I promise!

Ohh, yes... the "nasturteeyams". That's a giant faceplam moment. My 2014-self apologizes for my 2010-self's laziness to fix it or do any research.

It's quite possible "September THE 22nd" might very well be a British thing, but since you find that to be more natural, I'll have to remember it for the re-record.

"DROUGHT". You have no idea how much I hate my reading more and more, every time I hear that mispronounced. Very, very early on in 2011 someone corrected me, and my lazy 2010-self only caught up to fixing that issue in the fall of 2011. I sincerely apologize. In fact, just a week ago, I fixed "The Forbidden Pool" chapter by having to re-record just one line... about "a draught of wine". I'm furiously trying to see where I said that and make amends.

I'm delighted to find out that you are enjoying hearing the voices!

I agree, the sound effects can get too loud throughout most of the audiobook, and it's an issue I've not ignored. Since 2014-Me knows a thing or two more about audio mixing, when the chance comes, I definitely try to lower the volume (but still make it sound loud and exciting). I also agree about the crowds - If I had it my way, I would have recorded every sound from scratch and not have had to pick effects from a pre-existing sound library. When I get to re-doing Chapter 1, I will take that into consideration.

Ah, here's where we disagree a little bit. I particularly like the effect where Bilbo's voice is heard from a distance, I think it's quite interesting to be able to pick "camera angles" with only sound, and I rather think it makes the speech more awkward, which in my opinion works perfectly. Indeed, listening to Chapter 1 again - you make a great point about Bilbo and Frodo's voice. I'm actually thinking of changing it a little once I get around to re-record it, because I think it's possible to make him sound more distinct and "rustic". But I still think Ian Holm is an amazing Bilbo Baggins and I always try to base at least a flavor of his voice on him.

Rory Brandybuck? You mean Richard Harris as a hobbit?

noted on the pause.

I know what you mean about things sounding "Rushed". 2010-Me was not a leisurely fellow.

Charmed that you liked the ring-bit! To me, most of the characters and environments reflect the films very strongly, and I usually agree with the way they were depicted in them. Which explains a lot; however, I try not to repeat lines in the same way as they were said in the movies, because usually the context is completely different.

Buts will be taken away! Also, of course, another added word I didn't even notice I added, "and".

Again, we will disagree here. I definitely feel that the tune for "The Road Goes Ever On" in the movie is the quintessential version; however, I would like to know what your quintessential tune for the song is. perhaps a link somewhere from another recording?

the thing about Merry and Pippin's voice is - of course - that I truly imagine the way they appear and sound in the movie, when I read the book - but, that aside, as you have mentioned it does get a bit harder to distinguish who is talking, and my diversity for hobbit voices does get limited. I totally understand that Merry and Pippin have completely different accents to Frodo which is very strange considering the shire being such a small place, but I think this suspension of disbelief is relatively safe.
I'm so, so disappointed that none of the early radio LOTR dramatizations survived. I would have loved to hear them, especially since Tolkien had a few things to say about them.

And lastly, thank you so much for commenting on this chapter. I really appreciate it and it gives me valuable notes on how to improve it for the last re-recording I'm planning to do soon. Thanks as well for all the compliments! It's very flattering and I'm happy just that you were entertained and amused.

(in fact, I'm currently 60% finished re-doing Chapter 2, which requires some laborious changes - especially Gandalf's voice which I got around to doing much better during "Return of the King" in 2013.)
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Old 04-24-2014, 01:40 PM   #9
Pervinca Took
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Hi Phil! I think I did try to download the mp3 version on one of the chapters, but I'm a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to that sort of thing. Either my computer wouldn't do it or I was having too many problems with YouTube (it keeps playing really annoying, loud adverts again and again when I'm trying to listen to or watch something ... and I have to scroll down, find them and turn them off ... and later they start up again ... and I can't always even find them on the page and stop them). I don't know if it's just YouTube or also my computer, because it's not only in YouTube that annoying pop-ups/adverts/you-must-download-this-update-type-things are happening.

Absolutely, my pet peeves are completely subjective. I totally understand your wanting to retain songs from the film (was the film the first dramatisation you saw/heard?) I think my first "The Road Goes Ever On And On" was sung by John Le Mesurier in the BBC radio version, and there was an achingly beautiful bit in I think the next chapter when the same tune was heard on a violin while Ian Holm's Frodo recited the verse aloud as he, Sam and Pippin were walking (on the way to Crickhollow). (Holm's performance of Frodo is incredibly, heart-stoppingly powerful. If you think his Bilbo is good, you *have* to hear it!)

I think there might be clips of just the songs from the BBC radio version somewhere. I'll see if I can find this one. Only for interest, though. I completely understand your liking of the film version.

It was interesting that Holm's Bilbo was slightly rustic in his accent, especially since I was so used to his very RP-accented Frodo. I thought a little of "The Borrowers" when he was doing his Party Speech, because he played Pod Clock in a TV series of that book (I only saw a little of it, though).
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Old 07-13-2014, 07:02 PM   #10
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Similar to the Spanish Inquisition, I don't think anyone expected this...

...thread to be replied to. But I have a special reason. I've finally been able to update the first two FOTR chapters (A Long Expected Party, The Shadow of the Past) with a new re-recording, and many adjustments to the sound and music. I would love to have you listen to it, if you have the chance.

these months have had me working on quite a few, and now I'm not as shy about them as I would have normally been.
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Old 07-14-2014, 06:05 AM   #11
Pervinca Took
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I have a little more time, now Lord Phillock, so will listen to it soon. Have been horribly busy.
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