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"The Grace of the Valar" known as "The Breath of Life": Music by Howard Shore; Lyrics by Fran Walsh; translated into Sindarin by David Salo; Performed by Sheila Chandra.

Aragorn’s unconscious form floats downriver, as the soothing graze of the monochord hums beneath him, conjuring the music of the Elves. Four alto flutes ascend in their clement, airy tones, dreamily hailing the arrival of a soprano voice. Sheila Chandra performs “The Grace of the Valar,” the text of which seems at first to address Aragorn from Arwen’s point of view (“Shadow lies between us/as you came, so you shall leave from us”), though the opposite is soon shone to be true. This is Aragorn’s selfless plea to Arwen, that she should leave Middle-earth and carry the memory of his undying love with her. (“For you are not bound to the circles of this world/You are not bound to loss and to silence.”) Though painted in Elven hues, the melody belongs to Aragorn—its contours are informed by the Heroics of Aragorn theme. With a second phrase of the vocal melody, Aragorn drags himself atop Brego, and is led away from the riverbank.

Meanwhile in Rivendell, Shore continues to turn the musical tables. Arwen is told by Elrond that it is time for her to board the ship to Valinor, but the Elves’ signature vocal timbres are nowhere to be found. Alto flute, instead, solos over elegant string chords. And so, in this complicated love affair, Man is now momentarily represented by a female voice while Elf is represented by a solo instrumentalist.

In the film, Sheila Chandra’s second statement of the vocal line is replaced when the music jumps ahead to present the solo alto flute under Aragorn’s ride upon Brego.

The flute solo having already played, Arwen’s discussion with Elrond is left unscored, though Chandra’s first phrases repeat as Arwen’s vision of the future begins. This vision then concludes with an edited in reading of The Diminishment of the Elves (“Gilrean’s Song”).

The entire original composition is heard here, unaltered.

Text by Fran Walsh
Sindarin Translation by David Salo
First Heard: Disc Two | Track Eleven
Immen dúath caeda | Shadow lies between us
Sui tollech, tami gwannathach omen | as you came, so you shall leave from us
Lû ah alagos gwinnatha bain | Time and storm shall scatter all things
Boe naer gwannathach, annant uich ben-estel | Sorrowing you must go, and yet you are not without hope
An uich gwennen na ringyrn e-mbar han | For you are not bound to the circles of this world
Uich gwennen na ‘wanath a na dhín. | You are not bound to loss and to silence


Listening Example: Disc Two | Track Eleven | 0:00
The monochord’s history is as mysterious as its many uses. The instrument itself consists of a large wooden box over which a single string is held in place by pegs. An adjustable bridge allows the monochord to shift pitch while the performer either plucks or bows the string. Monochords have been used as scientific instruments (Pythagoras used its harmonic vibrations to study ratios), astronomy (Ptolemy), philosophy (Kepler’s “Harmony of the Spheres”), musical teachings (Guido of Arezzo’s “Guidonian Hand”), and for the curative properties of its vibrations. In Middle-earth, our mystical monochord is used for the Elves of Lothlórien, where it provides a low droning melancholy over which the melody flows. The monochord used for this recording had 50 strings strung across the bridge.


Listening Example: Disc Two| Track Eleven| 0:10
Chandra was born to a family of South Indian immigrants living in South London. Shore encountered one of her Indipop records and immediately noticed her unique voice. “I thought this was a great voice—more of a mezzo-soprano sound.” Sheila Chandra performs the “The Grace of the Valar” text, coupled with four alto flutes, dilruba and monochord as Aragorn’s unconscious form floats downriver.

© The Annotated Score (The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films)

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