With a limb-weary, incomplete utterance of the Shire theme, Gollum leads Frodo and Sam out of Emyn Muil and into the Dead Marshes. The Dead Marshes are a cryptic, haunted land, yet, as Gollum knows, they also provide a usefully covert path to Mordor. B♭ minor and F♯ minor, the opening harmonies of Gollum’s Pity theme, swell and ebb as the wretch leads the hobbits forward. But a veil of gauzy tones descends as the trio enters the bog, knots of aleatoric strings, timpani and themetallic wails of a bowed tam-tam tangling the sickening air.
A weightier discomfort binds Frodo and Gollum, however. Gollum knows the painful allure of the Ring, and Frodo sees in Gollum his own potential future. Gollum approaches Frodo, half in sympathy, half in helpless dedication to his precious. Cor anglais taunts the two with the opening pitches of the History of the Ring theme, but the melody is never completed. Instead, it’s intercepted and redirected by the first four pitches of Gollum’s Pity theme, which shuffles in to artificially complete the line.
Apparitional portamentos, guide the composition down a more ghoulish road. Lyric soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, coupled with violins, slowly bends pitches upward as the bodies of dead Men, Elves and Orcs that litter the swamp water peer back at the living with blank faces. The veil of aleatoric strings and timpani again lowers and Frodo is bewitched. He falls into the murky waters where he’s wrapped in a smear of Schönbergesque Sprechstimme voices, half singing, half speaking the text “The Dead Marshes.”
With a blast of horns, Gollum grabs Frodo and pulls him from the water. Gollum, perhaps even showing some concern for his master, offers a bit of advice: “Don’t follow the lights.” Low strings uncoil an F-major arpeggio figure based on The Pity of Gollum—perhaps a heroic moment? But they fade immediately back to an F-minor arpeggio. It is transient heroism, if any.
Frodo rests for the night, gingerly tracing his finger around the Ring’s circumference. Again the first pitches of the History of the Ring theme sound in the strings, overlapping in octaves. Gollum pantomimes Frodo’s behavior a few feet away, fantasizing about his former possession, and painting a bleak portrait of the hobbit’s future.
IN THE MAKING:
Portions of this composition are dissolved in the film, most notably Frodo’s underwater encounter with the ghouls of Dagorlad, Gollum’s speedy rescue maneuver and Frodo’s caressing of the Ring. The music plays here on CD as Shore originally wrote it.
THE DEAD MARSHES
Words by Philippa Boyens
Sindarin Translation by David Salo
First Heard: Disc One | Track Eleven
I ngyrth sí ú-lostar | The Dead do not sleep here
ú-chiriar îdh | They have found no rest
Hiriar harch ring a nîd | Only a cold, dank grave
Tano i óner | To mark what they gave,
Io na ndagor veleg | To a great battle – long ago;
Na dûr ben-galu, na naeth arvethed | To a fruitless victory – to endless woe.
Mín galad a chuil ban. | One light for each life.
Mín sarch a ngurth ban. | One grave for every death.
Listening Example: Disc One | Track Eleven| 1:54
“Isabel is a lyric soprano. A friend of mine gave me a CD of her singing, and i asked her about performing very early on,” Howard Shore recalls. “I knew that if i wanted to write anything in her range she would be wonderful. She has a beautiful voice that i felt was appropriate for ‘Evenstar.’”
© The Annotated Score (The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films)
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