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Gandalf and Aragorn confer during the night, eyes eastward towards the glowering threat that will soon be upon them. Low string writing surrounds the pair, ceaselessly plies fields of minor harmonies in their uncertainty. But out of the chill comes an unexpected moment of warmth as violas and celli embrace an accordant line in D major. Gandalf reminds Aragorn that for all his cunning, Sauron still does not know that Frodo carries the Ring. Here Shore presents a new theme for the One Ring—the Fate of the Ring—a theme that will be heard in The Two Towers in only this incomplete statement. This fourth Ring theme is melodically similar to both the History of the Ring and the Evil of the Ring, though it is cast in a rich major mode, eschewing the respective minor and Eastern-tinged harmonies of the others. What’s more, The Fate of the Ring begins with a direct quote of the Evil Times theme, but again, shifted into a major key. Though the new melody dissolves before revealing its significance, it seems, in its fleeting moment, to answer the Ring’s negativity with a plenary, all-encompassing beauty. But these answers are not yet to be articulated and, with an inlaid statement of the Shire theme’s three opening pitches, the comfort abates, and we join Sam and Frodo just as they arrive at the Black Gate.

Here in the depraved heart of Sauron’s empire, the music of Mordor abounds. Cinders of the Evil of the Ring theme pollute the air, passing from muted trumpets and rhaita on to low French horns, bassoon and contrabassoon. Martial field drumming indurates the music under an exacting setting of the Mordor Skip Beat—Sauron is amassing his army.

The Gate opens to admit a troop of armored Easterlings, and Frodo sees his opportunity. He gathers himself to rush the Gate as violins cluster, dividing the section 12 ways. Abruptly, Frodo is stopped by Gollum, weeping and pleading, “Don’t take it to him.” High strings and oboe solicit the proceedings with an entreating line that subtly segues into the History of the Ring in its closing moments. In an astute turn, Shore’s score quietly reveals Gollum’s self-satisfying motives before he offers to lead the hobbits on another more secret path to Mordor.


Listening Example: Disc One | Track Six| 2:34
A long time fan of Ornette Coleman, Shore discovered the rhaita on the innovative saxophonist’s 1973 album, Dancing in Your Head. The rhaita, an African double reed instrument not unlike the oboe, represents the cultures of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. It is especially associated with the Evil of the Ring theme, which it calls out like a twisted war horn.

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

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