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Strings breathe acrid dust of the Army of the Dead theme while bass drum beats a near-subliminal pulse. Low woodwinds join the primarily dyadic harmonies as gongs clang away in complex rhythmic prods. Aragorn and his companions now walk the Paths of the Dead.

The air grows denser, the mist twirling into finger-like appendages as low strings cast aleatoric patterns. Aragorn comes to a great subterranean tower and contrabassoon, celli and basses present a chalk-dry reading of the Realm of Gondor’s opening pitches. Now accepting his heritage, will Aragorn actually succeed in leading this rabble? At the tower’s gate there reappears the glowing apparition Aragorn envisioned at Dunharrow. The ghostly whine of bowed cymbals and tam-tam above string harmonics introduces the King of the Dead. Aragorn calls for the King’s allegiance, but he is mocked spitefully. Under a series of piquant bi-tonal chords an entire city suddenly fades to the realm of the visible—a city peopled by the Army of the Dead.

The orchestra swells into multiple planes of dissonant clusters seeping across all ranges and instruments, lines gliding to and fro transparently over one another. The Army surrounds the Fellowship and its King draws his blade. He swings at Aragorn, but his blow is parried by Andúril. He is shocked. “That line was broken,” he rasps. Aragorn catches him by the throat as brass conjures a forceful fanfare of pyramiding dissonances. “It has been remade!”

The Heir of Isildur casts the King of the Dead aside. As the solders’ empty sockets look on, he makes his case. The percussion section’s bowed metal squeals in pained friction. Aragorn promises the Army freedom should they serve him. The metallic clanks build, Tibetan gongs joining, as aleatoric low brass chews at the texture.

The Army of the Dead fades from sight and the city is overrun by a torrent of human skulls. The Fellowship races to escape, emerging on Dwimorberg’s opposite side. There Aragorn sees Elrond’s words born out—a fleet of ships belonging to the Corsairs of Umbar sail towards Minas Tirith before his eyes. A stretched version of Evil Times regards the sight. Aragorn falls to his knees. But something pulls at the back of his mind. Strings again rise in dyadic writing. The King of the Dead emerges through the wall of the mountain. “We fight.” And, with a unison B natural, we segue to the mounting battle that calls them.

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

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