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Brittle, non-vibrato strings scrape through thickly clotted harmonies. Upon the top level of Cirith Ungol, Frodo is held captive while two repulsive Orcs, Shagrat and Gorbag, feud over his mithril vest, of which he’s been stripped. Gorbag tosses Shagrat from his perch, igniting a furious scuffle among the Orc crowds. At the tower’s front opening Samwise Gamgee begins his surreptitious ascent. Evil Times sounds prominently, for what other than the evilest of times could bring a hobbit to Cirith Ungol? Evil Times is struck into an impellent compound-meter and Sam takes to the stairs. Nothing will stop Sam from reaching his friend. He uses Sting to disable a trio of Orcs that block his path, and the Shire theme turns down a path it has not before seen. In a heroic dash of brass and strings the familiar stepwise line is led to unabashed heroism—Samwise the Brave, indeed.

Sam climbs higher, but Shagrat has reached Frodo too soon. The Orc raises his sword, angular patterns in low brass and piano clattering metallically. But trilling strings pierce the texture—Sam has arrived, and has thrust Sting through Shagrat’s chest. Frodo and Sam are reunited. But this is no cheery reunion. Dark string harmonies moan as Sam loosens Frodo’s bonds. They are still on the road to unknown horrors.

Contrabasses drop to the lowest possible pitch. Sam stands and reveals that he now carries the One Ring in his pocket. Frodo looks both fearful and greedily envious. Sam is stunned and stands motionless. But it is Frodo’s depraved behavior that has immobilized him, not a lust for the Ring. He hands it back, the two clothe themselves with Orkish armor and return to the road. Languishing through the strings, The Journey There sounds yet again, arching higher and higher until, with a sallow knock, the orchestra drops to a chromatic cluster. The fires of Mordor are now before the two hobbits, and Sauron’s great eye hungrily scans the barren landscape for his treasure.

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

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