Wednesday, February 1, 2017

One Does Not Simply Walk into Hobbiton: An Analysis of "Concerning Hobbits" in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


     Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is filled with action and adventure. However, this film wouldn't have made such an impression if not for Howard Shore’s original score, most notably, Concerning Hobbits
  The film begins after an eerie and gruesome introduction to the history behind the ring on which this trilogy is based. However, this introduction does not last long as the film abruptly fast forwards 60 years to present day Hobbiton. Such a sudden transition might be startling without the aid of Concerning Hobbits, one of the most important and recognizable pieces of the trilogy. Concerning Hobbits is an upbeat piece filled with the light notes of woodwind and string instruments; instruments that one might associate with the safety and peacefulness of Shire life. Through the use of logos, ethos, and pathos, an analysis of how this piece first appears in provides further insight as to why Concerning Hobbits is one of the most influential scores in this trilogy.
  The song, Concerning Hobbits, marks Gandalf’s arrival in Hobbiton to celebrate Bilbo Baggin’s 111th birthday. As Gandalf travels throughout Hobbiton, he interacts with Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo. 

      With this information, I will now analyze Shore’s sound track. Shore’s score begins with the playful yet ominous staccato notes of the cello and bassoon, creating a suspenseful and mysterious mood, causing the audience to question the nature of Frodo and Gandalf’s encounter. As Frodo and Gandalf burst into laughter and a warm embrace, the soundtrack’s use of the penny whistle further suggests that Gandalf and Frodo have a friendly history. Throughout the ‘tour’ of Hobbiton, the music is light and legato, suggesting that Hobbiton is a peaceful place. However, staccato under tones create a feeling of suspense, further implementing the emotional appeals of pathos. 
      This feeling of suspense is heightened as the score pauses when Frodo enquires if Bilbo is up to something. The dramatic change in sound foreshadows the dark themes of the film. However, this foreboding doesn't last long as Frodo changes the subject, and the staccato plunking of the violin and short breaths of the flute resume, providing comic relief as it mocks a grumpy old Hobbit’s disapproval of Gandalf, the “disturber of the peace’s”, presence. The song concludes as Gandalf arrives at Bilbo’s house. Here, the melody with which the piece began is resurrected as Frodo yells, "Gandalf – I'm glad you're back.”, completing the ‘tour’ of Hobbiton.
  The light, melodic notes of the penny whistle appear throughout the trilogy as ‘Frodo’s theme’. The idea that a piece of music aids in characterization is proposed in the text, Understanding Movies, revealing that music can lead to further characterization. ‘Frodo’s theme’ is a light and carefree melody with underlying tones of sadness, foreshadowing the events of Frodo’s journey. By the end of the trilogy, this theme takes on a new meaning as Frodo recognizes that he can no longer lead the characteristic predictable life of a Hobbit.  
  Although Concerning Hobbits does not have lyrics, it does contain logos in a sense that the original score fits precisely with each scene. The soundtrack enhances each seemingly minor act, allowing the audience to uncover new ideas in each scene. As mentioned earlier, the dramatic pause in the music after Frodo questions what Bilbo is up to, prompts the audience to make the connection that a secret will be revealed later in the film. Although this piece doesn't contain lyrics, the potential presence of lyrics might compete with the character’s dialog, detracting from the importance of this scene as it characterizes Frodo and Hobbiton.

  Howard Shore, the composer of the original score, Concerning Hobbits, adds a level of credibility and ethos to this work.  Although Shore was known within the film industry for his work on Silence of the Lambs and M. Butterfly, Shore’s major success came from his creation of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack for which he won several Oscars and Grammys. The specific creation of the score, Concerning Hobbits, for this film, grants the score further credibility as the scene need not conform to an existing track. This score allows for the incorporation of drama and humor while the plot continues to develop. 
  I believe that Concerning Hobbits deserves a rating of 4.5 nachos. Although this song is wonderfully composed, fitting with each scene, I believe that its lack of certain logos appeals, such as lyrics, may lower the tracks overall influence on the, Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Works Cited: 
      Altman, Rick, ed., Understanding Movies: Sound Theory/ Practice (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). A collection of scholarly essays. 

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