News from Bree and other random discussions

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Impenitent
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Impenitent »

Bill found his way to Tom's house IIRC?
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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Now where was I? Nob, stables, ah! that was it. I've something that belongs to you. If you recollect Bill Ferny and the horsethieving: his pony as you bought, well, it's here. Come back all of itself, it did. But where it had been to you know better than me. It was as shaggy as an old dog and as lean as a clothes-rail, but it was alive. Nob's looked after it.'
'What! My Bill?' cried Sam. 'Well, I was born lucky, whatever my gaffer may say. There's another wish come true! Where is he?' Sam would not go to bed until he had visited Bill in his stable.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by RoseMorninStar »

Jude wrote: Thu Jun 29, 2023 12:48 am You know the walking song, "Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red"? The narrator says the words were by Bilbo, but the tune was as old as the hills. Presumably Tolkien had an actual folk song in mind - like Sam's Troll Song was based on The Song of the Fox.

Does anyone know what song "Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red" is based on?
I found a recording of Tolkien reading that poem but he doesn't utilize a melody, and reads it with his regular reading rhythm. Billy Boyd said that when he was asked to come up with a song ("Edge of Night") for the scene with Denethor, he played around with old, well known Celtic melodies.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Jude »

That's interesting. I didn't recognize the tune that made it into the movie, even though I'm fond of Celtic music.

So far I've found the first lines fit well with the tune of "Corn rigs are bonny" - but that's a Scottish song, and the poem is so deeply tied in with the English countryside, I don't think that would be the best choice.

There's an English Medieval carol that fits well as an introduction, so that may be a good choice if we can't pin down an actual melody that Tolkien had in mind.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by RoseMorninStar »

How well versed in music was Tolkien? Is it possible he didn't have a specific tune in mind?

I would imagine 'Edge of Night' is more somber than it was originally meant to be sung.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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RoseMorninStar wrote: Thu Jun 29, 2023 6:23 pm How well versed in music was Tolkien? Is it possible he didn't have a specific tune in mind?
I get the impression Tolkien enjoyed music and probably wished he could have been a musician, but seems not to have quite had what it takes and left it to Edith, who was a very good pianist by all accounts. I doubt he had a specific tune in mind when he wrote it.

Upon the Hearth was set to music in the 1950's by Donald Swann, along with a good number of other verses from LOTR. Tolkien highly approved of the style, which can best be described as "art music". You would have to say it is pretty dated by modern standards, but it's what I grew up with and now that I am an old retro-grouch, any other version makes me go :shock: :shock: :shock:

I can't find a copy on Youtube, but this guy does a pretty good approximation of the original performance sung by baritone William Elvin (yes that was his real name!) with Donald Swann on piano:

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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Jude »

Okay - as a piece of music I like the setting, but to me the rhythm doesn't suggest walking. Maybe it's the performance - if they slowed it down a bit, and toned down the sudden ritardandi, it might be more suitable. What was the original performance like?

When I come up with my own version, it might make you go :shock: :shock: :shock: I can live with that :P
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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Jude wrote: Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:00 pm What was the original performance like?
It's actually quite close; the performer has obviously listened to the original and is doing his best to imitate it. His voice is similar to Elvin's. Tempo and phrasing are also similar. Elvin was a professional, so the accuracy was better.
Jude wrote: Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:00 pm..but to me the rhythm doesn't suggest walking. Maybe it's the performance - if they slowed it down a bit..
I just checked the sheet music and it is written as cut time, Lively, with poco ritardando and a tempo at the relevant points. So composer intent rather than performer choice.
Jude wrote: Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:00 pmWhen I come up with my own version, it might make you go :shock: :shock: :shock: I can live with that :P
I look forward to it! :) :) :)
What style will it be? A nice passacaglia could work for a walking song. Or will it be a rap version? ;)
Last edited by scirocco on Fri Jun 30, 2023 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by scirocco »

Copy of the original here. Apologies for the quality; it's recorded off LP. Let it download fully before listening; OneDrive does weird things when it tries to stream audio files.
Noticeable on re-listening how much Elvin rolls his R's.

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Apv8T67IXwDUgfNCyFA ... A?e=VZGJ3F
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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scirocco wrote: Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:14 pm What style will it be? A nice passacaglia could work for a walking song. Or will it be a rap version? ;)
Well, not a rap version. Something more akin to traditional English music, that would have been recognizable to Purcell and Vaughan Williams.

I've actually conceived it as a trio for male voices, with Pippin and Sam joining in in the second part of each verse. Not strictly canonical, I know, but it could have happened. I've already got the second part of the verse, and I have a few ideas for the first part - I was just waiting to see if Tolkien had an existing tune in mind.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Alatar »

I like the version from the BBC LotR. Feels suitably rustic and the meter works well for walking.

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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by RoseMorninStar »

Oh my Jude, that sounds ambitious! I can't wait to hear what you come up with.

Scirocco, thanks for posting those. To someone such as myself who is musically untrained, they sound a lot like a 1950's theatrical production of 'Robin Hood' type music as compared to what I'd think of as an old, simple, time-worn melody.

Alatar, that's closer to what I would imagine.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by RoseMorninStar »

I imagined Pippin sang the song (for Denethor) far more somberly than he would perhaps traditionally sing it. This looks to be fairly traditional and a little more somber than some. "Cúl Tiubh na bPéarlaí " Google translate says that means 'Thick back of Pearls' I have no idea if that is correct or even what that means/is reference to.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by narya »

scirocco wrote: Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:14 pm What style will it be? A nice passacaglia could work for a walking song. Or will it be a rap version? ;)
Andante, I would imagine.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by scirocco »

narya wrote: Tue Jul 04, 2023 8:27 pmAndante, I would imagine.
It’s an interesting thought. The Donald Swann original is at about 110, which is at the very top end of what could be considered andante.

The sort of tempo you would associate with a marching song, which I’m not sure I agree with. The metric rhythm is iambic, unstressed on the first syllable, so I think of the hobbits setting out purposefully but not particularly in step and not on a forced march.

If Tolkien had wanted a marching song he would have written it in trochaic metre, and he didn’t.

So I agree, slower would be better. I’ll be interested to know what Jude decides on.
Last edited by scirocco on Wed Jul 05, 2023 3:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by scirocco »

Jude wrote: Thu Jun 29, 2023 12:48 am You know the walking song, "Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red"? The narrator says the words were by Bilbo, but the tune was as old as the hills. Presumably Tolkien had an actual folk song in mind - like Sam's Troll Song was based on The Song of the Fox.

Does anyone know what song "Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red" is based on?
I think Tolkien meant "the hills of Middle-Earth" rather than any real world hills. Just part of the way he creates realism in M-E. The only Tolkien poem that is immediately recognisable as a real-world melody is Sam's "Troll's Song" which is obviously folk song "The Fox". (JRRT even sings it that way in The Tolkien Collection).

I doubt he had a specific tune in mind for Upon the Hearth, although he might have wished he had. He was very encouraging of others who might set his works to music. He said in the famous Letter 131 to Milton Waldman:
JRRT wrote:I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
He was tickled pink by the whole Swann / Elvin song cycle and concert tour that went on in the 1960s. I'm sure he would be rapt if someone like yourself has the talent to set his works to music.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Jude »

Okay, let me bring up something that's always disturbed me, right from my first reading of LOTR. When Théoden meets Ghân-buri-Ghân, one of Ghân's terms is that they will "leave Wild Men alone in the woods and do not hunt them like beasts any more.

"Any more"??? Does that mean that the Rohirrim have actually hunted them like beasts?

This has always bothered me.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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Trust Tolkien to tell a whole history in two words.
If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life.

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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Indeed. Nobody does understated moral ambiguity like Tolkien.
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Re: News from Bree and other random discussions

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Today only.
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If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life.

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
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