Live Music: CSO plays the Lord of the Rings Symphony

I think we all – me, my dad, Ann, and Sarah – wondered in our own way how well a Symphony derived from a soundtrack would succeed. After some digestion, I’ve concluded that it’s highly dependent on how you approach the listening. If you listen to it like a classical symphony it sounds, as Ann put it, like movie music. This may be one of those things you can’t define, but you know it when you hear it. I argued that it’s overt manipulativeness became too apparent without the distraction of the visuals. As I pondered it though, I concluded that manipulation of the listener is part of the essence of music (and maybe all art). So what made this different? It was woven in its conception into a moving image and a story, and without those things there is something palpably missing, and this absence of a movie is immediately perceived and processed into a label of the music.

At times I brought the story, which I know well, into my listening. This transformed the experience entirely, adding power but also an awareness that the story has been reassembled into a completely different format. Knowing the story becomes a mixed blessing, increasing the emotional response, but also creating a narrative expectation that the music doesn’t meet.

Finally, I tried my technique of emptying my mind and seeing what the music stirred up. This produced a dreamlike state in which the problems in my own life took on the overwhelming force and darkness that is ever present in this work, along with the near-despairing determination of those tiny rays of hope that oppose it.

Music that can be experienced in all these ways is surely not a failure. There were some elements that broke the spell for me. I wished that more of Tolkien’s lyrics were used. But as an experiment I’d have to say it shows promise, and may offer novel ways to listen to a symphony.

4 responses to “Live Music: CSO plays the Lord of the Rings Symphony”

  1. Do you think it would have been better had you not seen the movie or had been familiar with it? Like reading a book before seeing a film, it can create a barrier to being completely open…just wondering.

    I like your description of music being art-how it can manipulate a person. Actually I love it! When art or music or media disturbs me most it is usually the result of some minipulation and it takes awhile for me to realize that I’ve been had!

  2. Ann hasn’t seen the movie, but she still had the “movie music” reaction. I don’t think having seen the movie is a great advantage or disadvantage if you’re open new ways of experiencing the music.

    Art as manipulation reminds me of a Dashiell Hammett quote, something to the effect that good writing is simply writing that has the intended effect on the reader.

  3. I love the way you listen to live music–you are an active listener. It does honor to the performers. For so many people, music is ambiance. For you, it’s art. I think I approach nature the way you listen to music–it’s more than scenery to me. I’ll send you some pictures of Lake Superior rocks I took two days ago.

    Oh yes. I’m back from my Yooper trip. It was fun but Bay City is the place to party on a holiday weekend. Tonight the party is on the old ferry you probably rode to Beaver Island. Now it’s a Bay City tour & party boat.

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