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.