Lord of the Rings - Music Analysis


Students analyze musical themes from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", first as a partnered homework assignment, then during a class discussion, and finally on their own as they passed by in the film.

Introduction: This auxiliary unit was mapped over the week before Spring Break and the week after, with an assignment that also had to be completed during the time away from campus. At the midway point in the semester, this was a good time to take a calculated leap into a more popular genre and really map the techniques developed in class up to that point onto an area that we had not yet discussed.

This activity allows students to practice skills of transcription in a relaxed non-quiz setting. It reinforced for them how much their aural skills have developed over the year, and their ability to match what they hear with what they see in a score. It also showed students that Music Theory was applicable to other genres or aspects of music outside of academia; and that they had developed skills to understand how music is put together in many contexts, in many arenas outside of the classroom.

Goals: Learning goals:

1. Reinforce skills in transcription/dictation, something practiced in section meetings and quizzes.
2. Put quick-reaction aural skills into practice
3. Pull music theory as a class subject into music that exists for the students outside of the classroom
4. Reinforce the importance of motivic relationships and development in compositions of all genres, not just Classical music.

Procedure – Before Class:

The most significant preparation the instructor did was to identify the motives that the students would then identify in the films. First, she made a list of the potential motives in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." She then watched the first disc of the film multiple times to make a spreadsheet of each time one of these themes appeared in the film and any salient details about its presentation. Once all of the iterations of the themes were outlined, she reduced the number of examples to be manageable for the students, being careful to find clear presentations and also notable developments that were pertinent to the kinds of vocabulary we had developed in class. She then sent the spreadsheet with cues to the Bok Center, who helped build a "pop-up video"-type overlay on the film to guide the students through the movie process.

She also prepared a lecture on Neo-Riemannian Theory, supervised the development of a worksheet by one of her TFs, compiled the transcriptions that the student groups made to circulate to them for the actual movie watching, and built a worksheet for them to fill out during the film.

Procedure – During Class:

In this activity, students are exposed to a type of musical analysis that is not covered in their textbooks and is typically taught in a more advanced class. To prepare her students, the instructor first gave a lecture on the method of music analysis - Neo-Riemannian Theory. During this lecture, the class also looked at excerpts that used some combination of Neo-Riemannian Theory and other forms of analysis to reinforce the idea that students have a choice regarding what methods they employ based on what they know and what the music offers them.

After the lecture, students completed a worksheet assignment on Neo-Riemannian Theory. Additionally, they partnered up and completed a transcription and analysis of a musical theme present in the Lord of the Rings movies for homework. These assignments were handed in and compiled into a motivic dictionary for each student to use during the film screening.
The students then viewed "The Fellowship of the Ring" as a class. During the film, students had to identify their themes (and the transcribed themes of their classmates) in real time while the movie was playing. They were each given a worksheet to document their findings.

worksheet.docx13 KB
project analysis.docx12 KB