Monday, September 26, 2011

Introducing a Wagnerian journey through The Lord of the Rings

The Fellowship of the Ring, Part One
I spent all of this last summer becoming acquainted with Wagner’s Ring cycle, for no reason other than to become acquainted with it and enjoy watching them that much more. Little did I know that those dozens of hours of listening would pay off in another way as well.
On or around September 5th, I was visiting some relatives in Maryland, and I had the thought of making a music video of The Lord of the Rings using music from Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). I very quickly began conceiving how I could create a whole series, and which piece of The Ring I could use for which scene of The Lord of the Rings.
Even though I was away from home and had no access to my computer, I began jotting down on my phone the locations and durations of the orchestral segments in The Ring. I began listening to the music with the project in mind, brainstorming what could go where. Some combinations were obvious and were decided upon even at this early stage. These include using the theft of the ring music for the scene where Sauron gets the ring cut from his hand, the Siegfried forest music for the shire, and the “descent into nibelheim” music for the scene where we descend into Isengard and see orcs forging weapons.
So, quite some time was spent just writing down what all the orchestral pieces in the cycle were, and thinking about where they could be used in The Lord of the Rings. I wrote down anything that came to mind as an orchestral segment, which included everything in the opera that was over twenty seconds long or so.
Then, after arriving back in Seattle on September 8th, and after some more jotting and brainstorming work, I began editing in Final Cut Pro. I actually chose to use Final Cut Pro over iMovie solely for the audio cross dissolve feature, which allows me to transition from one piece of music to another as smoothly as possible. Once I became re-familiarized with the program, I was glad I had chosen it for other reasons as well.
Anyways, so I put down the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring in my timeline, and dragged in the opening prelude to Das Rheingold, and got to work. Basically the process was pretty simple throughout the project. I had the whole film right there, dragged in whatever piece of music I wanted to use, and sculpted down the footage around it. Then I would drag in the next piece of music, make sure there’s a smooth transition between it and the last one, and continue to cut footage around that piece accordingly. Of course it was almost never as simple as this sounds in reality, but overall that’s what was happening.
A lot of the choices I made in terms of which piece goes to which scene were made in advance, but some combinations came up as I went along. The video and audio would be playing together, and suddenly I’d be seeing a scene along with this music that I hadn’t planned to use in that place, but it happens to fit really well, so I’d go with it and edit that scene around the music.
The basic editing for each of the six videos took about five to eight hours approximately. Then there’d be hours of fine tuning work, making sure audio and visual transitions are smooth, and sometimes making more major changes if I didn’t like something.
I mostly avoided having any voices from the music be in the video, though there are a few places where a hint of a voice can be heard, because it trailed into the beginning of the segment of music I wanted to use. This only happens two or three times throughout the whole series.
Also, there are a few notable exceptions to the rule, which I chose to do. When Gandalf is fighting the Balrog, I had to use the music of Siegfried fighting the dragon, and it includes the dragon yelling during the fight. In my video it appears as though the Balrog is the one yelling. Also, in the first part of The Return of the King, we hear the eight voice chorus of the Valkyries at one point when Faramir and his troops are running from Osgiliath. And finally, when Frodo and Gollum are fighting over the ring, and falling over the edge of the cliff into the cracks of doom, Hagen's voice is heard shouting "Keep away from the Ring!" (in German). I didn't really have a choice here, because I needed to use all the music before and after it, and I allowed it to stay because it does really fit in the context.
And at the very end, after the ring is destroyed and the Hobbits are back in the shire, I use the beautiful song from the end of Siegfried, “Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich,” and we hear a voice really sing for the first time.
I thought this would be a really fun project to do, because the music of Wagner’s Ring Cycle is in a way the “original” score to the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s story is quite similar to Wagner’s, and as can be seen in the videos, the music summons up the same mood as the images. I was honestly surprised that no one else had done this yet.
Anyways, here again are the links to the six parts! Total running time is about 1 hour 38 minutes, making it by far the longest fan music video ever made.


  1. What a shame! Your videos are wonderful, I've listened to them each at least 20 times over the last few days since I've found them! I hope you find a way to repost them or share them again somehow!

    1. The first five parts will be available again on dailymotion tonight!

  2. If you do find a way to repost, I would love to know. Have you tried to post them to the other services like vimeo?

    1. I'm uploading the first five parts to dailymotion, and updating the links in this blog post as I go along. They will all be up before I go to sleep tonight!