©Will Spicher 2008
June 29, 2010
When Autumn came, he knew that part at least of his heart
would think more kindly of journeying, as it always did at that season. He had
indeed privately made up his mind to leave on his fiftieth birthday: Bilbo's on
hundred and twenty-eighth. It seemed somehow the proper day on which to set out
and follow him.
'Rivendell!' said Frodo. 'Very good: I will go east, and I will make for Rivendell. I will take Sam to visit the Elves; he will be delighted.' He spoke lightly; but his heart was moved suddenly with a desire to see the house of Elrond Halfelven, and breathe the air of that deep valley where many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace.
(Lord of the Rings, Book I, Ch III)
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there's a city
where, none can tell
when I find her
I will find myself
by the water
where wisdom dwells
and I'll be singing
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath
o galadhremmin ennorath
On December 8, 2004, I was on the platform with the worship team. I was playing the 414 when we entered a moment of spontaneous improvisation. A simple two-chord sequence gradually evolved into something that was, for me, intense and beautiful--to the point that I recall weeping as I played. I went home and recorded what I remembered (essentially the 12-string line on the first few measures of the song) and emailed it to other members on the team. But nobody remembered it; I don't think anybody could hear me but me. So I concluded that the sequence was mine to use as I wished, and, after four years of musing on it, I have finally developed it into a song.
This experience, which I will call prophetic musicianship (meaning something higher and deeper than improvisation), is one I have known a handful of times (too few and far between). I found a passage in the book, Lord of the Rings (which I abbreviate "LOTR"), that gave some expression to what I had felt. The passage describes Frodo's sensations as he listens to the music of the elves of Rivendell.
Frodo was left to himself for a while, for Sam had fallen asleep. He was alone and felt rather forlorn, although all about him the folk of Rivendell were gathered. But those near him were silent, intent upon the music of the voices and the instruments, and they gave no heed to anything else. Frodo began to listen. At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. Then the enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended; it became part of the throbbing air about him, and it drenched and drowned him. Swiftly he sank under its shining weight into a deep realm of sleep. (LOTR, Book II, Ch I)
Throughout September I was particularly inspired on the 555 with the capo on the 5th fret (its configuration for the song's core). Several ideas came to me and became the basis for the rest of the song, which measures seven and a half minutes with only 35 seconds of direct lyrics (not counting the last verses in Sindarin which serve as a background element). I recall feeling that I had so much to say in this song that words would fail me, and I would communicate my thoughts better through my fingers.
On New Year's Day, 2002, I went to the theater to see Fellowship of the Ring with a couple friends and no idea what I was in for. They had read the book, Lord of the Rings, years before, but I never had and did not really know what it was about. In the understatement that goes with brevity, I will say that I was blown away, and perhaps what impressed me most was J.R.R. Tolkien's high conception of elves--especially in the scenes at Rivendell. I promptly read the thousand-page book and discovered why it is the second best-seller of all time (second to the one I usually sing about). Now, seven years later, I have read Lord of the Rings eight times and even delved into Tolkien's other writings about Middle Earth, such as The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and a couple volumes from the scholarly (and rather difficult) History of Middle Earth series.
What makes LOTR so attractive? For me there are two primary ingredients, though many more could be listed: The first is Tolkien's masterful art in presenting the illusion of a deep historical background behind the book (the history is actually there in all the other literature).
The second is a narrative that is, as Tolkien strove to make it, "applicable" to one's own life (as distinguished from allegory). In the book, Waking The Dead, which my pastor recommended I read, author John Eldredge makes the point that we need myth as a means to gain proper perspective for our lives. Myths, like LOTR, remind us that we are part of a bigger picture than we can see, that our often mundane lives really do have meaning within it, and that we hold much greater potential than we realize. It is within this spirit that I have projected my experience onto and drawn applicability from the mythic city of Rivendell, of which Sam said,
'Well, Mr. Frodo, we've been far and seen a deal, and yet I don't think we've found a better place than this. There's something of the Shire and the Golden Wood and Gondor and kings' houses and inns and mountains all mixed.' (LOTR, Book IV, Ch IIV)
The 555 (12-string) serves as the basic guiding element for the song and is returned to a few times. That is were the inspiration occurred. Next I tried numerous instruments until the T5 seemed to move the piece forward. After that it was time to tackle the bass--filing fingernails, courting blisters, and growing new calluses before the part was finished, though it was quite ambitious being the first song to draw on both picking techniques (fingertips and a pick). After trading the bass and T5, I moved on to program the drums and the organ, at which point moving the song forward became very laborious and I nearly gave up before returning to the T5 to create my current reigning magnum opus (the song has 84 hours in it--nearly double most others). But I am glad I stuck with it, and, of course, I hope you are too. As before, both tracking and mixing were done in Sonar 7.
Over the last year and a half, small shortcomings in the song have increasingly eaten at my patience to the point that it was screaming for a serious revisit. But I put it off fearing the hurdles I would face trying to reopen my most complex project on a new computer running a new operating system with a new version of Sonar, recalling my fatigue from spending 88 hours on it. But The Muse insisted the song was not done. After all, recall the WillSongs++ criteria: If I can't enjoy listening to it, it is not done. And, though it became my favorite song, I couldn't enjoy listening anymore. Part of it was a structural mistake that did not allow the final verses to develop, so I inserted eleven seconds and reached for the 414. But there were plenty of others that simply meant I need to completely re-track the T5 (an overzealous bend in the first chorus; two appallingly inadequate bends in the outro; a general lack of expressiveness arising from a mechanical get-it-done approach; etc...). No small task (I drove a finger to bleed practicing for tracking).
Adding a video of the tracking process worked well for Gamin With The Boys, so I decided to try it again. But this time I got mildly serious and enlisted (and paid for) the help of Mike Kerby, who took care of all things video: camera placement, lighting, colors. I am useless for such things! It's a good thing he didn't ask me to wear makeup; I probably would have gone along with it. We stood one camera on a stand (stage left) while Mike wielded the other camera to get lots of interesting angles. The 2nd camera is necessary to enable cutting between takes without an awkward shift in position. A nice innovation was turning my medusa lamp into an effect similar to the "Galadriel Light" used in the movie. I have never seen the T5 look so good on camera! The only downside was its (indispensible) partner. Funny, I was beginning to think of selling the T5 just because I thought I had too much money wrapped up in it. Then this song came along! After a year and a half of checking out other guitars, nothing creates the nuanced expressions needed.
Still, I very much like the resulting video. It serves well the purpose I gave Mike: give the WillSongs Listeners a candid view of the recording experience.
For those sufficiently interested and motivated, Mix D is still available for comparison:
Let me know if you agree that an improvement was made.
Thanks again for listening,
Over the last couple years (and my last couple of readings), I made a small ink dot next to each passage that stood out to me. But I dreaded the labor that would be required if I finally had to copy them down ("the cost of professional typing by the ten-fingered was beyond my means"), but the labor was far less than I feared: I simply Googled a few words from each phrase and copy-pasted the results. I would never have dreamed such a thing was possible ten years ago--before I learned that Google is a verb. The quotations are in order of appearance in the book. For brevity's sake, I have abbreviated the location references in the format Book.Chapter (LOTR exists in three volumes each containing two books--i.e., six books). So many versions of LOTR exist that page numbers convey almost no meaning.
Frodo began to feel restless, and the old paths seemed too well-trodden. He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond their edges: maps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its borders. He took to wandering further afield and more often by himself; and Merry and his other friends watched him anxiously. (1.2)
[Gandalf:] 'Always after a
defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.'
'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo.
'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. (1.2)
[Frodo:] 'O Gandalf, best of
friends, what am I to do? For now I am really afraid. What am I to do? What a
pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!'
'Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.'
'I am sorry,' said Frodo. 'But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.'
'You have not seen him,' Gandalf broke in.
'No, and I don't want to,' said Frodo. I can't understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.'
'Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.' (1.2)
[Frodo:] 'I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.' (1.2)
When Autumn came, he knew that
part at least of his heart would think more kindly of journeying, as it always
did at that season. He had indeed privately made up his mind to leave on his
fiftieth birthday: Bilbo's on hundred and twenty-eighth. It seemed somehow the
proper day on which to set out and follow him.
'Rivendell!' said Frodo. 'Very good: I will go east, and I will make for Rivendell. I will take Sam to visit the Elves; he will be delighted.' He spoke lightly; but his heart was moved suddenly with a desire to see the house of Elrond Halfelven, and breathe the air of that deep valley where many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace. (1.3)
'And it is also said,'
answered Frodo: 'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and
'Is it indeed?' laughed Gildor. 'Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.' (1.3)
Frodo looked at Sam rather
startled, half expecting to see some outward sign of the odd change that seemed
to have come over him. It did not sound like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee
that he thought he knew. But it looked like the old Sam Gamgee sitting there,
except that his face was unusually thoughtful.
'Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now – now that your wish to see them has come true already?' he asked.
'Yes, sir. I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.' (1.5)
All that is gold does not
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. (1.10)
'But I must admit,' [Strider] added with a queer laugh, 'that I hoped you would take to me for my own sake. A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for friendship. But there, I believe my looks are against me.' (1.10)
'Have you often been to Rivendell?' said Frodo. 'I have,' said Strider. 'I dwelt there once, and still I return when I may. There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.' (1.12)
Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea [i.e., Rivendell]. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness. (2.1)
Frodo was left to himself for a while, for Sam had fallen asleep. He was alone and felt rather forlorn, although all about him the folk of Rivendell were gathered. But those near him were silent, intent upon the music of the voices and the instruments, and they gave no heed to anything else. Frodo began to listen. At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. Then the enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended; it became part of the throbbing air about him, and it drenched and drowned him. Swiftly he sank under its shining weight into a deep realm of sleep. (2.1)
'Despair, or folly?' said Gandalf. 'It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.' (2.2)
'Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him. Yet so little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond Lothlórien, unless maybe in Rivendell, that we dare not by our own trust endanger our land. We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp.' (2.6)
'The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.' (2.6)
The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain. (2.6)
'Mithrandir, Mithrandir' sang the Elves, 'O Pilgrim Grey!' For so they loved to call him. But if Legolas was with the Company, he would not interpret the songs for them, saying that he had not the skill, and that for him the grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song. (2.7)
'Nay!' said Legolas. 'Alas for us all! And for all that walk the world in these after-days. For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream. But I count you blessed, Gimli son of Gloin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.' (2.8)
"The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others," said Aragorn. "There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark." (3.2)
'But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way; and sometimes they are withered untimely.' (3.4)
'I owe much to Éomer,' said
Théoden. 'Faithful heart may have froward tongue.'
'Say also,' said Gandalf, 'that to crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face.' (3.6)
'One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.' (3.9)
'It has long been said, oft evil will shall evil mar.' (3.11)
[FRODO:] 'You would not ask me
to break faith with him [Gollum]?'
'No,' said Faramir, 'But my heart would. For it seems less evil to counsel another man to break troth than to do so oneself, especially if one sees a friend bound unwitting to his own harm. But no--if he will go with you, you must now endure him.' (4.6)
'where there's life there's hope.' (4.7)
[ARAGORN:] "I do not chose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell." (5.2)
'A time may come soon,' said [Aragorn], 'when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.' (5.2)
"Work of the Enemy!" said Gandalf. "Such deeds he loves: friend at war with friend; loyalty divided in confusion of hearts." (5.7)
[ARAGORN] "And yet, Éomer, I say to you that [Éowyn] loves you more truly than me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan." (5.8)
'Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.' (5.9)
In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold [Sam] firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. (6.1)
'Look here, Sam dear lad,' said Frodo: 'I am tired, weary, I haven't a hope left. But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain, as long as I can move.' (6.2)
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. (6.2)
'So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,' thought Sam: 'to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job then I must do it...' But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it turned to a new strength. Sam's plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor endless barren miles could subdue. (6.3)
All this last day Frodo had not spoken, but had walked half-bowed, often stumbling, as if his eyes no longer saw the way before his feet. Sam guessed that among all their pains he bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind. Anxiously Sam had noted how his master's left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep to his breast, clutching, and then slowly, as the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn. Now as the blackness of night returned Frodo sat, his head between his knees, his arms hanging wearily to the ground where his hands lay feebly twitching. Sam watched him, till night covered them both and hid them from one another. (6.3)
[SAM:] 'Do you remember that
bit of rabbit, Mr. Frodo? And our place under the warm bank in Captain Faramir's
country, the day I saw an oliphaunt?"
'No, I am afraid not, Sam,' said Frodo. 'At least I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.' (6.3)
Sam’s hand wavered. His mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil. It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollum’s shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again. (6.3)
'It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden,' answered Éowyn. 'And those who have not swords can still die upon them. Would you have the folk of Gondor gather you herbs only, when the Dark Lord gathers armies? And it is not always good to be healed in body. Nor is it always evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain.' (6.5)
[SAM:] 'Well, Mr. Frodo, we've been far and seen a deal, and yet I don't think we've found a better place than [Rivendell]. There's something of the Shire and the Golden Wood and Gondor and kings' houses and inns and mountains all mixed.' (6.6)
"No, Sam!" said Frodo, "Do not kill [Saruman] even now. For he has not hurt me, And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it." (6.8)
[FRODO:] 'I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.' (6.9)
[Sam] drew a deep breath. 'Well, I’m back,' he said. (the very last line)
updated 24-Jan-2009: Mix D. See notes for details.
updated 28-Jun-2010: Mix E.