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Discussing: Chanting or Singing

Chanting or Singing

I've been wondering whether the Lay of Luthien is always chanted, as Aragorn did the short version in "A Knife In The Dark" in FOTR, or if it's ever sung. And if anyone knows or can extrapolate if "Lays" are sung or chanted in Gondor... RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Whether or not it's actually sung, I'm not entirely certain. I've always imagined it as being sung. And I know that Tolkien Ensemble did a wonderful rendition of it (very very purdy!), so I know I'm not the only one. Don't know if that helps or not, but just thought I'd give you my two cents. ^_^ Bado na siidh. Berz.

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Raksha-- I checked the OED on-line for "lay" (and for "lai," the French source of the word) and "chant." The entry for lay is below; the term is associated with poetry intended to be sung. "Chant" can mean to recite, but an earlier meaning (back from the days of Chaucer) was simply to sing. One of the alternative modern meanings of chant is to sing without much variation in pitch (sort of a cross between singing and reciting). Note that the OED definition states that lays were originally narrative poems sung by minstrels. It seems safe to assume that JRRT the medievalist would be using the term in this specific sense. (At the end of LOTR, the minstrel of Gondor stands up and--I believe--sings the story of Frodo and the Ring of Doom.) Based on this, I would guess the lays were sung, but possibly in a monotonous fashion (without much variation in pitch). If you listen to Ben Bagby's recreation of how he believes "Beowulf" was recited/sung, he uses a very simple accompaniment (on a small harp) and sings the text of the poem to a small set of simple, repeated musical phrases. Hope this is helpful-- Branwyn 1. A short lyric or narrative poem intended to be sung. Originally applied spec. to the poems, usually dealing with matter of history or romantic adventure, which were sung by minstrels. From the 16th to the 18th c. the word was a mere poetical synonym for ‘song’. This use still continues, but lay is now often employed (partly after G. lied, with which it is often erroneously supposed to be etymologically connected) as the appropriate term for a popular historical ballad such as those on which the Homeric poems are by some believed to be founded.

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

I've been wondering whether the Lay of Luthien is always chanted, as Aragorn did the short version in "A Knife In The Dark" in FOTR, or if it's ever sung. Aragorn himself was singing the Lay of Lúthien when he first met Arwen: For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Lúthien which tells of the meeting of Lúthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Lúthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars. The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Here Follows a Part of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen So, if you take Aragorn as an example of the "proper" use of the Lay, then yes, it is sung at times, at least by Elves/Peredhel and their fostered son. - Barbara

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Wow! Lots of great information. Thanx, Berzerker, Branwyn and Elena! Singing it is, at least in the scene that I'm working on... RAKSHA, the musically challenged Demon

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Based on this, I would guess the lays were sung, but possibly in a monotonous fashion (without much variation in pitch). This actually has a name... a couple, in fact. "Sile Rappresentativo" is the older term and "Recitative" is a slightly newer one, although not by too many years. They were terms given to a new style of singing that emphasized speech patterns and a narrative rather than older Madrigal styles where words ran together, were held for long periods of time, or were repeated by different parts. Okay, I've gotten WAY too into my Music History class. This was probably more or less useless to you. ^_^; Bado na siidh. Berz.

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Berz-- Now my head hurts as I imagine "Beowulf" sung as an 18th century recitative! Hrothgar would be one of those really low basses; of course, Beowulf would be a tenor. Unferth sings in an incredibly annoying falsetto tenor.... Branwyn

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Out of curiosity, why wouldn't Beowulf be a baritone? Can it be said accurately that the timbre or tone of a singer's voice can grow stronger as he/she sings? I don't know all the connotations of either "timbre" or "tone" in terms of a singer's voice while he sings. If it would be inaccurate to say that the timbre of a person's voice grows stronger (not necessarily because he/she is singing, other reasons in the scene I'm writing), then what voice-related noun would be the right word? RAKSHA, who's lucky if she can carry a tune from start to finish...

 

 

Re: Chanting or Singing

Raksha-- It is an old cliche in opera (and in musical plays) that the young hero (Siegfried, Sigemund, Parsifal, Marius, etc.) is always a tenor. I have no idea why except that perhaps a higher voice sounds more youthful. So, there is really no reason Beowulf couldn't be a baritone or bass--I was just doing the stereotypical casting. ;-) Regarding the second question, I will have to defer to someone out there who is a singer. Branwyn

 

 

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