The Music of Middle-Earth

“But those near him were silent, intent upon the music of the voices and the instruments, and they gave no heed to anything else.”

My students and I would like to share a special classroom experience we are having this week, with all of the readers of Teaching Tolkien.  We have been fortunate enough to acquire the services of percussive storyteller, Cory Hills (, who is conducting creative writing workshops with my students this week.  Hills has created a program called The Percussive Art of Storytelling, in which he sets both folk tales and original stories to percussion music.  His award-winning CD The Lost Bicycle features stories such as The Turnip and Tiki Tiki Tembo, which he is performing this week at several local schools in our area.

Hills’ workshops incorporate both writing and musical performance, as students are encouraged to create original stories while exploring percussion instruments.  Wanting to capitalize on my students’ recent enthusiasm for all things Tolkien, I presented Cory with the idea of setting some of Tolkien’s songs to percussion music.  During recent readings with my students, it has struck me how Tolkien’s use of alliteration, rhyme scheme and other poetic devices add a natural percussive quality to the language.  Sharing my thoughts with Cory, I sent him some text samples illustrating my point, and he agreed to explore the idea with my students.

I sent him Tom Bombadil’s song, which I found had inspired several other musicians, however none had set it strictly to percussion music.  Cory created some original hand-drumming on a djembe to Tom’s nonsensical tune and suggested that this be used as a springboard for my students to create original stories inspired by Tolkien using their favorite characters and settings from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Prior to getting down to the business of creativity, Cory gave my students the opportunity to explore the world of percussion instruments.  As you can see from the clip below, my little dwarves enjoyed happily banging away to really get their creative juices flowing.

Students were divided into three groups and instructed to each write a part of an original trilogy, loosely based on the best of Tolkien.  They enjoyed a collaborative brain-storming session and chose to write about Bilbo, Smaug, Gollum, the Misty Mountains, Hobbiton, and The Shire.  Each group’s story was written independently, however when sharing at the end of the session, students were encouraged to find common elements that could be used to link the individual parts of the story to one another.  Without giving too much away, I will say that my students’ creative enterprises have resulted in an alternative ending to The Hobbit, an episode in Bilbo’s life where he faces a personal hygiene problem, and an original rap song about Gollum.  As they finish the workshop later this week, they will set these stories to percussion music and perform them.  We look forward to sharing our Middle-Earth inspired music with you on Teaching Tolkien later this week.  Stay tuned!

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One Comment on “The Music of Middle-Earth”

  1. poppies
    April 26, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    What a wonderful idea! I’m sure the kids loved it.

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