While there have been many criticisms leveled at the final entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, you can’t deny that the film possesses some awesome musical moments. One of my particular favorites is “Lighting the Beacons,” when Gandalf dispatches Pippin to secretly light the city beacon so that Rohan can be notified that Gondor needs help. While it is a deviation from the book (in the original story Denethor ordered the beacons lit before Gandalf and Pippin even arrived at Minas Tirith), it’s one I don’t mind because the music that goes with this scene is just wonderful.
The cue starts with a tentative motif in the strings, matching Pippin’s secret climb up to the beacon while Gandalf observes from below. Despite the two guards sitting nearby, there’s never any real sense that Pippin is in danger of being caught or falling. As soon as the guards notice the beacon is lit, the music quickly jumps up into a “burning” melody that matches the leaping flames shining for all to see. As the next beacon in the sequence is lit, the music “ignites” again, flourishing higher and higher as the message is passed on with each new beacon.
The next segment in this scene is a montage showing beacons being lit all across the mountains. There’s actually far more than the seven beacons mentioned in the book, but it makes for a great filler scene so I don’t mind. The music heard during this scene is a fast reprise of Gondor’s theme. I’ve always loved the power in this theme, which is dominated by the brass. The theme slowly fades as the final beacon is lit and observed by Aragorn at Edoras. The music trails off on a note of suspense because, in the following moment, Aragorn dashes to inform the king that Gondor is calling for aid (the music for that can be found in another cue, that’s why it trails off to silence).
If you compare the film version to the soundtrack version, you’ll notice there are some musical differences. While they sound very similar to each other, I think the soundtrack version of this piece comes from an alternate take that didn’t make it into the final soundtrack.
What do you think of the music for “Lighting the Beacons”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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