Glindar, Echoes from Middle-Earth (CD 2019) [self-released]

In the tradition of Lingalad and Galadhrim, Italy has produced yet another minstrel-storyteller eager to put melody to some of Tolkien’s best-known verse. Blending traditional acoustic instrumentation with an occasional modern counterpart, Glindar (AKA Vincenzo Pasquarella) offers a diverse and satisfying interpretation of eleven songs from the legendarium. Not to be confused with the Russian artist Vitariel’s more broad-ranging Echoes of Middle Earth (which includes material culled from The Silmarillion) Glindar’s Echoes from Middle-Earth confines itself to The Lord of the Rings (more or less following the order of the book).

Due to the Tolkien Estate’s restrictive policies, Pasquarella was not allowed to utilize Tolkien’s lyrics, so he devised his own paraphrase, hewing as closely as possible to the timing and sense of the original. Once one gets used to this, it is not distracting. Someone who knows the songs and who heard a purely acoustic version of the album would find it easy to mentally insert the original lyrics. Occasionally a contextual infelicity will arise, as when Glindar misreads “the beeches of Neldoreth” as “the sea-coast of Neldoreth.” But at other times his adaptation opens up aesthetically pleasing variations that enable the purist to hear the vitality of Tolkien’s meter anew.

A brief synopsis of the album follows:
1. “The Song of the Ring” opens the cycle with a bardic invitation to hear the story of “the bravest hero ever born,” followed by an iteration of the Ring-chant.
2. “The Song of the Rambler” presents a somber, piano-accompanied meditation on “The Road Goes Ever On.”
3. “Tom Bombadil” adapts the titular character’s nonsensical wordplay into the artist’s own care-free libretto, recounting the main events of Bombadil’s encounter with the Hobbits in the Withywindle.
4. “The Song of the Inn” appropriately adopts a folkish arrangement to “There is an inn,” varying speed in order to simulate the live, participatory atmosphere of the Prancing Pony.
5. “Gil Galad” puts harp and violin to good use to evoke a mood of heroic lament for Tolkien’s fallen Elven-king.
6. “In Tauremornalómë” contemplatively captures Treebeard’s recollection of his seasonal wanderings in Beleriand.
7. “The Ents’ Song” returns to a more vibrant tempo, retelling the dialogue of the Ent and Entwife.
8. “Song of Beren and Luthien” maintains a stately pace for “The leaves were long,” allowing the listener to savor each stanza of the Lay.
9. “The Song of Gollum” breaks the mold of the rest of the album, introducing dissonance, unexpected vocal exclamations, and an undercurrent of electric guitar to help us enter into the twisted mind of Smeagol.
10. “The Song of Celebration” deploys regal fanfare, fortified by bombastic bagpipes, to deliver a bold soundtrack for “Sing All Ye People.”
11. “The Grey Havens” is a multi-staged, non-vocal piece that brings the cycle to its conclusion.

In his commentary on his website, Glindar explains the motivation behind this concept album: “The songs are meant to be a music translation of the main emotions that I felt when reading Tolkien's masterpiece.” This recalls Tolkien’s own impulse behind his legendarium, in which myth was a means of expressing his feelings about his experiences of good and evil, beauty and ugliness. Nostalgia for a lost or receding past was central to Tolkien’s psyche. This same theme drives Pasquarella’s persona: “I am a musician who comes from faraway lands, distant places, where echoes of ancient legends can still be heard, although faintly. These echoes are slowly dying away and are probably bound to be lost in time. But this day has yet to come. Thus, I am here amongst you to enchant you with their beauty and to share the fascination of these wonderful visions through my voice and my music. May these visions enrich your souls.”

All authentic Tolkien-inspired music is irreducibly personal in this sense. Echoes from Middle-Earth exemplifies this authenticity.

REVIEWER: Chris Seeman, The Tolkien Music List (