Middle-earth Music: The Sonic Inhabitation of a Fantasy World

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This article seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the cultural inhabitation of imaginary worlds by examining the role that music and its consumption play in these processes. Focussing largely on Howard Shore’s music for Peter Jackson’s two film trilogies set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the article relies on data found through web ethnography and a researcher-designed questionnaire targeted at fans of the franchise. Soundtrack consumption and listening practices are analysed to identify how and why this film music is listened to, as are the ways in which music enables a further sonic level of the inhabitation of Middle-earth. Placing Shore’s music alongside other contributions to Tolkien’s world poses questions of authority, authenticity and canon, finding that not every person’s Middle-earth sounds the same. Results show that, for many, the world built by music functions as an imagined or spiritual home to which they are transported and which provides numerous personal and practical benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)488-511
Number of pages24
JournalParticipations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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