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Resonating with Tolkien

A note on the new Amazon Prime TV series

This following bit of dialog occurs in episode two of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the new Tolkien TV series on Amazon Prime. I suspect this will not be the last we’ll hear of “resonating” — and that, in fact, the subject may explain the so-called “Chladni figures” that appear in the show’s opening credits. In this back and forth, Elrond is an elf visiting the land of the dwarves, and Disa is a dwarf princess, wife of Elrond’s old friend, Prince Durin. (There’s been a third episode, but I haven’t watched yet.)

Elrond: How did you two first become acquainted?

Disa: I was resonating a freshly opened chamber, fairly confident we were onto a sizable silver deposit …

Elrond: “Resonating?” I’ve not heard of resonating.

Disa: It’s when we sing to the stone. You see, a mountain’s like a person. It’ s a long and ever-changing story made of countless small parts. Earth and ore, air and water. Sing to it properly, each of those parts will reflect your song back to you, telling you its story, showing you what might be hidden, where to mine, where to tunnel, and … and where to leave the mountain untouched.

I’d recognized the Chladni figures — acoustic experiments dating to the late 1700s that occur when, for example, sand resonates with a bowed surface — when I first saw the opening credits. A friend pointed me to this thread on Twitter by game designer and teacher Alexander King, who unpacks the imagery.

YouTube is full of Chladni videos. Here are a few especially good ones:

By Marc Weidenbaum

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