If you’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings: Rings Of Power, you’ll have sat through a few episodes by now, and will have seen the show’s surprisingly sedated intro sequence. If like me you’ve been wondering just what exactly is the deal with all those shapes, and all that bouncing sand, it turns out there’s a very in-universe explanation for it.
Game designer Alexander King was wondering the same thing recently before it hit him: the shapes being formed weren’t sigils, or crests, they were Chladni figures, named for German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni. Basically, these are shapes that are formed by something light (like sand) when sound resonates through them on a flat surface.
I was watching that new Rings of Power show, and the opening credits have these abstract shapes forming and reforming in sand. They seemed strangely familiar, and I suddenly remembered I’d seen them before, they’re Chladni figures! (1/x) pic.twitter.com/VQSMwUdDG5
— Alexander King (@LiterallyAKing) September 11, 2022
After his twitter thread blew up, the creative director of the team responsible for the credits, Anthony Vitagliano, responded by saying, yeah, that’s exactly what they were, before saying that the reason this process was chosen for the sequence was related to Tolkien’s works.
Taking inspiration from J.R.R Tolkien’s Ainur, immortal angelic beings that sing such beautiful music that the world is created from their very sound, we conceived of a main title sequence “built from the world of sound.”
Cymatics is a natural phenomenon that makes sound visible to the eye. Vibrations of fine particles on a flat surface display striking symmetrical patterns that reflect audio frequencies. Cymatics are understood by physicists and mathematicians, but to us mere mortals, they are nothing short of magic.
The sequence conjures an ancient and invisible power, struggling to be seen. Symbols form, flow, push, and disappear as quickly as they came. The unknowable realms of sound create fleeting visions of conflict and harmony that move in lockstep with Howard Shores’ opening title score.
There you go. If you thought they were a little slow, or dull, maybe this week you can approach the credits armed with this deep cut and appreciate them a little more?
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