The Stone Troll, The Chilly Fox, and the Squirrely Troubadour

posted Oct 26, 2015, 7:15 AM by Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder   [ updated Oct 27, 2015, 7:37 AM ]

The Stone Troll is from Tolkien, the fox is the traditional melody, and the Troubadour is me. Oh, the nuisance of copyright. Here is one small adventure of making a new CD.

It has been a while since I created a new Faire CD. (I'm not counting my "Bootleg" Edition since it is just cobbled together from stuff I wasn't using, and it doesn't sell through any official sources anyway.) I have been producing Christian work for a goodly number of years as recording conventions have changed... at least for me, they have.

Now I can record lyrics and music on multiple separate tracks and mix them together at the end. Once upon a time it was more like, here's an open mike performance... let's add another track or two and mix them down, repeat, etc. It's still like voodoo, but more refined because I can go back and edit more stuff later.

That's all great for the mechanics of it but it does not cover musical content. I have three choices when recording any marketable material:

First, I can use public domain materials. Shakespeare, Folk songs, old broadside lyrics, and other old stuff offers quite an array to select from. I can even make derivative works from such stuff, like setting the lyrics of Amazing Grace to the melody of House of the Rising sun. The first is a poem that has had at least 20 melodies associated with it over the centuries, and the second is one of those old folk songs. (No, The Animals did not write the song.) If it is over ninety-five years old, it is fair game.

Second, I can write my own material. I do that too. I pop a few chords together and I have a new melody for something old. Writing lyrics is actually a bit more difficult, but if I have a theme, and a literary direction, it becomes easier. I find that writing comedy is more difficulty than sentiment in this respect. This process takes longer, requiring much more time.

Third, I can acquire the rights for something already out there. This is a copyright work around allowing people to record that song that they may have heard on the radio or television. Theoretically anyone can gain what is called mechanical rights to record a song in the United States. There are several stipulations, but the compulsory price is not very high, and there are collection agencies on the internet willing to do it for about $15 a song plus the 9.1 cents per copy stipulated by law.

Here is what I wanted. Tolkien wrote several songs, and I wanted to include a version of the Stone Troll (or Sam's Rhyme of the Troll) on my new CD. As a part of his Lord of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I figured it would be a nice literary balance to go along with two songs that I had written, one about Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, and another inspired by Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Tolkien had published it in multiple sources and had mentioned that it went to the melody of an old folk song. From the meter, that song seems to have been The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night.

So, how to acquire the rights? I found a couple of online agents and searched their database. No joy there, so I filled out the online forms and contacted them. Then, I did get a false hit on the Stone Troll from the Lord of the Rings movie, but I had to inform them that it was Tolkien's work that I was interested in, not the movie background music. Really, it should not be this difficult. So, I went online again and did some digging. I have found at least four different recordings of this song made under the proper copyrights, but two of them were made outside the U. S. and so compulsory mechanical rights laws do not apply. One of the remaining two is part of a larger literary performance, and therefore compulsory mechanical rights laws again do not apply. And, none of them use the melody of The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night, which makes the last one useless as well, because compulsory mechanical rights laws do not include derivative works. Here, using the intended melody is considered changing the melody.

i could go with the Ace books defense whereby the Lord of the Rings was considered to be public domain in the United States for a brief while back in the 60s. But, as much as I would like to claim ignorance of the details, and that I have a copy of said printing, it would ultimately be self serving and, i feel, unethical.

Meanwhile, I had recorded music to go along with the eight verses of Tolkien's song, but after doing all of these agent's research for them, I determined that we will have to all wait until the year 2043.

And so I changed my research to the possibility of other lyrics to go with the music that I had already recorded. Interestingly enough, as folk songs go, the meter is rather unique, which means if I was going to use the music for a folk song, it would need to be
The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night. Not my favorite song, but I already had the music ready to go. I trimmed the recording down to seven verses and recorded away. Not bad but...

After balancing it out and listening to it a few times, I decided that these lyrics just do not do it for me. I've got songs about mermaids and wizards and unicorns, and I already have a Fox song with a more El Zoro theme. This song may have history, but it has never made my hit parade.

And so, I have this music... and a pencil... new lyrics it is... the working title for the new six verse song is The Folk Song. Until the next CD, here's The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night (below).... because I already have it recorded.

So... no troll, no fox... instead I have a new song about an old song.
Fox Song.mp3
Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder,
Oct 26, 2015, 7:15 AM