I am slowly but surely making my way through the three essays from Music in Middle-earth that deal specifically with the Ainulidale.
The first, "Behold Your Music!": The Themes of Iluvatar, the Song of Aslan, and the Real Music of the Spheres, by Kristine Larsen, deals primarily with the various scientific and philosophic theories addressing the "music of the Spheres." Ms. Larsen takes us very briefly through the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Boethius, and Kepler, the music of Gustav Holst, various tales and fables including the Netsilik of Greenland, the Mayan Popol Vuh, the Hopi tales of Spider woman and Tawa, and the Book of Genesis.
She alludes relatively briefly to the influences of astronomy on Tolkien's work -- specifically the transition from a "flat earth" to a "round earth" at the great changing of the world -- and notes that while much of Tolkien's legendarium morphed and changed a great deal during the long years that The Professor labored over his sub-creation, the tale of the Creation of Arda, the Ainulindale, survived virtually unchanged over this time.
She notes the similarities of the three themes declared by Iluvatar in the Ainulindale, and the three themes of the Song of Aslan, which is the creation story of Narnia.
She then begins a long and meandering discussion of the various kinds of sounds emitted by cosmological formations and the means of detecting them. She spend quite a bit of time on Gamow's Big Bang theory vs the (now largely disproven) Steady State theory of British physicist Fred Hoyle. She notes that the Big Bang theory posits two possible endings for the universe -- continuous expansion until all of the stars slowly die out one by one, i.e., the "heat death" of the universe, or the Big Crunch, in which the universe recollapses in a fiery cataclysm that in turn becomes the initial stage of a rebirth, or a new Big Bang, i.e., the phoenix legend.
She notes the similarities between the Big Crunch and the Norse tradition of Ragnarok, or "The Doom of the Gods," as well as Tolkien's allusion to the Last Battle between Morgoth and the Valar, which brings about the end of Arda, and then the possibility of Arda Remade.
In Narnia, the world ends by being consumed by a Red Giant Sun, and Aslan and the children enter a paradise world, a "parallel world" at the same time that the children are killed in a train accident in the "real" world.
Ms Larsen ends her long essay with a discussion of the various theories for the end of our universe as revealed by studies of cosmic microwave background (CMB) energy. She notes that, like the Ainulindale and the Song of Aslan, the Big Bang is made up of three "themes," each corresponding to the three major components of the universe: (1) radiation, or light; (2) matter; and (3) dark energy, a mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of our universe. Each of these components has dominated an epoch in the history of our universe in turn, radiation/light for the first few 100,000 years, and matter predominating until a few billion years ago.
Each component also has its own acoustic as discovered by Mark Whittle of the University of Virginia. According to Whittle, the universe began in silence (not a BANG) then proceeded as "a descending scream, building into a deep rasping roar, and ending in a deafening hiss." How pleasant . . . not exactly my idea of the Music of the Ainur by any stretch of the imagination.
She ends her essay by noting that current theory based on these CMB readings postulates two possible ends for our universe. We are now in a phase in which dark energy makes up 70% of the toal mass and energy of the universe. In the most widely accepted models, the universe will either continue to expand exponentially until all stars die and the universe fizzles out into a "heat death," or it will end in a "Big Rip" in which the universe expands so rapidly that all matter and the fabric of time and space violently rip apart (as opposed to the "Big Crunch" in which it all violently collapses together).
My apologies for the wandering nature of this report, but it reflects the wandering nature of the essay. Truthfully, I'm not sure what her point is. There's really no thesis statement anywhere. I think she simply brought together a lot of interesting "related" material and tied it all together in an ambling narrative. Interesting . . . but not especially enlightening about Tolkien or Lewis.
I am now in the midst of reading "Tonality, Atonality and the Ainulindale" by Reuven Naveh, in which he attempts to do a musical analysis of Tolkien's writings (?!). Some interesting stuff so far, but I think his logic wanders, and ultimately I think it is a mistake to try to apply musical structure to prose. Will report more later.
“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”