A World of Song

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Orc Knight, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    Another world building bit to be brought up by me, hopefully kind of interesting and maybe y'all will have a say too.

    Since Eld's stories are just a part of an ongoing world Narrative (yes, same as Discworld) there is also another part. Oral and singing used to and at times still does play a part in the story telling process the world itself has a background music and certain characters have leitmotif's of sorts. There are a type of Fates that are known as Songstresses and there's only three of them, along with other Fates, but only the Songstresses can alter fates entirely by song and music. Anyways, due to the background music and any savvy bard, they can suggest and twist the world if they can pick up on the threads.

    It may be a bit complicated but to those truly in the element, they can pick up when the background music changes (kind of like in video games right before you get jumped on by an enemy) and can actually be prepared. This is actually a plot point too, as the undead's song is always a little off. I've compared it to a discordant harmony of sorts that doesn't quite fit into the background. So, thoughts or your own idea's to such things?
     
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Shadow Lord

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    I think as soon as you bring-up music, you run the risk of reminding your reader that they are using an audioless medium.
    If you add the element of poetry - as in lyrics - that’s different.

    My setting touches a lot on the idea of declarations and words as a form of world-controlling power. The characters’ leitmotifs are more in the form of recurring metaphors and catchphrases. Gods also alter the world using decrees and written laws.
    And this wasn’t intentional. This process just kind of evolved naturally from the writing in this setting.
     
  3. My universes are usually musical in some way or another, but I never do what Tolkien did and put songs directly into the text.
     
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    I think it's a great idea.

    But me, myself and I—the thought of trying to "write" music in prose, with such detail, scares me too much to even attempt it. At best, I can do poetry no problem (however good or bad; at least I can churn something out without the same great fear), and I can briefly describe music, a kind of quick summary of its sound or its effect on listeners. But going into detail and trying to give readers an exact experience of that music: terrifying.
     
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    The trick to write music in prose, as I see it, is to not treat it as a series of sound, but as a character.

    As we're fantasy writers, it may be easier to think about it as the Spirit of the music, or a Melody-Elemental, or an Avatar of Song. Rather than describing the sound of the music, you describe the Avatar of Song expressing the melody.

    EDIT: Here's an example from my first attempt at a novel, some five or so years ago:

    Somewhere in the distance behind him, a flute began to play.

    The melody – small and shy, but oh, so curious – crept closer and grew slowly louder. Careful, it stole through the lows; hiding here and waiting there. It paused. It planned and schemed. It dashed forward, leapt off the middle of the scale, slapped an unsuspecting high note out of the air, and disappeared into the safety of the deep end once more – giggling to itself.

    EDIT2: I'd probably have done this very differently today, but the principle is the same.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    SvrtnsseSvrtnsse, that's great!

    This reminds me of the best epilogue I've ever read, from Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, and a shortish passage involving the MC, a human who has a tendency to describe everything through flavor, and a conversation partner who is not human. They are on an observation deck viewing the largest sun in the observable universe, a red giant. From their vantage, the curvature of the sun, barely discernible, seems to fill all the space before them, in every direction. They are trying to come to some understanding of their impressions of the sun. The alien says,

    "Flavor? Ah, yes. Myself, I have twelve different faculties that you would call senses. But the ones you humans call sight, taste, and smell are not among them...."​

    The MC asks,

    "....Tell me, which sense are you perceiving it with?"​

    The alien says,

    "I? How polite of you! It's a kind of aural rendition that requires the light to be translated into ultrasound waves. Indeed, it sounds like one of my own home world's dawns, only much vaster, harmonious, resonant."​

    The MC agrees; it does seem like some alien dawn on an alien planet. The alien says one would think that such light would always seem like noon, but it certainly strikes her as morning, and does he agree? He nods but explains his impression this way:

    "To me," I said, "it seems at once both bitter and sweet; it speaks to me of concatenations of taste as eccentric as mace, vinegared lichen, and powdered alum served three hours after sunset at the very moment when the musicians cease to play—it casts me out of myself, then hurls me back like a suddenly encountered odor from childhood that, as I name it, I only then realize I have mistaken for some other, and I am forced to contemplate all the possibilities that, in their shadings and subtleties, must be as varied as the red and black variegations on that star itself, and thus I am struck with the notion of something so large it might as well be infinite, so old it might as well be eternal."​

    The response:

    "Precisely," said that steel translator's voice for this creature who possibly possessed none of her own. She started to drift along the rail, rippling. "That is precisely the way it sounds to me. I could not have put it better."​

    But this uses a more experiential method, or the method of describing an effect on the observer, i.e. what is evoked. There may still be an implication that the object evoking these impressions has some power to act in order to evoke. It's acting on the observer. So this is not quite the same as describing that thing as an avatar or spirit, but there is some similarity.

    Oh heck, this doesn't quite give a description of the sound/sight so much as a reaction to it; but, maybe a little. The character's or narrator's description that you gave is also a reaction, of a sort, used to describe the listener's impression of the music. Maybe this sort of approach would work for music that is more chaotic, or complex, without a simple melody.
     
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  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm reading this section, and as I do something strikes me. This may be only to me personally, but it's interesting enough to bring it up. The description is extensive and elaborate, but it also contains a few things that are very basic, almost primal:
    1. "the very moment when the musicians cease to play"
    2. "something so large it might as well be infinite, so old it might as well be eternal"

    The moment the musicians cease to play is mentioned after a number of unearthly things are mention. I have no personal experience of vinegared lichen, or powdered alum, but I can definitely relate to when the music stops. It's like the strength of that last bit (about the music stopping) overpowers everything that came before.
    The same goes with the second example, about something being so large as to be infinite.

    It's like the description is based around creating a sense of awe and inspiration in its description of unrelatable things, and then anchors it all down with something that's simple and easy to connect with.\\

    I could, of course, be wrong. :)
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    It's also interesting that this MC is using the taste

    and the effect of an odor from childhood...when describing his impressions of a sun to an alien who has no sense of taste or smell. They would be as mysterious, foreign, alien to her. I cut a small bit from earlier in the dialogue in which the alien admitted having trouble her first visit to the human home world but created some algorithms for translation. Still, there might be some awe that an alien thing would inspire. When he mentions the music stopping, this is something she could have experienced, or an analogue of something she could have experienced. And music or sounds have a sort of infinite and eternal quality, are expansive, unlike the sharp edges of sight, taste, and smell.

    At least, this is something I had not quite thought about before your comment. For me the tastes in particular are concrete-ish, and an odor remembered from childhood is also concrete-ish or at least a solid type of experience I've had before.

    Shortly after that alien's reply, the MC wonders momentarily about the precision of the alien's understanding of his words, the translation, but concludes this section of the epilogue by saying:

    That she and I had both found something matutinal to contemplate, for whatever our vastly different reasons, in that huge fire, seemed the most stupendous of cosmic accidents and was, finally, where all real wonder lay.​
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  9. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    To both Svrtnsse and Fifthview, I can't actually write music either. So the likes of bards, while there, often aren't main characters. It is more just trying to get the setting of it and to me sort of giving the world a heartbeat even if it's background. Just something that's always there and that is only noticed when something is off, as said. And yes, taste and smell play up in it too, but that's another thread. Since most my characters have fairly sharp ears they can catch the tunes if they listen just a little bit. Though I tend to go to violin sort of description when I get those parts that need that crazy bad playing moments.
     
  10. Skybreaker Sin K'al

    Skybreaker Sin K'al Lore Master

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    One of my characters says "the words of the skies are not written on human tongues, my friend."
    In my very WIP setting, the gods are very distant from the world. In fact, most magical interactions in this world summon only a part of a part of a part of an essence of a god.

    But yeah, I agree including music does remind the reader about the medium. I used this before and... eh, I failed.
     
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