Strings

Nov. 8th, 2014 10:32 am
emgrasso: (raptors logo)
[personal profile] emgrasso
I've got an alternate universe floating around in my head. The landscape is North American but I didn't want to do that thing where the native population is conveniently absent or completely Othered -- it's gotten to be a trope, and a fairly nasty one.

It is a world where the peri-Columbian plagues did not happen, and as it turns out, neither did the Quaternary extinctions.

I've been reading a lot of anthrology and archaeology and 'recent' paleontology. (I would love to find some artists' galleries who do mammoths and things, not just pterodactyls and dinosaurs and their contempararies.)

Fiber and strings are very important in the story. And music is entangled with music just as in the traditions of our world.

Stringed instruments are important in my personal iconography and I realized that, while there are historical stringed instruments from Iberia to the Bering Strait, I had never heard of any pre-Columbian stringed instruments on the Western hemisphere.

No cursed or enchanted harps or fiddles (or harpists of fiddlers). No Trickster gods doing peculiar things with strings and tortoise shells (I have never been sure how that worked....) No corpse instruments fashioned of bone and strung with hair or entrails.

According to Google the only evidence of a stringed instrument that was not imported was in a Mayan temple image, and when archaeologists recreated it, it made a sound like a Jaguar growling, not a musical tone.

The world is a post-contact environment, with Incomers along the coast that are resonances of my own French Canadian ancestors. They would have brought their fiddles with them, into an environment where the magic had resonated to percussions and occasional flutes. That feels important.

Date: 2014-11-08 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] resonant.livejournal.com
Along with stringed instruments, you could have stringed writing. Knotted strings were used for recording messages by the Inca and other southern cultures, while strings of beads and quills were used by the Mi'kmaq and other northern cultures.

The loose ends of the strings on a harp could have enchantments knotted into them, which are activated by strumming the tensioned portion of the string. By changing the sequence of the strings, the function of the harp could be altered. It would be like writing software, with lines of chords rather than lines of code.

Actually, you could have harps function like computers. Early computers used punch cards with up to 70 holes punched into each line. Rows of holes on the punch card would activate functions in sequence. You could have 70-odd knots or beads on each cord on the harp, and so could encode programs easily.

Start Song;
Begin SummonTheWinds;
WindFrom South-South-West;
WindSpeed Steady Gale;
WindWidth three standard arrow flights;
WindStart Entrance to the Bay of Sorrows;
If StillPlayingHarp then GoTo StartSong;
Else End SummonTheWinds:::

Date: 2014-11-08 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgrasso.livejournal.com
I think the interaction of magic and music is resonant rather than formulaic. (There's a lot of shamanic drumming and trance-dancing. Magic fields are very diffuse and individual words and notes are mostly the wrong granularity to interact with them.)

There's a library in the story world that includes quipu from the southern hemisphere, and I actually have researched quipu in the past for a previous project. They're kind of orthogonal to musical instrument strings at the semantic level (the encoding systems are not likely to be incompatible -- music uses the vibrations but quipu uses knots, which would interfere with the musical vibration and possibly color which would be largely irrelevant) , but the intersection could provide complications in the future. (The first story arc is largely North American plus Incomers.)

The initial contrast I'm feeling is something like Cajun fiddling/Irish step-dancing versus Indian PowWow. It's partly a textural thing.


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