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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Musicians, Musical Instruments, and Atlantis

   
Author Topic: Musicians, Musical Instruments, and Atlantis
Merlion-Emrys
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Ok, so I am going to be writing a story soon, as I often do. Its meant to be a potential submission for both the Pill Hill Press Atlantis anthology and/or the Music for Another World anthology.

So its set in Atlantis. A mostly ancient greek style Atlantis, but with totally non-historical elements as well. In this Atlantis there are both mages and semi-magical musicians. Music and magic are treated as strongly related...for instance, the inner parts of the Great Library of Atlantis require both a mage and a musician to unlock and enter.

The main characters are brothers, one a musician, one a mage.

I would like to find something better and maybe slightly more magical than "musician" to refer to them, also trying to decide what sort of instrument to have him primarily play. I'm going to do the usual research, Wikipedia, Google etc, but I wanted to see what sort of info and thoughts everyone has on Greek or other old world musical instruments, terminology for muscians and also in general thoughts about presenting magic and music as seperate but strongly connected. Thanks in advance.

Edit: I just realized I misspelled musician in the title, if I could get that fixed whenever convienient I'd appreciate it.

[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited January 08, 2010).]


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micmcd
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Is this the kind of Atlantis that is a dome-city underwater (so the instruments are meant to play in air) or an actual underwater city with mermaid-type people. An instrument that plays underwater could be quite unique - you might think of it making contained vibrations in an internal air sac that echo through the water. You probably want to stay away from submerged stringed instruments.

Also, if these are underwater people, I suppose you might consider "musical" sea creatures as inspirations for the name you're looking for - whales and dolphins have interesting ways of communicating by sound under the water.


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Merlion-Emrys
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Ooo I did forget that detail didn't I?

Its above water, populated by humans.


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dougsguitar
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M... Being a long time musician myself, this immediately tweeeeked my interest. It is agreed upon by many (not all) that the ultimate musical instrument is the human voice.

In RPG action such as DnD, there is something known as a 'chime of opening', like a resonant bell/tube which is tuned to a certain frequency relative to magic trigger type action. It is a key which opens every locking mechanism by ringing it in close proximity to the lock.

Consider looking into what is known as the 'overtone series', which in short is the sound of the note extending both higher and lower... infinitely. (not a thorough enough explanation, but may get the creative energies firing in your imagination)

Would love to help you explore this further... very cool idea.


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Merlion-Emrys
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There will definitely be singing, but for whatever reason I definitely picture him using an instrument as well. Probably a harp or lyre. For some reason, with things like instruments it feels odd to me to call them by our names for them, when working in another world/culture.


The plot involves the gaining and using of an ancient, powerful spell-song...it may even be or contain fragments of the "first song" or music of creation or what have you.


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extrinsic
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The bouzouki, also knows as pandouris, pandura, pandourin, is a classical Greek forerunner of the lute, dating at least as far back as the Fourth Century BCE. The lyre was another revered stringed instrument.

In some viewpoints, the pinnacle of Greek dramatic arts was oration. The Attic Orators were the ten most acclaimed Greek orators, circa 5th-4th Century BCE. There also were the lyric poets, circa 7th-5th Century, the epic poets, 8th to 6th Century BCE, and the dramatic poets, circa 4th Century BCE. Musical accompaniments to poetry perfomances were often performed with drums, brasses, woodwinds, and strings.


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Owasm
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My limited perview of ancient instruments are:

Woodwinds: Flutes, pipes, etc. without keys
Trumpets of various sizes without keys
Drums
Hammered strings (i.e. hammered dulcimer)
Plucked strings (i.e. harp, lute)
Bowed strings (i.e. Islamic rebab. but I'm not sure if there were any BCE bowed instruments)

Of course you can make up your own.


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Merlion-Emrys
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Also I'd be interested to know if there are any instruments or even musical concepts people associate with water, and any and all thoughts on having music and magic related but still somewhat seperate.
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extrinsic
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Music keys, clefs, time signatures, registers, and riffs and trills have enjoyed specific symbolic meanings somewhat in the way many words are onomatopoeic. Martial music, 4/4 signature, for example.

Lutes and flutes' trills can represent falling water, burbling brooks, bubbling springs

Cymbals can represent clashing waves, or sussurating surf, falling rain, lightning and thunder claps.

Drums, waves pounding against breakwaters. Etc.

I've seen music represented in narratives, not played, per se, described to depict sensory parallels, a sort of aural imagery. More often I've seen that in high culture stories, though.


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Meredith
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The harp, in various forms, is definitely a very ancient instrument. If you want to play with it a little and aren't stuck on being historically accurate, look at some of the harps that were invented in the renaissance before the development of the modern pedal harp (the big one you see in the orchestra). These harps were invented to try to make what is basically a modal instrument (for simpliciy, think only the white keys on the piano) into a chromatic instrument (white and black keys). That's an oversimplification, but it'll do for a start.

The triple harp has three rows of strings (the outer two tuned like the white keys, sort of and the inner row tuned like the black keys). The cross-strung harp has two rows of strings which cross each other diagonally (one set is tuned like the black keys, the other like the white keys).

You might be able to have some fun with one of those concepts.

Yes, when I practice (which I have not in far too long), I am a harper (someone who plays a folk harp, not that thing in the orchestra).


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ScardeyDog
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I read a book called "Doppleganger" in which the magic system is based on singing spells. Magicians in that world were always female and were born with perfect pitch. Just something to think about: will musicians in your world have innate musical talent, or is it something they practise to get better at? How about the magicians?

As to what instruments do I assosiate with water: I always think of the dulcimer. I associate them with Sirens, which I associate with the sea. I did a Wikipedia search to see if the Sirens were ever portrayed playing the dulcimer and didn't come up with anything. So I'm not sure where that mental image is from.


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genevive42
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An early version of the trombone was called a sackbutt.

Probably not early enough for your story but it's a funny word.


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Edward Douglas
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What about pursuing options from the natural world, too?

A seafaring people, such as what Atlantians would be, might use seashells, or being a fantastical world what about the hollowed out horns of the bull? The minotaur's horn might make an interesting instrument of magic. Or that of a unicorn moreso, being that one such instrument would be rare.


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aspirit
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Here are my initial (and possibly unintelligible) thoughts on the connection between music and magic.

Magic (1) <--> Spirituality (2) <--> Music (3) <--> Mathematics (4) <--> Language of the universe (5) <--> Magic

(1)magic: art involving supernatural powers
(2)spirituality: belief in a supernatural existence and its connection to the body
(3)As in other arts, music requires the (or a) spirit to trigger the body's muscle memory.
(4)This Wikipedia article on music and mathematics will make more sense than my brief explanation.
(5)Magic temporarily recodes or recalculates parts of the universal language.

Magic and music are both arts and could both be thought to please or invoke gods or spirits (like the Muses). Atlantians could consider magic and music as the arts most favored by their gods or spirits.

Music could be a method of magic, like the use of single terms or body motions are magical methods in existing stories.

Atlantis technology could use vibrations produced by specific instruments playing specific songs. The use of this technology would look like magic to people outside of Atlantis.

The study of music could be required for mages, enabling them to understand which magical techniques require music. Conversely, musicians might study magic to understand how their music might help mages.

Other terms for "musician":

  • God's Voice (and a mage could be known as God's Hand/Finger/whatever)
  • magical technician
  • Muse's Child
  • music-diviner (could explain then shorten to musiciner, musiviner, or a variant including one of the Greek words for "music")
  • sounder

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aspirit
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Here's another idea.

Mages and musicians are both expected to hold the love of a deity in their hearts as they perform. However, mages cannot perform (or maybe they can't perform the magic that accompanies the ancient, powerful spell-song) without that love. Increasing cynicism among mages leads to the downfall of Atlantis because of a destructive power shift or because the magic fails during a crisis.

Edited to correct spelling.

[This message has been edited by aspirit (edited January 08, 2010).]


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babooher
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An interesting instrument I learned as a sub for a grade school music teacher was the the shakuhachi. It is the bamboo flute usually heard in traditional Japanese music. The film strip said that at one time, warriors who were banned from using weapons became monks who carried large shakuhachis because they were useful as clubs as well.

Another cool idea around music the idea of Chladni's Law. It is about geometric representations of vibrations/sounds.


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Pyre Dynasty
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The ancient Greeks considered musical training part of their math education. Which is probably part of the article Aspirit referenced. (There were some who considered math to also be a kind of magic.) The greeks also created our current scale using a certain ratio situation.

Anyways here's another idea you didn't ask for. How does the magicians cast their spells? Is it an incantation setup? In this case perhaps your magician could be your singer. Or do they need to do some gesture? Then they could be the dancer.

I think the Glass Harmonica needs water to work.


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dougsguitar
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Also consider that different 'modes' of music, such as major (happy) and minor (sad/blue) have a direct effect on the human psyche. It would be conceivable that a spell designed to control people through emotional control would benefit a great deal from musical interaction... like a spell booster or enabler. Just today I finished the book "This is Your Brain on Music" Daniel Levitin, which analytically broke down the impact music has on the total human physical/emotional system. Something in there may help spark good ideas.
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satate
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Perhaps separatley music is normal and magic is weak in power, but when combined they amplify themselves.

Don't forget bells with ancient instruments. They could be used as warning and protection of a city as they are weaved together with a mages's magic.


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Merlion-Emrys
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Thanks everyone for your thoughtful replies. aspirit, you've particularly helped me...with this story and probably others too. See, I tend to use/think of "magic" as encompassing all supernatural/spiritual forms and that they are all basically different versions of the same thing.

What you said about Art, though, got me thinking. All arts are arts...painting, writing, music, sculpture, whatever. But they all create different results and require different skills.


As it stands, I think its going to be Artificers and Songweavers. Both Arts...both drawing from the spirit...but with different techniques and effects.


Meredith: I actually do know a bit about the difference in harps...but now that your little secret is out, I'll be coming to you with all harp-related questions.


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