Jump to content

Music as an Art in Glorantha


mfbrandi

Recommended Posts

Quote

A skilled musician, [Jar-Eel] uses [her magical lyre] to inspire, seduce, and produce a wide range of other strong emotions. (Guide p. 15)

Quote

It is said by the Lunar poets that the music from the glass temples, the commerce from the caravans, and the beauty of the Emperor’s daughter, all combined to convert the unruly populace to the benefits of the Empire and its goddess. (Guide, p. 321)

Quote

The Loskalmi idealize the human form, and each city holds contests both athletic (including boxing, wrestling, running, jumping, and horse-riding) and intellectual (including logic, poetry, and music) to display physical and spiritual prowess. (Guide, p. 203)

So we know something of the uses to which music is put in Glorantha: dance; trance (shamanism); seduction; magical traps (e.g. music heard by the deaf); religious conversion; showing off/status seeking; partying. But that is primarily music as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

And we know something of the musical instruments of Glorantha: harp/lyre (Harana Ilor, Jar-Eel, etc.); chime bells (Ernalda); bagpipes (Orlanth); flute (Erabbamanth); goblet(?) drum (Hombobobom). We can guess some of the instruments Glorantha does not have: valve trumpet; saxophone; piano.

But given how much we “know” about population counts, religion, and mass bloodshed, the musical arts do seem rather neglected by Glorantha’s creators.

What do we know of Gloranthan instrumental music as an independent art — about music for its own sake? Are there rival tuning conventions? Is it ever melodically, harmonically, or rhythmically sophisticated? Does it have its Charles Parker, Pauline Oliveros, or Swapan Chaudhuri?

What do the musical arts sound like in your Glorantha? Are the Uz masters of layakari? Do the Dragonewts have their own take on serialism? Are the Mostali stockpiling Morton Subotnick CDs? We need to know — tell us!

Edited by mfbrandi

NOTORIOUS VØID CULTIST

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • mfbrandi changed the title to Music as an Art in Glorantha

My dwarves do use wax cylinders to record vocal instructions, mainly as a way to transmit complex orders to "simple" mostali without the benefit of gold caste overseers or when there are doubts of written orders being misunderstood. Those same "simple" Mostali have discovered how useful those cylinders are to share their own experiments in rythm and musical expression, from machine generated noise (those aeolipiles whistling, the hammer mills hammering, the presses pressing...) to percussion, but going also into interesting pneumatic or vibrating instruments in the hands of lead, quicksilver or copper dwarves.

Dwarven music is repetitive and relatively simple, but can combine hundreds of elements into a music that can be held for days, and it is great for counting time precisely. They do not consider it music, but as communication, quality control and rythm management. However the amount of rest periods dedicated to making music shows that many dwarves find it pleasurable.

Think Aphex Twin with hammers and rocks rather than electronics, and with eerie whistles thrown in.  

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, mfbrandi said:

Pauline Oliveros

Well, I like the idea of trolls using Darksense in some form of sonic meditations, perhaps led by a priestess or shaman of Xiola Umbar: using the sonic vibrations to help with healing, to cast out a demon, or to help enter the spirit world.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

--

The Voralans presents Glorantha's magical mushroom humanoids, the black elves. "Absolutely phenomenal" - Austin C. "Seriously weird-ass shit" - John D. "A great piece of work" - Leon K. The Electrum best-selling The Children of Hykim documents Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "Lovingly detailed and scholarly, and fun to read" - John H. "Absolutely wonderful!" - Morgan C.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) Jar-eel's harp, throughout decades of Gloranthan artwork, is consistently tiny. It's clearly a triangular lever harp, and so played as a "knee" or "lap" harp, but small enough to actually be played with the arm as the only steadier, and it seems to consistently have a small number of strings, perhaps 12, maybe 19 if we make some assumptions about non-representative art. But possibly even fewer.

2) A harp that small would not be audible for any great distance, and real-world harps for concert settings are much larger, yet Jar-eel is known as a capable musician. So either this is a decorative harp, or...

3) Magical amplification is an option, and it's one that Jar-eel makes use of.

4) So we've got amps, we've got a harp that might have as few as six strings...

5) Hey, wait, the ancient Greeks and Romans had a keyboard-operated water organ.

6) They also had cymbals.

7) Snare drums could certainly be built, and tom drum equivalents certainly existed.

8.) Looks like a pretty large swathe of rock-n-roll is open to use in Glorantha now!

  • Like 2
  • Haha 2

Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

"I just read an article in The Economist by a guy who was riding around with the Sartar rebels, I mean Taliban," -Greg Stafford, January 7th, 2010

Eight Arms and the Mask

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Eff said:

...

8.) Looks like a pretty large swathe of rock-n-roll is open to use in Glorantha now!

I am comfortably certain that  -- however you YGMV it at your table --  rock&roll has  always  been part of the Gloranthan "vibe."

  • Like 1

C'es ne pas un .sig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posted a bit about Pol Joni musical instruments and traditions on Facebook a while back:

Quote

A handful of questions about musical instruments, for anyone who can help out or wants to follow my latest train of thought as I explore cowboy ballads of the Pol Joni March. (As far as musical instruments and their history go, I am a dunce, although I do like to sing)

Will it harm anyone's concept of Gloranthan music if I treat the kithara as if it were functionally identical to the guitar (that is, if any kind of real-world music is played on the guitar, I can assert that in Glorantha it's played on the kithara, and blithely ignore any nay-sayers)?

Similarly, can I treat the lute as, essentially, a Bronze Age banjo?

Slightly more anachronistically: in our world, people had started playing the lyre with a bow by the eighth century AD, after which it became the ancestor of the fiddle. So if I say that a tune is played on the kithara and lyre, in my head you're getting a guitars-and-fiddles tune. Would it be helpful for me to mention that the lyre is being played with a bow, or would that be too much of an anchronism, best left unstated?

Finally, a big reach: the harmonica and kazoo are distinctively industrial-age instruments, which in Glorantha will typically mean that they're either God Learner relics or - more likely in my opinion - mass-produced artifacts of the Mostali, sold to unwitting humans by the Openhanded Dwarf of Dwarf Mine for some sinister purpose of his own. (As these hideous instruments aren't mentioned under the Play (Instrument) skill description, I shall quietly presume that they use the Sing skill instead)

 Nobody stopped me, so it got worse:

Quote
The Pol Joni musical tradition is formed from two distinct roots: plangent tribal odes harking back to their western origins in Dragon Pass; and upbeat ranching tunes celebrating the country where they have made their new home, the plains of Prax. One distinctive form is the lyrical outlaw ballad, retelling deeds of heroes and villains of the frontier. Songs celebrate love and courtship, spiritual immanence, death and war, the rigours of life on the cattle-trails, and the manifold splendours of nature.

Pol Joni music is played on stringed instruments (most notably the kithara, lute and bowed lyre), supplemented occasionally with vocalised humming on pocket devices of Mostali origin akin to the harmonica and kazoo. It can follow one of three rhythms, derived from the gait of their steeds: music is traditionally played at either the walk, the trot or the gallop, and can therefore be used to augment Ride skill on the trail.

The choruses of campfire songs can involve war-whoops, yells, ululations and glossolalia, reminiscent of Praxian spirit-cult chants but hopefully deprived of all context and meaning. This appropriation is yet another reason for Praxians to despise the Pol Joni and call them “Cattle Bastards.”

(Yes, of course country and western music is an anachronism, but what else would the Mycenaean Viking Cowboys of Glorantha sing round their campfires?)

Plenty of discussion following that last one: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gloranthafans/posts/1227809374083830/, including these highlights:

Quote

I'm wanting to play Cowboy & Western music on the Plains of Prax beneath a wafer-thin veneer of "Bronze Age Authenticity." Much as I love all these Hittite, Babylonian and Canaanite reconstructions, nobody tends to sing along or get all misty-eyed and tearful listening to them. But give me a campfire, a guitar and a harmonica, and we can make outlaw ballads happen. (Roll vs. Reputation: on a special success, an existing outlaw ballad can easily be modified to tell tales of your deeds; on a critical success, a bard among the Pol Joni will compose a new one)

I take it as axiomatic that the Mycenaean Viking Cowboys of the No Man's March will sing Humakti murder ballads and Orlanthi outlaw songs as they hit the long winding trails. YGWV.

I think the path of least resistance is that while I may or may not imagine in the privacy of my own head that these particular lyres are being played with a bow, I won't ever commit to that in print. So any unsoiled innocents reading my work will think, "How charmingly authentic! The Bronze Age Kithara, Lute and Lyre, just as the RQG rulebook describes them." While those whose Third Eyes have been opened will realise it's guitars and banjos and fiddles all the way down.

 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Music', what it is and is not, how it's done, is it any good, whatever, is a cultural phenomenon. Music is a form of communication that speaks to multiple levels of a person's brain, so how it is organized or defined or labelled isn't really all that important. I mean, how many arguments can you get into on youtube by parsing whether a given offering is 'music' or 'noise'?

[Personal note: Death to autotune!]

My point is that unless one is a music literati willing to drop $1000 on a certified handmade Persian dishdudi, it really doesn't matter how a given Gloranthan culture sorts out its music. As every artist who's ever gotten up in front of a crowd of drunks knows, you have to pitch the performance to the audience - - no matter who they are.

I don't think any of the gamers at my table care a fig whether or not the 'music' being played in the clan hall is bardic poetry set to drums and strings, or Pythegorean Greek 'triangular' lyre-playing. It's all just background flavor text.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/17/2022 at 5:20 AM, mfbrandi said:

What do the musical arts sound like in your Glorantha? Are the Uz masters of layakari? Do the Dragonewts have their own take on serialism? Are the Mostali stockpiling Morton Subotnick CDs? We need to know — tell us!

Here is a group which plays often in my Pavis' inns and taverns...

check out the first tune about horses, The Yellow Pacer @Nick BrookeAbsolutely lovely!

Edited by Bill the barbarian
  • Like 1

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/17/2022 at 12:20 PM, mfbrandi said:

What do we know of Gloranthan instrumental music as an independent art — about music for its own sake?

Each culture or region has its own music, often derived from sacred music. However, there is a lot of overlap where cultures overlap.

But, what do you mean by music for its own sake? Most music is written/played for entertainment instead of being purely for its own sake.

Orlanth's Challenges to Yelm contained the Challenge of Music, where Yelm played the Harp and Orlanth played the Bagpipes.

On 10/17/2022 at 12:20 PM, mfbrandi said:

Are there rival tuning conventions?

My guess it that there are. Music from one culture might sound odd, or out of tune, to people from another culture.

On 10/17/2022 at 12:20 PM, mfbrandi said:

Is it ever melodically, harmonically, or rhythmically sophisticated?

I have no idea what this means, but probably, yes.

The Yelmic culture, especially, in Dara Happa, would have a lot of musical sophistication, as they try to emulate the choirs of heaven.

Uz are probably masters of rhythm, with different layers of rhythm in their music. I can see them performing the equivalent of throat-singing, by playing different sets of drums to overlay different rhythms on top of each other. Skilled Uz can use Sprout Arms to grow more arms and play more drums, so they can produce this effect themselves.

On 10/17/2022 at 3:56 PM, Eff said:

3) Magical amplification is an option, and it's one that Jar-eel makes use of.

The cult of Indlas Somer has an Amplification spell, if I recall correctly.

These threads might be useful:

 

  • Thanks 2

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

Link to comment
Share on other sites

45 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The Yelmic culture, especially, in Dara Happa, would have a lot of musical sophistication, as they try to emulate the choirs of heaven.

Interesting. I had the Dara Happan elite pegged as musical stick-in-the-muds. Choral music, yes, but with little to no harmony (octaves … and fifths at a push) — anything else would be impure and worse innovative. And obviously, they would hate the songs of the throat-singing horse nomads, even if they are fellow solars.

51 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Uz are probably masters of rhythm

Yes, with hyped-up hearing and a known drum culture, I was hoping for something special, too. I was imagining a trollish Swapan Chaudhuri making sarcastic comments about singers’ lack of rhythmic nous. And trollkin mastering the morsing (jaw harp) to avoid being eaten. This sort of vibe — Tala Âdi — something more subtle than the daylight people were expecting.

NOTORIOUS VØID CULTIST

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 minutes ago, mfbrandi said:

Choral music, yes, but with little to no harmony (octaves … and fifths at a push) — anything else would be impure and worse innovative. And obviously, they would hate the songs of the throat-singing horse nomads, even if they are fellow solars.

Well there's the start of whole new sub-thread on Gloranthan tuning systems. About all we can be sure of is that nobody uses equal temperament, unless perhaps the mathematically and technologically inclined Mostali, who don't strike me as a very musical bunch.

Uz tuning might be remarkably subtle given that Darksense must rely upon tremendous pitch sensitivity to be effective - some kind of weird microtonal tuning extending well into infrasonic or ultrasonic frequencies.

Many other cultural tunings will be microtonal / just intonation variants determined by the limits of human vocal chords. Overtone singing feels to me to be inherently shamanic - the ability to generate and perceive two sonic realities simultaneously / tune into two vibrations at once.

  • Like 2

--

The Voralans presents Glorantha's magical mushroom humanoids, the black elves. "Absolutely phenomenal" - Austin C. "Seriously weird-ass shit" - John D. "A great piece of work" - Leon K. The Electrum best-selling The Children of Hykim documents Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "Lovingly detailed and scholarly, and fun to read" - John H. "Absolutely wonderful!" - Morgan C.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Brian Duguid said:

Well there's the start of whole new sub-thread on Gloranthan tuning systems. About all we can be sure of is that nobody uses equal temperament, unless perhaps the mathematically and technologically inclined Mostali, who don't strike me as a very musical bunch.

 

Yep and here is why... 

 

Just watched this last week. <channelling inner Tony the Tiger> IT'S GRRREAT!

Edited by Bill the barbarian

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

About all we can be sure of is that nobody uses equal temperament, unless perhaps the mathematically and technologically inclined Mostali

Well, I wouldn’t put it past a Nysalorean riddler to seem to be indulging in overtone singing but actually to be singing whole-tone equal-tempered harmonies out of Debussy.

  • Confused 1

NOTORIOUS VØID CULTIST

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Baron Wulfraed said:

Performer was probably a Eurmaly hauling around a "one-man band" rig (drum, harp/lyre, and a woodwind 🧐 )

And deely bobbers; must have deely bobbers — it is what JC would have wanted. (I swear I saw footage of him so dressed and accepting an honorary doctorate and/or talking to a large gathering of students, but I haven’t been able to turn up any images on Google.)

NOTORIOUS VØID CULTIST

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...