Two male African Pseudempusa pinnapavonis (Peacock Mantis). Picture: Igor Siwanowicz / Barcroft Media
Coexisting Cultures in #soundworld
One thing I really wanted to play with in #soundworld was a less unified idea of what is considered ‘territory’. There are some modernized nations in the world with settled cities and towns between them, but there are at least two - possibly three or four - nations of generally nomadic people. How is diplomacy handled, what are the hunting/poaching laws, and how are foreigners held to the ‘law of the land’ when the land is as much theirs as anyone else’s the moment they step onto it? It’s tricky, and the answer in Earth history has near unanimously involved war.
I’m looking for something different. I am considering a code of rights held uncontested throughout all the lands - very simple rights, like no murder, no theft, no assault - that can never be broken, whereas other laws are left more lenient. For instance, if the settled people of [Archipelago] have poaching laws, they apply only to those who fall under the nation’s control. Anyone outside of the jurisdiction of the local law, however, could do as they please, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of the settled people.
There would be ups and downs to such a system. Travellers would either have to obey the local law or be exempt from it. As an example, if you were mugged during your time in the city, the police would have no particularly good reason to help you. You’d have to appeal to your own government to have them arrested, which simply isn’t practical for anything less than murder. Hell, even murder could be a pain if you come from another continent. Could you imagine the USA sending over a group of cops to England just to investigate a random businessman’s stabbing in an alleyway? By the time they got there, half the evidence would have washed away in the rain and you’d never be able to find a witness. But the benefits to living outside the system are undeniable, as well.
That’s my favourite possibilities. The rest are just lighter versions of things that have happened in our histories. Assimilation, giving nomadic people’s ‘territories’ to wander about in - though likely settle inevitably out of a lack of alternatives-, or giving them some “place” in society (hiring them as hunters, for example). None would provide as interesting a dynamic for the fantasy world, but they are certainly more… probable. Still, I’d rather flesh out the former than resort to any of the latter.
eccoculi (n) “living echoes”, inorganic matter embued with stone to give it lifelike qualities
a.k.a. The first thing I have officially named in #soundworld! Yes, it has been nearly half a year since I first conceived of #soundworld and, finally, something is getting a name that doesn’t have an asterisk or octothorp in it. Let us make merry to commemorate this glorious occasion! This is also the first word of the translated language of #soundworld, so look forward to some conlanging in the future.
Eccoculi have been discussed here before. Nicknamed the “song sewn”, the eccoculi are creatures of stone and metal that echo a song that gives them life. The practical applications range from golems to a classic Galatea tale. The most important attribute of the eccoculi is their silence. Because they must echo the song that keeps them alive, the eccoculi cannot speak or even breathe. They can still communicate. Instrumental and written languages are widespread in #soundworld.
But they are considered worse than even the mute in some societies. The mute still breathe, they can often still whistle or hum, many can even make a wide variety of sounds, simply not enough to speak the local language. The only way for the eccoculi to ‘speak’ is through tools and primitive stomping and clapping, both of which are frowned upon in many of #soundworld’s societies. Nonetheless, if they echo the right song, they can be just as human as you or I. Or they could be very inhuman.
Eccoculi are popular with musicians in warfare. A hundred thousand silent soldiers who can just be given another song to echo when they fall? Can’t deny that it’s handy. Some experiment. They create eccoculi in the form of the lesser creatures of the world, like the #soundworld counterpart elks. Sometimes as pets, sometimes to see how nature reacts. One man even created an eccoculi in the form of a tree.
The [Archipelago] people have the most divinity-based mythology of any cultures in #soundworld, so I thought I would start with them while dissecting potential religions of the world. Their religion is based off of a moral, active life. Active is important. The core belief on their religion is that, when you die, a record of your life is played alongside a record of a saviour archetype (I’ve yet to name him/her, as per usual). Every song you’ve ever sung, which includes every “hello” and “fuck you” ever uttered, is sewn into a record. That record is judged by its length (the inactive, passive, are not viewed kindly) and by its moments, your sins if you will.
If you pass, you become sound. If you fail, you become silence. This is not true, for the record, but it’s what they believe.
How do they divide moral and immoral? As I said, it is based off of a saviour’s life. How s/he lived is the basis for how the people of [Archipelago] live. I don’t want it to be heavily based off of any real world religion, so I took a different path: strength. Powerful emotions, be they love or hate, are valued above passing fancies and minor tiffs. As discussed, those who keep their heads down, stay silent, never sing are seen as passive. The people of [Archipelago] are encouraged to be boisterous. Friendships stay strong until they break hard. But words speak louder than actions. Murder will not affect the judgement of your record, but you’ll still be arrested. Scathing words are superior to a sharpened knife. The government uses this to their advantage, encouraging a passionate sense of patriotism.
Though anyone meek or disinterested is potentially scorned by this society, true discrimination exists in the mute. Somebody who cannot speak could never become sound with their beliefs in place. In older days, the child was often killed at birth as an act of mercy. Those who became mute later in life were exiled. These days, with travel easily accessible and a universal language, most people (or their parents, if the child is born mute) simply move to a neighbouring nation. It’s inconvenient, and it can be dangerous if you wish to cross the desert, but it’s better than the brutality of a society they can never be apart of.
Races in #soundworld
Two distinctions! Races, in the way we discuss races on Earth, and races, in the way we discuss races in Middle Earth. I’ve not completely settled on all of the details either way, but here’s a basic overview of both sorts of races, their relationships, their appearances, and their roles in #soundworld.
For the ‘species’ sense of the word, I want a gradient of sapience. What does that mean? That there isn’t a clear cut line between “man” and “animal” the way there is on Earth. We talk about how dolphins, dogs, apes, and other animals show certain human qualities. Sea mammals, for instance, are often needlessly and relentlessly cruel. I want to take that a step further, creatures that can communicate, understand language in the same sense of the word, but are… animalistic. I’d also like to explore a level of awareness above humanity. With all the benefits and weaknesses of it.
I have four tentative ‘races’ in this regard. People who’ve been following me for a while may know a bit about them. In essence, moles, spiders, and squids. The moles - “spades” - are a short-lived race. They evolved later than most and are likely to die out before the rest, as well. They are driven by instinct, yet can understand and speak the human tongue with the right tools, tools they are capable of building. The spiders are the next step, forming societies often as advanced outwardly as a human’s, but they lack a sense of… well, humanity. Only a queen can think and feel, and she is subjugated and secluded from the hive. (Also, these spiders are spider-bee hybrids, in a way.) Finally, the squids are functionally human in all but their dwelling. They are held back only by the limitations of aquatic life.
These three races, all of which need proper names, live alongside humans in harmony, most of the time. The humans treat spades more like pets than people, and the spiders and men have had a fair few territory wars (though they are currently at peace). Squids and men conduct a fair amount of trade and the economic relationship between the two is a whole other post entirely. So let’s just talk about the races of man.
As always, we don’t have a name for any of them, so we’ll refer to them by the location they originate from, for simplicity.
The [Archipelago] have olive skin, almond eyes, narrow noses, thin lips, and ears in the shape of spindles. Their hair is naturally wavy, often curly, and ranges from blonde to black. Their eyes can be any natural colour. The [Sea] are very pale, more pale than most white people on Earth’s. They have unnaturally round eyes, wide noses, thin lips, and short, flat ears. Their hair is naturally straight and coarse, and almost exclusively black. Their eyes are usually brown.
The [Grasslands] range in skin tone from beige to bronze. They have wide eyes, wide noses, full lips, and pointed ears typically found on elves in fantasy novels. Their hair is usually curly and coarse, and ranges from blonde to brunette. Their eyes are usually brown. The [Savannah] range in skin tone from a tree bark-like gray-ish brown to bronze. They have wide eyes, wide noses, full lips, and ‘human’ ears (like ours). Their hair is usually curly, springy even, and can be any natural colour. Their eyes are usually brown.
The [Deciduous Forest] have ivory skin, almond eyes, flat and wide noses, full lips, and ears in the shape of acorns. Their hair is naturally wavy, and ranges from brunette to black. Their eyes are usually blue or green. The [Rainforest] range in skin tone from gold to brown. They have almond eyes, wide noses, thin lips, and ‘loose’ pointed ears, with a similar shape to the typical ‘elven’ ear, with extra cartilage curling in around the edges. Their hair is naturally straight and coarse, and ranges from brunette to black. Their eyes are usually brown.
The [Desert] have the darkest skin, ranging from brown to nearly black. They have thin eyes, flat and thin noses, full lips, and ‘hooded’ ears (similar to [Rainforest], but longer and with a more prominent hood). Their hair is naturally curly, and almost exclusively black. Their eyes are usually brown.
Humanity originated before the desert was formed, in one large grassland. The [Grasslands] and [Savannah] are the closest related, having once been one race, but were split apart as the desert formed. The [Rainforest] and [Archipelago] also come from the same group. The [Deciduous Forest] evolved in relative isolation, as did the [Sea].
Hi! Thanks for the interest. :)
Sound and all of its magical effects have been present since the planets formed (my world is scientific in that regard, having been created in a similar way to ours, instead of by gods). There is a musical resonance with *everything*, down to the other planets of their solar system. On this world, some of the major changes caused by sound include:
- Songs are more important in creatures. On Earth, most creatures make noise, but only a few use it to the full effect that most creatures on #soundworld do. Nothing is any less complex than a bird in terms of its ability to create what humans might call ‘music’.
- Sound, in a magical sense, is even more omnipresent. Though I frame it as a field of science, it is not without magical likenesses akin to any other fantasy world. People have ‘songs’ that act like many Earth culture’s depictions of ‘souls’. They also act a bit like True Names do in fantasy worlds (such as Eragon, the Earthsea novels, and Tithe by Holly Black).
- There is also a certain… pattern to the things in the world. Objectively, it is mathematical. Things like rock formations and rivers are more proportional, often following the pattern of a storm’s song. It is a subtle difference. Rocks and rivers exist and follow most rules of Earth, yet the gradients and curves are constricted to the whims of sound.
- Weather - from light showers to hurricanes - has a more sublime effect on the world. The pitter patter of rain, the gushing winds, those sounds all have a magical effect and they aren’t coincidental effects. Everything in nature was created by and is bound by sound, and that means everything in nature can create magic, inadvertently or otherwise. Humans, and other creatures like them, are only unique in their ability to replicate and record all of nature’s sounds and use them to their advantage.
Every Sound Has a Magical Effect
This is the premise that spawned the world. All sound has a magical effect. I haven’t had a chance to elaborate on it fully, only in short theories and concepts, so I’ve prepared an analogy in hopes that it would make the idea clear. After that, we can explore the rest of this world.
Music in this world is like chemistry. Every note, pitch, duration, volume, harmony, and melody is a chemical, temperature, pressure. Sometimes, the combination of a note and a pitch is explosive. Sometimes it changes the state of something, like how temperature changes a liquid into a solid. If you combine certain chemicals with water, you can dissolve the chemical, alter the water, create a new compound entirely… and sometimes, you toss salt in water, and all you get is wet salt.
In essence, magic is the same. Though every sound has a magical effect, some combinations of pitch and volume just don’t create that badass explosion. Do you remember titration? Where you had two tubes set up to let loose one tiny drop of a chemical at a time into a flask? And you had to turn the liquid in the flask clear? It only worked at just the right combination of fluids. Even one extra drop could turn the whole thing pink. In a way, the sound of this world works like this. It is as much a science as it is an art.
That said… a ‘dud’ is not useless or ineffective. Salt water isn’t particularly interesting, chemically. You can separate salt and water without much difficulty; just a little heat. Yet there are millions of creatures that would die without that salt in the water. Salt water is the life source of more creatures than we can even imagine. Not every song in their world causes an explosion or does something we might consider ‘magical’, but every sound is essential for supporting the world.
Like chemistry, as well, there are… neutralizers, one could call them. Things which can reverse or prevent an effect. These are called silencers in #soundworld. Silence is as much a sound as any other, yet its effects can be catastrophic. On a wide scale, silence can destroy a city. Imagine the effects of silence on a community (watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Hush), then imagine the effects of a city without - say - gasoline. Combined. Really think about it. No transportation except a bike and your feet. Eventually, a lack of gasoline could lead to a lack of power. Many generators run off of gas. The same is true of sound. It has become the infrastructure of city planning. Roads are built based on acoustics.
What does all this mean on a smaller scale? You still have to be careful. Not every ‘chemical reaction’ is Mozart. Explosions can be caused by the sound of a thousand men clapping their hands in a seemingly chaotic fashion. A sporting event can turn into a disaster if they applauded incorrectly. And many of these effects are less thrilling, but still present. A single word might give the first thing it hits a shake. Hardly detrimental, but it means that magic is omnipresent. Unavoidable.
In terms of culture, this has a lot of repercussions. Nobody can truly oppress magic. Magic is accessible. The only way to keep the common folk from using magic is to keep them from creating sound, and be assured, there are those that have tried. Even today, some cultures have put a high value on silence. Some languages are created in such a fine way as to prevent magic from being used in speech, crafted elegantly and purposely to avoid it at any volume. They are ugly languages, but spoken languages. Other cultures embrace it. Others still abuse it. Just the right tune floating down the streets to keep the people complacent.
If you intend to follow the project, keep these things in mind when considering the scope of #soundworld.