“In our loss and fear we craved the acts of religion, the ceremonies that allow us to admit our helplessness, our dependence on the great forces we do not understand.” – Lavinia, p. 177 This piece is dedicated to Russell Collier, fellow Le Guin fan, dear colleague, guide, friend. In memoriam. Lavinia, a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, is many things: Historical fiction set in the Italian Bronze Age; a mythic fantasy derived from the last six books of Vergil’s Aeneid; an experiment in which the narrator is aware of her own fictionality; a postmodern tale where creation and creator come to learn and love one another. But above all, Lavinia is a haunting story crafted by a great storyteller. It is not my favourite of Le Guin’s works, but it is perhaps the most beautifully written. Her laconic prose brings to life a little known pre-Roman world, captures the lived essences of a semi-mythical people, and offers voice to one neglected, to tell the tale of her life and beyond.
“More familiarity with our own mythology might help us to relate to theirs.” – Jean-Luc Picard, from last week’s piece on Darmok With this quote and the tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu still fresh in my mind, I came across a piece titled A Wild Man, Tarzan of the Highlands over at The AnthropoEccentric. In his thought-provoking essay, N.S. Anderson explores modern re-imaginings of the tale of Gilgamesh in music, translations, and art while highlighting the connections between nature and culture that lies at the heart of this Mesopotamian epic.
Several weeks past, I attended a workshop on the use of storytelling for effective social engagement. Sitting at my table was a doctoral student interested in better ways to communicate concepts of ecological economics to the public. As we chatted about the various metaphors embedded within conventional economics, particularly around growth and development, I started thinking about stories that focus on the challenge of communication and the power of metaphor. Searching my mind for examples, I found myself returning once more to the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation for inspiration, this time to an episode titled Darmok.
“Windrider is a project that I began in 1989 when music began to form in my mind while reading Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind for the very first time. Back then my musical equipment encompassed a couple of synths, a sound module and a MIDI digital sequencer. I was sometimes surprised when I would simply put my hands onto the keyboard and melodies would erupt from my hand movements. I did not really understand what was happening but it soon became evident that the music suited certain scenes and moods within the Nausicaa manga.” – Karl Schaal, The Windrider Project
Sticking to last weeks’s topic on music and sound in storytelling, I wanted to share a series of development videos around Flower, a videogame released in 2009 by thatgamecompany. It’s one of my personal favourites, and in these videos, music composer Vincent Diamante and sound designer Steve Johnson talk about their experiences crafting an emotionally resonant narrative for a game without text, speech, or even characters. Take a look: