Music & Culture

Hello fellow Travellers,

I decided to let you all in on one of my assignments. For my music elective, the teacher asked me to;

Give an example how art (visual art, dance, drama or music (depending on the course you are taking)) reflects a particular culture?

To answer the question, I decided to write a short story. It has no title, labelled on the document as “Music and Culture”. Rather boring, if you ask me.

But here’s the mini story;

Myra had been so close to home when it happened. One second she’d been watching the lights flicker on in city buildings and skyscrapers, contrasting against the darkening sky, the next moment she stood in a well-lit ballroom. She held a delicate glass and wore a dress from the 1800s.

Used to sudden shifts, she didn’t allow the shock to show on her face. Instead, she placed the glass down on a nearby table and slipped into the crowd.

Strains of music cut across the chattering of the crowded room and Myra’s feet stilled. It was the start of a cheerful melody, the violins already starting to move faster. Various woodwinds joined in at times, but the strings were central.

The crowd made way for dancing. Partnered, the dancers’ steps were quick and playful, accompanied by an occasional clapping. The dance was light and joyful, friendly instead of flirtatious, and the music that accompanied it reflected just that.

When the last note faded, everyone burst into applause and laughter. It was such a cheerful atmosphere, the light glinting off of jewels and candelabras.

Myra curtsied in response to an elder woman’s greeting. As she straightened up, she was suddenly thrust forward into a step and back on the streets of her city.

Myra resumed her walk towards home, her mind still back in time, when deep bass notes cut across her thoughts. She was walking past one of the less-savoury buildings in the city. The deep bass of the music was accompanied by a rapper, words unintelligible. Not that Myra really wanted to know what the rapper was saying.

She could see the pulsing of light through the cracks in the windows and underneath the steel door. A man stood outside, watching her walk past with narrowed eyes.

She shivered- the whole atmosphere was different.

It was darker, more oppressive, and definitely more hopeless. There was none of the light cheerfulness of the dance she had just witnessed, but only the heavy, pulsing music that portrayed the lifestyle it accompanied. Lost, depressive, rebellious.

Myra pulled her coat around her and walked faster.

A raindrop startled her and Myra looked upwards, only to be met by a clear, sunny sky. Chalky, brick buildings surrounded her. She stood in the middle of a dusty, bustling street. She could see litter around the curbs and mangy mutts trying to find scraps. The bright colours of the people, buildings and clothing made her smile.

Cars were honking at each other in the distance, but she was in an alley of a sort. People were walking by, carrying large bundles, and biking with towering stacks of merchandise strapped to their bikes.

A flute cut through the bustle of people and Myra sought it out.

It was trilling in a minor key, up and down various scales, playing fast notes with many steps. As she drew closer to the source of the music, the could make out acoustic strings accompanying the wind instrument. Not strumming like a guitar, but rather being plucked in fast, rapid notes. It followed the pace and steps of the flute, weaving its own fast harmony.

As she drew still closer, the sound of a hand drum joined the flute and strings. It was beaten in quick, higher beats, filling in where the flute and strings left off.

It reminded Myra of the colourful spices and the sand in a desert, reflecting the bustle of people around her, drawing her into the melody.

She caught sight of the musicians, her eyes snagging on the girl in bright colours, dancing to the music in fluid, flowery moves, and then she was in the dark of her city, once again.

The sudden loss of colours made Myra’s head spin and she missed the comfortable bustle of the busy street. The music had made her smile and her heart warm. Now, the silence was cold with the wind and occasional drop of rain.

She started walking again, a little slower, tired from all the ‘travelling’ she’d done in the past few minutes.

A car passed her, stopping at the intersection. Its windows were down, the newest pop hit playing loudly through its speakers. The pop song broke the stillness of the night, the vocalist whining about the newest lost love and the newest broken heart.

As the car resumed its journey, leaving Myra behind, she couldn’t help but think of the song. It had been light, compared to the earlier rap song, but had been bitter and sad. The rap song may have been darker, but they both spoke of rebellion.

Against the norms, against morality. It was a hit with the young people, offering them a false freedom and normalcy of broken hearts.

Myra sighed, hiking up the strap of her purse. As her fingers left the leather strap, settling into her coat pockets, she found herself staring into a bonfire.

Myra was seated on a log, surrounded by dancing and singing in loud voices. The drums were beating in sync, rhythmic and medium paced. The song was victorious, part mourning and part rejoicing.

Myra understood what they were saying, even as they spoke a language seldom-used in modern times. Her time travelling allowed for it.

They sang songs of recent battles, rejoicing in the victory over their enemies and welcoming their heroes home. But they also remembered those whom they lost during the battle, who deserves to be remembered with honour.

Myra could see the little ones joining in, music their way of life, accompanying everything they do. If someone was born, they sang. If someone died, they sang. If crops grew, they sang.

It was beautiful music, some of the women harmonising with their strong, dexterous voices, while children laughed and sang with them.

One of the little girls ran to Myra, offering her hand. Myra smiled, sliding her own hand into the smaller one… and was back on the street.

So there you have it- my excuse for an answer.

I love music, the different styles and ways of portraying a message. The different use of instruments. The difference in cultures and the development of music throughout history.

Well, there you go, Travellers. My second post, with a mini-story, and my own (sad) photograph.

Let me know how it was! 😉

< 3 klara

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