Exploring in Novels and Music

8 Jul
 NOTES FROM THE STUDIO:  Catalysis Projects’ Core Composer Veronika Krausas muses about the similarities of traveling and exploring in novels, on land, and in musical composition.

Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…

The reason I bring up Star Trek, not because I’m a trekkie, although I loved the new movie with the cameo by Leonard Nimoy (always a hero – logical and mathematical) and did watch the series as a kid (Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scottie and the gang always kicked ass, just like Batman and Robin except in space), it’s the quote from the beginning of the show/film etc. that pertains to my blog this month.  …to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations…

Right now I’m in the middle of two things:  I’m reading Embassytown, the newest work by one of my favorite authors, China Miéville and I’m writing a new piece.  Interestingly they both have something  in common – the process of acclimatization.

Miéville’s novel is set in the future and humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Diving into this novel is like arriving in a new city or starting a new piece.  There is little or no familiarity with things:  understanding the syntax of new words and ideas, the new streets and buildings, or the harmonic language of a new composition.  Your legs feel wobbly; your brain is in overtime to make connections and link concepts, ideas, notes, street names!

As the story progresses with these unknown words and concepts—that are slowly revealed or you have to work out for yourself—there’s a level of comfort reached when the comparisons turn to understanding. It’s like learning a new language – constantly translating words to English until they attain the status of becoming their own entity without being a comparison or needing a definition anymore.

I think about explorers first encountering a new culture and new language and new everything!   There was movie called the 13th Warrior a few years back and what I remember about this movie is one brilliant scene when the hero (I think Antonio Banderas) was thrown into a group of Vikings (or some bearded types) and didn’t speak their language.  It showed his progression of recognizing and understanding individual words and over time grouping them into sentences, and then into meaning.  I loved the way that the writers didn’t just assume everyone spoke English in Medieval Europe.  So it’s a process of acclimatization.

With writing novels (I’m assuming) or music (which I know) it’s the creation of a new universe and even in that creation there’s the period of acclimatization for your own internal understanding.  This is a tough period and often very elusive – nothing makes sense in your brain and very unrelated and strange things achieve great importance (such as the sudden need to clean behind the fridge).

Getting over that hump is a great relief and then links are made more easily and naturally (and who cares what’s behind the fridge … you can’t see it anyway!)

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