Friday, November 30, 2007

Clog post 8 with One Night In Hunghung



First Clog: "All aboard the Aurient Express..."

So. Bes Pelargic. Who'd have thought it? Well, B.S. Johnson, presumably, when he designed Empirical Crescent...though it's never been very clear whether or not Johnson actually knew what the results of his various efforts at design would be. Still, as a mode of travel, multidimensional folded-space topology beats flying carpets and sprung coaches and camels hands down.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had a surprise waiting for us when we arrived. Two surprises: the first was our unceremonious arrival in the outer kitchens of a very busy restaurant. A very busy, very delicious-smelling restaurant. Where there were unattended golden platters piled high with all manner of exotic delicacies. Oh, yes. As we hadn't eaten at this point for many hours and several continents, the first thing we did was grab the nearest platter and bolt for the nearest broom cupboard where we bolted first the door and then the food in short order. Strange food, but delicious, and only vaguely resembling the Agatean food in takeaways on the Plains and Circle Sea nations. There were dumplings in sweet sauce, odd slimy things that tasted of the sea, rice with curious black beans, weirdly wonderful vegetables, and..."Thif tashtes like Difhtreffhed Pudding," Cert said through a mouthful of something wobbly in little ornamental dishes, and offered me a spoonful. And he was right! -- except it tasted like what Distressed Pudding might dream of becoming if it's been a very good and well-behaved pudding. We were puzzled, and once we'd eaten our fill we decided to explore quietly. The first thing we encountered was also strange -- a rack of very mixed clothing hanging on hooks on the wall -- silk kimonos side by side with old-fashioned Morporkian tunics, doublets and hose, and something that looked suspiciously like an A-M Watch uniform!

"Are we in a restaurant or is it someone's fancy dress party?" I mused aloud.


"You read Agatean?"

"I have a fish in my ear. But look, it's written below that in common Morporkian."

"Definitely weird. It's the first time I've ever heard Distressed Pudding described as noble cuisine."

The second surprise was the proprietor: none other than the Disc-famous Twoflower himself! First and greatest of tourists and later Venerable Father of the Revolution, Twoflower opened the Morpork Luck Teahouse during the reign of Cohen I, the Sandalled Emperor, and has been doing land-office business ever since. This explained some of the more...unexpected items on the menu, such as Sticky Rice Slumpie and Sweet and Sour Knuckle Sandwich, as well as the unexpected clothing, which is worn by staff in the main restaurant. As soon as we introduced ourselves and told him how we'd got there, he led us to a private dining room and laid on oceans of tea and mountains of desserts...also introduced us to his daughters (Pretty Butterfly, who's the general manager, and Lotus Blossom, who's at school but works part-time in the restaurant)...and after more conversation, booked me for a gig and informed us he was going to take some time off to show us around Bes Pelargic. We've definitely landed on our feet...

* * *

Spent the night in lodgings. Not as posh as the Great Pyramid Hotel, but clean and tidy. Very Auriental.

* * *

Next day: taken on a tour of Bes Pelargic. Bes P is a medium-sized city and shares that same "feel" of port cities everywhere -- a little bit rough, a little bit cultured, but mainly a place where people pass through, mostly coming to trade and rarely staying for long. There are a few settlements of foreigners, though. There's a Genuan community (apparently their Fat Tuesday parade features extra added dragons and Barking Dogs), a Hublandish community, a community of Ankh-Morpork ex-pats, a Little Klatch, and even a small Dwarf community (drawn, no doubt, by the smell of all the gold), and everyone seems to get along rather well. In fact, the current High Official (that's the local version of a Lord Mayor), So Ho Sixpot, has a distinctly Klatchian cast in his ancestry. Everyone seems to know Twoflower, so we were treated as honoured guests. I was told that's a far cry from the old days of the Empire, where even in Bes P foreigners were treated with distaste and often arrested and expelled on suspicion of being foreign. We were taken to restaurants and tea-houses and temples and then shown the Red Triangle District, and the Shu District which is where the docks are. There were ships from as far away as Howondaland there, and even a few NoThingfjord longboats in from the Long Route via Slakki and Ting Ling (we stayed away from that area, in case someone recognised us).

* * *

Day after: we were taken to Bes Eisley. Oh, my.

Bes Eisley, also known as the District of Unmended Shoji, is definitely the downmarket area of Bes P. It's down at the far end of Shu and it's where the most disreputable of the foreigners hang out, along with the local criminal element (always wondered which element is the criminal one. some isotope of narrativium, maybe?). I'd like to be able to say I've never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, but a) I've been to the Shades and b) there was plenty of scum and villainy, but surprisingly little wretchedness. Especially at Threepenny's House of Tea and Poppy Products, where all the customers looked astonishingly happy. And the band -- Sammy Shen and his Sizzling Shamisens -- was brilliant! Sammy's something of a local Personality and an old friend of Twoflower's. He got Mayor So up to play the chi shells, which sound rather like Lancrastian spoons. The Mayor wasn't very good at playing the shells, but no-one in the audience seemed to mind,even though he kept dropping and breaking his instruments...not that that's a problem, as Sammy Shen also sells chi shells by the Shu shore and has a plentiful supply. I was asked up for a few songs. I already had a lot of sake in me, and by the time I finished I had a lot more sake in me because nearly everyone in the place bought me a drink...

Sake is even better than beer, once you get enough down you to get past the taste (like rice that came to a bad end after leading a disreputable life). Sake is also even better than beer for getting wandering bards into sticky situations. Like the one I found myself in with Ten Blue Ox, Sammy Shen's koto player. I mean, we would have got along well anyway -- he has some fine riffs -- but sake has a way of lowering inhibitions to somewhere below ground level, or at least below waist level. And making a person make eyes at another person. And making a person smoke something funny-tasting from Threepenny's private stock. And getting back onstage to do some more requests and taking part in a cross-cultural jam session.

The last thing I remembered clearly that night was kneeling in front of Ox and playing his koto with my teeth. The next thing I remembered was waking up next to a very happily sleeping Ox in a room that definitely wasn't mine, with a hangover and a limp...

Cert didn't speak to me for two days. Not until I introduced him to Breaking Dawn, a friend of the band's who's deeply into technomancers. When in Bes P, do as the Bes Pelargians, that's my motto. All's serene now. Plenty of sake. We still haven't dared try the Sweet and Sour Knuckle Sandwich, but I've written an advertising jungle for the Morpork Luck International Restaurant; the name is too long to use repeatedly, but it has a catchy chorus: "You can get anything you want at Twoflower's restaurant..."

* * *

Day something: we've met many interesting people with many interesting names. It seems there are regional naming conventions in different parts of Agatea; some families use single names and diminutives (usually numbers), some are named for their connection to the five Noble Clans (Fang, Tang, Hong, Sung and McSweeney), some have three-part names (usually consisting of a number, a colour or state of being, and an object), and some have names that are just plain weird. There's Three Blin'd Mice, the greengrocer; Five Spilt Sake, the barman; Lo Hung Wan and Lo Hung Fang, local nobs; Fourplates, the dentist; Zero Rabbit, who runs the apothecary shop; One Stone Dragon, who plays bass shamisen in Sammy's band and should really be called One Stoned's hard to remember them all! Girls and women usually have two names, like Beautiful Poppy and Fecund Doe. Sammy's real name is Shen Sing Ho. And they all think our names are strange!

There's so much history here! Everywhere! I've taken many, many iconographs and written loads of notes. I think I might end up writing that travel book after all...

Time to sleep. Here endeth this post.

* * *

Second Clog: "Wednesday on my mind..."

It turns out that the McSweeneys aren't the only old and noble family with an unusual name by Agatean standards: there are also the Wednesdays.

Back in the days of long-lost Ago when the ancient warlord Toijota ruled the Pelargic coast, a shipwrecked Morporkian sailor was rescued by Toijota's troops and rose to the highest rank in the warlord's service. This sailor's name was Adam Wednesday. He proved to be a valuable resource, not least because he brought actual news of the World Beyond the Walls and actual useful advice about sea-trading and Morporkian military history (read: "fighting dirty, without a crippling load of traditional rules"), and was given the sobriquet of Jinjin-san, which is Agatean for "foreign barbarian sailor who's done bloody well for himself". Wednesday served in the forecourt of Toijota, never again leaving Agatea to return to Ankh-Morpork; he became immensely rich, took a number of wives and concubines, and died old and happy within sight of the beached remains of his original ship. It's to Wednesday that Bes Pelargic owes its centuries-long history of being the only somewhat open port in the Agatean Empire, and its centuries-long willingness to entertain barbarian ways has subtly changed the local culture. If you wander around the Bes Peninsula, you can still find people with the surnames Wednesday and Jinjin; the original Mr Wednesday obviously had a lot of wives and concubines.

We've had a stroke of luck -- we arrived in time for the Samizdat Festival. It's a yearly event peculiar to Bes P and only a few other locations, and it's where those who served in, or served, or say they served, or were standing nearby looking innocent during, the Glorious Revolution gather to remember the Days of Struggle. I'd say you can't move for parades of peasants in pyjamas, but it seems that's just the normal state of Agatean cities; however, parades of peasants in pyjamas don't usually march along shouting things like "Gradual Orderly Transfer of Power to the People!" and "Shun the Evil Imperialists Whilst Using Polite Mannerliness!" It's very enthusiastic and above all, very loud. Twoflower and his family always march at the head of the parade, and afterwards there are ceremonial Campfires of Remembrance where the festivalgoers huddle around eating stale rice and meagre portions of rotten fish and reminisce about the hardships they endured before the coming of the true Red Army. For the record, the rice and fish are deliberately served that way as a reminder; believe me, the real cuisine is to die for (and not because of poisons).

During the campfire ceremony I was able to learn more about what happened in the years between Cohen's accession and the present day. Twoflower confirms that he did indeed serve as Cohen's Grand Vizier, and that they did make some sweeping legal and cultural changes together, but the old ways started creeping back as fast as changes were made and he didn't feel comfortable -- Twoflower, not Cohen, Cohen could feel comfortable anywhere he could hang his sword (preferably from the upper chest region of unrepentant court bureaucrats and nobles) -- with the constant tensions of court life. So when Cohen left, he resigned and came straight back home to open the restaurant. He says that there are changes being made deep in the Agatean culture, but that he hasn't got the necessary thousand or so years to spend hanging around waiting for them to blossom. Agatea is definitely a foreign country -- back around the Circle Sea, changes to culture take place as fast as the Clacks can carry them!

Speaking of the Clacks, they still don't have much in the way of towers here. But that will soon change: someone's had the bright idea to put towers on ships plying the Quirm coast-Bes Pelargic trade route! Transmission depends on the weather at sea, but on a clear, calm day or night the messages fly back and forth much faster than any ship can sail. It's only a matter of time before strings of towers go up all across the mainland...

* * *

We're going to Hunghung! With a native guide! V. excited. Always wanted to see the Forbidden City, and now it's...less forbidden.

* * *

We packed our belongings -- so many belongings now, between all the gifts and all the shopping in Shu and all the scrolls ("...if you can just take this to First Sister's third cousin in Hunghung...") and ornamental sake bottles -- and headed out at sunrise. Everyone turned up to give us a rousing send-off. Even Sammy's band. It was rather sweet to hear Brindisian Rhapsody played on Agatean instruments. Also, Ox gave me a beautiful koto to remember him by. I can think of rather more robust reasons to remember him by, but...also, Breaking Dawn will be giving Cert something to remember her by in about eight months' time, or so we're told. Ah well, that solves my problems nicely, and he did say he wanted to work in the Agatean technomancy industry...but for now, we're back to friendly relations. Nurr, nurr, nurr.

Agatea, for all its gold, is a simple and old-fashioned country with old-fashioned simple poverty. We passed through endless rice paddies and endless tiny villages that probably looked the same in the days of One Sun Mirror. But Red -- our guide, Seven Red Rice -- says there's a very important difference: most of the peasants in the fields no longer kowtow to mounted travellers. They also no longer need special papers to travel from village to village, but Red says most of them still stay put because old habits die hard. That's progress for you.

* * *

Pork ear stew is...interesting.

* * *

After a while, pork ear stew is...less interesting.

* * *


* * *

After a while, duck tastes like pork ear stew...

* * *

Today we were passed by an entire flock of carrier pigeons. Very orderly country, Agatea: they were flying in formation.

* * *

Red pointed out the Dragon Mountains, off in the distance. He says that legend has it they're the exposed scales of the Earth Dragon, and that the position of cities relative to parts of the dragon are vitally important according to the dictates of Sheng Fooey. Most Agatean traditionalists, which is to say most Agateans, believe that Ankh-Morpork is built on top of the Earth Dragon's...well, never mind. Use your imagination.


Nearly at the gates of Hunghung now. Time to sleep. Here endeth this post.

* * *

Third Clog: "Down but not out in the Heavenly City"

Right. Far, far too much to write about and no way to send it, so I'm dictating the short version in song to Gimpy and getting it carriered back to Twoflower's. He promised to post it on the next Clacks fleet...


    Hunghung...Auriental setting
    It's a city of gold full of bureaucrats fretting
    The cream of the nobles in their cute silk beanies
    Hyping every clan but McSweeney's

    Great Wall...doesn't seem a minute
    Since the famous Silver Horde stuck their broadswords in it
    Small change - don't you know a rhinu
    Buys a whole city? Well, that's something more than I knew!
    Buys Sto Lat...or Pseudopolis...or Morpork...
    Or...or someplace!

    One night in Hunghung and the world's your lobster
    Those golden temples are a sight to see
    You'll find a god in every dry ancestor
    And if you're lucky then the squishi's free
    I can feel a ninja sneaking up on me

    One coin's...very like another
    When your head's down counting your rhinu, brother
    Etiquette is a chore, it's very 'san' and 'sama'
    Though I'm getting to adore those peasants in pyjamas

    Gilded and clean -
    I've seen forbidden, enchanted, charming towns

    Cha, buns, sweet and sour
    Caffs as posh as the Emperor's bower
    - that's Cohen! You're talking 'bout a hero
    Whose 'civilised' index stands at zero
    - he got his kicks above the snowline, last time!

    One night in Hunghung makes your dwarf bread crumble
    No other empire has such history
    One night in Hunghung knocks you down like scumble
    With pretty geisha girls for company
    I can see an army made of pottery

    I am...gonna see the army
    It's the ultimate sight in a land this barmy
    It stuns me more than blowfish
    Unlike tsimo wrestling - that's too oafish
    Thank the Gods I'm only watching the Noh, not part of it!

    See old men play like lightning
    Their game's more slick than kung fu fighting
    I watch them play, and grind my molars -
    Shibo Yangcong-san's for real high rollers!
    So you better just stick with your tea, your haikus
    Your squishi vendors...

    One night in Hunghung and the world's your lobster
    Those silken eunuchs are a sight to see
    You'll find a god in every dry ancestor
    And from Dibhala's tray, some rancid tea
    I can feel a ninja sneaking up on me

    One night in Hunghung makes your stomach rumble
    To munch exotic snacks with jasmine tea
    And when their language makes me gasp and mumble
    I'll keep Twoflower close for company
    I can feel the vampire ghosts right next to me!

* * *

Fourth Clog: "Eek!"

One night in Hunghung is everything the song says, but four weeks in Hunghung is a bit too much for some. Which is to say, for me. It's so big! And so crowded! And so far from home! This is the first time I've actually felt homesick since I began my journey. Not that I want to go home yet, but there are so many more places to see and only so many sweet and sour dumplings a body can eat, and only so many frustrated bureaucrats a body can stand to be around, and not enough gigs to make the evenings interesting (although the Imperial State Gymnastic Orchestra was worth the journey all on its own). So I gathered up my ever-increasing pile of acquired stuff, gave it to Red to take back to Bes P for shipping back to Lost Wages, and went looking for Cert.

I found him in the Hall of Curiosities in the Winter Palace, deep in conversation with a wizardy sort who must have been at least 150. Cert introduced him as Four Dread Teeth (and they are), a Doctor of Thaumology and one of the few old-school Agateans to have studied at Unseen University. Doctor Teeth was quite friendly, though his Morporkian is a bit rusty -- foreign languages officially did not exist in the days of the old Empire, especially in Hunghung. He and Cert have been updating each other (though in the case of Teeth, I suppose it's backdating) about developments in technomancy. They were babbling excitedly about something called Kwan T'um, which according to Doctor Teeth was discovered by his people 3,000 years ago but never explored on the grounds of its being inadvisable magic. It looks as though Cert will definitely have a job waiting for him after he gets his degree. Always good news for someone contemplating child support...

* * *

We decided to head for Bhangbhangduc by way of Sum Dim, going Rimwards after that through the Tang Pass in the Big Dragon Mountains (same dragon, apparently). Sum Dim was both a relief and a disappointment after the mad bustle of Hunghung; it's the most isolated major city in the Empire, so in other words old-fashioned in the least pleasant ways. Nothing but paddies, pyjamaed peasants, and...well, nothing else, really. The Sum Dim cuisine is different, though. Very, very spicy and based mostly on clay-pot cooking, with a gooey gluey bubbliness that reminds me of the Ankh. Not Ankh-Morpork, just the Ankh. Occasionally things bubble up to the surface of the pot, and I swear I saw far too many legs on some of them. Cert and I managed to learn a fair bit of conversational Agatean over the weeks, but out here we might as well not have bothered because the Sum dialect is almost a different language. Luckily, they do feed musicians -- but if I hadn't had my lute and my new koto with me, things would've got awfully hungry. We only stayed for two nights, then hit the road with hope in our hearts. I think we should have tried to hire a guide...

* * *

Lost the road in the dark last night. Nothing but plains and foothills. At least foothills means mountains soon, and mountains mean mountain pass, right?

It's getting very cold at night. Almost feel nostalgic for those flying carpets.

* * *

The landscape is getting...strange. Cert got a vintage thaumometer as a gift from Doctor Teeth. I don't know much about magickal devices, but I'm sure it shouldn't be glowing octarine all the time.

* * *

Landscape even stranger. Still nothing but foothills. We seem to have wandered into old Mage Wars ground. Thaumometer exploded this morning. At least I think it was morning. Um.

* * *

Dictating shrtmth definitly Magewars wyrd trees feelin fnny gtting hrdr to spe-

-- Alc


Note for Roundworlders: the original lyrics for One Night in
can be found at or

November 2007

by Lady Anaemia Asterisk


...with the sound of music! Sweet, sweet music. Do you like... soul music? Well, here are the answers to all your questions about "Which musical instruments are the best choices to play for people born under my Sign?" With the aid of astrology, you'll soon be making joyful noises with nimble fingers, mobile mouths, tantalisingly tripping tongues, and even greased elbows and fortunately fortitudinous feet. Whether your passion is for polite chamber music, wildly cultural folkfests, emotionally deranged full-tilt orchestral mayhem, or even Music with Rocks In, knowing your predestined instrument will set you well on the path to harmonious vicissitudinal virtuosity. Let the stars make you a star!

The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

Your musical instruments: organ, piano, harpsichord

Hoggers are typically bombastic, and nothing says bombast quite like the wheezing, groaning, majestic thunder of a pipe organ in full throttle. Especially if it's that king of keyboard instruments, the Mighty Hurlitzer! Originally designed by B.S. Johnson for the infamous Uberwaldean ivory-thumper Herr Doktor Antonius "the Indomitable" Vybes, the Mighty Hurlitzer can achieve tones that turn bones to water, tones that can only be heard by small woodland animals, and the sort of volume usually associated with avalanches and newborn volcanoes. You'll be the life -- and possibly death -- of every party, and people certainly won't laugh when you sit down at the keyboard!

Those of you with gentler temperaments might prefer the piano (easier to move, requires less steam), the harpsichord (dramatic but reasonably quiet), the harmonium (result of a terrible accident involving a piano-accordion, a treadmill and a bicycle pump, and simultaneously providing music and good healthy exercise), or the virginal, which often isn't.

Gahoolie, the Vase of Tulips 21 Apr - 21 May

Your musical instruments: harp, dulcimer

Gahoolie rules the corpus callosum, sacrum and stiff upper lip, and you'll find all of these are vital for a good harpist, because harp playing requires superb full-brain coordination, perfect posture, and above all, the ability to never crack a smile. The harp is a stately instrument, twice the height of the average Dwarf (but much lighter than a Hogger's pipe organ); its silken strings have been known to soothe the troubled brows of kings, herald the marriages of important personages, and even, at least in the case of the legendary battle harp of Owen Mwnyy, play themselves in times of danger...although playing with yourself is not always the best course of action in times of danger.

The dulcimer is another ancient instrument, more portable than the harp and with far fewer strings, requiring the messy death of far fewer cats. There are several varieties: the Lancrastian dulcimer, related to the zither and easily adapted to folk music; the hammer dulcimer, an oblong-or-eldritch box of strings that are hammered or beaten (rather like playing the piano with mallets); and the NoThingfjord langeleik, a droning dulcimer that makes possibly the most depressing sounds ever heard, but that's appropriate for the frozen wastes of NoThingfjord. Less musically-gifted Gahooligans may prefer the Tsortean monochordon. You can't go too far wrong with only one string!

Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

Your musical instruments: flute, tin whistle, ocarina

Flutes have been played ever since our ancestors discovered how to make holes in mammoth bones after the mammoths were done using them, and the flute - or Pan pipe - is traditionally associated with both Herne the Hunted himself and astrological Hernians. In modern times, posh flutes are made of brass, silver or even gold, but over the millennienniennia flutes have been made from such diverse materials as wood, tin, bamboo, bears, sapient pearwood, and even the shinbones of that annoying chap in the next-door cave. They can be played by blowing into one end, or by blowing across the side; they can even be blown through the nose. No, seriously, although it's recommended that one never, ever make a nose flute from sapient pearwood. You just don't want to think about what might go wrong.

The ocarina, a charming ethnic instrument from the Tezuman Empire, is a gourd-shaped clay object with a hole for blowing into and several other holes for tuning. The stone ocarina was originally used to accompany ritual sacrifices to Quetzovercoatl, but since Tezuman religion entered its blood-free phase, wandering bands of Tezumen cross the Disc to busk at markets, hangings and other colourful public gatherings and are famed for their tuneful peeping and failure to disembowel any members of the audience whatsoever. A related instrument, the Howondaland double-chambered flutarina, is made of wood. The best-known ocarina composer, Sir Oliphant Buckerchutty, even wrote a concerto for ocarina, eunuchs, garden gloves and rubber trout, and his ghost is said to haunt the further reaches of Short Street, piping mournfully on windy nights.

The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

Your musical instruments: harmonica, guitar

The Wizard's Staff and Knob rules the mouth, tongue and index finger, so what better instrument for you Staffies than one that requires fine oral dexterity? This is a relatively modern instrument, first created by Borogravian clockmaker Martin Hooter in the early Century of the Fruitbat, but its haunting tones soon spread across the Plains States and were brought to popularity by the coming of Music with Rocks In. It's an easy instrument to play, because listeners have difficulty telling whether or not it's in tune with the band. B.S. Johnson famously tried his hand at designing a chromatic harmonica; it now serves as a foghorn to warn ships straying too close to the Holy Wood coast.

Ah, the guitar. Descended from the noble harp via the wrong side of the sheets, this complex and daunting instrument with its rich range of chords and melody lines has spurred the rise of the one-being band! More portable than a harp, lighter than a piano, strung with finest Agatean silk and strongest Ankh-Morpork steel, this is an instrument fit for a virtuoso...sadly, its fate is more often to be attacked by an amateur, frequently the sort of amateur who wears strange baggy clothing, can't see the strings for all his hair, and fancies himself a bard. Still, it's a great way to pull the ladies. On no account EVER play Pathway to Paradise, unless you want your musical career to be short, nasty and full of angry trolls.

Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

Your musical instruments: lute, balalaika

It is my unhappy lot to inform you unhappy lot that there is no musical instrument that can be made from grapes. But as the lute is traditionally paired with wine, women and song, or at least wine, song and hangovers, it's the best instrument for Bilians who wish to lament their sorry state of oenophilic servitude. The lute, with its fine Bardic history, is beloved by bards everywhere (even our own Weird Alice) and even more beloved by romantic suitors all across the multiverse; it typically has several sets of double strings and is made entirely of wood -- although the Omnian Odd, a related instrument, was historically made from the shell of a desert tortoise. Lutes are also the favoured instruments of the Monks of Cool, because one doesn't have to be any good at playing it -- just lounging louchely with a lute confers instant coolth on most lutists. The best lutes on the Disc are those made by Lex Luthier, who even produces a special Bilian model, the only lute to feature its own sick-bag.

Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out! The balalaika, famous local-colour instrument of the Hubland steppes, has only three strings and can certainly ring! The Horse People use them to play their fearsome war-songs on the hoof; the Borogravian State Orchestra considers the balalaika one of the few noisemaking devices not abominated by Nuggan; and the composers Boris Furtivov and Pavel Notsopinko collaborated on a balalaika concerto that is played to this day wherever people in gloomy trousers long for the freezing steppes...on cold nights in Ankh-Morpork, the plaintive yet stirring sounds of allcomers' balalaika competitions ring out across the city from the Hublandish ghetto up by Dolly Sisters. A perfect hangover instrument!

Mubbo the Hyena 24 Aug - 23 Sept

Your musical instruments: drums, spoons, kitchen percussion

The Sign of Mubbo rules the sword -- or plough -- hand of Mubboons and is the Sign of barbarian heroes, actors and Fools, so drumming is the surest way for you to get rid of all that astro-illogically pent-up aggression. Everyone knows a drummer is the life and soul of parties. Also, no-one will ever know when you're out of tune, and as few people can keep accurate time with their hands and feet, they'll all be dancing to whatever rhythm you set for them. What's more, you can practise your drumming anywhere, with or without drums - on cushions, on wet sheets hanging on washing lines, on the cat, even on nothing at all (see Buddy Poor's bestselling book Confessions of an Air Drummer). Every country and every culture has its own native drums, from the round, flat Llamedosian hound-skin drum (the bowwowran) to the minuscule Oi Dong temple drum (played with one hand, of course) to the majestic .99 Zlobenian martial kettledrum (which can achieve true subsonics and is also useful as an alternative to explosives in quarrying).

Spoons make an excellent alternative to drums: for a start, you can find them in every kitchen, so no purchase is necessary. Also, playing the spoons qualifies as an automatic prayer to Anoia, so you'll never have to worry about sticking drawers again! Formal spoon-playing originated in the upper reaches of Lancre, where bored shepherds would rhythmically click pairs of sheep's rib-bones together around the evening campfire (not, obviously, whilst attached to living sheep); this is why spoon-playing is referred to as "playing the bones". In fact, any kitchen can be a veritable arsenal of makeshift percussion. Serious kitchen percussionists will want to investigate the purchase of Bad Blintz bottled medicinal spring water, as the bottles have a particularly euphonic tone.

The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Your musical instruments: xylophone, didgeridoo, susurrophone

As ever, Boring'uns are drawn to musical instruments that are simple, unobtrusive, or, well, boring: nothing with too many strings or too many holes or capable of producing too many exciting tones, nothing too loud, and above all, nothing too prone to inciting violence. To this end, the xylophone might as well have been invented expressly for Boring'uns. It's made of unthreatening woods, played by being struck (gently, for you lot) with rubber mallets, and prone to stay in the same place once it's assembled; it also serves as a useful table once you've decided that more than two differently-tuned bars is entirely too much like excitement.

The Fourecksian didgeridoo, on the other hand, can only play one note. One low, deep, soothing -- some might even say boring -- note. And it's played by the method known as circular breathing -- in through the nose, out through the mouth -- which promotes a calm, relaxed, meditative state. And It has no keys, bars, strings, slides or anything at all apart from a hollow tree branch and some beeswax smeared around the mouthpiece. Perfect!

The susurrophone does have keys and a double reed, but is unique among woodwinds in that it only produces a whisper no matter how hard you blow. The twelve-gauge contrabass susurrophone is the best of all instruments for the shy, excitement-hating would-be virtuous, as it whispers in such a low register that you might as well not be playing at all! Very relaxing.

Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

Your musical instruments: trumpet, triangle

Andies are infamous for often playing the strumpet, but tuneful Andies will find that removing the initial S will lead them to an exciting musical hobby! Just hie yourself to the nearest blacksmith with some brass tubing and he'll bend and hammer it into a truly distinctive instrument. The trumpet is not the easiest brass instrument to play -- because it tends to produce 'wolf tones', especially bright, loud notes that agitate any nearby werewolves and can even bring on The Change at inconvenient times -- but trumpet music is wonderfully rousing, notably for neighbours you don't much like. Trumpets, which were developed from the mediaeval wooden Shawn (not Ogg), come in a variety of keys and sizes and can play every note in the standard Morporkian scale (and a few that no composer ever anticipated). For the more adventurous -- and Andies are nothing if not adventurous! -- try the related Fluebelhorn, pride of Uberwald orchestras and winner of both the Longest Note and Loudest Note categories at the Copperhead Consolidated Mining Band Brass Competition for three years running.

Another good instrument for Andies is the triangle (your local blacksmith is going to love you). The triangle is said to be the instrument of angels, and known to be one of the instruments used by those committing folk music; nonetheless, the triangle can be surprisingly challenging to play. Orchestral composers often write rhythmically complex triangle parts -- possibly as a means of getting back at the triangle players, who get the same pay as everyone else but get to spend most of their time dozing at the back or doing the Times crossword. Some players use knitting needles for a gentler tone. This means you can make sweet music and knit your socks for next winter, at the same time.

Great T'Phon's Foot 23 Nov - 21 Dec

Your musical instruments: Quirmish horn, tuba

Cor! In fact, Cor blimey! The Quirmish horn, historically known as the Cor Ankhaise and -- interestingly -- neither Quirmish nor a horn, is just the thing to tootlingly thrill you winsomely woodwindy Footies. A long, sleek instrument, related to the Brindisian Oboe D'amore (a favourite of those of the Casanundan persuasion), the Quirmish horn will fill your days with melancholy melodies. Ambitious players might attempt the north face of Tuttifrutti's famed Rhapsodie for Cor and Catgut, or scale the heights of Horsehack's Lost World Symphony. The Cor's double reed develops good kissing technique (see Oboe D'amore), and its length, heft and general hardness are good for speedily resolving orchestral disputes.

The tuba, stately basso of the brass instruments, is played by a movement more usually known as "blowing a raspberry". This means that you can perform rich, warm passages and secretly display your contempt for the rest of the orchestra at the same time. Many famous Uberwaldean and Zlobenian composers favoured the tuba -- consider the famous tuba passages in the Ring of the Nibelungungungen -- and it is also a featured instrument in many Dwarf operas: perhaps the most famous piece known to non-dwarf music aficionados is the Gold March of Bloodaxe, popularly known as the Haul of the Mountain King. In a world of warbling sopranos and screeching piccolos, the tuba will always let you down.

Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

Your musical instruments: banjo, sukinoto

The banjo is famed throughout the Ramtops and across the Octarine Grass Country as the queen of folk instruments, although some say more honestly that a truer description would be the Seamstress of folk instruments...or at least the brazen hussy. Originally invented in Howondaland, where it was traditionally crafted out of gourds or the skulls of Omnian missionaries, the banjo was updated early in the Century of the Fruitbat by an unnamed Dwarf craftsman who saw a use for some low-grade ore tailings and smelted them down to make the familiar modern metal frame. It is played by plucking (with metal fingerpicks), strumming (with very tough fingernails), clawing (very popular with werewolf banjoists), or in the case of more lively gatherings, throwing against a wall and using the resultant twanging clang as a start-point for the Hedgehog Song. Those of a less brazen disposition might consider the Hunghung shamisen, because it has fewer strings and weighs less, although it's not nearly as useful in a pub fight.

The sukinoto (literally "wet garden ornament") is an Agatean musical device. Consisting of an buried upside-down pot with a hole at the top and a small pool of water inside, the sukinoto is placed beside an outdoor handwashing bowl; water dripping into the pot, creates a pleasant bell-like sound. Each part of the instrument-or-device must be tuned separately, and each part of the assembly requires much poetry. It is said that certain jars are born to become sukinoto, owing to their natural bell-like tones. Entire sets of scrolls have been written about the best placement of the washbasin and the correct length of time for washing the hands beside a sukinoto, and sukinosamas -- "musical handwash-masters" -- are accorded the same sort of respect as senior samurai and venerable swordmakers. Which is fairly extraordinary when you consider that what they're playing is, after all, a drainage system!

The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Your musical instruments: squeezebox, clarinet

The Gazunda rules the lips, abdominal muscles and pectorals, so the squeezebox, otherwise known as the accordion (or, in some quarters, the discordion), is by far the best choice of instrument for you Gazundians. Indispensable for Morris dancers, harvest-ball bands and Bonk polkestras, the squeezebox comes in two flavours -- button and key -- utilises a membranous bellows made from leather, paper, or leftover insides of sheep, and is the only type of instrument used by strolling players to imitate the death-gasps of murdered characters on stage. Most major churches deplore the squeezebox, believing its jaunty nature lures young people into sin, but the Unreformed Church of Petulia, Goddess of Negotiable Affection, blesses it precisely for this reason. So give in to the lure of the squeezebox and go insane with the membrane!

The clarinet (Brindisian for "undersized trumpet") is favoured by snake charmers, pocket orchestras, ratcatchers, and music halls all across the Disc. A mellow-sounding woodwind that travels well and is easy to assemble, the clarinet has a wider range of tone and register than most other woodwind instruments, and an all-clarinet ensemble can challenge a vocal choir for richness and variety of timbre. That said, it's not exactly sexy; you won't find a clarinet in the hands of the world's greatest lovers, unless it's being put to some creative and not exactly musical use. Don't arsk.

Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Your musical instruments: mousepipes, viola extravaganza

The heart, wrists and hindbrain are ruled by Lesser Umbrage, and you need lashings of all three for your destined instrument: the mousepipes. Traditionally used in battle by the Nac mac Feegle to make their enemies' ears explode, mousepipes are made from mouseskin, often with the ears still attached. Properly-played mousepipes can do far more than fell enemies or clear out stubborn blockages of earwax; when attacked with sufficient vigour and emotion, they can even affect the local weather. A difficult instrument to play, mousepipes are best learnt out on open moorland, where the novice's "off" notes and wheezing stop-starts are unlikely to fell anything more than a passing stoat.

The viola extravaganza, a truly unique musical experience, was invented by Leonard of Quirm and was the first and only bowed keyboard instrument in existence. The idea of a set of steam-driven rotating bows running perpendicular to a set of push-down keys (causing the moving bow to sound the pitch of the corresponding string) came to him when he was redesigning his revolutionary coffee-making machine. Of course, he called it the Machine for Making Pleasant Musical Noises by Means of a Rotating Drum Interacting with Strings and Keys, but Brindisian piano designer Benito-Serendipito Giansoni -- the only person ever to build one of these -- gave it the rather shorter name by which it is known. However, in his first and only public demonstration, Bensoni allowed the pressure to creep up in the steam boiler, and once he hit the big crescendo in Carphammer's Illusione Chorale, things became...ballistic. He was last seen as a blur heading up the north face of Cori Celesti, followed by a large sonic boom; since then, viola extravaganza lessons are only given as musical theory.