Friday, November 30, 2007

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.

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