Thoughts on a world in which music is used for levitation.
“To fly you must learn to surrender yourself to music.“
Timothy Dimacali’s On the Consequence of Sound
In „On the Consequence of Sound“ a steampunk version of the Philippine Islands are portrayed through the eyes of Aria, a girl growing up in a society filled with levitating ships. Levitation is achieved by creating sounds resonating with a mineral called Gravidium only naturally occurring on a small island which is the habitat for creatures called Butanding - flying whales with long whiskers. As Aria grows up she learns from her father, a Royal Navigator himself, the intricacies of the trade of making the royal ships fly by means of playing an instrument called the viol. Gravidium has levitation properties if exposed to certain resonating frequencies and therefore the song of different instruments and especially the viol, which has been crafted specifically for the purpose of resonating with Gravidium. Sounds used for levitation are heard throughout the cities.
The story itself is interrupted by small passages taken from historic journals and papers detailing the curiosity of Gravidium and the consequences it had for the (former?) Spanish colony. Aria grows up training hard to become a Royal Navigator. On the day of her rite of passage she learns about a secret the Royal Navigators keep well hidden from the rest of society.
The world of “On the Consequences of Sound“ is laced with colourful descriptions of sounds as well as onomatopoeia such as „Hroooooooommmmm“. A world in which sound, music and their vibrations are not only a means for communication and cultural entertainment is interesting to imagine. A society in which musicians (Royal Navigators) are above all employed by the state to serve a specific purpose could be understood as a parallel to state controlled cultural development and propaganda. Does this world even have music? Would it still be music if you harness sounds and vibrations for a socioeconomic purpose (e.g. make ships fly)? Maybe the culture of music developed in a completely different way since it has another highly specific and lucrative purpose?
It can be argued that the described society twists the passion and fascination of a little girl for the sounds of her world and makes her into a herald of a secretive cult because of her skill. A dark societal secret of how to keep the world afloat sparks thoughts of colonialism and the exploitation of land, beast and human alike. Although on the first look a world engulfed in music and sound might be a beautiful and breathtaking thing to behold in this instance the consequences which are implicated at the very (somewhat abrupt) end of the story raise the question of how human greed and striving for innovation might impact societal and environmental evolution.
Preview Image: by Sergey Zabelin