By Peter Orullian
It’s not new. This music as magic thing. Many fantasy writers have done it. So, the thing is how. And that’s where I’m hoping folks will dig my approach.
See, I’m a musician. I’ve no idea if my fellow fantasy writers who’ve attempted music magic systems are also musicians, but there’s no doubt it’s influenced how I write about music. I’m not casual about it. Whether I’m writing a scene that deals with the intricacies of how I built my music magic system, or just describing the experience a character has of listening to music, I’m all in. I’m just built that way.
Now, as for the music magic, itself, I need to tell you about Resonance. I spent time in my worldbuilding to develop the notion of what I call a “governing dynamic”—Resonance. It underlies multiple magic systems in my world. In some, it’s quite obvious. In others, much less so. But it started first with music, and the notion that all things have a resonant signature that may be resonated with.
I grow past this, of course. Past the simple notion of acoustical resonance. I built out an idea I call Absolute Sound, which I actually wrote about in my novella for the Unfettered anthology that released a bit ago. That story, entitled “The Sound of Broken Absolutes,” goes into this idea I have about resonance taking place at a distance, out of earshot. It’s an advance technique for practitioners of the music magic in my Vault of Heaven series.
For those who haven’t read my first book, or anything else by me, never fear. I’ve written book two, Trial of Intentions, as an entry point to the series. I mention it, because Trial of Intentions is where I go much deeper into the music magic. You get a close look at how it works, and how it affects people. Those scenes are some of my favorites of the entire series so far.
And different from the idea of sweet, soaring sopranos and the like. Or even soft, intimate truth-sounding songs. Some of the music magic you’ll experience—dare I say, “Hear”—in my world is assertive, rough, combative. It’s often loud, bold, and meant to disquiet. It’s rhythmic. It’s filled with great passion. Great sorrow, sometimes. And when done right, it’s filled with “intention.” I put that last word in quotes because intention is very much at the heart of my music magic system. It’s a close cousin to Resonance. It matters what you mean when you sing. And that might have nothing to do with lyrics. In fact, often, they’re unrelated. Lyrics can even be dispensed with.
And all of this is brought to bear in a great song, in my world, knows as “Suffering.” It’s sung in nine movements, taking nearly seven hours to complete. It’s a song of power. It keeps a barrier strong that separates the races of the east from creatures who’ve lost empathy. Not beasties. These are reasoning creatures. With intentions of their own.
And music is the thing the gods left the world to protect itself. Music premised on a governing dynamic I call Resonance.
Of course, beyond all this, I care, as a writer, about the beauty and flow of words themselves. Writing can be lyrical, musical. And my favorite writers possess this quality. The fiction experience is very nearly song-like. That’s a huge bonus, for a guy like me.
Anyway, in the effort not to do spoilers, you have here a bit of the feeling and high-level mechanics of my world and music magic system. And even if you never read my work, if you’re a music lover, we’re kin. Maudlin that, but I’m leaving it in.