Overview

Certain Urizen Stargazers (and more rarely, Magi) understand the complex resonance between the flow of magic and musical composition, and use this to form the basis of their rituals. Some wizards perform themselves; others prefer to form a partnership with a musician or musical group, using the music as a framework for their own meditation and control of power.

Like runes and dramaturgy, the music of the spheres is a means of placing magic in context and understanding it. The most traditional method of ritual music, was discovered centuries ago by Silutaris, Mistress of the Chimes, and is described below. It is well understood by Urizen scholars that Silutaris' method for accessing the music of the sphere is just one approach - many musical magicians have developed their own approaches.

Silutaris' Method

The music is in the notes. The magic is in the gaps between the notes. Listen to the silence.

Silutaris' method uses a system of drone notes, chords and modal melodies to express the magical powers related to each of the Realms, drawing them down into the mortal realm and both reflecting and manipulating them through music. In Silutaris' notes, ritual music is made up of three parts:

  • the drone, a sustained note reflecting the primary intention of the ritual
  • the chime, a chord reflecting the primary realm of the ritual, supplemented by other chords
  • the melody - a written or improvised tune played to complement the drone and the chime, in a musical mode corresponding to the Realm of the ritual.

One musician usually plays each of these three parts. If there are more participants, a second harmonising melody is usually added next, followed by an octave drone, though the practice varies from ritual group to ritual group.

Realms and Modes

NOTE: By convention, and for the purposes of explanation, the modes detailed below are presented relative to the C major scale - that is, each mode has a different starting note (or tonal centre) with the scale being played purely on the white notes of a piano or the lower row of a glockenspiel. Please feel free to transpose into whichever key you prefer to play in; it is the relative intervals and the modes which are important not the absolute pitch.

Each of the Realms corresponds to a mode. The major scale (C to C) is considered to reflect the Mortal Realm of our own reality, and therefore the Silutarian method does not commonly use this mode for melody.

  • C -C' - Ionian or major mode - reality, the mortal realm
  • D - D' - Dorian mode - the realm of Night
  • E - E' - Phyrigian mode - the realm of Autumn
  • F - F' - Lydian mode - the realm of Summer
  • G - G' - Mixolydian mode - the realm of Day
  • A - A' - Aeolian or pure minor mode - the realm of Winter
  • B - B' - Locrian mode - the realm of Spring

Therefore, a ritual primarily seeking to call upon the night realm be played in the Dorian mode. The Locrian mode is considered most difficult and counter-intuitive - some Urizen scholars consider this to reflect the hostile and especially unpredictable nature of the spring realm.

The Chime

Magicians using Silutaris' method refer to the chord of the tonic (or tonal centre) of the mode as the Chime, and this forms one of the parts of the musical composition. This is formed by the first, third and fifth notes of the scale- e.g. in the Night mode, the tonic chord would be D/F/A - a D minor chord. In the Day mode, the chime is a G major chord - G/B/D.

The Drone

Once the realm and thus the mode has been selected, a note referred to as the Drone is then selected. In the Silutarian method, each realm has three components - called the tonic, the third and the fifth. The tonic of the chord corresponds to its influence on the physical realm, the third on its influence on the mental realm, and the fifth on the emotional and spiritual realm. Every ritual has a dominant Drone, dependent on the aspect of the realm which is being called upon. Once this aspect is known, the corresponding note is played as a drone note, usually the lowest or highest in the composition and spanning the whole movement. It can either be rhythmically struck and allowed to resonate, as when playing tuned percussion, or sustained throughout. Some wizards, particularly those who perform solo or in small groups express the Drone by playing the first or second inversion of the Chime. In groups of musicians, one usually takes responsibility for maintaining the Drone throughout.

For example, a ritual to involve wisdom would use the third of the A minor chord, C, as its drone. It could also be expressed by playing the first inversion of the A minor chord of the chime - C/E/A.

Adding other chords

Above the drone, the chords of the piece are added. The first and dominant chord of the piece is the Chime, reflecting the primary magical realm of the ritual. Other chords may be used in the composition - if multiple Realms are involved, the chord corresponding to other realms may also be used, reflecting the Realm which the ritual wishes to alter and effect in some way. Some musical ritualists are far more fluid, and improvise chords as well as melody (see below) - others prefer to maintain the chime and drone throughout.

As the C scale (major or ionian mode) reflects the material realm, the C major chord may be used in all ritual composition, and is usually called the Material Chord.

Melody

The final part of the ritual piece is the melody, played in the relevant mode. At this point the Silutarian method is split into two schools - the Compositionalists and the Improvisationalists. The former write out their pieces in advance, mandating when the chords change and the exact notes and timings of the melody; the Improvisationalists prefer to simply allow the music to flow through them and be affected by the variations in magic at the time of the ritual. Silutaris herself was a improvisationalist, though several of her pupils preferred the more formal style.

Whether composed before the ritual or improvised during it, most ritual musicians consider the melody to encapsulate the nature and intention of the ritual. The piece normally begins with music reflecting the situation that the ritual wishes to change, with gradual progression to the state that the ritualists wish to achieve - for example, a ritual to remove a curse of weakness might begin with slow, sparse and halting melody, gradually developing through the course of the ritual into full-bodied and inspiring music.

Discord, fate and chance

In pure magic, as in pure music, there is no discord, only tension and resolution. In the mortal Realm, we are not so fortunate.

Followers of this method acknowledge that all magical workings have an element which is outside mortal control. No magical intention can be perfectly translated to the material realm; this is represented in the music by discordant notes, usually accidental notes not found in the Realm's modal scale. Some musicians include them deliberately at key points in their performance; others simply allow them to arise by chance. It is their transient discord and resolution, some say, that guides the flow of magic towards its intended result.

Musical ritual traditions in other nations

Silutaris' method has gained popularity in many other parts of the Empire, carried across borders by well-travelled musicians from every nation. Ritual music has gained particular popularity amongst the Navarr, who favour a comparatively loose and free-flowing approach which might be compared to the Improvisationalist movement in Urizen. Some troubadours, particularly those with magical as well as priestly skills, use music as part of rituals, though generally the sound is less meditative and there is more focus on the narrative of the music.

Further Reading