Performance Arts Among the Là, III

The Odà and Dèlong Dynasties (1428-1461aH)

The Odà sought to sweep away unnecessary tradition and modernise the nation through the import of foreign customs. Artistically, this was seen most strikingly in the creation of an entire new art form, colotomic music. In the larger context, this was not a creation at all, but merely the importatation of the main form of music in Gureha. This music was primarily concerned with the division of time into regular subunits; its primary instruments were labrophones, while a variety of drums and gongs marked different orders of subdivision. The labrophones meanwhile played drones on tightly-clustered bundles of tones creating a dense and highly discordant sound, with period resolution into slightly less discordant clusters. This music had long been associated with religious ritual on the continent, and the Odà repurposed it to their own cult of the royal family.

Several other musical instruments were imported at this time, though few gained any popularity. These included reed instruments, flutes, labrophones, and stringed instruments.

The rāmayao expanded even further under the Odà, who for major ceremonial events gathered together thousands of dancers. However, vocal accompaniment was dropped, slit drums were replaced with the new skin drums and gongs, and the dance, made more regular and mechanistic, became a physical extension of the colotomic royal music. The manungàng and luìmayao were permitted to continue unchanged, but were derogated as backward and primitive practices. In their place, the nobility turned to imported forms of dance.

Shamanic poetry and prose were eliminated, through a combination of cultural policies and the negative consequences of the failed Shamanic Revolts that those policies provoked.

The bardic schools were disbanded. Poetry was viewed as unproductive and decadent.

The Dèlong dynasty attempted to moderate the policies of the Odà; however, as they survived only two years, they are not worth dealing with separately.

 

 

The Orasyà and Luyang Dynasties (1461-1585aH)

The Orasyà Dynasty was a time of great artistic diversity: innovations introduced by the Odà co-existed alongside revivals from earlier eras, and novel and synthetic forms abounded.

The rāmayao was reinvigorated with character and originality, after the simplified and repetitive forms found under the Odà. On the other hand, the use of orchestral accompaniment largely remained, and the large dances seen under the Odà continued to be put on for particularly significant occasions. Under the Odà, staging a rāmayao was possible only with royal approval, and this continued under the Orasyà; although this approval was freely given, the rāmayao nonetheless had become a royal dance, a signet of royal approval.

The luìmayao returned, displacing the Odà’s foreign dances, but foreign elements modified the native dance: a colotomic meter and a greater emphasis on frozen tableau, for instance, and more importantly a greater emphasis on female dancers, rather than male. Dancers were now frequently nude (often painted), and the luìmayao took on an altogether more risque tone. Another foreign influence was in the synthesis of dance and text, with the vocal accompaniment provided by the dancers now featuring recurring words, rather than being pure sounds, in order to provide more narrative content.

Meanwhile, features from the luìmayao in turn modified the manungàng; most importantly, the expectation that the dancers themselves would provide the vocal accompaniment. At the same time, the manungàng was dividing again into two kinds: the sùintunung, or ‘city dance’, and the vunamùnung, or ‘country dance’. The distinction, despite the names, was not strictly between urban and rural settings: rather, the sùintunung was a relatively small dance for families and neighbours, which over time became increasingly relegated to the lower classes, while the vunamùnung was a larger dance, for the entire community. In rural areas, the more conservative vunamùnung was the dominant form, while in cities it was reserved for more important occasions.

In music, the forms introduced by the Odà, based on tone-cluster and colotomic rhythm, continued to flourish, though they were largely seen as formal arts. The theory of tone-clusters also saw application to luìmayao accompaniment, governing the pitches of the singers. Two of the imported instruments also cemented their place in domestic music, particularly in the context of the luìmayao – the hoshì, an open-ended fipple-flute with three finger-holes, and the kabolòka, an eight-stringed zither-board.

Shamanic music and poetry had by now ceased to exist as an independent tradition. However, when the Orasyà re-established the bardic schools, they commissioned a new, eleventh Immortal Classic, The Litany of Former Interventions, which recorded scores of the old shamanic bargaining-poems. While presentated as part of the dynasty’s respect for the old customs the Odà had tried to eliminate, in fact the creation of this Classic, transferring the shamanic knowledge from the shamans to the bards, signified the extent of the destruction of shamanic power under the Odà, and in turn cemented it.

 

 

The Former Banōm Dynasty and Its Usurpers (1585-1678aH)

The early Banōm rulers were more inclined to austerity than the preceding dynasties. Under their rule, the rāmayao declined in size and significance, and took on a more martial air. One beneficiary of this was the luìmayao, which became more important, and as a result also become more diverse, dividing into the luìmayao proper and the sōdahàra. The former of these grew more musically austere and thematically abstract, a purer display of the physicality of the dancers, with vocalisation limited to key passages and accompaniment stripped down to a single pitch of slit drum. Supporters of the form considered it the purest form of art; critics suggested that in removing distracting elements while keeping and even increasing the erotic suggestiveness of the dance, its supporters had turned it into mere pornography. The sōdahàra, meanwhile, emphasised the other side of the dance, increasing the significance and complexity of the sung lyrics, turning a dance with narrative elements into a sung drama with accompanying interpretive dance (although the narrative remained highly eliptical and the lyrics often symbolic).

The sùintunung, during this era, began to introduce further features from the luìmayao/sōdahàra: in particular, the suìntunung’s vocal accompaniment followed the path from wordless sound into symbolic repeated words into narrative content. The vunamùnung, on the other hand, remained more or less in its existing form.

Narrative poetry continued unchanged in content; however, the bardic schools declined in prestige considerably, and several were forced to merge. With increasing levels of literacy, the Immortal Classics were finally committed to paper, rendering the bards all but obsolete.

In music, colotomic forms gained in popularity.

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