To give a world a feeling of otherworldliness, it is best to replace some standard, everyday objects by imaginitive replacements. I thought I’d turn to musical instruments as music often defines (or embodies) a culture.
This is just a first idea, feel free to post some more, because I will…
The rangerfolk of Dugamin use huge horns made of hollowed trunks to warn of danger or to celebrate harvest. The trunks are always found dead (who ever heard of a ranger harming a tree to make a musical instrument?) and hollowed by Muglart beetles, all the rangers do is to affix a metal mouthpiece to one end.
Additional Ideas (13)
1. Wind Stones: These large standing stones(picture Stonehedge without the top cross-pieces) are modified by drilling small holes into their sides and etching grooves into the surfaces in intricate patterns. They are then stood up on end near the peak of a mountain or large hill. The wind passing these stones is channeled through the holes and etchings creating a haunting melody as the air whistles past.
2. Saja Rattles: The Saja bean is a plant which grows pods, much like peas. When these pods are dried in the sun, the bean within the pod shrivels into a small, hard ball, which is then left inside the pod and the pod is shaken like a rattle. These are primarily used in group meditation rituals.
A bungurz is a drum ... of sorts. Used by a few savage tribes for music and communication, it resembles a mushroom of sorts - a semispherical construction covered in leather, with faces of different size and thus different sound, with a hollow tree trunk attached for resonance. Within, smaller pieces of wood that resonate as well are attached too. The tone is rarely clear, consisting of several overlaping tones.
A true master drummaker can craft a bungurz that has a tone harmonic and full, while a newbie, or an awful musician, will make the bungurz sound like a landslide.
Being a good bungurzer earns quite a bit respect from the tribesmates.
On the water wheel, each bucket is created so that only a small sliced portion of it collects water. Each bucket is unique about the section of which it collects water. This water is then dumped into a corressponding gutter of water that takes it to one of many sections of free swinging bamboo. The water fills the top of the bamboo forcing it over dumping the water which allows the bamboo to swing back and strike another bamboo striker creating a hollow yet melodic quick series of tapping.
The water released from the buckets interacting with the bamboo creates a hypnotic, soothing pattern that many from all around venture to witness. It is used by some sick as therapeutic, by the holy as hypnotic and centering, and by the curious as, well, curious.
((In many Japanese gardens the bamboo waterfalls and striking of bamboo together is pretty popular and really does sound cool. A small sample of it is in Kill Bill....well, you know the part.))
In the Fourth Kingdom there is a cliff as tall as a cathedral. It is called the Cliff of the Thousand Birds, for here the birds nest in their thousands and such a terrible noise, a squawking mess, has never been heard anywhere else.
And so displeased was the Emperor with this unholy sound that he summoned to him his wisest mages, asking their advice. So it was that Relevi, wisest of the wisest mages, decided to cast his magics over the birds of the Cliff of the Thousand Birds and instil in them some sense of rhythm and melody.
He still stands there, conducting the birds as they sing their long symphony, as they will for as long as the Earth is here. Like a vast cathedral organ the Cliff of the Thousand Birds resounds to the mighty chorus of its denizens, and such a glorious sound has never been heard anywhere else.
Caatjun music is made with long, wooden staves called thraakartimeek, of various lengths, which the musicians thwack against the ground, trees, other staves, and such, to create a rythm.
It is sometimes accompanied by huge drums made from animal skins (aarp'raamjo) stretched over wide racks, which are kicked by the drummer.
Long wooden instruments much like an Australian aboriginal didgeridoo, called mjnaa'olee, are also played. Caatjun singing is considered pleasant; it is done by female children of the tribe, who warble fluting, quivering melodies sounding much like birdsong.
- A glass harmonica (about the size of a small keyboard instrument) which was designed by Benjamin Franklin.
- The "lyroharp", basically like 3 guitars (18 strings in total) fused at the base. The two side "necks" went up at about 30 degrees on either side of the centre neck; a curving piece of wood then connected all three necks at the top.
- Pochettes, 18th century violins small enough that music teachers could carry them in their pockets.
- The Nest of Serpents: 12 serpents (i.e. long, wide curved wind instruments with heads carved like serpents) put around a central decorated column (about 5 ft high). Each serpent was separate (musically) from the rest though it was all joined together in a physical sense. Required 12 people to play.
The dragon horns of the dwarves of the Amra mountains are amongst the most difficult instruments to play in the world, due to the amount of breath that they demand. These huge, wide horns are heavy enough that they require 6 dwarves to carry; the front of it is carved in to a ferocious dragon's head and the rest of it ornately decorated as well. All six dwarves must blow and play in unison in order to produce a good sound. The dragon horns are played twice a year, at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes in large festivals to ward off the forces of evil. The playing of the horns is meant to invoke the protective dragon spirits of the Amra dwarfs (the dwarfs believe that the dragons in the Amra mountains are their guardians (whether they are or not is up to you)). Each horn is a family heirloom and it is an honour to be selected to be one of the six horn players.
The fisherfolk of the Idril coast use many simple instruments to make music; amongst them is the Psiltaria, or "fish player." This small stringed instrument is shaped like a fish and has three strings. The strings are played by hitting them with small sticks.
Perhaps the stones, as well as emitting the haunting melody, are fashioned such that occasionally, in a strong wind at just the right speed, the stone will resonate producing a very loud, low booming noise (sort of resembling humpback whale sounds).
Colorful streamers are often attached to Dragon Saddles and Wing Clips on Kerren for special occasions and the introductory lap at tournies. To make them safer (for the dragon), they have slight weights at the end. These streamers are called Fire Tails.
These often become musical instruments because the slight weights are the ends are barrel whistles. These are small round items, with a central spinning piece that produces the whistle as air flows through it.
Well prepared wings can "sing" the first seven notes of a song as they fly back.
Some Ryders have bells along the lengths of Fire Tails just to add more noise.
These bowls are used for medatative purposes, rather than entertainment. These bowls should be made of traditional seven metals: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, and lead. The bowls are normally six to seven inches wide and about five inches deep. A rod (of the same metals) is rolled around the lip of the bowl to create a sound. The bowl is normally empty It creates a harmonic, free-floating sound based on untuned vibration.
Quite a few of the magely folk tend to be rather novel and creative, and some express this through music - this intrument is made for and by them.
Like an ordinary guitar, it consists of a head, neck and body.
The body will be richly decorated, most often covered in leather for insulation, and to protect powerstones housed within. The neck's length is what determines whether the tones the instrument plays will be dark and booming, or high trills. The head is meant ot anchor one to nine 'strings' - those are low-power currents of magic mnergy, which can be brought to vibrate if touched by a magically gifted individual.
An unique feature of the instrument is that depending on the person playing it, it will sound different - a very talented fire mage will produce different tones from a diviner of middling power, even though trying to emulate him.
Wizards will often decorate their instruments excessively, and some even use them instead of staves.
Every decade or so, what people think of as a band changes. It used to be a five guys singing and a back up band. Then, it became drummer, two guitarists, and a singer. Then it was a drummer, a guitarist, a keyboardist, a lead singer, and a back up group.. possibly with sax or flue player added. Then in the early 80s it was two guys with synthesizers. Today, it is a lead singer and a bunch of players including two drummers (one for beat, one for accent), a guitarist, and a keyboardist. The changing trend continues. In Shadow Run, the current "band" is a singer, with cybervox, a plugged guitarist, and a plugged drummer. Perhaps a magical version would rise up, with a spell jamming set of guitarists, a drummer, and one of the guitarist doing double duty as a vocalist.
The Banjolele is a mix of Banjo (the body) and Ukelele (the fretted neck) with 4 to 5 strings. Some Halfling musicians have been known to decorate them with small noise-making rattles, bells, and miniature cymbals for extra noise. Listeners liken the sound to capturing the worst qualities of the Banjo and Ukelele.