Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Rambling: Anne McCaffrey and Music

While writing up my review of Anne McCaffrey's novel Killashandra, the second book in her Crystal Singer world, earlier this morning I started to get sidetracked into thoughts on music in her writings, namely that Anne McCaffrey seems to give music a much greater role in her science fiction and fantasy than many other authors I've read. Rather than continue to expand on them there, however much or little it ends up being, I decided to make it into its own post.

In the Crystal Singer series, the place of music is obvious - it's practically central to the whole concept of the world - Killashandra Ree, the main character has a strong musical background, she spent ten years of her life training as a voice soloist. When that didn't work out, she discovered the Crystal Singers, more professionally known as the Heptite Guild of Ballybran. The main requirement for that job was to have perfect pitch. All three of the books in this series have a focus on music: the Optherian Sense Organ in Killashandra, for example, and the communications with the Jewel Junk in Crystal Line, although admittedly the connection there is less. But still, there are musical references scattered throughout this whole series.

The other big example is, of course, Helva, the Ship Who Sang, the first of the Brain Ships Anne McCaffrey wrote about,  in the novel of the same name. Now, it's been a long time since I read that book to be honest, so I can't say too much about it any more (besides the obvious, that I need to re-read it), but it certainly does factor in.

It's been just as long since I read any of the Petaybee books, even the new ones (Changelings and Malestrom) set in that world: Power Lines, Power Play and The Powers That Be, that I've forgotten most of the details, although not the main discovery that the planet itself is sentient. Anyway, I don't recall there being anything unusual about the use of music or not in that world. Again, I'm discovering that I need to re-read.

However, the Pern books come to mind. There, music and songs are used to teach the population, with the organization planned that way as of Dragonseye, where the writing of teaching songs and history songs is explored. While that's not overly unusual - there are a number of fantasy type books where music and singers have that kind of a role, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books come to mind with the Bardic Collegium, right off the top of my head, I can't think of any off hand where there are books where the main character belong to such an organization. Anne McCaffrey has four such in the Pern series: the Harper's Hall (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums) series and Masterharper of Pern.

Even in the Pern books where the Harpers take more of a back-seat role, there's still a lot of music: quotes from the songs for example come to mind.

After listing all this out, I can't come to any really earthshaking conclusions here to finish the post off. Given that, I'd say it fits the category of Book Rambling. It would most likely earn a definite failing grade as an essay! Posting anyway.
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