Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Introduction : Music for Film (Part 1)

Music for Film
An essay written and compiled by
Mario Cordina 2016
Part 1: Introduction
My Involvement with Music in Film
The Genesis 
The Marriage of Music in Film
Questions for the Soul 

How Music Can Change a Film
How Music Plays with Our Brains
Video Games
Characteristics of Music in Film
What is Actual and Captured Source?



My Involvement with Music in Film

I got dragged into film making because films need music and filmmakers needed me so I was quite upset when a certain film maker who needed my music told me that film is the supreme art form because it combines literature, images, engineering, art, music, nature and acting into one composition.

I found myself questioning and fighting this statement. A painting is born from an empty canvas, literature starts with a blank sheet and music is built on silence. Film is built on what the camera finds or what is set in front of it and is but a montage, a mosaic, a collage powered to life by previous art forms.

Film is a medium of communication and artistic value just as all other media and the artist chooses which media to use to confront his audience. It obviously follows that an artist must be sensitive and knowledgeable about other media, especially if he wants to incorporate it into his art form. This implies that no film producer will be successful if he is not sensitive and knowledgeable about the other artistic media he incorporates. A good producer must therefore be artistic in nature, knowledgeable, sensitive and intuitive to and about acting, literature, art and music together with the mechanics of film making, like editing, montage, lighting and effects. Indeed anyone in film making must respect all elements that go into a film and that is why I decided that I could not make music for film if I did not immerse myself into all the elements that go into film making. So I got hold of a camera and got to grips with this incredibly engrossing medium.

    Genesis

Music seems to thrive all around us. It is not simply a man's idle creation. It can be found all around us on earth, in the cosmos, under the sea and within molecules and cells. Our perceptions of what is music and why man is so attracted by it is unfathomable. Some will call it a universal language, others a science whilst many will refute either claim. Below is a list of indisputable facts, that I have compiled after some intensive reading into the matter.
  • Music is a universal medium of communication.  
  • Music may not always be comprehended but it 'talks' to our emotions, feelings, conscious and unconscious spirit.
  • Music came before film. 
  • Music has always been incorporated into other artistic media and is the artistic medium that accompanies or enhances all forms of art.
  • Biologically the sense of hearing is the first sense to be developed by any mammal embryo.
  • Medically music has been proved to have positive and negative effects on all forms of life and can heal a variety of mental disorders. (Apa.Org)
  • In the Bible God said, “Let there be light” but there seems to have been music before that. Before man ever learnt to speak or to communicate, he could hear sound. He could distinguish that sound and he could produce any sounds that he fancied.
  • Music is the control of waves which apply important principles of physics. (How Stuff Works)
  • Music is a mathematical formula, an interaction of sounds, tempo and pitch. (BNB Music Lessons)
  • Planets produce music in the cosmos, molecules and atoms produce sounds when they react.
  • Music is a science that has still to be revealed. There are a lot of theories and a lot of experiments that have been put forward but it remains a largely unknown and un-mastered field.
The Marriage of Music in Film

First moving pictures were silent or were they? Where they not accompanied by some sort of orchestra as the crowds thronged to see this new fantastic medium?
  • As silent movies grew in popularity a musician was employed to play live music as the film rolled.
  • Score sheets were written for the performing musician. These set the way modern cinema still makes use of music: e.g. Negative chord is a low and diminished chord – uplifting anthems for heroes, fast tempo for chase scenes, slow and somber tunes for sad scenes.
  • The ‘talkies’ appeared with the advances in audio recording introducing speech and sound effects together with the music. 
  • The advent of audio in film meant that directors could have more access to different kinds of music. The single live pianist was replaced by whole orchestras and later by electronic and band music.
  • Film scores were written specifically for the film. However directors started getting more adventurous with their musical choices and started looking at ready-made music. This was the birth of the Soundtrack.
  • Today’s films mainly make use of a combination of soundtrack and film score music. Very often the soundtrack itself performed very well in the music industry often enjoying a second life of its own in the music charts.
  • 1930 saw the first nominees and winners for Oscars in Music Scoring. 
  • There has been an Oscar for best Film Score or Soundtrack ever since. 

Questions for the Soul 
  • How do directors and composers determine where music is needed? 
  • Is good film music truly that which is not perceived by the listener, as many filmmakers believe? 
  • At what volume level is music most emotionally effective? 
  • Does the perceptibility of the music actually take away from its effectiveness? 
  • What other aspects of the music make it more perceptible besides volume levels? 
  • Does typecasting result in generic and interchangeable scores within a genre? 
  • Does making some aspect of a film "familiar" matter? 
  • Does it aid in identification? 
  • Is it more effective to use cliches that will elicit specific emotional responses from the listener or to use authentic music? 
  • Does precisely researched music performed on authentic instruments add as much to a score as the prevalent but incorrect perception of the music? 
  • Can music ever really be "neutral"? 
  • Does no music make the movie version appear more or less real? 
  • Most of the research in the psychology of music has dealt with the perception and cognition of music. What about the listeners' emotional response to music and the emotional effectiveness of film scores? 



Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mario Cordina on Film Literary Adaptations Part 1


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1 Facts 
Film adaptations include novels, autobiographies, journalism, comic books, scriptures, plays and even other films. Between 1994 -2013 58% films were film book adaptations. Other film adaptations are based on plays, musicals, theatre performances, documentaries, T.V. shows and even video games.
The Harry Potter Series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are amongst the most successful films of the past decade. Some adaptations have lasted throughout from the very birth of cinema till today. These include the many adaptations of Frankenstein, Dracula, Shakespeare's Plays, James Bond etc.

There have been instances of novelists who have worked from their own screenplays to create novels at nearly the same time as a film. Both Arthur C. Clarke, with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Graham Greene, with The Third Man, have worked from their own film ideas to a novel form (although the novel version of The Third Man was written more to aid in the development of the screenplay than for the purposes of being released as a novel). Both John Sayles and Ingmar Bergman write their film ideas as novels before they begin producing them as films, although neither director has allowed these prose treatments to be published. "Wikipedia."

2 Differences. 

Visualisation
The major difference between books and film is that visual images stimulate our perceptions directly, while written words can do this indirectly. Reading the word chair requires a kind of mental "translation" that viewing a picture of a chair does not. Film is a more sensory experience than reading -besides verbal language there is also colour, movement, and sound.

Yet film is also limited because a book is text where we have to construct all images, characters and events in our minds. A film is the director’s interpretation of all images, characters and events. A book stimulates a reader to create these images, characters and events according to his individual background.

This is the original description of a character: an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), hideously ugly creation, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it "barely disguised the workings of the arteries and muscles underneath"; watery, glowing eyes, flowing black hair, black lips, and prominent white teeth.

Try to picture this character for some time.

Think of an 8 foot tall creation - ugly and hideous - yellow skin so thin that one can see all the veins, arteries and muscles. A lot of black hair, black lips, watery glowing eyes and prominent white teeth.
Got the picture?

Now here's the film version of the character:


 The above description comes from Mary Shelley's classic novel "Frankenstein." The picture on the left is from James Whale's film adaptation of the book 1931, featuring Boris Karloff as the monster. Below left is Peter Boyle in Mel Brook's "Young Frankenstein"1974. Below is Robert De Niro in Kenneth Brannagh's "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" 1994. What has happened to the monster's long black hair? Where are the prominent white teeth? The truth is that a director’s interpretation is taken for granted and is often not faithful to the text. How many viewers who have never read the novel actually realize that Frankenstein is not the monster, but his creator, the doctor Victor Frankenstein? How many viewers will grapple with the infinite questions the monster gives about creation and man's condition on earth?
This does not only happen in film, but it also occurs when we allow an image to become the true face of the character involved. All Catholic Holy pictures portray Jesus Christ as a long haired bearded blonde, a pale skinned blue eyed young man. Almost a hippie or a viking. How often has one considered the fact that he came from an region where most men are dark haired, brown eyed and dark skinned?The same can be said for each and every element in the film. This includes locations, settings, costumes, props, furniture, surroundings, behavior etc.

The Essence of the book in Film.
The meaning or essence, of a novel is controlled by only one person - the one and only author,  while the meaning we get from a film is the result of a collaborative effort by a large number of people. Film also does not allow us the same freedom that novel does. It does not allow us to interact with the plot or characters by imagining them in our minds. For some viewers, this is often the most frustrating aspect of turning a novel into a film.

Descriptions. 
A book needs more time to describe character, appearance, locations, architecture, settings, events, action than a film and a film often offers us a clearer vivid image. Character description is often built step by step, filling up our picture little by little, often lending to a richer experience than a film's immediate 100% shot of a character. However film can also work like a book in this way, for example by keeping certain aspects of a character's appearance hidden from the camera. Imagine a crime film, where the murderer is seen at work, but his face remains off camera, till the detective solves the mystery.

3 Limitations.


The film is a movie – a talkie: The film medium implies the use of images, action, shots, motion. When compared to the literary medium there are some limitations which a filmmaker has to tackle. All media forms have their limitations and it is a master of the craft that successfully overcomes these limitations that are discussed below,

Time.
A book has no time limit. The book can be as long as the author wishes it to be and the reader can read it for as long as he needs it to be. The film, on the other hand is bound by a time limit. Most films come around the 90 minute mark. The longest films can run for 3 hours or cut into series or parts. The first literary adaptation that comes to mind takes us to 1924 when Erich Von Stroheim's film "Greed" (a faithful rendering of Frank Norris' novel 'McTeague') ran for 8 hours. Greed was edited against von Stroheim's wishes to about two-and-a-half hours. Only twelve people have watched the full-length 42-reel version, now lost. Since then filmmakers have adapted the motto that 'Elision is mandatory."

A book is time consuming whereas a film is about 90min. One’s experience with a book is a longer and deeper experience than that of a film but a film is a faster medium, sometimes more effective, does not demand literary knowledge, is more direct, more vivid and can afford a deeper insight or a different point of view.

Speech
Books often make use of long dialogues and monologues, which is not often appreciated by film directors. Dialogues involve more acting and an actor's involvement with learning the lines instead of focusing on action. They are also often impractical. Imagine a scene where an actor has to give a soliloquy whilst various buildings are being blown off in the background, and the whole scene has to be repeated because the actor missed out on a line. Dialogue can also prove to be monotone in a film. Dialogues in books tend to meander away from the main plot, they may talk about past experiences, about dreams, wishes, ambitions, regrets etc. Film as a medium uses other means of communicating such details through flashbacks and other montage techniques.

Space
The concept of space in a book is fluid, fictional and only evoked in a reader's mind. A film is restricted to the space that is offered by the studio, the set or location. Modern techniques allow the filmmaker to create space offscreen through the use of computer graphics and green or blue box techniques. Still the actors are confined to the space within camera range, a space they can never escape. Space in a film is like a theatrical stage, only with a wider area. A book has no limit or dimensions of space within its cover.

Audience.
Both books and film are limited by their audience. Both books and films are made with the end user in mind. The consumer market puts pressure on both literary and film publishers to offer the market what it craves. If it is adventure and thrilling crime stories, then that is what they will tell their authors and directors to produce. However both authors and film directors often gamble their career with the audience and produce works which go against the current. Some of these very same artists often develop a love hate relationship with the audience and within the industry. Charles Dickens was asked to give what we may call a Hollywood good ending to his novel 'Great Expectations,' but he flatly refused. His compromise, his ending line has earned critical praise for its ambiguity and is widely considered as a stroke of genius.

"We are friends,” said I, rising and bending over her…..
“And will continue friends apart, ” said Estella.
I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her."

Budget.
Films are costly to make. The Bollywood record budget for a film is at 35 million dollars, 'Robot'a 2010 Indian science fiction action film, co-written and directed by Shankar. Spiderman 3 is probably the world's most expensive film at 258 million dollars. A book merely needs some paper and a pen, or a computer and word processing program.

Cast.
Films are dependent on the cast that they feature. It is obvious that a celebrity or star should be given a more prominent role in the film. Such an actor or actress will help the box office hits to rise and their talent should give more life to the film. This means that directors tend to blow up, extend, expand, even invent roles for the more attractive members of their cast. This can be illustrated through Hector Babenco's Ironweed 1987, based on the Purltzer Prize winning book of the same title, by author William Kennedy. It featured Meryl Streep as Helen, Jack Nicholson and Tom Waits. The film is basically an account of one Francis Phelan. Once a talented major league baseball player, husband, and father of three, he has fallen so far from grace that his home for the past twenty-two years has been the street. Babenco turned Helen, Phelan's wife into the main character, including a scene with Meryl Streep singing "He's Me Pal."



Technology
Technology obviously has changed the way films are filmed and edited. It offers new possibilities and will continue to evolve. One may argue that technology has also influenced books both in the subject matter and manner of their presentation. E-books, audio books, more imagery, more interactivity is now possible. However books rely on the creative writing skills and expression of an author with technology only used as an aid to illustrate or share print in electronic, audio visual formats. Technology has completely revolutionized filmmaking and seems to have a stronger impact on the end result.
The Lost World is the first film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel about a land where prehistoric creatures still roam. Here is Harry O. Hoyt's 1925 silent film.  




This lost world of dinosaurs screened in 1925 can be compared to Steven Spielberg's 1993 film "Jurassic Park" based on Michael Cichton's 1990 novel. After paying 1.5million for authorship rights. The dinosaurs were created through groundbreaking computer-generated imagery by Industrial Light & Magic in conjunction with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs built by Stan Winston's team. To showcase the film's sound design, which included a mixture of various animal noises for the dinosaur roars, Spielberg invested in the creation of DTS, a company specializing in digital surround sound formats.


Reality
A film has to feel real and authentic. Even though it is a work of fiction, just like any good old novel, a film is subjected to the norms of public life. Akira Kurosawa was faced with many a problem of this type when he wanted to screen "Ran" his rendition of Skakespeare's 'King Lear.' In the original play the king split his kingdom between his three daughters. The samurai arena that Kurosawa used to portray the tale would not allow any property to be handed down to women, so his Ran saw the kingdom being split amongst three brothers.


CONTINUED in Part 2

A Note for Future Generations by Mario Cordina


Taken from Il- Kelma 
Mario Cordina

A note for Future Generations.

This work is not intended to be taken as a holy piece of work. It could easily be the work of fantasy and fiction. Indeed it definitely is the work of man and what a wonderful piece of work it is. It is a testament to man’s creativity and perseverance in the face of all odds that are a fact of life. What if the Bible, the Koran, The Holy Books of all religions were created by man? A metaphor, a fable? Does it take away their merit? Does it make a fool of those who follow the ways of the characters in the book? Does it make religions irrelevant?

My opinion is that I would rather like to believe that it actually enriches their followers. I would suggest that such writings enhance our fears, our dreams, our hopes and our beliefs and that these seem to have been relevant for past generations in the same way as they are for the present and will be for future populations. My personal concept of religion is that all beliefs are complimentary to each other, they evolve out of each other and learn and mature through the acceptance and understanding of the other. We all want to go to heaven if we could get there. We would all want to be immortal if we could and we all want to know what lies in wait for our lot. We all love peace and we all love sharing, need love, acceptance, friendship, sympathy, dignity and respect. We are all the same, with a skeleton that is crouching inside shivering about the unknown on this fragile spaceship called earth floating in a hostile environment.

This book encapsules and has gathered the fear of mankind, and this small ant colony can only scatter away from the foot that is poised to stamp out its existance at a moment’s notice, at an unexpected place and time. It is our courage and our bravery to seek and our creative brain that asks questions, always looking for solutions and alternatives, just like a great calculator continually counting, adding and analysing. This calculator is not the ideal machine. Like our computers it tends to break down, get hacked or just stops working unexplainably from time to time. Yet like all new technology these shortcomings and defects are progressively corrected and evolution follows similar lines, learning from past setbacks and mistakes. This is what makes the tranmission of tradition vital. We are not born into a tabula rasa world, but into one which is full of data, data which needs to be relearnt, corrected, respected and expanded.

This book is full of such data and it has been expanded upon by people from different lands and times and should lay the foundations for the future progress of a unified race. We are a unified race, although we construct and shift our geographical and racial borders as we please. However, although the roads are many and our differences are unreconcileable, our goal is one and the same.

Perfection? Truth? Is there such a thing or is it a man made concept, or is it the child of a terrified brain begot of nothing but vain fantasty?

My final warning comes as follows: if generations lose touch with the fantasies of the previous one, then they would be setting the clock back instead of forward. So I urge you to seek knowledge in all corners. What is, what was and what can be.

Read. Watch. Listen. Then Speak. Qibima.   

Il-Kelma was written as an ending sequel to the Mario By Mario trilogy by Mario Cordina.

Some Views on Writing Classes at WSJO Szczecin by Mario Cordina


Some Views on Writing Classes at WSJO Szczecin

Mario Cordina

It is a fact that some students tackle language like math, a system of grammatical rules and written laws with a spattering of idiioms, hand picked and learnt by heart for Use of English lessons. It naturally follows that such students produce stilted, unimaginative writing and if an essay title is given which involves skills beyond their limited vocabulary and idiomatic range, then they feel loest and out of their depth.

They should approach language in a more natural way and start to look forward to making their target language their own. This can only be achieved by opening up to the culture behind the language. Students must aspire to be as close to native speakers and writer as possible.

One frequent comment is that unfortunately students do not have the possibility to physically be in the country and experience the customs and geography of the language they want to master. Actually this is no excuse, primarily because life is unfair and students with the means to go abroad mix and compete with those who cannot afford such means. Both are assessed on the same grounds. Furthermore there is no reason why students cannot assimilate a given language by staying at home.

The key lies in reading material which is of interest and comes from all walks of life and topics. The wider the range of topics, the wider the range of vocabulary and their grasp of an idion’s or word’s meaning in a different context. T.V. with its news, documentaries, adverts, humour, jokes, action films containing a lot of everyday vernacular language, slang and jargon, apart from the more formal language forms also presents us with a fast way of opening an unexpected number of new doors and windows onto the target language. Students seem to be only too happy to wander around the internet online looking for specific material, however it is the element of surprise, the fact that you do not know what’s coming up next in films and books that is closer to real life situations. Yet all the possible media available to us offer us with an unlimited exposure time to the language and are vital towards achieving natural and simple language fluency.

There are three steps to learing a language. The first one is to understand it, the second one is to use it by giving answers and asking questions and the third is to manipulate it, to be able to twist the language around your finger, to create puns the way that Shakespeare did and ramble off in a Dickens lenghty manner or to be as witty as any Woody Allen text. In practice this means, a step from trying to write a correct error free text to an interesting flowing passage which could be included in a long essay or international journal. A passage which breathes and lives and which is the essence of the writer that penned it and not a mere shy shadow that does no justice to its author.

Personally I have learnt Polish, well not properly, for I have never attended any lessons. My knowledge of teh language is much better than my French, which I learnt at school for an 8 year period. My written French is much better than my written Polish, which I must admit, I keep for my eyes only. On the other hand, however I find myself grappling with the infinite meanings and collocations of Polish words and phrases. It fascinates me and I find myself trying to find ways of remembering new words. I use no dictionary, no translations, no textbook. Test me. It works. I am sure that if I turned my hands to writing in Polish by sitting for Polish Grammar lessons and literature lectures, I would make the grade. Already although my writing in Polish is fraught with errors it sounds Polish. And this is the point. Grammatical skills aside, whether one is a native speaker of the language or not a degree of crediting one’s knowledge should be a testament to the graduate’s sounding right.

It follows, therefore that I find myself concentrating more on errors that if corrected will make a student sound more English / American. For example, native writers make mistakes with prepositions, verb conjugations etc. They never, never omit the ‘the’ or any article for that matter. They never get a sentence construction muddled up either. My first lesson always starts with a funny sentence like this:
“The sexy girl loves the sexy boy.”

There are 6 positions in this sentence. Position number 1 and 4 are articles and they are compulsory. Even in a phrase, “The girl loves,’ there is an article present too. In class I normally go into more grammatical detail, honing in on the use of adverbials, prepositional phrases, sentence structure and so on. I will not tarry longer on this particular subject here, except to say that this was the first thing that struck me in Poland. That is the fact that students were unaware of the fact that they were writing or speaking in English without using articles. It was not a mere slip of the tongue. It was a huge misunderstanding.

I was trained never to use first language during classes, an EFL long term dispute, but it is here that my knowledge of the Polish tongue comes to my rescue. There are no articles in Polish. Does this mean that my students are translating from Polish to English and thus ommitting articles? It definitely means that they are not thinking in English. There is a big different between ‘a girl,’ or ‘the girl,’ in my life.

There are other implications. One of the main differences between Polish and English is the determining factor. The English language probably because of its history and people needs to determine everything, which person, what time, which place etc. This is probably why we use the preposition ‘at’ in English, a preposition that is non-existant in Polish. The same goes for ‘by,’ which baffles Polish students who have a hard time understanding the difference between ‘next to,’ ‘near,’ ‘close,’ and ‘by’. Polish expressions do not fuss around ownership or time. ‘Car is outside,’ and not ‘The (my) car is outside.’ Consider the term ‘Jutro o 9’ which could translate into ‘Tomorrow around 9,” compared to ‘Tomorrow at 9 am.sharp!’ The ‘o’ in Polish gives one the feeling that a few minutes before or after 9 would be okay, just like the Spanish Manana is an abstract tomorrow when in English we would use ‘We’re meeting tomorrow,’ a continous tense that is also to determine exact time and place. I believe that language betrays the very people that speak it (a generally more relaxed attitude to time and deadlines compared to a community where there is a stricter attitude)  and this is what makes languages interesting and challenging.

It is said that people who are able to think in more than one language are more intelligent than others who do not. I have no idea about my IQ yet I do feel confident about expressing myself and tend to switch from language to language when I feel that a certain expression is better than that of my own. It makes me feel more open, more at ease to say exactly what I want to say and in the long run, languages are fun, once you can manipulate them.

To end on a positive note, although a language to express oneself may look like a grissly task for a beginner, languages have been made by man for man, a tool to help and not hinder communication.

I believe that it is the co-ordinator’s task to provide the students with the appropriate tools. Students must understand that all courses offered are part of the whole : UK and US life / culture courses, literature, linguistics, methodology etc are as much a part of the practical exam as Use of English, reading, writing, listening, speaking and translation. Finally, it is my job to provide the students with the motivation to read more, write more and pursue new challenges. When I look back to my days as a university student, it is with longing and nostalgia. I would love my students to say the same.             

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Weaponless Watch Anidroc


The Weaponless Watch
Mario Cordina


Set in the idyllic Norwegian Swanfjord, fringed by forests and the gigantic Huldrefolk Mountains above, this is old Elli’s gripping account of her guests and the events that will change their lives forever. Harlokken is green eyed and dark, Svanehvit is blue-eyed and blonde. Olaf another visitor to Swanfjord finds it hard to choose between the two. Elli, as a weaponless watcher and seeker of the runes of life together with the guests she comes to love as her own children, finds herself wrapped up in a tale where the constant Norse battles of old come to life. A battle for the survival of man against the odds and elements of this vast and tough Norse country steeped in the tales of the skards, their beliefs and their word strifes.

The Weaponless Watch offers a new vision on man’s position in the cosmos, his creator and the genesis of the world he lives in. Who sees the future as far as Elli? A future based on the spoken word of yore can sometimes be closer to the truth than modern day science.

A mystery surrounds the characters and their reasons for coming to stay at Swanfjord. At the end there are no real heroes and no real villains in this story. Life in the tales of the skards is merciless and ruthless and life at Swanfjord is no different.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Il-Kelma Mario Cordina

Il-Kelma

The Holy Book of the 5 Races of the Human Race

&

The Legacy of Mario Vinczenzo

Mario Cordina


The Book of Marju of Ghasafar
Or
The Book of Marju The 1st Ruler of the Land of The Pyramids.

Il-Gabra
(The Collection/The Harvest)

The following is a set of accounts which were given to me by the Higher members of the Bird society which are most dear to me and by the members from our brothers from the Black Earth region.

These are the accounts which I Mghallem, the humble servant of the late Marju of Ghasafar will hitherto present to future generations.

The emotional bond between a parent and a son and the mother of that very son and his father – a father in absentia as I proved to be is one that I cannot explain. To one so full of words as myself, such a feeling of regret and remorse leaves me empty, the words turn into complex logarithms I cannot decipher and are replaced by an inexhaustible grief. An irretrievable grief, something that went wrong and cannot be put right.

I must confess that in quest of bravery and self sacrifice, however holy and heroic it might seem, I failed as a father. There are few doting fathers who can say that they never knew their sons and few sons, however rebellious they may be, for whom their father is but a name.

I grew up as orphan, but my parents were dead. My son grew up unfathered and yet I live. It is my guilt and shame that wipe the floor of letters and logical sentences, so I will let these papers throw some light on Mario, my son, who I shall affectionately and rightly dub ‘ Marju, the Bird Man, son of Cindy from the Land of Ghasafar and Mario, Lord of the Light, from Huta, son of Pitru of Anda and Cleofa from Ala, the last knight and prince of the Rix of Gold, Blue and Green, the human who had gambled and lost the struggle for the future of mankind on a game of Senet

Accounts from Ghasafar

Following the Lord of the Light’s stay in the village, which in those days lay around the Ghasafar Oasis at the edge of the Sahara, the Bird people our citizens changed their way of life. A child was born unto Cindy from the family of the Great Bird Spirit Qaws, daughter of King Gawwi the Scarlet and Queen Ajkla, son to Mario Lord of the Light, the human who became our protector spirit. The son will hereafter be referred to as Marju, a diminutive of the name Mario, a name by which he was affectionately known.

Naomi, a princess directly from the line of the spirit Qaws, suffered the title of the Betrayer who sold the Lord of the Light to the Dogs of Zama when The Lord of the Light was still a human. She tried to bury her grief and shame by declining to wear any feathers. Most of the citizens followed her example.

One day, The Lord of The Light graced the Land of Ghasafar with a second visit. He was received as an honourable guest. Songs, displays and gifts were bestowed on their most distinguished visitor. The Lord of the Light in return publicly forgave Queen Naomi who later dedicated her whole life to the human question, arguing and defending the fate and survival of the human race and helping to set up a human colony at Memfes which later grew into a powerful empire in The Land of The Pyramids. The Lord of the Light also used this occasion to publicly christen his son and left his offspring and the mother of his child under the care of the citizens of Ghasafar till his return.

All future generations waited for his return, which however infrequent and unannounced was known to occur. The village, especially the one by the Oasis of Ghasafar would light up candles at night and lit up a road from the tunnels to the Oasis, for he was known to come by night. Rumours had it that he sometimes visited Cindy by night and left before dawn.

Many of the citizens of Ghasafar followed Cindy’s example and accepted humans. Intermarriage became common. Many shed their wings and either lost their power of flight or regarded it as undesirable. Feathers were deemed unclean and in extremist circles were hidden or shaved off. Men and women proudly portrayed their human form and tried to hide their feathery features. In fact the youth were more human than fowl. They dreamt of going to Memfes where Bird people were highly cherished and lived with and as humans.

According to the statutes laid down by our great Queen, “We owe a lot to humans. The human race will turn this world upside down and we will turn with it. What is more, we will help them in their path. We are in spirit closer to the Human Race than to any other race on this earth.”

These words and other such beliefs upheld by the citizens around the Land of Ghasafar broke relations with other bird races and strengthened the bonds with the people at Memfes.

This was a forseable circumstance once Marju became the rightful ruler of Memfes. During his rule, The Land of Ghasafar and Memfes merged into one. It was the beginning of The Land of the Pyramids, an empire that would outlast time.

Marju was born human in form. Only a pinkish crest ran along his dark hair on his head. Cindy, his proud mother was never far away from her son’s side. She never uttered anything but loving words for her son.

“He was a normal kid, fond of games and fun, with a talent to sing like a bird and speak like a human. He was known for his ability to learn the languages of other creatures and races in a very short space of time.”

“There is nothing much to say about his childhood for he was like every other kid in the village. The first account that we have is that we have of him is that of his fifteenth birthday when the great Lord of all Fowl, Qaws came and carried him away. His mother Cindy never revealed her son’s whereabouts. The village waited in trepidation and impatience for great things were expected of him.

A letter was found after his death. “A few words about myself. I have left this note at my mother’s Katlema, the cavern that was our dwelling, the only home, I will forever carry in my heart. I have left this note in the vain hope that my father will read it one day.”

“I have never known you, just as all creatures will never get to know their creator. I know what my mother and all the villagers here know about you. All that you have done for the right of a race to survive. I am proud to be your son. It has been explained to me over and over again that you are a man with a mission, the most noble mission of all, that you sacrificed everything you had in your life to achieve your goal and your goal is the good of the human race. I have been brought up to respect your choice. My mother has only words of praise and she misses you dearly. I await the day to see her in your arms and I await the day to meet you my dear father. However life is short and I have been called upon to help your cause. Any kid would openly and readily enter the role that I have been asked to fill. I will do you proud father. I promise that I will do so not for myself or for my pride or for my honour but to carry on your example of self sacrifice, diligence and honesty. I will keep your eye of Osiris to give me strength whenever it falters, courage whenever it dims, to show love where there is hate and to put wise words into my tongue when they are needed. Speak for me, act for me. I am but an instrument in the mechanism that will save mankind. Tomorrow Qaws, an acquaintance of yours will take me away from everything I know to a vast unknown. My mother told me that you too were carried off into the unknown and that I am only naturally following the trail you have already taken.”

Your Son.

Queen Naomi announced that Marju would return for his 18th birthday. There were many preperations for his return in the manner of the citizens of Ghasafar. A platform was decked with pink flowers which was the colour he came to be known by, as Cindy’s pink feathery head had stamped such a tell-tale streak through the middle of his hair. The picture of Zaren, the most important painting at Ghasafar was placed in a prominent position on the main stage. Dances and parades were rehearsed with much enthusiasm and the village was flooded with many citizens from neighbouring villages, as the great day neared.

And he came, his pink streak flaming in the sun, carried airborne by a fleet of birds that clouded the sky. The villagers and those present were excited to see how much Marju had grown, a man of promise. The festivities went far into the night showering the guest with gifts as he embraced his mother with moving tears of joy in her eyes. Cindy delared that when a woman has two men in her life, two men assigned for great things, it is a great honour and yet a burden to bear. “There is nothing that a woman in such a position dreams of more but to see her men return home. It is my love for my son that speaks and it is a love above any other.”

Marju’s stay however was brief. After a couple of days, a large regiment of men, dark and strong came to the village from the south and took him away. The birds who had brought him followed suit. Queen Naomi and her entourage also joined them. It became commen knowledge that they had gone to Memfes to establish a human settlement there under the hand of a powerful ruler, Marju of Ghasafar. Cindy remained at home.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Book of The Stones. Mario By Mario Book 3



Mario By Mario

Book 3 ‘The Stones’

1 The Revelation
1st January

Kiss and back. The laid back wave hustling to the sandy edge and back infinitely, like a lover hugging the beach as the shore kisses it back. It defies any man held definition of time. It is a timeless kissing as if time had not only stood still but it had actually never existed. The only humna on this beach was myself. The sun caked my skin and made me as golden as the landscape. The glittering crystals in the music of the waves was white and pure. I stood motionless lying on a mat on the grains of the softest sand burning with the summer it collected day by day.
 2nd January
 This is not a sequel, nor is it intended to be. I know not how I got there, nor how long I have been here for. But for all this time the problem of the human race did not bother me. It was all washed away. You know that things seem so large when they are up and close and so insignificant when they are far away. No one troubled me, nor took the trouble to call. I felt sad that I had lost, but it had only been a game. A serious game at that. My first feelings had been that I had let them down and with them my whole race. But the water had a healing potion that eased my parched spirit. And probably it is only a question of telling yourself that everything is okay and then all you have to do is to wait for yourself to be convinced. There are many voices inside oneself. The ego, the conscience, the fear and the desire to overcome, present and future hopes……. It is so hard to talk of yourself as one being.

3rd January

One day I had a vision and the beach suddenly changed to one full of beach combers, sunbeds, umbrellas, yachts, water bikes, surfers, parachutes, gliders, children with an endless assortment of toys in every colour under the sun. Girls with bikinis or without and fet bellied men with beer cans and eyes lingering over the younger members of the opposite sex, beach boys and people frolicking around in the sea or sleeping in the sun. (Well that is the picture that I would paint today, but that vision, that day was full of people enjoying the beach). When the vision disappeared I was all alone again. I knew that I had seen the future.

One must understand that I, even at this day and age cannot reveal all the secrets of the spirits for many reasons. A secret is a secret after all. Most things people would not believe anyway. The truth is sometimes so incredulous and fantastic that people in their right minds, will refuse to believe it. So there are many things that I cannot explain, but I will let you know as much as I think I can be allowed to say.

Becoming a spirit is a process, a process of experience and education, of tests of character and intelligence. Spirits are allowed to disappear from their daily routine to return when they feel refreshed and renewed. Let us call it a spirit vacation. With the vision of the people of the beach, the picture of a possible future, my holiday ended. So I set off to Byblos carrying the caskets in the sack that I had taken from the Mountain of the Spirits.

The Revelation

The Death of Merhurt

4th January

Merhurt greeted me alone, without pomp. “Be proud of what you have become. Victory majes great men, defeat teaches them how to be greater.” Merhurt seemed to know everything. But I was asking no questions.

“I saw your son. He is well and alive.” Merhurt was quiet for a long time. He walked me out of the city of Byblos up towards the low mountains to  the east. We walked and walked, but my news seemed to have silenced his heart. As for myself, I had lain on a sandy beach for so long, alone and quiet that I did not seem to have many words inside of me. The night fell down on us and we still walked. When the sun rose we were at the foot of the mountains. We clambered up the moutain ridge in the heat of the sun, till we came to the peak. The mountains were not very high and not very difficult to climb. There was a trickling stream, a rare occurrence in such a desolate place. Merhurt stopped to lap up what water he could. I had to cup my hands and wait for my hands to fill, for there was very little water to talk about. That night we slept by this water vent on a ridge high above the forsaken desolate plain. When the sun rose, it looked even more forbidding than ever. Even at that very early hour the heat was already becoming unbearable.

“I have come here to die,” Merhurt suddenly announced. “I have lived long enough.” I was asking no questions, but I was still a human and a lump came up in my throat. “See this land. There is a city underneath, nay a kingdom, a man made kingdom. One day the spirit Ursus flooded it and then sank what remained under the sand, together with a great river that made the land rich and fertile. You have lost the land that was Ala. I know that Enlil would like you to take over this land instead.” I looked at the treacherous emptiness in disbelief. “I was once told by my father, that the day I would return to take over my seat at Ylos[1] , would be his last. Indeed he passed away just as news of my return reached him. I found him dead. My son will take over in Byblos, for if he told you that to greet me, it means that he is about to return. Now it is time for me to go.” Merhurt did not look at me but kept staring at the landscape below. “Do you have any final wish?” Merhurt however remained silent. The sun was burning my back as if the Red Demon was touching me, but I would not move. “I know that you will take care of the bulls and I know that you will act like me and give up everything, even your familt and race in the face of duty. The bulls will be driven out of Byblos by the human race, I know and I will bow to the fate written by the spirits for us. I asked not to witness it and therefore I die. Yet I die happy in the knowledge that you will oversee this land that once was mine. A barren land, but it was home.”
 

5th January

 “What do you know about rivers? Do you know that rivers twist and turn?” I was startled by this change of conversation. “Rivers are of many kinds like human beings. They may be said to have stories. They are born, they go through their childhood days and their youth. They pass through the stages of adolescence, maturity and many of them reach old age. As with human beings again their appearance is very different at different ages. A river is born, perhaps as a spring from a hillside. At first it runs straight cutting out a channel for itself leaving steep banks on each side. The power of a fresh newly born river creates even steeper banks forcing a valley with high land on both sides of it. With the rain, comes even more water and the river has grown so large that it starts to flood, but there is no place it can go but straight with such force that it will now even cut into rock and not only soft earth. The rocks it pulls down sink to the bottom, the crashing current swings to the other side with even greater force and digs a bend into the rock and this river now turns into a snake, where it finds weaker banks, the banks break and form tributaries and again once the water finds vents to spread, it relaxes. Now the ground is not so steep and the current not so strong. The river has grown old and will eventually mingle with the sea. Farewell, Mario of Huta.” With this he sprang into the gorge beneath. I had no time, no warning and probably no power to stop him. Merhurt was gone.


6th January

I looked down into the abyss and made out his dead body, but a speck below. I kicked at the rock face in anger, right there where the water had trickled and the ground gave way beneath my feet. Water gushed out with so much energy that it nearly threw me off the ridge were it not for Wiza’s claws that kept me clinging on as the water washed all over me with great intent. Slowly I pulled myself out of harm’s way. More and more water was falling into the abyss where Merhurt’s body was already floating. It took me a couple of days to get down where he lay. I dragged him out with much effort. The water had already formed a little stream which disappeared over the horizon and it was showing no signs of stopping. Merhurt was a big, heavy animal and it took all my strength and enterprise to slug him up to a place which I thought would remain dry and buried him. I took the medal which hung round a chain on his neck and made my way back to Byblos. I entered at night and asked the guards to keep my entry a secret till the dawn and made my way to the foot of Mount Enlil using a secret was shown to me by the bulls. There I found Merhurt’s son and laid down the medal without saying a word.        

“Enlil told me to ask you about my father and you bring me sad news. I understand that it is time for me to return to Byblos.” I picked up the medal and wrapped it round his heart broken neck. He would become known as the One who Stepped Forth from the temple or as the Bull who came down from heaven, in the tongue of the bulls Gu (one) Ga (from) Lana[2] (Nirvana) Gi (come). So together with Gu Ga Lana Gi and with other envoys from the Ensa of Byblos, I traced my way back to the place where I had buried Merhurt and they led his remains back to the city where he was given a state funeral. In the shadows I made out the shapes of various other spirits, but none approached me. When Merhurt was lain to rest, the sky blackened and a huge sandstorm could be seen rising in the desert. The bulls closed the gates of the city and ran for shelter.

The sandstorm lasted for days. Few dared leave their homes and none dared leave the city. So died Merhurt and with him age old secrets. He was one of the eldest spirits but had renounced his powers and his throne to the bulls. Now he had even renounced his life.

End of The Death of Merhurt.



[1] Ylos was the land of the bulls by Byblos, before Byblos was given to the bulls.
[2] The Sumerian Tale of Gilgamesh depicts the slaying of the Bull Of Heaven Gugalana as an act of defiance against the gods. From the earliest times the bull was a lunar creature, its horns symbolising the cresent moon.