Music Dance And Theatre



The most common musical instruments in Gehennum are flutes. For the most part these are fipple flutes: rather like a European recorder, except that the tuning is a little different. In the Classical Period and the Decadent Period side-blown flutes (like a modern European flute except for being made of wood, and not having the complicated keys and levers) gain in popularity because of their more brilliant sound.

The other family of common woodwind instruments are the 'pipes', which are double-reed instruments like the European oboe, cor anglais, and bassoon. The Gehennese versions again are tuned differently from the European versions with which we are familiar, and do not have keys and levers, just finger-holes.

Pan-pipes are used in some circumstances, as for example being quickly improvised out of available materials, but they have no regular part in the orchestra.


The Gehennese use horns essentially similar to our brass instruments for signalling, scaring game, and so forth, though they are rarely made of metal. These instruments do not play a significant part in Gehennese music. They are used occasionally for a special effect, especially in theatre music, but have no established role in the orchestra.


The Gehennese have stringed instruments resembling a zither, a lute, and a mandolin, in various compasses (size/range combinations). These are always plucked or strummed, never bowed, and of course they are usually tuned to a Gehennese scale.

The banjo is introduced in the Decadent Period, when it is used mostly to parody the usual music of stringed intstruments.


The Gehennese of course use drums. They also use tuned percussion instruments, like xylophones and (bamboo) tubular bells, a great deal. They make large choirs or orchestras of them, called gamelans, and these form the core of a Gehennese orchestra or band, like the violins in an European orchestra.

Because the Gehennese have no standard of pitch, and because solidophones cannot be re-tuned once made, except by scraping away a little of the material of the instrument to raise the pitch, each xylophone and each set of bells must be made for a particular gamelan. It is in general impossible to use part of one gamelan in another gamelan.

There is a special instrument called a king drum, that is used for signalling, and sometimes to accompany war dances and in theatre music. A king drum is made out of a hollowed log. A slot shaped a upper-case 'I' (with serifs) is cut lengthways in the log, and the back of one lip is scaped away so that it sounds a major fourth or perfect fifth higher than the other when struck. A king drum is long enough that several drummers can play it side-by-side. Beating in unison, they can produce a very loud and carrying two-tone beat.

The palace of an anaxos often contains an ancient and venerable king drum passed down in his dynasty from time immemorial. These drums are important tokens of the anaxoi's ancient lineage and right to rule.

Musical conventions

Like many folk music traditions on Earth, the Gehennese use a pentatonic scale. Pentatonic major scales (eg. C, D, F, G, A, C) are used for martial and cheerful tunes, and pentatonic minor scales (eg. F, G, A, C, D, F) are used for sad, plaintive, and mournful tunes. Some sophisticated music uses 'accidentals' (notes not usually in the key being played in, including the 'missing' E and B of our scale, as well as our usual 'sharps' and 'flats'). These are available because Gehennese music makes use of key changes.

The Gehennese do not have a standard of pitch like our 'concert pitch'. Each gamelan is tuned to its own standard (though of course the intervals are the same), and the flutes, pipes, and strings are tuned on the spot to fit in with the gamelan with that they are playing at the time.

In Gehennese music there is a convention that strings play meticulous, formal music, steady and sedate, and that winds play wilder, more passionate parts. This dichotomy is used to create tension within orchestral pieces. Because of this convention, string players often wear white clothes, and wind players a deep purple-red ('amaranth').


The Gehennese love to dance: it is a major occupation at their parties and celebrations. Their traditional 'folk' dances are either men's dances or women's dances, or have separate parts for the men and women, or, if they are danced by mixed couples, are extremely chaste: male and female 'partners' scarcely touch.

In the Classical Period a new type of dance emerges, in which a man and woman dance together, not part of a 'set' of couples, and in which they often hold each other quite close. These are a scandal to conservative parents, because they make the woman seem initimate with the man, but they are danced at the Imperial Court, and at progressive homes in the highest levels of society. In this period the ball or dancing-party is emerging as a social feature, as the sequestration is women is relaxing. By the Decadent Period these 'couples dances' are observed with equanimity by all.

War dances

War-dances are stylised and elaborated weapons drills, like a cross between martial-arts 'forms' and rhythmic gymnastics. There are different dances for different weapons or combinations of weapons, and of course the more popular weapons can have many different dances associated with each one, reflecting different techniques and regional variations.

War dances have a part in the teaching of martial skills and the cementation of militia units, and are therefore a normal part of Gehennese education. They are taught to boys and youths in the belief that they will convey weapon technique, and to girls to help make them lithe and fit. In fact, very few students learn any useful fighting ability from war-dances alone.

These dances are also danced as a form of exercise, as an exhilarating social performance, and to display suppleness and prowess. Competition at the war dance is an event for boys, youths, girls and women at athletic games.

Narrative dance

The Gehennese have a set of conventions for dancing out stories which, fortified by sign language, is much more expressive and explicit than European ballet. It is a very popular folk art, dramatic form, and religious practice.

Dancing the legends and mysteries of exemplars, heroes, and geists is an important part of Gehennese religious observances. Great glory is attached to dancing a major role at an important ceremony.


The Gehennese secular theatre evolved from religious dance, and relies a great deal on narrative dance. In the Archaic Period all drama is at least mostly danced and sung.

In the Classical Period dramatic works with acted and spoken (rather than danced and sung) parts emerge. At first the drama taking place on the stage (from which the actors displaced the orchestra) was heavily reinforced by, and inclined to descend among, the chorus dancing and singing on the dancing floor between the stage and the audience. By the Decadent Period, though, plays without (significant) music, entirely spoken on the stage, are well established.

Copyright © 1988-2004 Brett Evill. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.