Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thomson shares his ideas for his bard "Sad Ed" with myself and the group


the tintinnabulation chamber is an array of special plates that, when set up and properly configured, allows ed to visit a variety of distortions on the beings and material under the influence of the enclosed acoustic environment through special and calculated musical interventions.

here's how it works.

ed surveys his surroundings in order to figure out how to fit the tintinnabulatory chamber into the local environment. he does this by sitting at the intended focal point of the chamber and meditates while humming a hypnotic, tuneless, modulating music -- a mapping tone that returns to his sensitive ears and sonically-sensitive brain a sort of "musical topology" of the environment. the bigger and more complicated the volume, the longer and more difficult the mapping process. a regular, rectangular prism of a room is relatively easy to map. a forest or a convoluted cavern is harder. a flat, airless plain is simple. a windy mountain peak is harder. the harder the mapping, the longer it takes, and the greater the chance that he'll make a crucial error that could compromise -- in perhaps volatile ways -- the magic he lets loose into the chamber after its construction is complete.

after mapping the site, ed uses chalk, grease pencil, paint -- any old marking substance -- to trace out the chamber's schematic. these schematics look like a series of nodes and lines connecting them to each other. the nodes indicate locations where the tintinnabulation tiles should be installed. the connections indicate the relationships they should have -- the lines describing the flow of acoustic information inside the chamber.

next, he installs the tiles. monkey b goode can be trained to help, and the other members of the party can help, too. monkey b goode has a musical ear, too (remember, he has a little guitar? that's how we met, i challenged him to a dual!), so he can set these things up pretty well on his own, and he'll get better. other party members can help, too, by following ed's and goode's directions. ed of course has to do the fine tuning at the end, to make sure the placement is perfect. the tiles are installed using adhesives; nails; magic; suction cups; solvents that join them seamlessly to their host surfaces -- however they need to be, depending on the nature of the installation site. each tile is joined to adjacent tiles with special sonically conductive wire that helps them to maintain rigid relative positions and blend their sounds together.

the tintinnabulation chamber is, essentially, a big, spherical perimeter that prevents all sound generated inside the zone from escaping, and keeps all sound generated outside the zone out. you see, each of its component tiles functions like a one-way acoustic gate, or a kind of cell membrane. each tile vibrates and, depending on the frequency, it lets different sounds in and keeps the rest out. ed controls their vibrations by playing a special song, a song unique to each chamber. the song is the audible counterpart of its chamber -- the "ghost" to the chamber's flesh. he can read each of his chambers like music and improvise different themes for the chamber on his guitar.

what can the tintinnabulation chamber do?

let's say an enemy walks in. by playing an aggressive theme, ed could inflict sonic damage on the enemy from all sides. since sound is pressure waves, a massive attack could simply crush the enemy. or he could heat the enemy up, catch him on fire by playing contrapuntal music that drags the air against itself until it catches. or he could depress, enrage, cheer up, or otherwise emotionally manipulate the enemy. he could cause the enemy to burst or fade away by playing resonant musical frequencies that destabilize the enemy or move the enemy out of phase with natural reality.

the chamber is also a perfectly soundproof space. no one can hear you scream from the outside -- or maybe, if you were screaming inside, maybe even you couldn't hear it. the inside is a soundless void. you hear the rushing of blood in your head, and it drives you mad with fright.

friendlies could also camp inside a similarly soundproof chamber, secure in the knowledge that their voices wouldn't carry into unfriendly territory.

by adjusting the echoes and delays of the chamber, ed can create misleading, disorienting, unbalancing false perceptions about the size, shape, and orientation of the enclosed space, too. it's hard to keep your balance in a sonic hall of mirrors! it fucks up anything that needs an inner ear to stay upright! and maybe you'll lose your lunch, too.

ed can also interpolate roars, whistles, howls, screams, sobs, whispers, coughs, caws, hisses, and any other thinkable sound into the chamber. this could be a good way to hound a murderer with the voices of his victims, or trick an enemy into revealing secrets at what seems to be the request of a friend. or maybe ed just drives a wolfmount insane with high-pitched dog whistles, causing it to turn on its rider! or, by sending out a signal into the night sky, ed could fill the chamber with bloodsucking vampire bats, swarms of stinging insects, or hooting monkeys -- anything attracted to his phony mating calls.

operating on a higher level, ed could use particularly insidious fugues to "hack" the language center's of a being's brain, causing him to spill secrets and think aloud. by playing at certain subsonic frequencies, ed could even induce motion in the bodies of his foes, forcibly casting those in the chamber into a puppet show of his own design. a sort of mind control...

finally, at its most arcane extremities of operation, the chamber, in conjunction with an inspired performance the likes of which ed is barely ever capable, can even transform sounds into stable, standing waves, making the audible into physical matter. the chamber becomes a 3-D printer, a universal constructor, a holodeck that makes use of hard sound instead of hard light. needless to say, the artifacts created within cannot be transported out, but, in their native land, they're real enough. the entire area could become an iron maiden or a block of stone. it could become filled with water. or maybe it just gets full of furniture or simulated people, or illusory, holographic gold. it becomes a space of illusion -- sometimes even deadly illusion.

and there are other uses, too, but i think you get the gist. 

obviously, this is a powerful machine that requires a whole set of skills and a degree of musical prowess that ed has not fully attained. he'll need to learn this sonic mapping meditation humming; the design and installation of the chamber's architecture; and the many complex songs and techniques by which he can unlock its wild variety of powers. he'll need a good ear, a good eye, a good mind. he'll need to study music under bards and casters even greater than he, maybe even find a monastery of musical monks to initiate him into their brotherhood. and he'll need to find gifted magical engineers who can help him build and test the actual tiles and conductive wiring that connects them, too. 

but doesn't this idea sound cool? i think it sounds cool. i'd love to hash out the game mechanics and limits of this idea with you sometime.