Festlieder

Na’vi ban­quet songs are types of way, ‘anci­ent, tra­di­tio­nal song or poem’. The­se way con­sti­tu­te a clan’s ’okrol, ‘sung anci­ent histo­ry’. They inclu­de ori­gins songs, which are leng­thy (up to four hours) retel­lings of Pan­d­o­ran mytho­lo­gy such as the legend of Toruk Mak­to, his­to­ri­cal epi­cs, which recount gre­at batt­les and gre­at hunts, and prai­se songs, which are sung for the most heroic Na’vi lea­ders and war­ri­ors. Youngs­ters learn the majo­ri­ty of their histo­ry by lis­tening to their elders sing the­se epi­cs. To out­si­ders, all ’okrol may sound remar­kab­ly simi­lar musi­cal­ly. Howe­ver, each way struc­tu­re is dis­tin­guis­hed by the style of its pro­se, line length and num­ber of lines, and the rhy­me sche­me. Wayte­lem are used to record way.

Ori­gins songs use a rhy­me sche­me of AAA BB AAA CC AAA, etc. They are sung in a very old, very for­mal style of Na’vi lan­guage. Each line with an A rhy­me is four­te­en syll­ab­les long. Lines which use other rhy­mes are eit­her seven or twel­ve syll­ab­les long. No new ori­gin songs have been writ­ten during living memory.

His­to­ri­cal epi­cs use a rhy­me sche­me of pai­red phra­ses (AA BB, CC, etc.). All lines are twel­ve syll­ab­les long. A simp­ler lan­guage style is uti­li­zed, pres­um­a­b­ly so that the mea­ning is not lost on later genera­ti­ons. This also sim­pli­fies lear­ning for Na’vi child­ren. New his­to­ri­cal songs are com­po­sed when an event war­rants a place in clan lore, but sin­ce the­re is no con­cept of ‘song com­po­ser’ in Na’vi cul­tu­re, anyo­ne with a gift for sin­ging, rhy­ming and remem­be­ring may com­po­se a his­to­ri­cal song.

Prai­se songs are simp­ler still. The­re is no set struc­tu­re apart from a rhy­me sche­me of ABAB CDCD, etc. Lines may be any num­ber of syll­ab­les long.

Sin­ce the­se way are the pri­ma­ry means by which Na’vi trace their histo­ry and genea­lo­gy, pre­cise dic­tion and accu­ra­te repe­ti­ti­on are con­si­de­red of utmost impor­t­ance. Alt­hough all Na’vi are expec­ted to memo­ri­ze the­se his­to­ri­cal tales and be able to sing them, tho­se with the best memo­ries and most accu­ra­te voices are ent­rus­ted with the respon­si­bi­li­ty of pre­ser­ving the ’okrol and pas­sing the way down to the next generation.

Musi­cal­ly, ban­quet songs are the most com­plex and impres­si­ve of Na’vi songs. The musi­cal tex­tu­re is divi­ded bet­ween men and women: women sing the melo­dy and lyrics in their typi­cal hete­ro­pho­nic fashion (in which various per­for­mers sing slight­ly dif­fe­rent melo­dies) while men pro­vi­de what ser­ves as a dro­ne. The melo­dy can be per­for­med in one of two ways: eit­her one woman will sing a fair­ly unador­ned ver­si­on or, more com­mon­ly, many women will sing in their typi­cal cas­ca­ding hete­ro­pho­nic style but with much orna­men­ta­ti­on, almost in a com­pe­ti­ti­ve man­ner. Solo ren­di­ti­ons are heard from time to time, but the Na’vi pre­fer them sung with gre­at gus­to by a lar­ge group.

As for the men’s dro­ne, rather than hol­ding a steady pitch each man inde­pendent­ly fluc­tua­tes his pitch micro­to­nal­ly, vary­ing up to one and three-fifths on eit­her side of the fun­da­men­tal pitch. The result gives an over­all impres­si­on of a dro­ne, but it exhi­bits a ‘living’ qua­li­ty in the sub­t­le move­ments among the men’s voices. The Na’vi belie­ve that this ‘living’ dro­ne repres­ents the spi­rit of Eywa, much akin to the anci­ent Greek con­cept of the music of the spheres.