[WF-General]Discussion about OrientalMusic/Clichés in Games/Films and WF

Adrian ka.ho at pandora.be
Sun Oct 1 14:08:41 PDT 2000

****Discussion about (Oriental ) Music/Clichés in Games/Films and WF*****

Hello ,
although i hadn't had the chance to participate actively yet, i would risk
the impoliteness to add a comment. It is very narrowly focused, on one
sentence written by David Zokvic, but i think a general ideology lays behind
it .

David Zokvic wrote,(21/09/2000/13:45):

>> "I am assuming something Arabian sounding for Tyr, but other than that I
don't know what you guys want. " <<

David, as many, assumes it here for granted that Desert=Arabian
Landscape=Oriental music. This hit me hard. Many good games are doing this
intuitively, and much more films are doing this as well, but when i
encounter such a cliché it makes me all (bored,laughing,even angry) but
happy. I'm aware that, being a half arab raised in Morocco and making arabic
music since years, i'm not so representative for the average audience in
Europe/US/Japan. But i'm also sure about the following points:

I) What do Arabs in a fantasy world ? Just because theres some desert
doesn't means that all have to wear a turban and be carrying a snake in a
basket. Imagine how eg.:Star Wars or The Lord Of The Rings would be dragged
down by such a scene, the whole fantasy-concept would become unbelievable:
Arabs are from this world, the real one, and even if the Orient has been
subject to an extensive romantic mythification through the last centuries
(eg.:Baudelaire,Byron,Goethe...), i think (hope:-) that our modern world has
become far too small for such clichés staying alive (others appeared lately
(again), but that's another,political,question).

II) Associating deserts exclusively with Arabic-sounding soundtracks is so
poor (no affront intended,David!) as associating every scenery involving
Mesas and Canyons with a Square-Dance or some Apache songs. This could be
fun and fully contextual in a game like "With Phileas Fogg Around The World"
or "Tourism Tycoon" (:-), but in a Fantasy World like WF ?

III) From a technical persepctive, it is extremely hairy to create such an
Arabic-sounding soundtrack which still sounds good:

    -what makes it arabic sounding? Phrygian Mode? It mostly will result in
just ONE,yes,i repeat ONE, sequence of 4 notes
(root,1halftonestep,3halftonesteps,1halftonestep and back) which is
shamelessly overused and thus cheap (b-movies love this!).
Many a great composer has tried to break through this
(eg:Dvorak,Grieg,Purcell...) "with - 4 - notes - i - quickly - implement -
a - flying - carpet" syndrome and their repectable result has often
delivered work in which a symbiosis of western and oriental music remains
very discutable.
    Only in the last decades some people like eg.: Peter Gabriel
("Passion"), Phillip Glass, John McLaughlin and fortunately many others from
the World Music Scene have achieved truly symbiotic music.
All those people are knowing the classical oriental
music-traditions(Arabic,Turkish,Persian,Indian...) extremely well and most
of them have studied them for many years and/or are playing together with
masters of the respective tradition (eg John Handy,Anouar Braheem,Jan
  I just want to point out that the oriental classical musics are very
complex and represent often a total different approach of a musical concept
than the occidental music, and, that without at least some understanding of
"oriental music", stakes are high that just this "4 notes cliché" will
dominate the soundtrack/piece. WF needs great,big music !

   - i think that relying on pure classical oriental music for this purpose
wouldn't be a good choice either. From experience i know that the AVERAGE
Westerner isn't prepared for the extensive microtonal, monophonic concept
which represents the core of most oriental-musics. Quarter (or even ninth!)
tones are interpreted as sounding "false" and such intricate rythms
(eg:128/17!) as often played by tablas are often too much except for the
Jazz-afficionado. (NB.: of course,the opposite is often true as well: the
AVERAGE oriental listener isn't prepared to meet the rich polyphonic
contra-punctal work of eg.: Bach...(hum, its hard to stay on topic


- DO the deserts of WF MUST be populated with "Fantasy- Arabs"? Must every
jungle be populated with Pygmees or every ice-cap with Inuits?  Isn't it a
lack of imagination to do this ? I think that a realistic approach like seen
in Frank Herberts great "Dune", which involves people adapted to the desert
(they won't be wearing furs, obviously) but still fully original would be
more apropriate in WF and give it more depth.

- is there a need for clichés (generally speaking) in ( WF ) music/artwork
at all ? I would like to contribute some music to WF, and there are many
"oriental" influences to be heard in my music. Does this means that i would
have to make "desert-music" all along?

(Note: a propos "desert-music", i directly think of STEVE ROACH and his
"Breathing Stones", this is the best accoustic representation of the desert
i've ever heard so far (i really recommend it !) and there's nothing
oriental in it at all !)

My apologies for breaking in like this, but, even if this might be a detail,
this has been naively overlooked by many good games, and i hope so much for

Adrian Ouarar

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