5: Elaria - Part Twenty-One
One afternoon, toward the end of the visit, Felanar and Alessa were strolling through the forest. Felanar was teaching her the ways of Brindledown and the lake. As he was talking, a sound reached his ear and he paused in mid-sentence. Seeing this, Alessa said, “Ah, you have caught the composers on the wind, have you? What do you think of their music?”
Straining to hear, Felanar responded, “I can barely make it out, Alessa. You have much better hearing than I have. Can we go closer so I can hear whatever it is?”
Alessa led him to a nearby thicket of trees. Peering through the mass of trunks, they could make out a gathering of elves in a small clearing. They were seated in a circle facing each other, ten in all. The sound Felanar had heard was their voices lifted in song. As Felanar watched, each elf would join into the chorus and add to the overall musical theme. The sound was strange to him, as though he couldn’t make out the notes. When all ten voices were singing at once it tended to muddle up the notes in his head. They watched for a few more minutes and then Alessa led him away quietly so as not to disturb the singers.
At a distance, Alessa asked, “What do you think, Felanar, was that an enjoyable theme?”
“To be honest, I had a hard time following their voices. It sounded as if they were all singing something different.”
Alessa smiled. “It can seem that way, especially to those unaccustomed to elf song. I assure you, however, that the harmony was there, but it was a complex harmony. They were composing a canon, Felanar. They took a single theme and each singer, in turn, sang back a copy of that theme. Some of them paused until they began with the same theme in a delayed time. Some varied the pitch, overlapping the others in a different key. A couple were varying the speed, singing twice as quickly, or twice as slowly. One was inverting the theme, playing opposite to the others. Finally, one was singing the theme backward in time. There were ten of them singing, and they were composing a ten-part canon. The same musical theme sung back in ten different, though harmonious, ways. It can be hard to differentiate the voices unless you are used to such compositions.”