Music 1: Inspirational Media

Beginning these articles on Klingon music with some inspirational media.

Below, you will see the video with subtitles.

Klingon musical forms extend back into the mists of time. As for Terrans, so too for Klingons; music inspires the Klingon spirit, stirs emotions and even brings Klingons together in common purpose, setting aside their rivalries to celebrate something greater than themselves.

Klingon musical forms are often tied up with the Klingon language form known as no' Hol, the older form of Klingon known as ancestors' language. Klingon for the Galactic Traveler has this to say about music and no' Hol.

Heard far more frequently than non-Klingon languages are various archaic forms of Klingon, dating from different time periods and originating in different regions, collectively known as no' Hol ancestors' language. The ancient forms are heard primarily, though not exclusively, in ceremonies, songs, and classical tories.

While the conventional phrases used in some rituals are uttered in modern Klingon (such as those used in the Rite of Ascension, a ceremony symbolizing a young Klingon's attainment of a certain spiritual level), those used in a great many others are in a form of
no' Hol (such as those associated with the bIreqtal [brek'tal], the ceremony in which the killer of the leader of a Klingon house marries the widow and thereby becomes the head of the house himself). In these cases, the phrases must be studied and memorized by the participants, then repeated back accurately. Improvising or paraphrasing is entirely inappropriate. Depending on when the phrases for the ritual originated, the words and grammatical constructions may be somewhat like or very different from those of modern Klingon. If the words have survived into modern Klingon but some of the grammatical features have not, it may sound as if the celebrant is speaking improper, ungrammatical Klingon. This is not the case, though the same phrase uttered away from the ritualistic context would be taken as such.

Older language forms are also often found in the lyrics of Klingon songs, particularly songs associated with rituals. Among other activities at the annual Kot'baval Festival, for example, the battle between Kahless and Molor is reenacted. While dueling with their bat'leths, the performers portraying Kahless, Molor, and other warriors sing traditional songs with words and grammatical forms that are archaic indeed, some not in everyday use for well over 1,000 years. In addition, virtually all of Klingon opera is written in
no' Hol. In order to follow an opera even superficially, one should prepare before attending a performance by studying the story. For a deeper appreciation, however, it is essential to study also the linguistic structures used in the opera's libretto. As a result, aficionados of this musical form tend to be from the upper levels of society and rather well educated, though this is not invariably the case. Finally, there are some old but still popular songs that retain old words and old grammatical forms that are not interpretable in modern Klingon. In fact, it is not uncommon for Klingon children to think some of these songs are nonsense songs, filled with silly words, and then be surprised to find out that they are ancient hunting songs or battle songs.

Finally, Klingon myths were originally told and retold, then later written down, in
no' Hol. In modern times, some are read or told in the original form, though most are familiar only in their modern translations. Even in the most up-to-date versions, however, certain lines are so famous in their original form that they are seldom altered. An example of this is found in the story of Kahless and Lukara. Following the successful defense of the Great Hall at Qam-Chee, Kahless and Lukara engage in a brief conversation that marks the start of their epic romance. Students have been memorizing these lines and repeating them for so long, they have become part of the knowledge shared by all Klingons. One need only say the first line -mova' 'aqI' ruStaq, a no' Hol way to say today was a good day to die - and everyone will know what is to follow. Interestingly, in the case of this particular conversation, the lines have been incorporated into a mating ritual that persists to this day, with the man and the woman taking the roles and repeating the no' Hol lines of Kahless and Lukara, respectively, as the prelude to a romantic encounter.

The following series of articles will look at various aspects of Klingon music, from the types of instruments played and the songs favoured by Klingons to the structure and syntax of Klingon music itself.

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