Friday, April 24, 2009

For Levi

Another piccolo player.

Boris Artzybasheff
The Circus Of Dr. Lao
Charles G. Finney


levi said...

Thank you Billy Glad. From all your many peeps.

Tom Manoff said...

Clicking on the picture shows its magic. What's the story? I don't know anything about it.

Billy Glad said...

Circus comes to an Arizona town. Mythical creatures and an old chinaman, Dr. Lao, who's spent his life collecting them. Explication of the myths. Irreverent attitude. Catalog at the end, deconstructing everyone and everything in the narrative. For example, Rats: They fight with cockroaches for the crust left under the table. And once they knew glory: they ate a bishop. Available from Amazon.

Tom Manoff said...

A fun little guy, this satyr.

The Satyr in Greek mythology was race of goat-men. They were not gods. Mortal. But were companions to gods whenever things got wild with sex. music, chasing nymphs. Usually in the forest. The animal characteristics were hooves, tails, horns. Depending on the particular satyr, the “look” may be more animal and more repugnant than others.

The satry is associated with wind instruments, panpipes, flutes, reed instruments like the Greek aulos. Wind instruments are associated in many cultures with sex through phallus and blowing..

The satyr is a typical liminal figure, existing outside the norm as a symbol or motivator of ritual and “abnormal” mythic activities such as wild sex, music under the influence of wine and nature, or posting on the Hive. In Greek art they are often depicted with constant erections. Didn’t carry over into European art obviously.

The statyr exists in the mythic energy flowing between these oppositions:


Inherent ideas:

Forbidden sex is encouraged by animal nature
Wind instruments are sexual objects
Wind music is more apt to be sexual, wild, out of control

Two famous Greeks myths involve a satyrs with music and the God Apollo. They are variants of one myth.


Marsyas found the “flute” (not the flute we know, but a reed wind instrument) invented by the Goddess Athena who had discarded it.

Athena was the Virgin Goddess who invented important arts and tools of civilization. She was a Goddess of Cities and Wisdom, Patroness of writing and letters and of family harmony. Her inventions include such things as ships, bridles for horses, chariots, and the “flute.” She is what mythologists call a “carrier of civilization.

In the Marsyas myth Athena abandoned the “flute” because she didn’t like the way her cheeks puffed out when she played it. Yeah. Symbolically she is rejecting sex, phallus, oral sex, wild music.

When Marsyas picks up the abandoned flute (phallus) and likes to play it (also understood then as oral sex and homoerotic --especially in a hariy representation-- he represents the animal nature of sexuality and its danger to society.

(Important here to realize that for Greeks these gods and creatures were as familiar as Christ and Mary. So the interlocking myths were quite resonant as symbols.)

Marsyas becomes highly gifted at playing the flute. Because this new invention had once contained the breath of a goddess, the brutish goat-man satyr could produce beautful and haunting music, so good that he dared to challenge the God Apollo to a musical contest.

Apollo played the more genteel lyre, a stringed instrument. The Muses were the jury. The winner got to punish the loser.

The contest was in doubt till Apollo starts singing with the lyre. He is declared the winner. As punishment, Marsayas is tied to a tree and flayed alive. His blood becomes the river with his name.


Pan was higher up on the myth scale –a minor god of the woods and of sheperds. But he’s also a satry. Not so hairy. He liked to play in the woods with nymphs with the rest of the boys.

Pan was wandering around the woods and saw a ravishing virgin nymph named Syrinx. She resists his attentions and runs off.

Pan pursued her to a river where she waa hiden among the reeds. Another version has her transformed into reeds along the river. When Pan gets to the river, all he finds are reeds moving in the wind. But the wind blowing through the reeds creats musical sound. He gathered seven of these reeds and made an instrument –the Pan pipes or Syrinx. You have to remember here that the first "pipes" could be made with a reed as the musical producing mechanism. (You blow on a piece of grass, for example.) Panpipes were there are hollow reeds like bamboo are made from them.

Pan turns up next in another variant of the Musical Test with Apollo instead of Marsays. The outcome is the same, though Pan isn’t flayed.

In both versions, a stringed instrument, the lyre which accompanies the voice, wins over a wind instrument which is considered a lower kind of musical instrument, its sound and melodies untamed and able to create a lot of improper emotions and activities.

To this day, certain wind instruments are most often played by men. Trumpet and other brass (trumpet also one of Athena’s invention) and saxophone especially. The sax retains something of the wild “sexy” sound of the what a reed instrument might have sounded like in Greece.

Here ends my myth.

Billy Glad said...

Amazing. I just have to say this beats the hell out of jabbering about what Obama is or isn't doing as far as I'm concerned.

Tom Manoff said...

Myth, music, Pan, liminal figures. Dangerous to start me off. Check for the occasional update.

The circus, a direct holdover of pagan ritual, shows a complete array of mythic liminality. Not just the exotics, but the circus people themselves, outsiders who allow access into mythic experience, danger, etc.

Trudi is a liminal creature, of course. But her characteristics alone aren't enough to motivate the book's narrative for me. What works in a solid mythic structure is some inner mechanism that drives the narrative. It may be that the trouble with Stones is the lack of that mechanism, something your treatment helped solve.

Flutterby has such a mechanism in the conflict and relationships among the mythic and liminal figures.
Live Wire is so mythic she is a god. But Julian is the liminal figure --the secret agent, outsider with certain powers that allow access to danger.