Saturday, July 02, 2005

Mars, the Bringer of War

I've always been a fan of classical music and last weekend I attended a summer concert by the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra. The pieces played varied in quality according to personal preference however they did play Mars the Bringer of War by Gustav Holst. If ever there was a piece to get the blood pumping it is that one. I enjoyed it immensely. As with all things that I enjoy immensely, I tend to combine it with other things that I enjoy (for example, Ancient History and Marxism or Debating and Hearing the Sound of my own Voice). In this case, that means NationStates.

Mars was written some months before the outbreak of war in 1914 and has often been associated by later commentaries with the horrors of mechanised warfare that unfolded during World War 1. To compare NationStates with the realities of war seems hollow - but that is what our imaginations do for us when we play this game. Control of a nation means considering war, peace, alliances, diplomacy, idealism vs pragmatism and so on. Accompanying all developments in the NS world there are in miniature the same sort of thing as there is in the lead up to a real world war; jingo-using lying leaders, hubris of the highest order, battles, victory speeches, epic confrontations between ideals and personalities. It leads me to consider what people would think of music as part of NationStates.

I am no musician but I know a little. Mars begins softly with a timpani on violin, cello and double bass, gradually adding woodwind, drums and brass, particularly french horn. The introduction strikes me as comparable to the everyday struggles of NationStates - powerbrokers and their friends working away in their own alliances, quietly building in power as the music builds in volume. The blasting french horns at the end of each series of bars and the renewed force of the timpani brings on images of the clash of world powers as tension builds.

Sweeping strings follow this, interspersed with french horns heralding the marshalling of forces and the string timpani is reintroduced for brass, building to a booming close with drums and deep brass. The following part of the music, the slithering of strings and occasional horns indicates an event in the making that the world has been warned of but little suspects is about to be unleashed. The crescendo slowly builds to sweeping strings once more and then booms back into the timpani with supreme vigour and all instruments pounding to the 5/4 time together as armies march, nations upon nation moving to fight. In my mind the Red Banner is foremost as allies gather under the rising strings and the strident tones of the horns.

The close of the piece is indicated by rolling drums, forces spent, the fallen littering the field, the timpani returns, a reminiscence of dark times before the final breath of the drums ends the battle that was enjoined. Listen to the piece. Different people will apply different visions from mine to different pieces to which they associate their deeds in NationStates I am sure - though I am not at all certain how far this holds true for all players. As with the music, the quality of the game depends on how loud you like it turned up, how much of your own vision is invested in it.

This has been a more thoughtful piece. Comments are welcome.


Blogger Anarchotopia said...

Nice piece, very nice in fact. You should write a non NS blog. I've often likened the game to music too although I see it more from a mixed genre point of view.

10:39 AM  

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