Arandui music

This post has been a long, long time in coming! I usually try to post something every week, but this article has taken so long to produce, and I’ve had so many unexpected complications and technical difficulties along the way, that I decided to chuck the posting goal while I finished it. And now it’s finally here! I hope somebody enjoys it. I also hope that I haven’t made any big, stupid mistakes, especially considering that I haven’t been studying music for very long…but if you catch any, please comment or contact me and let me know!

So, in the past few weeks my roving curiosity has gotten stuck on random subjects relating to music. I spent a few days reading everything I could about Pythagorean tuning, then I read about chords and harmony and counterpoint, then I went back to the subject of tuning and read about meantone and well-tempered tuning, then I investigated different types of scales, then I tried to wrap my mind about what a mode was. (Thankfully now I’m down to only one browser tab relating to music, but if I think about it too much I’ll end up with more.) So naturally I not only ended up with some understanding of historical Western tuning systems, I also ended up with a musical system for Arandu, my favorite Sheesanian country at the moment. And here it is.

I’ll start with an overview of the history of Arandu and Arandui music and how it developed, then discuss some of the more theoretical aspects of Arandui music – the tuning systems (of course!) and the scales and modes – then talk about the different instruments used in Arandu, and finally show a few examples of complete Arandui songs. (In English, since I haven’t worked on the Arandui language enough yet for me to translate a song into it.) Two notes: Firstly, the Arandui musical system is, admittedly, very close to the modern Western system. As I was thinking about it, I decided that since I don’t even know that much about Western music, it would probably be a bit too ambitious to try to come up with something really alien. But later on, once I understand Western music better, I can come up with weird musical systems for other Sheesanian countries. Secondly, if you’re curious about how I made all the examples throughout this article, I did them by writing a small program in Java, using the excellent JFugue library, to produce MIDI files with the proper tuning. Then I used TiMidity++ to generate .wav files from the MIDI’s. But where’s all that music from in the first place? All of it was written by either me or my sister – some of the examples are mutations of songs my sister and I have made up; other examples I wrote on the fly.

Background: Egeldish Music

Arandu was originally settled by religious refugees from Egeld, and so naturally they brought their Egeldish musical traditions with them. Now, Egeldish music is very strictly segregated between sacred music, which involves a variety of instruments (particularly string instruments), but is only played by certain priests; and popular music, which is not allowed to involve any instruments other than drums, a certain type of crude vessel flute similar to an ocarina, and foreign instruments (even then, if a foreign instrument is too close to one used in Egeldish sacred music, it’s not allowed). The priests that play sacred music have very jealously guarded their instruments and their techniques for centuries, warning people that they will incur the wrath of the gods if a non-priest tries to produce music in a sacred style. Foreigners visiting Egeld have at times been killed for playing music too similar to Egeldish sacred music without the authorization of these priests. Today many parts of Egeld are a bit looser about these restrictions, and certainly nobody will get killed nowadays for bowing a violin, but most Egeldish people are still very nervous about sacred-style music that isn’t authorized by the priests. You might not get killed for bowing a violin, yes, but you will make everybody afraid to associate with you.

Well, the Egeldish refugees that settled in Arandu had very little concern for these restrictions, because they had an entirely different religion and thought that all the priests’ warnings about divine retribution were a bunch of hogwash. Indeed, they were quite eager to defy the restrictions on Egeldish music now that they were out of Egeld and out of reach of the priests. The problem? Most of the refugees were low-class peasants who rarely even got to hear the priests’ special music, and certainly never got to study the priests’ carefully guarded instruments and techniques. While there were a few men among the refugees who had once been priests, none of them had ever studied the sacred music. But the refugees had stolen quite a few sacred instruments as they left Egeld, as part of a larger effort to take revenge on people who had opposed their religion (lords and landowners were also targeted). And so now they had a few different stringed instruments and flutes and other miscellaneous things that they had almost no idea how to play. (Sometimes they didn’t even know what they were. There was one particular miscellaneous thing that the Egeldish refugees just could not figure out how to play. Eventually a former priest realized that it wasn’t an instrument at all; it was a doodad used in certain rituals.)

So what did they do? They messed around with the instruments and invented their own new musical system based on what they could make the instruments do, and, of course, based on what little understanding of music they already had from Egeldish popular music. In the end, two main types of music developed in Arandu, loosely based on the Egeldish distinction: sacred music, which mostly uses instruments based on those stolen Egeldish sacred ones; and popular music, which uses the instruments from Egeldish popular music, refined and improved, as well a few new ones borrowed from the sacred musical tradition. In general, however, there’s a lot more overlap between Arandui sacred and popular music than between Egeldish sacred and popular music. And in Arandu, anyone can buy a sacred instrument and play it however they want without their neighbors killing or ostracizing them. Not so in Egeld!

As I continue the rest of this article, I’ll note what different scales or tuning systems or instruments are used in sacred music or popular music. The examples section will also have examples of both.

The Theory

The Arandui octave is divided into seven notes; starting from one note, a whole step up, then a whole step, then a half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, and finally a half step to reach the note an octave above the first – the same as our major scale. So if you look at part of a typical piano keyboard (original image found here)…

Western octave

…we have twelve notes in an octave – seven white keys and five black keys. The Arandui octave is equivalent to the seven white keys.

Arandui octave

The Arandui notes are usually called, starting at the note closest to our D, fińa, hula, civoor, tyiis, sroi, para and lia. These names come from the first words of each line of an old Arandui hymn. They’re also occasionally called jueńśa, parazune, talianpara, zune, cyiru, hool and tamaanpara after their corresponding popular modes (or, in the case of zune and cyiru, the names of the other keys of the jueńśa mode), and these names are sometimes shortened to ju, pa, ta, zu, cyi, ho and ma.


How this octave is tuned depends on what sort of music you’re playing. Popular music uses straightforward Pythagorean tuning, which I’ll explain a minute; sacred music uses a variation on Pythagorean tuning that allows for different sorts of harmonies. This means that you can’t really use popular-tuned instruments and sacred-tuned instruments together. For this reason, instruments that aren’t easy to tune (like flutes) are usually either only used in one style, or are sold in two different types, one for popular and one for sacred.

So, Pythagorean tuning! This tuning system was initially developed by, surprise, Pythagoras and was used in medieval church music. It’s based on the fact that a note played at the same time as a note seven half-steps up (so a C and a G, or a D and an A, or a B and an F#) – a perfect fifth – sounds quite smooth, restful, and generally pleasingly harmonic. Pythagorean tuning uses a series of these perfect fifths to produce the notes of a scale. So, say you were going to tune an Arandui cumaas, a type of stringed instrument that looks a bit like a dulcimer. You’d start out by tuning one string using something like a tuning fork; this is just a basis to start from. Let’s say you tune the first string to D. You’d next tune the A string – a perfect fifth up – adjusting it until it sounds good with the D string. Then you’d tune the E string, another perfect fifth up, adjusting it until it sounds good with the A. And then you’d do the B string until it sounds good with the E string, and the F# string until it sounds good with the B string, and so on – that’s the basic idea.

With this tuning system, perfect fifths sound very nice, so popular Arandui harmony tends to use a lot of perfect fifths. Fourths (notes five half-steps up, so D and G, or C and F) also sound good. Major thirds (notes four half-steps up, so C and E or D and F#), however, don’t sound very harmonic, so they’re used in popular Arandui music to create dissonance. Arandui sacred music, on the other hand, does use major thirds as harmonic (like modern Western music does). So the tuning system for sacred music basically adjusts the popular Pythagorean tuning in order to get nice, smooth thirds (minor as well as major, actually). The main downside is that one fifth, E and B, ends up sounding pretty bad. But this particular combination of notes isn’t used that often in sacred music, so it works pretty well.

A last note on Arandui tuning: both popular and sacred tuning is based on the note fińa at 300 Hz. Standard modern Western tuning, on the other hand, is based on A = 440 Hz. In Arandui tuning, both popular and sacred, the note closest to A is 450 Hz.

Finally, nerd alert: here are two big tables of Arandui popular and sacred tunings. First there’s the popular tuning, which is really just straightforward Pythagorean…
Arandui Note Closest Western Note Frequency (Hz) Ratio to Fińa Cents from Fińa
Fińa D 300.00 1:1 0.00
Hula E 337.50 9:8 203.91
Civoor F# 379.69 81:64 407.82
Tyiis G 400.00 4:3 498.04
Sroi A 450.00 3:2 701.96
Para B 506.25 27:16 905.87
Lia C# 569.53 243:128 1109.78
Fińa D 600.00 2:1 1200.00

…and then we have the sacred tuning, which is a tad more interesting.

Arandui Note Closest Western Note Frequency (Hz) Ratio to Fińa Cents from Fińa
Fińa D 300.00 1:1 0.00
Hula E 337.50 9:8 203.91
Civoor F# 374.93 5:4 386.00
Tyiis G 400.00 4:3 498.04
Sroi A 450.00 3:2 701.96
Para B 499.91 close to 5:3 884.05
Lia C# 562.40 703:375 1087.96
Fińa D 600.00 2:1 1200.00

Scales, Modes and Keys

Arandui sacred music almost always uses a nice, straightforward heptatonic scale (one with seven pitches to the octave) made up of all seven Arandui notes. Here’s a recording of two Arandui church instruments, a syiđa and a petashuisplaying this scale.

Arandui popular music, on the other hand, uses five different types of pentatonic (five pitches to the octave) scales, each with different characteristic melody types and behaviors – in other words, five different modes. And one of them is also used in multiple keys. Much more interesting! Each mode is associated with a different type of music, and each one is named after a different time of day. I’ll go through each one and explain the structure of the mode, its name, and the type of music it’s used for, and provide an example recording of the scale of that mode and a short example of a song using it. First, we have…

Tamaanpara (Sunrise)

Starting from lia, this mode is composed of a semitone, a tone, a tone plus a semitone, a tone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, lia fińa hula tyiis sroi lia, or in Western equivalents, C# D E G A C#. An Arandui cuśa playing this scale:

This mode is used often for love songs and also for enéntanoa (or in the singular, entanoa), “walking songs,” which are traditionally sung by travelers as they walk to their destination. Here’s a part of one traditional entanoa using the tamaanpara mode.

Jueńśa (Day)

Starting from fińa, tyiis or sroi, this mode is composed of a tone, a tone, a tone plus a semitone, a tone, and a tone plus a semitone. So, for instance, in Arandui notes, fińa hula civoor sroi para fińa, or in Western equivalents, D E F# A B D. If the jueńśa scale starts from fińa, it’s called jueńśa lane or just lane; if it starts from tyiis it’s called jueńśa zune or zune; and if it starts from sroi it’s called jueńśa cyiru or cyiru. A cumaas playing the jueńśa lane scale:

Jueńśa is most often used for happy songs and children’s songs, and it’s one of the most common Arandui modes. There will be a full example of a jueńśa song at the end of this article, so I won’t show an example now.

Parazune (Noon)

Starting from hula, this mode is composed of a tone, a semitone, two tones, a tone, and a tone. In Arandui notes, hula civoor tyiis para lia hula; in Western equivalents, E F# G B C E. A cuśa playing the scale:

This mode is fairly unusual in Arandui music, but it’s used occasionally in music supposed to evoke tension or mystery. In modern music it’s sometimes used as an intermediary when changing between talianpara and jueńśa. Here’s an example using parazune, part of a larger work that eventually resolves to jueńśa lane. This example is played by a cuśashoi.

Talianpara (Sunset)

Starting from civoor, this mode is composed of a semitone, a tone, two tones, a semitone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, civoor tyiis sroi lia fińa civoor, and in Western equivalents, F# G A C# D F#. A cumaas playing the scale:

This mode is almost always used for sad songs. Here’s a bit of one played by an ilanydriis.

Hool (Night)

Starting from para, this mode is composed of a tone, a semitone, two tones, a semitone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, para lia fińa civoor tyiis para; Western equivalents, B C# D F# G B. A cuśashoi playing the scale:

This mode is also used for sad songs, but talianpara and hool have different connotations of “sad.” Talianpara is considered tragic, weepy, emotional; hool is more mournful and despairing. So say you had an Arandui tragic play where the hero loses his love. When he first hears the news and is going through a lot of emotions, he might sing a song in talianpara. At the end, when he’s finally resigned to his loss and is quietly despairing, he might sing a song in hool. Of course, this is just the general difference; both talianpara and hool are used all sorts of ways in Arandui music. Here’s one bit of a song using hool.

The Instruments

Now that we’re done looking at the theory I’ve come up with for Arandui music, let’s look at the instruments that Aranduis use to play such music! For each instrument, I’ll explain what it is, where it’s from and how it’s used, and then give an example of the instrument being played.


The cuśa is a four-holed fipple flute; similar to a recorder, but, again, with only four holes. The design is based off a similar Väolki instrument, but it’s played much like flutes are in Egeldish sacred music. Cuśas are generally only used in popular music, as they can only play pentatonic scales. They’re made in all the different popular modes, and they’re the most popular and well-known Arandui instrument. People generally play them with one hand while accompanying themselves on a drum or a cumaas with the other hand. Here’s an example of a solo cuśa playing a short jueńśa lane tune.


The cumaas is a stringed instrument that looks a bit like a dulcimer. It’s most likely based on violin-like instruments that are used in Egeldish sacred music, but it could have also been based on the Hysleft guitar, an instrument from Carafilier. Cumaases come in two types: five-stringed versions, which are made in different modes and have a string for each note in the scale; and a seven-stringed version that has one string for each note in the full Arandui octave. The five-stringed versions are generally played at the same time as a cuśa; the player plucks strings on the cumaas to add harmony to the cuśa’s melody. The eight-stringed versions are usually plucked or strummed to play both notes and chords, with the player using two hands. However, five-stringed cumaases are sometimes played solo, and eight-stringed cumaases are sometimes used to accompany a cuśa. In general, the cumaas is most popular as accompaniment for a cuśa. In such a situation, the cumaas & cuśa player will often have multiple cumaases of different ranges so they can play more than just five notes.

Here’s an example of a cumaas playing solo.

Cumaas ihiisleve (or Hysleft guitar)

The cumaas ihiisleve is a direct borrowing of the Hysleft guitar, which was invented by the Hysleft people of Carafilier and Latrigle. While the cumaas ihiisleve is basically identical to the Hysleft guitar, it’s played a bit differently. Hyslefts play both chords and individual notes on their guitars; Aranduis generally use cumaas ihiisleves only to play chords (because if you need to play individual notes, well, that’s what a cumaas is for!). Cumaas ihiisleves are also only used in popular music, never in sacred music. As for an example…well, I would show an example, but it would be quite difficult to produce a proper one using my program, so I’m afraid there will be none for now.


The cuśashoi is quite like a pan flute, and was probably derived from similar Väolki instruments. Cuśashois are made in both ten-tubed versions, which are used in popular music, and fourteen-tubed versions, which are used in church music. Both kinds are usually constructed out of wood. The ten-tubed cuśashoi is fairly common in Arandui popular music, but it’s certainly not as popular as the cuśa. The fourteen-tubed cuśashoi is common in northern Arandui sacred music, often replacing the much more complex and expensive petashuis, but it’s fairly rare in sacred music from the rest of Arandu. Here’s an example of two cuśashois playing a bit of northern Arandui church music.


The ilanydriis is a vessel flute similar to an ocarina. It’s descended from the crude clay vessel flutes that were used in Egeldish popular music, but it’s far more capable and much better sounding than these Egeldish instruments. Ilanydriises are still usually made out of clay, however, though you might occasionally come across a ceramic one. There are two types: the plain “ilanydriis” can only play a pentatonic scale, and is made in all the different modes. However, this type is actually quite unusual nowadays. Modern players usually play what’s specifically the “church ilanydriis” instead, which can play a full heptatonic scale and has a large range. Such church ilanydriises are used in both popular and sacred music. In sacred music, they usually play harmony (the idea being that they’re quiet enough to play harmony without messing up the people trying to sing the melody); in popular music, they’re used for both harmony and melody.

Here’s an example of three ilanydriises playing a bit of sacred music together; one’s playing the melody and the other two are adding harmony.


The syiđa is a stringed instrument similar to a violin, and almost identical to the seneduā that’s used in Egeldish sacred music. Because it’s expensive and much more difficult to play than popular instruments like the cuśa and cumaas, usually only churches are willing to pay to buy syiđas and train people to play them. So it’s almost exclusively used in Arandui sacred music. In such sacred music, the syiđa usually plays the main melody, and so often has an important role. Here’s a syiđa playing a bit of a classic Arandui hymn.


The petashuis is a double-reed woodwind instrument much like an oboe, based off a similar Egeldish sacred instrument. Like the syiđa, it’s fairly expensive and difficult to play, and so it also is usually only found in Arandui sacred music. It often plays the melody with the syiđa or occasionally by itself, or sometimes it plays a simple harmony. Here’s an example of two petashuises playing some sacred music together.


The ńeregoi is a type of natural trumpet constructed out of brass, derived from a similar Egeldish sacred instrument. Unlike most modern Western brass instruments, it isn’t curled up, so it’s rather long and unwieldy. It also has no valves, fingerholes, or other such mechanisms, so it’s difficult for a player to produce standard Arandui scales without a great deal of training and practice. So, in general, the ńeregoi is only found in rich churches that can afford to train people to play it.

Here’s a sample of a ńeregoi playing part of a hymn.


“Tadudú” is an all-purpose Arandui term for a drum played with the hands (instead of with drumsticks). There are many, many types of tadudú – some derived from Egeldish instruments, some from Väolki ones, some from Suclapoi ones, some originally Arandui. Some particularly popular types are the tadudú jianame, a tall, slim drum with a deep sound; the tadudú nicone, a smaller version of the tadudú jianame that produces higher-pitched sounds; the tadudú shizhae, a drum the size and shape of the tadudú nicone but with a thinner skin stretched across the top and with a body that’s always constructed out of metal, producing a different sort of sound; and the tadudú soonane, a drum that looks like a huge tambourine without the metal jingles (rather like a bodhrán). All are used in both popular and sacred music.

Unfortunately, since I don’t think I could produce proper examples of all those drums, I’m afraid the sounds of Arandui tadudús will be have to left to your imagination for now.


The sozózona is a pitched percussion instrument composed of a number of small metal disks, much like little cymbals or the jingles you would find on a tambourine. It’s played by hitting the disks with a wooden mallet. Most sozózonas have a range of about two octaves, with disks for each note in the standard heptatonic scale used in Arandui sacred music. The sozózona was probably invented in Arandu (though similar instruments are played in other parts of Sheesania), and it’s very common in Arandui church music – it often plays arpeggios in a steady rhythm to accompany other instruments. Here’s a sozózona playing some arpeggios (though a real sozózona’s sound resonates for quite a bit longer than the fake one in the example).


The shelala is a percussion instrument very much like a tambourine, though it’s usually quite large. It was based on the tadudú soonane (which itself was based on a type of Egeldish drum) with added metal jingles probably inspired by the sozózona. It’s common in northern Arandui sacred music as well as popular music, but outside of northern Arandu, you’ll only see it in popular music. As with the tadudús, I’m afraid I couldn’t produce a proper example, so just imagine a deep-sounding tambourine.

The Examples

And finally, at long last, we have reached the full examples of Arandui songs! First we have an Arandui hymn – so sacred music, of course – based on Psalm 43, written by a man from northern Arandui, Hitrial Dohona Haellimoon (you can see his hometown, Haellimoon, on my map of Arandu). It’s a type of song, a lament, traditionally sung during what we call Holy Week, the time before Easter.* Men sing one part; women sing another part (though the parts rarely overlap – they mostly take turns), but you’ll hear me singing both parts since I don’t have any men handy. A petashuis and a syiđa carry the melody, with the petashuis playing the men’s part and the syiđa playing the women’s part; this is quite normal for songs like this. There there’s an ilanydriis and a sozózona playing harmony to round it off.

Here’s the recording! If you’d like to see the sheet music I wrote up for this song, which includes the words, I have a PDF of it here.

Secondly, here’s a song in the popular Arandui style using jueńśa lane, one of those old children’s songs that you learn when you’re little and play when you’re first getting the hang of an instrument. I sing the melody along with a cuśa while a cumaas plays harmony. You can find the sheet music of this song (and the words!) here.

*Yes, the Arandui religion is more or less Christian. And yes, I do have an explanation for how people on another planet are following Christianity, but that’s out of the scope of this already very long article. If you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll write up the story!

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