The Islanders Week 13: Dark Green / Sir, THE DESCANT
Yannet (Dark Green/Sir) THE DESCANT
- This is the story of the meeting of two artists, Yo and Oy. They are both conceptual creators, misunderstood by the public, condemned by critics, and suppressed by authorities. They liken themselves to art guerillas. Apart from these things, they are quite different people - maybe even opposites, as their names suggest.
- Yannet itself is a sub-tropical island in the Lesser Cirques, with one centre of population at Yannet Town on the Hommke (Dark Green) Peninsula. The rest of the island is mainly forest and nature preserve, with some agricultural areas. The coast is mostly wild.
- JORDENN YO arrived on the island first, under an assumed name. She planned to create a tunnel on
- Upon arrival, Yo climbed Mount Voulden (Sir) which dominates the northern end of the peninsula. She lay on the mountain and let the winds lift her skirt; she fell in love with the mountain and spent a few weeks studying the winds and the mountain's place in them.
- Meanwhile, we are introduced to TAMARRA DEER OY, another landscape artist living far away in The Swirl. Oy likes to fill things in, using aggregates, cement, and other polymers. In doing so, he transforms found landscape objects. He smooths rocky coasts, cements buildings, and closes off streets.
- One day, OY reaches out to YO by electronic communication, suggesting they should meet. Oy's reaction is complicated - first she rebuffs him, then insults him, then opens to him, and finally invites him.
- OY, however, takes his time in going to YO. He travels to one island after another, working on installations. He creates the glowing sand dune on Foort, for example, which was first mentioned in the entry on that island. He starts two other installations, but due to natural forces and ennui, they are left incomplete. Finally, he decides to visit YO.
- YO, meanwhile, has been working on her tunnel and it's basically complete. She hopes to make use of OY to help her finish aspects of it, like getting rid of the tailings.
- Finally, Oy arrives on Yannet and the two meet. Yo's passions, seemingly pent up, spill over and they spend the next several days engaging in sexual activity, but not intercourse, which she expressly forbids. With that out of the way, she takes him up to see the tunnel. Their relationship evolves for a while, but she seems to remain the dominant one. YO is complex, needy, driven, passionate, and restrained all at once. As is their relationship.
- One night, finally, the Nariva wind arrives and the tunnel starts to issue it's sound - a low basso-profundo drone accompanied by vibrations. It's enough to set off car alarms. She seems satisfied by this, and OY is impressed. But she says this is only the beginning - she now needs to learn to play the instrument.
- OY senses that YO now only needs him as an audience, and though he sticks around for a short time to help her, he plans to leave as soon as the next ferry arrives for his destination. One night, he points out that something is missing - she needs to create a descant, a smaller, shorter tunnel to create a higher pitched harmonizing sound. She immediately sees his point of view, but seems to be angry with him for pointing this out. She becomes obsessed with the idea.
- On the last night before his planned departure, the wind picks up and plays in the tunnel. YO once again initiates sex, but this time she invites him to penetrate her. As the drone of the mountain reaches its peak, she also climaxes. She breathes loudly in time with the wind and the sound of the mountain, creating the descant that OY had described. She becomes one with nature. The harmonic sound draws the people of the town out into the night, moved by the experience.
- Having helped YO create the descant, OY leaves the next morning on the earliest ferry, not caring what the destination is.
Google's dictionary service tells us that a Descant is:
1. an independent treble melody usually sung or played above a basic melody,
2. a melodius song,
3. a discourse on a theme or subject, or
4. as a verb, to talk tediously at length about something.
Wikipedia tells us that "etymologically, the word means a voice (cantus) above or removed from others."
Taking all of our reactions to this book together, I think Priest has managed to hit all of these notes!
- This is the end of the book, but I'd like to confined discussion to this chapter alone for now. Next week we can discuss the book as a whole in more detail.
- What do you make of YO and OY? Are they simple people? Good people? Are they good characters?
- YO seems to need OY. Why? Why is the reverse not true?
- Is the point of climax of this story also the point of climax of the book as a whole?
- What is Priest telling us about the nature of art? Has your opinion changed since I first asked this question?
- Back in week 3, @Ray_Otus said: "There are some recurring themes already - like artists who play with natural forces. Women artists. Who do it on an island and then leave behind their works." Prophetic?