Every culture, despite being stratified or egalitarian, shares in common an action of expressing oneself in one way or another—Art. Art is defined by Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge as the creative use of the human imagination to aesthetically interpret, express, and engage life, modifying experienced reality in the process. This universal expression takes form in a variety of ways, ranging from visual to verbal to musical. The culture of Middle Earth makes use of all these art forms in a variety of ways in order to express the values, beliefs,experiences and practices of the people.
In Western societies, the first thing that probably comes to mind when the word “art” is mentioned is visual art, which consists of paintings, carvings, and sculptures. Visual art, however, encompasses more than just expression through fixed mediums such as easels and marble. Almost anything with which humans interact can become an object of artistic creativity. Considering the idea that creativity resides in every individual, subtle sparks of artistic ability become apparent through a person’s clothes, hair, house, room, and more. Western peoples’ values and ideals of individualism result in the integration of as much expression through personal belongings as an artist puts into a great painting. The objects that act as a creative medium, however, aren’t the driving force behind the will to express oneself. To understand the purpose of aesthetic creativity, one must speculate the incentive for it, for ideas about religion, kinship, and identity are all reflected through art in every culture. Because Middle Earth’s environment is comprised mostly of rainforests, wood is an abundant object through which art is expressed. Works of art such as tree carvings, totem poles, clothing, and wooden sculptures are all present in Middle Earth’s society, expressing various values and beliefs. The totem poles, for example, illustrate Middle Earth’s polytheistic view of life and emphasize the value of kinship. Totem poles contain a sort of sacredness because of the values they express; therefore they are treated with much care after being crafted. Tree carvings and sculptures express values different than the totem poles. Tree carvings, in general, serve two major functions: to protect the home from witchcraft and to give reverence to the Big Mama. Sculptures, on the other hand, exist for a sole purpose, and that is to please Big Mama with a beautiful piece of art. By pleasing Big Mama, a stronger relationship with her is formed, resulting in the artist having a bigger voice and a more valued opinion in the society. In addition to these art forms, clothing also serves to prevent witchcraft by including some sacred jewelry. These forms of art effectively demonstrate core values and beliefs of Middle Earth society: witchcraft and reverence to Big Mama.
In addition to visual art, verbal art expresses the values, beliefs, and identity through the use of language to evoke some sort of emotional reaction from the listener, whether it be a religious belief or moral ideal, or to express to the listener the thoughts and/or state of being of the speaker. Verbal art, just like visual, is expressed through a variety of ways consisting of narratives, dramas, poems, riddles, proverbs, insults, and compliments. Perhaps one of the most appealing forms of verbal art in any culture is a narrative. Narratives are among the most reproducible forms of verbal art around the world, often explaining concepts, ideas and explanations of what is despite the absence of solid evidence. Because of their ability to explain the fundamentals of human existence and the role that humans play in the universe, myths provide a rationale for beliefs, practices, and values, thus setting cultural expectations with regards to acceptable behavior. Because of the role they play in creating a base for religious beliefs, myths are often considered sacred and are significant when studying the way different people think about the world. Aside from myths, two other significant forms of narrative that illustrate the creative capacity of the human race are legends and tales. Legends, which are narratives about an important event or character depicted as true, contrast with tales in the essence that tales are recognized as being fictional, but serve as a tool to recognize ideas rather than history. The People of Middle Earth make use of narratives in order to legitimize beliefs about witchcraft. Stories from past generations have been passed down family trees and speak of eye-witness accounts of witchcraft causes, effects, and prevention. For example, a man’s great grandfather might have experienced some sort of incident in which he believed he prevented a curse from being placed upon him. He passed that story down to his children and grandchildren in order to guide them in witchcraft prevention. The people of Middle Earth accept all of these legends as true, resulting in a strong belief that witchcraft exists in their society.
In addition to visual and verbal art, music exists in every culture in the world, varying greatly in style, content, and practicality. The presence of music has been integrated so permanently in society that it can be viewed as an expression or experience that is basic to all humans. Music’s way of depicting an emotion or experience relies not on what is seen and obviously stated, but rather on what themes and emotions can be expressed through basic musical elements. A conclusive definition of music fails to exist because music is incredibly diverse in both its content and inclusion of basic ideal elements present in European music—tonality, rhythm, melody, etc. While some styles of music may include all of these elements to a precise degree, another style of music, though an equally valid expression of art, may include few of the European musical elements. Perhaps a major reason that these musical styles don’t agree on the importance of specific musical elements is because music is in a constant state of flux. Musical expression can be examined over time, and it can be determined that music (in Western society) has been changing through the decades—the 50s had rock n’roll, the 60s had psychedelic rock, the 70s had disco, and so on. Resulting from the constant change of popular music, schools and universities have been slowly adapting to new expressions of music. “Composition was taught at school, if at all, only as a function of the rules of harmony and counterpoint which dominated European music in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Increasingly, however… elements of popular music appeared on the curriculum.” (Blake 214) This examination of musical curriculum accurately demonstrates the how music must not be examined on a strict template-basis, but open-mindedness must be practiced instead in order to examine musical styles and this abstract form of expression. Furthermore, the basic practice of music will vary greatly across nations. Non-European music can contrast with European music through almost every element of a song. Rhythm, for example, which is the basic foundation for musical expression, is usually divided into two, three, or four beats in traditional European music. However, in Non-European music, rhythm can be divided into much more complex patterns, consisting of five, nine, or eleven beats. Even tonality, which many consider the determining difference between music and mere noise, may not be practiced in some cultures’ music.
Music in Middle Earth society expresses the familiar ideas, concepts, and values examined in its visual and verbal art—reverence to big Mama, and values of kinship. Some primary music forms found in Middle Earth are chanting tonally, heavy use of percussion, flutes, and stringed instruments such as guitar and ukulele. The art of music in Middle Earth is something in which everyone partakes, for much of the music is devoted to the kinship of the musician or to Big Mama. The fact that every person performs music in Middle Earth provides a sense of equality among the people, for they live in an egalitarian society. Since music is usually played when some type of celebration is occurring, a sense of community is evoked from the people, resulting in a feeling of shared experience.
The use of the human imagination to express and interpret life stems from every human being, whether they are well-recognized artists or not, for everyone contains a sense of creativity. Major categories of art, such as verbal, visual, and music are all present in every culture, but are presented in different ways. Ideals, values, and religion are the main, basic concepts expressed through aesthetic mediums, revealing a sense of individualism or community, depending on the interpretation on the artistic piece. Middle Earth takes advantage of these various art forms and adapts them to its culture, for core ideas such as witchcraft, community, kinship, and reverence to Big Mama are all expressed through the peoples’art.