The Resonance of Being
Since the beginning of history, there have been spellsingers, those with the ability to infuse magic into sound and music. Legends of spellsingers among the dragons far predate Ilsare's ascension, and at least three works have been attributed to T'oleflor spellsingers. Even before these first artists, poets, and musicians began to shape sound and touch the hearts of their audiences, though, there was the Heartsong, that intangible symphony of the emotions and energy of all living things.
It was the Heartsong, that collective song of experience inaudible to the ear but sometimes heard with the heart, that captivated an Ilsarian bard named Freda Buchhauser in 997 and led her to form the organization called the Resonance of Being. Freda, a vivacious gnomish musician, asked herself why so many spellsingers, bards, artists and lovers were drawn to the worship of Lady Muse after Ilsare's ascension to the heavens. The question launched Freda into an unprecedented series of experiments with emotional resonance--and the answers she found changed how people saw emotion, music, and spellsinging forever. She formed the Resonance of Being shortly after, in an attempt to share her knowledge on a wider scale. Although the organization began as a collaboration of her closest spellsinging friends, it grew over the years as they began to invite other Ilsarian bards to join the collective and expand their abilities.
The Heartsong: The Music of Living Things
Freda's fervent curiosity led her to discover the Heartsong, and it was she who coined the name. While other spellsingers had explored emotional resonance and its effects before, Freda's was the first attempt to look at it in real depth, and the first one to begin to learn its secrets. However, it was only after Freda's time and the formation of the Resonance of Being that much of what is known about the Heartsong today was discovered. One of the most important discoveries since the formation of the Resonance of Being is that the Heartsong is as variable and fluid as the emotions of the creatures that create its music. Every living thing, no matter how small, contributes a melody to this symphony of emotional experience. As such, the song is forever changing and shifting.
While the discovery that all living things were part of the Heartsong was groundbreaking, it was the Heartsong's ability to affect living things that answered Freda's question about what drew bards, artists and lovers to Ilsare. She learned that through the same emotional resonance that allowed living things to become part of the Heartsong, a gifted spellsinger could learn to touch the hearts of an audience. Many artists and performers had known this intuitively for as long as they had been performing, but bringing this knowledge to consciousness opened a door, and over the next centuries the Resonance of Being members learned how to use the Heartsong more and more effectively to touch emotions.
The Resonance of Being: Explorations in Emotional Resonance
Since it was founded in 997, the Resonance of Being has grown from a small group of spellsingers to a much larger collective of individuals. The organization currently boasts over a hundred members, led by Conductor Edgar Whenissy. Conductor Whenissy runs the organization with an efficient hand, despite his mild manners, and it is he who is responsible for expanding and furthering the Resonance of Being, interviewing many of the new members, and dealing fairly and sympathetically with those who misuse the Heartsong. While members may come to the Resonance from different backgrounds, races and with different levels of experience, they share one common goal: to learn more about the Heartsong, and to better understand its nature and how to modulate it to affect themselves and others.
Joining the Resonance is a highly personal affair, as the organization is built around a shifting, ever-changing emotional resonance. No two people ever experience the Heartsong quite the same way, and as such no two initiations are ever quite the same. The Conductor likes to do many of the interviews himself, and his ability to intuitively know whether or not a candidate is right for the organization is legendary. However, five others (two in all from each of the three Paths of Modulation) also possess the sensitivity to interview candidates and set them a test or challenge that will show satisfactory understanding of the Heartsong to join.
After initiates have satisfied their interviewers, they are accepted into the Resonance of Being and granted access to the Resonance halls, the research rooms, and the advice and knowledge of those who have gone before them. They are often paired with a mentor, who can orient them in the organization and teach them its ways. The only thing that is explicitly forbidden is to use the Heartsong to do grave or lasting damage or emotional harm to another. This goes against both Ilsare's ways and the Resonance of Being's teachings, and would result in rehabilitation and guidance all the way to expulsion from the Resonance of Being, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The initiate's mentor will also teach him or her the two basic techniques used in modulating or manipulating the Heartsong, and help them choose one of the three paths within the Resonance of Being.
The Paths of Modulation: Factions Within the Resonance of Being
The Heartsong can be seen as the collected song of emotional experience, contributed to by all living things. Those who study and become part of the Resonance of Being can gain an ability to manipulate certain elements of this melody in others they encounter as well as in themselves, to influence the emotions of those around them. While this is a deep, complex and emotional undertaking, the basics of working with the Heartsong can be likened to interacting with waves in a small tub of water. Through one's actions, it is possible to make waves bigger or smaller; to amplify or dampen; to augment, or temper. By learning one or both of these opposite techniques, spellsingers are able, through careful listening and manipulation, to "tune" these waves as they might the strings of an instrument. This manipulation of the Heartsong is known as modulation.
The Resonance of Being can be divided into three general paths, based on the ability to increase emotions, the ability to dampen (or decrease) emotions, and a more balanced approach to the manipulation of the Heartsong involving both techniques. While the journey always begins in the same place, members of the Resonance of Being will find themselves drawn to one path in the end, and focus their efforts upon it, even if that choice is to follow a balanced path, reaching toward both ends of the spectrum equally.
The Path of Augmentation
The Path of Augmentation is the path of those who seek to understand the amplification of emotions in fullest measure. Its specialization is to make emotions bigger, to bring out the things that inspire passion and zest in life. Alternatively, the opposite is also true, and this same path can be used to bring someone to devastating lows, heartbreaking melancholy and tears. The Path of Augmentation is followed by many great performers and vivacious practitioners. Drawn by the ability to rise a crowd to such levels of excitement and gaiety, or to suffuse their performances with greater emotion and expression, those who follow the Path of Augmentation excel at making others feel more of things. Many bards harness this ability in their songs, either inspiring allies to enhance courage and morale or driving enemies to crushing lows, robbing them of their will to fight.
The Path of Temperance
On the other extreme of the spectrum is the Path of Temperance. The path actually takes its name from "tempering" an instrument, a particular method of tuning that makes modulation easier and improves the sound of certain complex instruments, especially when they play in harmony with others. While the Path of Temperance is the opposite of augmentation and does focus on decreasing emotional highs, either positive or negative, it is misleading to think of it as simply "diminishing" emotions. Rather, to be soothed by one versed in the Path of Temperance is akin to a very calming experience, the attempt to achieve true Silence, so that one may again begin to listen to the Heartsong, and the contributions of those around them, and take their place in things again. It is a very spiritual and emotional path, and the one that specializes in any deep Heartsong-related healing. The Path of Temperance is the place that a damaged mind, a wounded spirit, or a broken heart could be brought to be soothed, calmed and brought back to the center of itself, so that healing may begin. It is a path that contrasts with the emotional highs and lows that many associate with Ilsare, but it is a necessary and vital part of the Resonance, and of the Heartsong.
The Path of Harmonization
The final path is the Path of Harmonization, the balanced path. The people who follow this path never become the ultimate masters of either augmenting or decreasing different emotions, but their versatility is what makes them so useful. For those who take the Path of Harmonization, being able to both augment and diminish emotions and keep a balance between them is what makes those who follow this path so sought after as great diplomats, mediators and peacemakers. In addition, because it is a balanced path, they are also said to make the best teachers. Edgar Whenissy, the conductor of the Resonance, belongs to this path. The goal of those who walk the Path of Harmonization is to expand in both directions as much as possible without leaning too much to one side or the other, retaining their balance and versatility.
While the Paths of Modulation unarguably divide the Resonance of Being into three different factions, there is no animosity between the different factions and none is considered superior to the others. The decision to walk a particular path is purely personal, and it is very common to see individuals from different paths working together on projects or even forming an ensemble or symphony together. Indeed, their ability to complement one another has been often noted, as each person's unique perspective can offer valuable insight. There are no harsh divisions in the Resonance of Being, but nonetheless the group is divided by very clear and personal choices on what each individual focuses his or her talents upon.
The Spheres of Influence: Progression Within the Resonance of Being
In contrast to the Transcendent Symphony, there are no true ranks in the Resonance of Being. Progression within the Resonance of Being and in the ability to manipulate the Heartsong is through learning, practice and experience, and is represented by a series of concentric spheres. These spheres reflect not only an expanding and deepening awareness, but also how one can never be isolated or separate from what one is doing when one is modulating the Heartsong. While the spheres are sometimes assumed to represent a ranking within the Resonance, they are actually more akin to a stage of progression in the individual than an arbitrary level of power within the organization. Instead of climbing up like a militaristic rank, the spheres expand outwards, representing the person's level of expertise. This also often correlates with their influence and reputation within the Resonance of Being, but may not necessarily be the case. The four spheres are as follows:
Deep understanding of the Heartsong and all that the Resonance of Being strives for always begins here. The first step toward using one's talents in the larger world is to be able to apply the chosen path to yourself. In other words, if you are of the Path of Augmentation, you should be able to elevate your own spirits, and you should be able to boost your own emotions whether it is rising to passion or courage or any other intense and vivid emotions of the kind. The same is true for the other paths. This is also a stage of development where humility is more important than self-interest, despite the focus on the self; it is a stage where one must learn to listen and understand how each living thing, including your own experiences and emotions, contribute to the Heartsong as a whole. Those aspiring to deeper understanding of the Heartsong must learn to accept their own place in things, and understand themselves and how their experiences and emotions have shaped them and continue to affect them, before they can apply it to another. Failing to understand one's own self will halt the progression, and one will never be able to use these talents to affect another until one has learned to understand the self.
After one comes to understand the Heartsong as it applies to one's self, the next step is then to be able to affect other people. After the many nuances of exploring the self and knowing how to boost or dim one's own emotions, the next step on the path to growth is to be able to do so with one other person. Just one. Whether it is a partner, a listener, or a patient of some kind, this sphere represents the exploration of the first step outside the self. Those who have made a career out of music often tend to form partnerships and duets at this stage, but the implications do not stop there and people can spend entirely lifetimes in this sphere without wanting or needing to expand further.
This stage of progression is the ability to use the Heartsong Paths to influence a great number of people. To add even one more individual into an already complex tapestry raises the difficulty exponentially. As such, the furthest reaches of this sphere are very difficult to attain. To date, no one has been known to have reached beyond this sphere of influence.
What lies beyond the many? Though none have yet found the answer for themselves, most of those in the Resonance of Being given to philosophy will tell you that this is the realm of the divine, and of the Heartsong in its entirety. The exact nature of a place in which you can influence more than just a great number of people is not yet known, and may never be known; no one truly understands what it means. While the Divine Sphere of Influence is a popular subject of debate and conversation among the Resonance members, it is one thing to theorize and dream and quite another to know for certain. And so the last sphere is left to Ilsare and the purity of the Heartsong itself. It is said that only those granted a gift by the goddess herself are able to even understand what this sphere of influence might be.
Each of the Spheres of Influence represents in a tacit manner where one stands in the Resonance of Being, and how far one has gone in the development. Those just starting their journeys belong in the realm of the Self, and may begin moving outwards as they learn more. Progression from one sphere to another is a long and personal emotional journey, and one which may take many years, or even an entire lifetime. There is no negative judgment associated with being in one of the early spheres, even for many years; it is being on the path and continuing to learn that matters.
Another important thing to understand about these spheres is that you can never take yourself out of the equation; that is not how the Heartsong works. From the Self all the way to the Many and beyond to the Divine, the one modulating the Heartsong remains a part of the whole, and is also affected by his or her own manipulation of the Heartsong. Not knowing how the last sphere works, it is impossible to say whether or not the same restrictions exist there. However, knowing Ilsare to be a benevolent goddess, most believe that she must follow the same giving of self in the Heartsong that she asks of her followers.
Transcending Life: Recent Research into the Heartsong
It was once thought that in the absence of life, there could be no Heartsong, and that the Heartsong similarly could have no effect upon things that were not living. In other words, you may be able to sing to a plant to help it grow, but you cannot sing to a pen to make it write. While it is true that the Heartsong cannot generally be used to manipulate inanimate objects, golems, and other things that have never been alive, recent research suggests that the Heartsong can actually transcend life itself. A small sect within the Resonance of Being has taken it upon themselves to research the effect of the Heartsong on nonliving entities.
The Unliving, those creatures and beings that were once alive, have a lifetime of emotional experiences that it is impossible to erase. This is especially true of some of the more powerful Unliving, which tend to be evil and full of strong emotions such as hate, fury, rage, or contempt. However, even less powerful undead rarely come into existence in the absence of an intense emotion. As such, it is possible for a spellsinger to learn how to affect such creatures, due to the lingering presence of the effects of the Heartsong within them. Such spellsingers can tap into that which still resonates from years and years of being emotionally charged.
This same principle has been extended to inanimate objects, personal items or musical instruments that bear a significant emotional imprint. Such objects are usually many years old, often at least several centuries, and all must have had great emotional significance. For example, the treasured pen of a great poet or the instrument of a musician who played concerts that brought tears to everyone's eyes for years upon years is bound to retain some resonating impressions upon it. While this still does not allow a spellsinger to directly manipulate an object physically, tapping into these emotions can enhance the sound of an instrument, the beauty of a piece of artwork, or the magic of an artifact in cases where enough existing emotional resonance exists.