Friday, October 3, 2014

Queen's Cypher

I was offered the joy of making a Queen's Cypher (an award I don't know much about) for a lovely woman who sounds like she was a joy during the previous reign.

I went to my traditional source, not knowing what needs to be said in something of this manner, and Alys quickly whipped up some words for me (quick compared to my days of deliberation).

"Caoilfhionn Augusta et Nobilissima, Empress of the Eternal East, to all who see or hear these words, greetings and every good thing.   Whereas it is right, just, necessary and proper that those who have labored in good faith and diligence to the glory of our Imperial selves be rewarded for their faithfulness; and whereas Marguerite De Sainte Nazaire has found great favor in our eyes as our chief retainer; therefore, in acknowledgement and recognition of her travails on our behalf and for the love we bear her, we do hereby by these present letters invest and endow the said Marguerite with our Cypher, the said emblem and signacle of our favor to be borne about her person at all times to come and in perpetuity; And so that this our gift may continue firm and unimpaired in future times, we have reinforced it with the protection of our seal and sign manual and caused it to be read before witnesses.  Done upon 27 September in the forty-ninth year of the Society."

At that point it was just deciding on a 14th Century French manuscript to take inspiration from (one of my favorite time periods of manuscripts!!). Based on Les Petites Heures du Duc Jean de Berry, circa 1372-1390.

This was my first time working a portraiture as well as doing gold leafing. The gold leafing is amazing. I really enjoyed working with it, even though I had to remind myself not to breathe while doing so.

My tiniest writing yet.

Look how it shines and shimmers! The cypher is the first letter of the scroll. I've seen a lot of people do it that way before.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Walk Like Commedia

This is a quick little filk I wrote after a particularly inspiring Commedia class. It is based, as you can surmise, on the tune Walk Like An Egyptian:

When acting in Commedia
Remember no character's the same
They own a stance, oh-weh-oh
Their singular walk brought them to fame

All vecchi in Commedia
They do a kind of shuffle dance
If they move too quick, oh-weh-oh
There goes their hope of some romance

So crouch down low and walk real slow and say
“I'm a cuckold, yes I'm a cuckold!”
Walk like any vecchi.

Lets look at all the amorosi
They walk on their toes across the floor
They got the moves, oh-weh-oh
They flutter, they float, they dance and more

Arlecchino is loose and spry
Often seen bouncing to and fro
He likes his food, oh-weh-oh
He doesn't know how to take it slow

So walk real tall or have a silly fall and say
“I'm so hungry, I'm so hungry!”
Walk like Arlecchino.

Pantalone with his purse
Crouches down low and miserly
Come Dottore, oh-weh-oh
Gestures at things you can not see

Get down low and watch your back
Brighella has spider fingers sly
Find someone to scam, oh-weh-oh
Try to stand straight and push your lie

Slide feet apart, bend your back
Puff your chest like a pompous jerk
Grab for your sword, oh-weh-oh
Capitano's not that hard work

Let your full hips swing as you walk and sing and say
“I'm a woman, I'm a woman!”
The walks of Commedia
The walks of Commedia

song by Katrusha Skomorokh, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Practicing IPA

This is a quick little dirty hand out I made to help people practice IPA in three different ways: reading the symbols to create the sounds, reading the language and anatomy of the sound to create the sound, and taking words to practice hearing the sound to transcribe as well as transcribing your own pronunciations.

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) as a Tool in the SCA
Katrusha Skomorokh

Here are some fun ways to practice IPA.
Reading IPA Practice
[ist kɪŋdəm]
[ɑɪ lʌv beɪkən]
[lɜt ðɛm it keɪk]

[mæri hæd ʌ lɪtl læm

ɪts flis wʌz wɑɪt æz snoʊ

ænd ɛvriwɛɚ ðæt mæri wɛnt

ðʌ læm wʌz ʃɚ tʌ ɡoʊ]

Understanding the Language of IPA Practice
Try to understand the language we have used in describing the consonants and vowels to decipher what sounds each of these descriptions make.
Bilabial voiced plosive
Open back lax
Velar unvoiced plosive
Palatal voiced fricative
Closed tense front

Pick something off of the chart that is not normally a sound you would hear in English and see if you can use the language to create the sound. Here are some examples:
Uvular voiced trill
Close front lax
Bilabial unvoiced fricative
Listening and Speaking IPA Practice
I want you to look through this list and try and write the IPA for how you would say these words, and then listen to other people speak them and write the IPA for their pronunciations. You may be surprised at the differences.
bowie knife
IPA Advice:

IPA is a physical activity as well as an aural one. You will make many silly faces, especially as you begin to understand how you form your own words and it will make you feel quite silly for a time, but pay attention to what your articulators are doing so that it will help you begin to explore new sounds. Experiment by placing your articulators in unfamiliar positions and try to create the sound using a description off the sound list. This is how you begin to explore and learn the sounds used in other languages around the world. Soon you will be able to hear 'fricative alveolar, voiced' and know that the sound you are making is a [z] simply by the language used to describe the sound. So just as you can experiment and wonder where the sound you just made fits on the charts, you can work the other way and find a sound on the charts and try and figure out how to make it.

Of course, the best way to learn IPA is to practice, practice, practice. Bring paper with your to court and see if you can transcribe names or interesting (to you) accents. Try and transcribe things you say and have a friend who is also practicing read them back to you. Transcribe words to your favorite song. Play games. Have fun. IPA can be a lot of fun, but it is going to take practice to learn it. Enjoy it, have fun with it, and soon you will be able to use it for the useful tool that it can be.

Updated IPA Class ( IPA as a Tool in the SCA)

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) as a Tool in the SCA
Katrusha Skomorkh

What can IPA do for me in the SCA?
How many of you have heard a name mispronounced in court?
How many of you have had your name mispronounced in court?
How many of you have mispronounced a name in court?
Have you ever been unable to figure out someone's phonetic interpretation of a word/name before?
Have you ever phonetically written out your name only to have it still mispronounced?
Have you cringed listening to a singer who just didn't know the proper sound of the language they were singing?
Have you ever tried to teach someone how to sing a song and had a difficult time teaching them the ins and outs of the language?
Have you tried to write a scroll but not known what the recipient's name rhymed with?
Have you tried to decipher a foreign poem but couldn't understand the scansion, meter, or rhyme scheme?
Have you wanted to further your persona by perhaps giving yourself a proper accent?
IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) can create a sense of consistency through-out the SCA. Having everyone on the same page when it comes to pronunciations without having to return to the source (asking someone to pronounce their name again) or arguing over someone else's phonetic interpretation of a word will save a lot of time and make people feel more secure and confident in their tasks.
We are a society that is all over the world. Many of us have accents. Many of us choose various regions in which our persona is from that are not where we are from and span large ranges of time. All of these things factor into our pronunciations and our speech as a whole. A lot of this happens because we are often all using the same set of symbols (the Roman alphabet) that have varied sounds linked to them, depending on who is speaking them.

What is IPA? An Introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet:
About 1,300 years ago, our alphabet we use today was first used. When our alphabet was created, certain rules were instated to make it easier:
1. Each symbold should represent a sound.
2. No spoken sound should be represented by more than one symbol.
1,300 years ago, this was a very clever trick to help people sound out the words that they were spelling. Now a days, it is much more difficult as we have merged our language with many other languages and have had to adjust the sounds our letters make. Unfortunately, for someone who is new and trying to learn the English language, the learning curve is much bigger than if we still followed these rules with our alphabet.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (commonly referred to as IPA) was created about 100 years ago as a tool to help people with understanding the sounds of language. What does IPA stand for? International: this alphabet can be applied to any language world round. Phonetic: it is based on the sounds that are created in speech. Alphabet: it follows similar rules to our own alphabet, using symbols that, by putting them together, can create words.
IPA was based off of the Latin alphabet due to the fact that, percentage wise, more of the world recognizes the symbols in this alphabet and, more importantly, has common ground on the sounds linked to the symbols. As such, IPA can be used as a tool to create a generally agreed upon set of symbols to transcribe sounds unambiguously. These are just some of the exciting things that IPA can, and can not, do:
IPA can not teach you another language. Although it will never teach you to conjugate verbs or proper grammar, it can help you properly form the sounds found in the language and help you to sound more fluent.
IPA can be used to record regional variations of speech and accents.
IPA, once used to transcribe something, is a standard measure to make certain everyone pronounces it the same way, no matter what the accent or language may be. It is important to remember, though, that IPA is a very aural tool, meaning that just because you recorded it does not mean that it was recorded properly. People will pronounce it the way you heard it. It is known, though, that people who are listening to a language that is not their own that may have sounds that are not in their native language will merely find the closest sound, unintentionally, to link to what they heard. It takes a lot of practice trying to form all of the different sounds you will come across, and even then you may not be able to hear the difference between sounds. This is just part of the science of IPA.

Rules from The Handbook of the International Phonetic Alphabet

The Handbook of the International Phonetic Alphabet tells us that there are certain assumptions of speech behind the notations used in IPA that are important to remember:
"-Some aspects of speech are linguistically relevant, whilst others (such as voice quality) are not.
-Speech can be represented partly as a sequence of discrete sounds or 'segments'.
-Segments can usefully be divided into two major categories: consonants and vowels.
-The phonetic description of consonants and vowels can be made with reference to how they are produced and to their auditory characteristics.
-In addition to the segments, a number of 'suprasegmental' aspects of speech, such as stress and tone, need to be represented independently of the segments."

What this means is that languages, such as Chinese, where the musical tonality is very important to understanding what a word may possibly be or mean, there are separate symbols to indicate those tones. But, the difference between someone speaking with a raspy voice, such as someone having a cold, it is impossible (nor necessary) to transcribe such a sound quality. The symbols, such as for stress and tone, can be linked to each different segment of speech, AKA the consonants and vowels. The way we decipher the two is to understand the language and anatomy used to create the sounds.

The Anatomy and Language of a Consonant
To understand how consonants are made, we first need to be able to look at a diagram of the articulators. The language that will be seen used throughout IPA is easy enough to define when you understand the anatomy of your mouth and other sound creating instruments.
Bilabial - using both lips
Labio-dental - using one lip and teeth
The rest use the tongue and another articulator:
Dental - using the teeth
Alveolar - using the gum ridge
Post-alveolar - using the space behind the gum ridge, before the palate
Palatal - using the hard palate
Velar - using the soft palate
Glottal - using the space between to vocal chords
Plosive - blocking a sream of breath completely for a short time
Nasal - letting air out of the nostrils while the soft palate remains low and the oral cavity is blocked by lips or tongue
Trill – sounds produced by vibrations of the articulator against the place of articulation
Tap/Flap – one articulartor is thrown against another
Fricative - squeezing air through narrow openings
Lateral fricative - squeezing air through narrow openings while the sides of tongue are dropped
Approximant - like a fricative, only the openings are more open, hence not squeezing air
Lateral approximant – the tongue makes solid contact on the roof of the mouth while the sides of the tonge are closer to the teeth
Affricative - created by joining plosives and fricatives
Voiced vs Unvoiced - whether your vocal chords are creating sound as you pass the air or not

Anatomy and Language of Vowels
Vowels in IPA are best understood by viewing the charts and considering how the chart would overlap with its various points on a cross section of the articulators. What we are really concentrating on here is tongue placement and how open your mouth is.

The language that we will traditionally see when looking at the vowel charts are:
Close - meaning that the mouth is as closed as it can be while still able to allow air flow
Close-mid -between closed and half way
Open-mid – between open and half way
Open - meaning that the mouth is at its most open
Front - the sound produced is more towards the front of the mouth
Central - the sound produced is more in the middle of the mouth
Back - the sound produced is further in the back of the mouth

One other thing to note, when viewing the charts, is that two symbols will sit beside each other at the same point on a chart, much like with the consonants chart. The symbol on the right is usually a sound that is made where the lips are more rounded. The symbol on the left, then, is a sound made where the lips are tighter and more stretched.

Consonant Practical Use
[b] as in boat - bilabial voiced plosive
[p] as in puppy - bilabial unvoiced plosive
[d] as in dream - alveolar voiced plosive
[t] as in took - alveolar unvoiced plosive
[g] as in garden - velar voiced plosive
[k] as in cat - velar unvoiced plosive
[v] as in very - labio-dental voiced fricative
[f] as in furry - labio-dental unvoiced fricative
[ð] as in they - dental voiced fricative
[θ] as in three - dental unvoiced fricative
[z] as in zoo - alveolar voiced fricative
[s] as in snake - alveolar unvoiced fricative
[ʒ] as in beige - palatal voiced fricative
[ʃ] as in shop - palatal unvoiced fricative
[h] as in hot - glottal unvoiced fricative
[m] as in manuscript - bilabial voiced nasal
[n] as in next - alveolar voiced nasal
[ŋ] as in sing- velar voiced nasal
[w] as in wet - bilabial voiced glide
[ʍ] as in where - bilabial unvoiced glide
[r] as in red - alveolar voiced glide
[j] as in yes - palatal voiced glide
[l] as in left - alveolar voiced lateral
[ʤ] as in judge - voice affricative
[ʧ] as in chair - unvoiced affricative

Vowel Practical Use

[i] as in eat - close front tense
[ɪ] as in rich - close-mid front lax
[e] as in break - close-mid front tense
[eɪ] as in eight - close-mid front tense diphthong
[ɛ] as in friend - open-mid front lax
[æ] as in laugh - open-mid front tense
[u] as in too – close back lax
[ʊ] as in wooden - close-mid back lax
[o] as in rope – close-mid back tense
[oʊ] as in code - close-mid back tense diphthong
[ɔ] as in awful - open-mid back lax
[ɔɪ] as in coin - open-mid back diphthong
[ɑ] as in calm - open back lax
[ɑɪ] as in time – open back lax diphthong
[ɑʊ] as in house - open back lax diphthong
[ʌ] as in double - open-mid central stressed
[ə] as in bananas - mid central unstressed
[ɝ] as in herd - mid central stressed
[ɚ] as in father - mid central unstressed


When it comes to IPA, there are many good resources to keep on hand. When learning a language, it is always good to keep around a dictionary. Both Barron's and Longman are known to be IPA dictionaries, AKA the pronunciation guide is written strictly in IPA. Make sure to open the dictionary and make sure you recognize the symbols as being unique IPA symbols for the sounds being used. You will get confused it you try to look at a different style of phonetics.

Speaking Clearly: Improving Voice and Diction by Jeffery C. Hahner, Martin A. Sokoloff, and Sandra L. Salisch

This book is written in the sense of English as a second language, focusing on teaching IPA. If you are finding IPA to be overwhelmingly confusing, this is a great book to start with as it is very simplistic and clear in its teaching techniques. It should come with a CD as well that will help you drill sounds to connect them to different symbols.

Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet by the International Phonetic Association

This book is much more academic, but it does give charts and examples of texts for about 30 different languages and helps you with placement and creation of phonemes. A great book for being able to get to know all the sounds that have symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance edited by Timothy J. McGee with A. G. Rigg and David N. Klausner

This book is the academic book for learning the changes of pronunciations through the years and it is done fully with the help of IPA for standardization. For those wanting to learn proper pronunciations for music or names for various regions, no matter how others pronounce it, look into this book for the rules and clauses for how to work the various sounds and how they changed through the centuries.
This is, of course, a very small selection of books that can and will be of use to you. These are merely the ones I like to use a lot. If you find other books that are particularly useful to you, I would love to hear about them. Please consider emailing me the title and author so I can look at them as well!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

YOU Are An Inspiration!

Often, I know even I have issues with feeling like I barely make a difference in the SCA. I look at the large pond, like at Pennsic, and feel that there I am like many others. I have hopes, I have dreams, I have hobbies, I have enthusiasm. But, because of that, I don't stand out.

I also know that I have used, and heard others use, the term 'be the changes you want to see'. Tonight I was sitting down and really thinking about that. Be the change. How is being the change you want to see going to do much of anything?

Here is an example. My Commedia Troupe is hurting for attendance. We could really use more participants or, even as important, audience members. We aren't pushy. There is no hierarchy. We all just like to have fun and would like to have fun with more people. People are nervous about joining us, though. They feel like it would be awkward and, worse, 'what can one person do'. How can they support us, because they like what we are doing, without participating in the acting? How could they help us to raise our attendance so they can see more of what they enjoy?

Be the change you want to see.

Do you realize how influential you are? Do you realize how people look up to you? Do you realize what a difference YOU can make? YOU are an inspiration! Don't push it off on someone else. Don't think that someone else will do it and you can just sit back quietly. This isn't somebody else's problem. Go out there! Support the things you love!

Are you in this kind of situation? Do you find there is something in your Barony/Shire or even your Kingdom that seems to be lacking? Are you perhaps not so good at what it is (be it fighting, fencing, archery, calligraphy, etc), but you want to see it grow and prosper because you really do enjoy it, even if you can't do it? Be that change!

Sometimes all you need to do is go to the meetings. Take an hour or two, bring your crafts you are able to do with you, maybe, and go and just... be a support. It raises morale just to have new people. It refreshes the crew. I can't even begin to express how wonderful it has been to have A&S night on the same evening as Vocal Group in my area. The vocal group has an audience! Sometimes people hum along! It brightens everyone's mood to share their passions. There is no reason to agonize over 'I can't do that'.

People will notice. You will stand out. You will make a change for the better. Perhaps coming to the archery practice to watch people shoot will inspire you to song and the archers may be inspired to go to another practice in their area to learn, or even just watch. We are a community that our strength is in supporting one another.

So never think that you wont make a difference. Never believe that your voice wont be heard or that you are invisible. You are you, and because of that, you are incredible. You are an inspiration. You are a rockstar!

To read more about being a rock star, go here: ROCK STAR!!

To read more about responsibility in a volunteer organization, go here: Somebody Else's Problem

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Wentlyanna's Silver Crescent

This particular scroll was a bit tricky as I have been told that the words for a Silver Crescent were different than the words for an AoA.

I ended up asking for particular moments to add from two specific people in order to make the scroll feel more personalized. These are the words I had come up with in the end, inspired by a letter from Hildebert of Lavardin (c. 1120?)

"Brennan Augustus, Emperor Orientalis, and Caoilfhionn Augusta, Empress Orientalis, to Our subject Wentlyanna Bengrek, We send strength and perpetual joy. From what We hear about you Our spirits rejoice for We know that you have been led to the path of service and run unobstructed to the East Kingdom's call. We have seen that you are a most brilliant marshal surrounded by troops of fencers; that you provide what is necessary to the field, to assist the community or fight most willingly. We also attend your confessions of hospitality to highborn and lowborn, barons, knights, stewards alike, going as far as to provide a parade of fools with refreshment under the sun all in the name of Our Kingdom. Service is a great treasure and it needs great care. You, therefore, remember to embrace this, knowing that there is nothing by which to triumph more gloriously over stagnation. You could do little except the good to which you bound yourself in with wisdom and the smile you wear. This is indeed right and just, that you might receive the awaited reward, necessary to add to the others. If you don't know what this course is, it is best understood by these present letters. You hereby shall be and are inducted into the Order of the Silver Crescent, with all the rights and honors attendant thereon, and are hereby directed, assigned, and instructed to bear the insignia of said Order as a sign of your worth and Our favor. Sealed and inscribed by Our hand on the 5th of July, A.S. XLIX in Our Barony of Glenn Linn at Northern Region War Camp."

To try and keep with Wentlyanna'sWelsh persona, I had decided to use a page from the Ricemarch Psalter, and 11th century manuscript:

And here is the final result:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Four Levels of the SCA

Recently, there was a Renaissance Faire in my neck of the woods. It was a first time affair, and months before it happened they had reached out to the SCA community for support and thoughts. The responses were... varied.

I went to the event on the one weekend they were open and rather enjoyed myself, as well as saw quite a few SCAdians there.

I was asked my thoughts, asked who I saw, and I responded that it was nice hanging out with three very different sets of people there:

Some were aloof and just checking out the space.
Some had jumped in head first and was ready to show off what they could do.
The other was just happy to be there and be a support without needing to be a major support.

The ones we didn't see were the ones who were flat out against the idea of Renaissance Faires because they were not period and do not fit into the ideals of the SCA. Which I can understand. I have many times wandered a Ren Faire and had to bite my tongue to keep from playing the 'that is so not period' game.

Suddenly it dawned on me: There are four factions to the SCA. I'm going to talk about them in general terms as well as in terms of the new people joining the SCA in hopes that the insight will help us, as a group, to determine how to go about creating safe space or havens of creativity for all the types of new people that will be coming to the SCA just like how the SCA was asked to join the Renaissance Faire.

The first group are those people who are experts in their field. They feel they know best and they are rather knowledgeable. If they do not see things being done to their code, they will not take part. They want things to be a certain way. People may view them as snobs or elite when, in reality, they only see a point in doing the things that are done to their standards and don't find a reason to waste energy when they are not. These traits, when found in newbies, can cause a very hard sell on the SCA. There are always going to be modern laxities that will make the purists uncomfortable. And when they are new to the SCA, they wonder why they bother if it isn't strict enough.

The next group are those who are cautious, trying to decide what is in it for them. They want to see if they can bring a certain type of glory by using things as a tool to get what they need or want out of it. They will do things if it will be a benefit to them, but otherwise they would typically steer clear. They are more cautious and aloof, watching from the sidelines to see what they can get out of things. A lot of newbies can be seen in this genre. Inviting them in to learn or showing them what they can gain is typically the goal in these situations, but it can be difficult because of their stance.

Another group is happy to jump in and very enthusiastic. They love what they do and are happy to show it off anywhere, teaching and talking to everyone they come across. They are the people you will find at every event with their hands into everything, just wanting to do it and try it all. They want to be seen in the sense of showing what they know and learning what they don't. These are a fantastic type of people and finding newbies in the SCA that are like this is a great find! Unfortunately, because of the 'have to do it all' attitude, they can burn out quite easily. These are the SCAdians that want to make and do and have a hard time sitting still. They want to be teaching classes, learning things from everyone they meet, and volunteer for any role the instant that there is a need/desire for filling it.

The last group just wants to be of support to anyone and everyone they come across. They see something that excites them and they don't necessarily -need- to be a part of it, but they are going to support it in a big way. Sometimes this just means going to the event as support for the autocrat or even going to a class they have no interest in just because they want to support their friend that is teaching it. They want to see things flourish and grow, even if they are not the ones that are doing it. Sometimes just being one of the number counts in a big way towards helping things lean in one direction or the other. This is an aspect seen in newer members in the SCA that are not sure where they fit in. They would like to be of help, but they want it to be something small or something where they can show support but can still sit on the sidelines and smile and have a good time without having to be on the field and fighting. They can easily be urged into the service field of helping out at troll or maybe serving tables during feast. I have seen quite a few SCAdians start in this manner.

These are all just different ways to enjoy what we do. I know people who fit into each of the categories and am proud to call them all friends. I have noticed me flipping back and forth between two of the categories and find I am quite happy to be filling both of them. You don't have to be just one of these. Some people hold various different traits depending on what part of their passion you are talking to them about. Some people want to support the arts even though they may not know a thing about it, but they dive into the enthusiastic marshal activities and may be very strict when it comes to heraldry. There is nothing wrong with it at all.

This is merely just to point out that we are all different and suppose we should be looking at all these different things and discussing what the best tactics are for each of the four factions when it comes to demos and trying to recruit new members.

This is also not to say there are only four attitudes in the SCA. These are just the most prominent ones that I have seen.