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PAUL NIAVIS, THE ORIGIN OF "AVATAR", and Carl Orff's CARMINA BURANA

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If one listens to parts of the AVATAR film's music, however, you may notice some of the Latin chorals and Western dramatic harmonies wrapped in with the drumming of the native peoples. These tomes harken back to the original intention in Niavis' writings, however, music was and is still the universal language of communication.

In fact, as historians, we have through the words of Niavis' gained insight into the social life of a multilingual mountain world folk in the Middle Ages. So, in a way his Latin work and influence on regional studies has certainly had a positive effect on modern interpretations of culture and history in Central Europe (before the age of nationalism and imperialism).

On the other hand, classics from such ethnic studies of other Germanic and French melting pots of the Middle Ages in Europe have also formed the basis of such classic compilations, like the 130+ pieces the collected CARMINA BURANA. This was a compilation in the late Middle Age era music, which marked a long-forgotten social movement calling for a transnational Europeanism from the 11th century onwards.

This collection of Middle Aged music would later be turned into the both haunting and joyful classics of the German composer, Carl Orff, in his musical of the same name, i.e. CARMINA BURANA, written in the era of Hitler's rising nationalism.

Interestingly, the Nazi censors were a bit nervous about musical's inherent call to an ancient multicultural celebration of European peoples, but CARMINA BURANA, nevertheless, became the most famous work ever written and produced in the Nazi era. Also of interest, is that many of the works in Orff's CARMINA BURANA have Latin and French titles rather than Germanic ones.

Like Niavis', Orff saw himself as primarily an educator. "From 1925 until the end of his life, Orff was the head of a department and co-founder of the GuentherSchool for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich, where he worked with musical beginners. This is where he developed his theories in music education, having constant contact with children. In 1930, Orff published a manual titled Schulwerk, where he shares his method of conducting." [Orff passed away in 1981.]

Next in that same decade he produced Schulwerk, Orff took on the work of writing and producing CARMINA BURANA. "This work exemplifies Orff's search for an idiom that would reveal the elemental power of music, allowing the listener to experience music as an overwhelming, primitive force. Goliard poetry, which not only celebrates love and wine, but also pokes fun at the clergy, perfectly suited Orff's desire to create a musical work appealing to a fundamental musicality that, as he believed, every human being possesses. Eschewing melodic development and harmonic complexity, and articulating his musical ideas through basic sonorities and easily discernible rhythmic patterns, Orff created an idiom which many found irresistible. The perceived "primitivism' of Carmina Burana notwithstanding, Orff believed that the profound appeal of music is not merely physical."

In short, there is a mind, body, and spiritual dimension to Orff's work, which we witness in the AVATAR's music, as well.

In the AVATAR storyline, successful communication also requires a mind, body, spirit unity. Moreover, the so-called primitive nature of certain societies are not belittled but raised up for positive scrutiny---just as Niavis' wanted to see his students and society do in Latin. Therefore, reaching across culture in time, music and narrative is what I think fully link the AVATAR to the universalizing and yet primitive traditions and movements to which the Europeanizers, Orff and Niavis wanted us to celebrate in.

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