Strange Messenger

from by Vixy & Tony

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about

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, German explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt traveled to South America, most of which still belonged to the Spanish Empire. Humboldt and his French companion spent five years travelling through a region that the Jesuits had left decades earlier.

The village of San Juan Nepomuceno de los Atures (called just Atures by that time) had been built by Jesuits in 1748, taking the last of its names from the native people of the region. But by the time Humboldt arrived, the Atures had disappeared, and the village was in a wretched state. The 47 people still living there spoke languages called Guahibo and Maco, and told Humboldt that the Atures, hunted by a people called the Caribs, had fled to an island in the Orinoco, and died there. All that was left were their tombs in a high mountain cave.

Humboldt wrote:
"It is to be supposed that the last family of Atures did not die out until a long time afterwards: since at Maypures - bizarrely - there still survives an old parrot that nobody, say the natives, can understand, because it speaks only the language of the Atures."

lyrics

Strange Messenger
by Michelle Dockrey & Tony Fabris

He was exploring South America, the first to venture there
In an age of change and reason, new discoveries everywhere
Along the Orinoco, the great river corridor
He heard tell of a people who had fled a tribal war

It was said they chose seclusion over death or life as slaves
But in their sheltered grotto, he found only simple graves
And one brightly colored messenger, whom no one understood
Spoke the language of a people who had disappeared for good

So tell me, bold explorer, as you wandered through the leaves,
Did you ponder unknown losses that the very Cosmos grieves?
Was it halting? Was it flowing? Was it lilting and divine?
Was it fearless as your native tongue, mercurial as mine?
Would it pique a linguist's interest? Would it hold a poet's thrall?
Did the words of one strange messenger tell you anything at all?

He kept a careful chronicle, transcribing what he heard
Of the tribe's entire language, there remained just forty words
Complexity and structure, how it tastes and how it sings
Time devoured all but scattered words for scattered things

And can we archaeologists, with bits of sound like runes
Ever paint a living portrait of a people in their tombs?
Could we somehow come to know them? Will we ever even try?
Sifting through linguistic ruins for the clues to how and why

So tell me, bold explorer, as you wandered through the leaves,
Did you ponder unknown losses that the very Cosmos grieves?
Was it halting? Was it flowing? Was it lilting and divine?
Was it fearless as your native tongue, mercurial as mine?
Would it pique a linguist's interest? Would it hold a poet's thrall?
Do the words of one strange messenger tell us anything at all?

To those who study history, it seems a bitter curse
The loss of language terrible, the lost potential worse
Past and future stories multiplied a thousandfold,
Vanished out of history and never to be toldWere they beautiful and gentle? Would they call us friend or foe?
What wisdom did they live by? What secrets did they know?
It's a symphony reduced to what a single bird can sing
The forest lost their language, and they lost everything

So tell me, bold explorer, as you wandered through the leaves,
Did you ponder unknown losses that the very Cosmos grieves?
Was it halting? Was it flowing? Was it lilting and divine?
Was it fearless as your native tongue, mercurial as mine?
Would it pique a linguist's interest? Would it hold a poet's thrall?
Do the words of one strange messenger tell us anything at all?

credits

from Thirteen, released April 4, 2008
Strange Messenger
by Michelle Dockrey & Tony Fabris

Vocal: Michelle Dockrey
Guitars & Bass: Tony Fabris
Percussion: Maya Bohnhoff

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Vixy & Tony Seattle, Washington

Vixy & Tony's lighthearted folk/rock musical style combines with science fiction and fantasy lyrics to tell engaging and beautiful stories. Michelle "Vixy" Dockrey and Tony Fabris have recently joined forces with cellist Betsy Tinney and violinist Sunnie Larsen to form a "four-person duo" with a lush, amazing sound. ... more

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