Winter Sunlight

SGA fic: Songs of Athos

So, this week (Aug. 6-12) is International Blog Against Racism Week. See link for pertinent details and useful links.

I don't think this could reasonably considered "official" participation; however, I have quite a few Teyla and Ronon story ideas running around in my head (as well as for characters of color in various other fandoms) and I thought this might be an excellent time to write them. The idea was to post a new story each day during the week, although at this point, I'm going to be out of completed fic on Thursday if I don't finish some more. And of course the first one I tried came out 3000 words long. Note to self: Write shorter stories, dammit!


Title: Songs of Athos
Word Count: 3000
Season/spoilers/warnings: early-to-mid Season 1, probably well before Storm/Eye. Gen.
Summary: Teyla discovers Earth music -- and rediscovers her own.



Teyla had dwelt in the City of the Ancestors for less than two mirna when she first heard the songs of Earth. She'd walked into the control room above the Ring in search of Major Sheppard, and hesitated, reluctant to disturb the bored-looking night shift as they sipped at mugs of the bitter koffee drink they so favored. Then she stood still for a different reason, startled by the thin strains of alien music whispering against her ears. In the short time she'd spent among the Earthkind, she had decided that music was one of the many cultural developments they didn't seem to have yet on their world. They never sang, and she'd seen no sign of instruments among them -- at least nothing she'd recognized as such.

But someone was playing something: a stringed instrument, from its sound quite similar to a dulcine. The player was not in the control room, of course; the gate room staff must be listening to his or her music through someone's radio, turned up so that the low strains shivered through the room. Teyla came closer, reluctant to break the spell, and tapped her toe lightly on the floor to politely get their attention.

The two men at the controls both jumped. "God, you're quiet," one of them said, a young man that she did not know. She was relieved to see that the other was Peter Grodin, one of the few Earthkind who looked directly at her, rather than through her. He smiled at her now.

"May I help you, Teyla?"

She inclined her head in a nod. "I wish to know if Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford have returned from Barath-Dukh."

She could see his quick slip-and-recovery as he took a moment to link the world's actual name with the designation that Earth used for it. Perhaps she could have endeared herself to the Earthkind by using their names for places, but it still seemed too disrespectful to her; a world should be named by those who lived there, not by people from another galaxy.

"They dialed in about an hour ago to check in. They're still scouting; they'll be back in a few hours. I can dial M44-C23 if you need to talk to them."

Morning would be soon enough; she needed to discuss the schedule for puddlejumper trips to the mainland, but it certainly wasn't urgent. "No, no; there is no need." The music played on, alien but haunting, and Teyla found that her head had cocked to catch the nuances. A woman was singing now, and Teyla did not recognize her voice from those she'd met in the City. "Dr. Grodin, may I ask who is singing?"

"What, this? Oh ..." He swiveled around to his computer, tapped a key. "Um, Dar Williams."

"Chick music," the other man murmured behind his hand, winking at Teyla. She was not particularly amused by his juvenile attitude of conspiracy.

"You've never heard Earth music before?" Grodin asked her, ignoring the other man's antics.

"No." The singing woman had faded away, replaced by a quick heartbeat-like throbbing that reminded Teyla of Genii festival music. A man was singing now, his voice low and harsh, a startling change from the melodious woman's voice. And that was when it hit Teyla: the music was recorded. The idea startled her in its elegant simplicity, its remarkable creativity. Music was so intrinsically connected to its performer; what a feat to think of divorcing the auditory from the visual in that way! It was like the creation of an entirely new art form, not really music but something entirely different. She'd never thought of the Earth people as a particularly innovative bunch -- they were good at appropriating the Ancestors' technology, but as far as their own development, they didn't have anything half so advanced as the firelighters and memory crystals that the empires of Athos had possessed in the not-too-distant past.

But this was quite impressive. "How clever!" Teyla said, and then closed her lips, hoping the sentiment would not be taken as patronizing. No doubt they thought themselves clever for thinking of it, but her father had taught her that it wasn't polite to point to other people as if they were trained vulpine performing at a fair.

But Grodin only smiled, and then she was the one who felt like a performing vulpine, though she didn't think he meant to make her feel that way. "If you like it, someone could probably dig up a spare iPod for you. There's a ton of music on the server."

And that was how she discovered that Earthkind were both uniquely blessed in music, and uniquely bereft, like no people she'd ever met. They loved music; the little headpieces which she'd assumed were some kind of communication equipment actually turned out to belong to music-playing devices. They listened to music constantly, all day long. In fact, she found it rather annoying when she had to get their attention over the music in their headphones -- now that she knew it was all right to do so, that it was only recreation and not the serious business she'd assumed.

But at the same time, for all their apparent love of music, they made very little of their own. Sometimes they could be heard humming broken snatches of the music playing on their headphones, or Major Sheppard would whistle as he went about a task offworld. Music, in general, seemed to be a thing that was left to a particular class of people on their homeworld, not a right of the average person, which Teyla thought very sad. She thought it sadder still when Lieutenant Ford overheard her singing a little song about living in the Ancestors' city while she was cleaning her P90 in the shooting range.

"So that's, um, some kind of traditional song of your people?" he asked, a bit shyly.

She smiled. "No, it is only a liaha." When that word seemed to run afoul of the comprehension barrier between them, she explained, "A song I invented, just now; it's about us, and living here." And not even a very good one, she thought; she was out of practice.

"You write your own songs?" He looked amazed, as if she'd just said that she could fly puddlejumpers or perform surgery.

"You do not?"

It turned out that, among the Earthkind, even those who sang for their own pleasure would always sing songs that had been created by the music-making class. She tried to understand this oddly rigid way of thinking, and even asked Major Sheppard about it, to be certain that she had not misunderstood.

"Is it forbidden?" she asked cautiously, hoping that she wasn't trespassing on a taboo subject. It was usually fairly difficult to offend Earth people with casual conversation, she'd found, but sometimes one could stumble into offense with a perfectly innocuous question. Remembering their word for forbidden things, she added for clarity, "Illegal?"

"Illegal? Making up songs?" He seemed completely flummoxed by the question. "Of course not. People just, you know, don't."

"Why?"

It was obvious that the question had never occurred to him. But he frowned and pursed his lips, trying in seriousness to answer it -- something that she liked about him, for he usually tried, even though he wasn't very good at answering questions. "Most people can't, I guess."

"But why?" she pressed, because surely people who could dream of other galaxies and then make their dreams reality could not be so deficient in imagination.

"I dunno. Most people just aren't any good at it."

That was like saying that no one swam because they would first have to learn how. "Well, of course they would not, if no one ever tries." To try to take the sting out of her words and make him feel better about his failing -- not that he seemed especially bothered by it -- she added kindly, "I have not been to a singing circle in many mirna; I would be very slow now, I think."

"Singing circle? So that's like ... people singing, right? In a circle?" He smiled at her with his mouth, though his eyes were hidden behind dark glasses, making it difficult to tell if he laughed with her or at her. Knowing him as she was coming to, she thought probably with her, but by now she'd had enough unpleasant experiences with the Earthkind's fondness for ridicule that she could never quite be certain.

She thought about telling him how her people entertained themselves on trips or while working by competing with songs -- making them up on the spot, trying to make the others laugh with a funny song or cry with a sad one. In the evening, if the weather was nice, those who were not too tired from the day's labor would gather around a fire, and the women would work small handcrafts, the men would mend nets or whittle, while the better singers among them tried to outdo each other. Around it went, faster and faster, improvisation and story and melody, until everyone had dissolved in laughter and they all drifted away to their houses. Teyla had been very good at it when she was younger, but life had grown harder, and there never seemed to be time anymore.

She could have told all this to Major Sheppard. But really, she grew weary of explaining everything to the Earthkind all the time. People couldn't be expected to have everything handed to them; sometimes they had to seek it out for themselves. As with their music, perhaps Earth people had a separate caste who did that for the rest, and they hadn't thought to bring any of the knowledge-seekers to her galaxy. "Yes," she said shortly, and left it at that.

But this had started her thinking about what she was missing on the mainland, and about her own pettiness at resenting her role as a bridge between the Athosian and Earth people, when she herself had chosen that role. Her teammates seemed to enjoy her singing; she wondered if it would be possible to capture Athosian songs and add them to the song collection on the Atlantis server. It wouldn't be quite the same as the living, breathing, ever-changing nature of the music as she knew it, but maybe it would help the Earthkind understand her people in a way they seemed disinclined to do on their own. In many ways, they did not seem to recognize her people as equal to theirs. Music, she thought, might only be proper music to them if it came from a box.

She asked Dr. Weir if she could borrow some recording equipment for her next trip to the mainland. What she got was recording equipment plus one enthusiastic anthropologist to run it. Dr. Camber was about fifty Atlantean years old, a pleasantly shy man with a slight stammer.

Major Sheppard flew them to the mainland.

"You are staying?" Teyla asked, surprised, when he parked the jumper.

He just shrugged, and slipped his sunglasses down over his eyes. "Guess I'll see what this singing circle of yours is all about."

It was not as awkward as she thought it might be. Guests were, of course, always welcome to sing, although singing was as natural as breathing on most worlds, and it wasn't terribly common for the Athosians to trade with people who didn't have something vaguely similar. Still, they laughed along with Dr. Camber's halting attempts at making up a song about anthropology, treating his ill-crafted lyrics with the same gentleness as a child's early efforts.

Teyla remembered how patient Major Sheppard and Aiden had been with her as they showed her the use of the Atlantean guns, Aiden's lean hands folded over her own, showing her the action of the P90's moving parts. They did know patience, the Earthkind. They did know grace. She looked around for Major Sheppard and found him sitting in the shadows, smiling along with two young women singing a silly song about a hilariously ill-fated romance.

"You should sing," she said to him, impulsively.

He smiled, and shook his head. "Not the singing type."

As much of the time as Major Sheppard appeared to be completely without shame, it always surprised her, the things that he refused to do.

Two days later, back on Atlantis, Dr. Camber came by her quarters and pressed a laptop into her hands. "It's all on here, and catalogued, of course. Uh, the sound, sound quality's not that great. You might want to have one of the engineers run some filters on it."

She'd genuinely forgotten that her purpose in going to the mainland had been to record songs; for an instant she wanted to ask what he was talking about.

"Or, or ask Lieutenant Ford," the anthropologist was saying. "I've heard he brought a video camera as his personal item. He might know something about sound mixing."

She was not exactly sure what sound mixing entailed, but she was glad that Dr. Camber had suggested Aiden. Of all her teammates, she found him the most approachable, the only one she could manage to address comfortably by his first name. Major Sheppard was her team leader, however close she felt to him at times, and Dr. McKay ... was, well, Dr. McKay. She'd never so much as seen him wear iPod headphones. There were many words in his world, but, she thought, no music at all.

Aiden surprised her with his eagerness for the sound-mixing project. She watched intently as he did arcane things with sliders and flickering colored bars on the computer screen; leaning forward, she sought to decipher the fast-changing words in the angular Earth script she was only just learning to read. "Used to daydream about going to Hollywood," he explained, eyes fixed on the screen as he spoke. "Doing film editing. Went into the Corps instead, but I always thought I'd keep my hand in, maybe work in film after I get out. Not in Hollywood, I don't think, but I might open my own little studio, wherever I settle down. I had a buddy who made good money editing documentaries for the local university, that sort of thing." He smiled up at her, suddenly shy. "I guess that means nothing to you. Sorry."

"It is all right." I'm used to it, she thought, with only a little bitterness. In a way she appreciated that Major Sheppard and the others did not feel as if they had to slow down and tailor their words to avoid confusing her -- but she herself went out of her way to avoid making references they didn't understand, at least without explaining, and it surprised her that they did not feel the need to make a similar effort.

Perhaps it was yet another difference between their peoples.

"How's this?" Aiden asked, and he touched a key. Music filled the room, and Teyla's mouth opened, for she recognized Marta's clear young voice, lifted in a love song.

And it was different. Perhaps she could understand, now, a little better, why the people of Earth believed that they could not make music, if this was what they understood music to be. Teyla couldn't quite define the difference, and it certainly wasn't worse; in fact, the absence of a visible singer turned the familiar music quite exotic, in the same way of the ghostly music she'd sometimes heard playing in the labs.

"You have done very well," she said, and, impulsively, squeezed his shoulder. "Very, very well."

The smile that he flashed her was quick and bright as the sun. "You want me to upload them to the music server?"

Teyla couldn't help smiling back. "Yes, please."

Later, scrolling through the SONGS OF ATHOS folder and carefully puzzling out the filenames, she discovered that Aiden had made up his own names for the songs based on their lyrics. "Morning Greeting", "Love Song of Dena and Jan", "Death of the Old Farmer", and so forth. At first it sat ill with her, for songs had never in her lifetime been things that possessed names, and it was very odd to see them thus. But no odder, she mused, than fixing music in an unchangeable form, after all. Music's very essence was its malleability -- a song was never the same twice. Yet each time that "Marta's Love Ballad" was played on someone's iPod, it would be exactly the same. If Marta died in a Wraith culling, her voice could still be heard, singing of her love for Dorian the blacksmith's son.

Teyla shivered, and closed the folder. She started to close the computer as well, to go to her evening bantos practice and meditation -- then hesitated, and opened it again. The long, long list of Earth songs lay before her, dwarfing her people's small music folder. But we make new songs every day, she thought, and a smile twitched at her lips. They have only what they brought with them. We shall not lag behind for long.

For all her academic curiosity about Earthkind and their relationship to their music, Teyla had not actually listened to any of it, beyond the snippets that she'd heard in the lounges and labs and gate room. Now, she read her way down the list of names, the words coming easier to her with repetition. Some of the names were lyrical and lovely, others harsh and unbeautiful to her, but each one promised an exotic glimpse of another world. She had no criteria to choose between them, so she selected more or less at random, choosing songs and carefully dragging them to her desktop. Since Earthkind liked to use music as a background to everything they did, she felt that it would be appropriate to have a soundtrack to this activity. She clicked on Marta's song to activate it.

Strange, so strange, when her own voice swelled behind Marta's, coming from the computer's tinny speaker as if she herself were one of those special caste of music-makers on the Earth homeworld. But here, in the Pegasus Galaxy, music belonged to everyone and no one.

Still, she clicked and chose. Beethoven, America, Muddy Waters, Spice Girls, U2 -- the names fascinated her, and she drank them in, she wanted them all.
Wow. This reads like - seeing the world through new glasses; like talking to a stranger for the first time. Like discovery and distance and longing. I find myself wanting to get to know this Teyla - talk to her, spend time together, learn from her and... it makes me a little sad that I don't very often feel that way about the Teyla we see on SGA, and a lot happy that you have captured her essence here.

Such fascinating ideas! And lovely glimpses into Teyla's world... Writing about something so familiar as such an alien thing - our (Western) concept of music alien to Teyla; Teyla's tradition alien to the Earth natives, it made me sit up and pay attention to the music coming through my headphones in a completely different way than I have for... a long time.

Thank you. This was an excellent piece - I love when a fic can make me think, and discover new sides to the characters, and this managed both! ♥
Thank you so much!

I'm really glad that you got all that from the story -- one of the reasons why I love your feedback so much is because it seems like you see all the things that I put into my stories, the things I hoped people would see but wasn't really sure. Because, yes, you got it exactly; one of the things I really wanted to do with this story was turn it around and show us as the aliens, in Teyla's eyes. And seeing music differently -- yes. The real genesis of this story was an article I read awhile back in National Geographic about the origins of hip-hop music, in which they were talking about how it was very much a performance art form, before it caught on and became popular; it was something that people did, something that really only worked live. And this made a gear in my brain roll over, and got me thinking that, wow, recorded music really IS a totally different thing from live music, isn't it? So Teyla got to have my epiphany. *g*
Wow, that's very beautiful, and quite well done. I love this glimpse of Telya and her people and a very inventive way of doing it. I almost wonder if anyone of the original expedition brought a musical instrument. It does make sense. And for a culture that is very word-of-mouth for history, songs would be important. I almost wish you'd continue this - to see Mckay in a different light. He can't be the only one who's played in the past.
Thank you! It does seem to me, from what we've seen in canon, that the Athosians would have spent a lot of time developing oral art forms to a fairly high level. So I wanted to work with that ... and I'm sure there must be someone in the expedition who brought an instrument. And I'd love to see Rodney's canonical music history worked into a plot somewhere; I'm starting to think we might not, but I do hope there will be something about that in the future.

I'd originally planned the story to be more about music file-trading in Atlantis, and the Athosian songs becoming an integral part of that. The place where I ended the story felt like the "right" place to end it, so I stopped there, but I might do more one of these days if I come up with a good idea.
Oh, wonderful. It's so nice to get any sort of Teyla POV story, and especially one which does such a lovely job of examining the cultural differences in a natural manner. It was like... suddenly tilting your head, looking at the characters from 45 degrees to the side; still the same characters, but... not. And I'm not explaining that very well, but in any case, I enjoyed this very much!
No, I think that's a really lovely way to put it, and I DO know what you mean, at least I think I do. And I'm really glad that you got that out of this story, because that was one of the things I was trying to do, so it means that it worked!
You are such a clever little cookie. Ummm... that was a bit patronising, wasn't it?

I've got a confession to make. I severely disliked Teyla as a character in the first few episodes of SGA that I watched - when they were pushing the "Teyla the Athosian" side of things quite strongly. (The old "show, don't tell" problem arose, going on about how she was a "good leader for her people" and me thinking that if your people decide to bugger off to the mainland and exclude your from the decision then your leadership skill kinda suck, in any culture). Anyway, it took at least half a season before I began to like her - and I think it was partially because they wrote more about her place on the team and less about her being an Athosian.

I'm not anti-Athosian. I just didn't get the (dropped like an anvil) sense of Athosianess from Teyla back then. To be honest, I found Halling a much more believable character.

Anyways, the first thing made me squee about this story of yours is the way that you illustrate the cultural arrogance of the Earthkind through Teyla's own cultural arrogance. Clever, but also emotionally engaging - at least, to me. Seems weird, but I relate better to Teyla when depicted as a quietly culturally arrogant woman rather than the "soulful alien princess" that show seemed to be trying to push in the early days. The idea that music-makers were a "caste" was very neat. And Teyla's early perceptions of the team really nicely contrast with what we (as well as she) have come to know about them over time. I loved the comment that she couldn't properly judge Sheppard's smile because she couldn't see his eyes. And the comment about Rodney not having any music in his world – that really caught my imagination. Because it's been categorically stated in canon that Rodney loved music as a child, I can't help but wonder whether after his childhood disappointments, Rodney sort of "deleted" music from his interests in life or whether Teyla just can't see any music that Rodney might have because of her own cultural biases. You beautifully illustrate that she has her own prejudices about what music is and what it should be - and by the end of the story, she is only just beginning to move beyond those prejudices.

Y'know what? I'd really love to see this version of Teyla discussing music with Rodney. Just a thought... ;-P
You are such a clever little cookie. Ummm... that was a bit patronising, wasn't it?

LOL! I am really inordinately amused by that ... and the disclaimer. *g*

Anyway, this is just wonderful and insightful (I expect nothing less, of course *g*) -- and this IS something I was trying to get across about Teyla, actually. Or rather, early season 1 Teyla. Because I do actually see her as being somewhat that way at first -- I'm not sure if TPTB were doing it on purpose, and the Earth bunch are probably worse about that sort of thing, but to me, for all they seemed to be trying to push her as the alien Earth-mother type, she kind of exhuded ... smugness? Or maybe just a general disdain for the others around her. As the series goes along, she relaxes quite a lot (and by Season 3, I really love her), but though I never DISliked her, I wasn't really fond of her in the beginning, either.

And the more I thought about it when I was developing this story, the more it seemed to me that early Teyla really WOULD look down on the Earth people in a lot of ways, thinking about the ways in which their value system does not reflect her own (especially as they must have appeared to her in the beginning). She views herself as a bridge between their people and hers, but in my version of her, at least, it takes awhile for her to start coming around to the idea that she has things to learn from them, as well as educating them about the aspects of life in the Pegasus galaxy of which they're ignorant (which is to say, all of it). The bridge goes both ways, and it takes her awhile to see that.

As much as I love the dynamic that the characters have now, it was fun to work with some of their early impressions of each other, back when they really weren't that close.

I can't help but wonder whether after his childhood disappointments, Rodney sort of "deleted" music from his interests in life or whether Teyla just can't see any music that Rodney might have because of her own cultural biases.

I was really thinking more the former ... in that conversation that he had with Carter back in "Redemption", it seemed as if it was such a traumatic thing for him that he might have tried to leave it behind utterly. And that's what I was thinking when I wrote it here -- although, you've also got a good point that there's a lot (my) Teyla doesn't know, a lot she doesn't see. However, one of the subtextual things in the back of my head is that Rodney finds music a little bit unpleasant, a little bit painful, too much of a reminder of what he's lost -- but as his time in the Pegasus galaxy goes along, and as he gets closer to the people there, he's able to start moving past that: to let go of the lingering bitterness.

I'd really love to see this version of Teyla discussing music with Rodney. Just a thought... ;-P

Hmm! You know, there's a lot of potential in that, especially since I did originally plan to have this story go quite a lot farther (I'd wanted to work a lot more with the Athosian song file-sharing and how it impacted local Atlantis life). I ended it where I did because that ending felt right for the story, but there's really quite a bit more that I could do with it.

Heh ... and you know what's funny about your suggestion ... I'd deliberately tried to leave Rodney out of this story because I just write him so MUCH, and he's got a fairly large role in some of the stories that I'll be posting later in the week, and I'm trying to be at least a wee bit less John-and-Rodney-centric in my fic writing ... but giving me plot bunnies for Rodney is NOT HELPING, DAMMIT!

*grin*
I liked this, it was smooth and complex like a rich, roast coffee. It was interesting, see Teyla through her perception of the tau'ri music, learning more about the Athosian culture and the tau'ri (to be frank). That touch that the audio file would survive if Marta was culled... ouch

I like Derry's comment, she analyses the story neatly. Expanding this story, taking Teyla to a concert (opera?) or a gig on Earth could be a lot of fun.
Thank you! Yeah, between Derry's post and then Naye's above her, they've pretty much nailed down everything I wanted to convey in the story. *grin*

taking Teyla to a concert (opera?) or a gig on Earth could be a lot of fun.

OMG, Teyla at a concert ...! I wonder if she'd like it or if she'd be appalled? Actually, I think she'd like it, at least Teyla as of season 3 ... Hmm, between this and Derry's suggestion, I think I could actually get a series of short stories out of this whole "Teyla and Earth music" thing! (And, y'know, it still feels too weird to me to call them Tau'ri in an Atlantis context, since it's specifically a Goa'uld/Tok'ra term on the show. But "Earth people" sure is clunky. We need a word ...)

Anyway, thanks for the comment! Food for thought...
Oh, this is a very cool idea for cultural differences, and a greatlook at Teyla.
I really shouldn't read other people's reviews before writing me own, I just feel like I'm repeating or wasn't paying the right kind of attention...

Anyway, I loved this story. I'm sort of meh about Teyla, haven't given her much thought except to sometimes wonder why she isn't a bit more alien (I think I need to watch the first season straight through) but I really enjoyed how you made up some background culture for her based on what we've seen. I want to see more Athosians now (when they never have to be on the show again)! I liked how she misunderstood (or perhaps better understood?) Earth culture and kind of sees them as people who are just stealing ideas from the Ancients with no inventiveness of their own. I liked how you wrote her character in general, you kind of show her thoughts reflecting how much of a trading culture she's come from, aware of what's polite or offensive... Eh, it's not coming out right, but I liked her instead of just acknowledged her existence. I liked how you so fully captured Ford and Sheppard in such little scenes. While part of me wished for that same kind thing with McKay, I was actually glad it didn't happen. As far as I can recall we only know about his musical past from the SG-1 episode and he told that to the woman he's madly crushing on after he almost fries her. I don't see him being all that open about music with anyone. Though maybe the near strangers nature of their relationship would make it easier to talk about... Overall this story made me feel a bit melancholy for what the show would never portray. Very nicely written.
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked it ... and, yeah, I really think that Teyla and her people *would* see the Earth humans as a sort of scavenger people, appropriating other cultures' technology for themselves. I decided to bypass going the "Teyla and Rodney bond over music" route because, one, I write a LOT of Rodney and I wanted to work with the other characters for a change, and, two, I really don't think he's close enough to Teyla (or any of them at this point) to open himself up to her that way.
I think this story is very appropriate to IBARW! I was sort of wincing at the patronising attitude Teyla was getting from a lot of the Earth people, but the above poster is right; Teyla possesses her own prejudices here too. I also really love seeing the topic of music (art/literature) addressed in science fiction, and this is excellently done.

It makes me sad that we don't really have a tradition of musicmaking in our culture; it does make us poorer I think. And it makes me love Teyla even more.

Thank you!
You're welcome, and thank you! Not all of the stories that I'm posting this week address IBARW issues (some are just lighter stories with PoC main characterse) but this one, I think, definitely did, and I'm glad you found it so.

It is really interesting to think about the way that we relate to music -- on the one hand loving it, but on the other hand being mostly consumers rather than creators.
I did really love this. I think it's wonderful that Teyla so completely misunderstands Earth culture, and it's in such a way that no one would even think to explain it to her - the Atlantis expedition is made up of scientists and soldiers and not the everyday people of Earth, but of course there's no way for Teyla to know that they aren't necessarily a balanced sample.
Thank you! And yes, that's a good point and something I don't think has been addressed in fic very much, that the people on Atlantis are very, very far from a balanced sample of Earth humanity and are presenting a skewed view of their culture to the Pegasus Galaxy, quite by accident.
Loved this story. :D I always enjoy seeing stories written from Teyla's POV, because IMO she's a character who just begs for more fleshing out than the show (so far) has allowed. I love the concept of the Athosians being technologically superior to us - sometimes I think the level of technology evident in that firelighter in Rising got completely forgotten afterwards, given the way the Athosians were portrayed. The cultural differences and the role and importance of music in Teyla's world were beautifully explored also.

Wonderful work!
Thank you so much! And yeah, I really wish they'd gone ahead and addressed the interesting technology in "Rising" -- the firelighter, the abandoned city; it's fairly obvious that Athos had or perhaps still has quite a developed level of technology, and I wish the writers hadn't just left behind all that lovely story potential to instead write the Athosians as a bunch of sweet and simple farmers who don't ever do much. (Although Teyla's ability to pick up and use the local technology in both "Misbegotten" and "Phantoms" hints that she's rather good with such things.)
I really, really like the way you've approached this, how "alien" the whole idea of a people who don't just make their own music is--I've read a bit about how the radio and recording industries changed music, and seen it in my own life, so this really hits home. (My extended family used to sing together by the piano, but we never made up our own songs on the spot. ;-) You've captured Teyla's voice and an outsider's POV so very well here, and you've made us the aliens to ourselves, and that's a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Thanks! I'm really glad you liked it, and got that out of it -- because that's *just* what I was trying to do. As noted in one of my comment replies somewhere above, the genesis of this story was an article I was reading in National Geographic that was talking about hip-hop's origins as a "performance" music, something that couldn't be recorded and still work, at least not in its original form and intent. And this got me thinking about how very different recorded music is from performed music -- because I've had experiences like the one you describe, singing with family members or (not being musically inclined myself) watching musician friends or family members interact at jam sessions, and it's a *really* cool thing that just doesn't come out in recorded music at all.
Random love for your fics. naye recommended you, and I'm glad she did! ^__^

As for this fic in particular, I was impressed seeing how you showed that Teyla is from an entirely different culture. The show isn't very good at remembering this, and this makes me feel like this is how Teyla *should* be! And it's always a breath of fresh air to see one's own culture from the outside like this!
Squee! Thank you so much; I'm really glad you're enjoying my stories! I really liked writing this one; it was interesting to turn it around and show us as the outsiders with the odd ways of doing things.

I'm glad that naye is getting others into the SGA love. ^_^
I really enjoyed this, I thought Teyla's POV was very good and very her. The look at our music through her eyes was excellent, and the differences in the cultures were skilfully handled.

Of course (being the McKay fan and just *slightly* obsessed) one of the lines that got me most was:

and Dr. McKay ... was, well, Dr. McKay. She'd never so much as seen him wear iPod headphones. There were many words in his world, but, she thought, no music at all.

Gulp - visions of *that* conversation from Redemption...let me just sob quietly now!

I love the random choices at the end - a nice eclectic mix indeed! (And now I have visions of Teyla dancing to 'I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want' - LOL!)
Oops, forgot I hadn't replied to this! Thank you so much! (And that mental image at the end ... EEK! *g*)
Reminds me of that season 2 or 3 scene when they try to explain TV. It's funny how things translate.
Great fic, thanks!
You're welcome! Glad you liked it. Heh. I hadn't even thought of that, but there *is* a certainly similarity, isn't there?
What a neat idea! This has so many layers, so much interesting stuff going on. Of course there's the music, but I also love how both she and the Earth folk are looking down at each other and dismissing things without even thinking.
Thank you so much! That's just exactly what I wanted to convey -- that both sides (Teyla and the Earth people) are having trouble overcoming their cultural biases and recognizing the validity of the others' ways of doing things.
Here from a rec by kyuuketsukirui and I wanted to say how gorgeous this is, and really moving. I love (as others have said) the alienness of your Teyla, and the way you show the strangeness of our culture through her POV. But most of all what I love about it is the music, and Teyla's thoughts and feelings about music that we make ourselves and music that we just listen to and admire. It puts me in mind of filksinging, which if you're not familiar with it, well, it's not quite the same in that the singers don't usually make up songs on the spot and the "audience" doesn't usually either, but there's so much exuberance at a filksing, and there's (in my experience) so little separation between "performer" and "audience" that it's a lot more like a singing circle than a performance. The filkers I've known would feel a great kinship with Teyla in this story.

But at the same time, for all their apparent love of music, they made very little of their own. Sometimes they could be heard humming broken snatches of the music playing on their headphones, or Major Sheppard would whistle as he went about a task offworld. Music, in general, seemed to be a thing that was left to a particular class of people on their homeworld, not a right of the average person, which Teyla thought very sad.

That kinda sums it up, and actually gets a lump in my throat. :)

Thank you for this - it's a beautiful, beautiful story.
Thank you for the wonderful, long comment!

The original inspiration for this story was an article I was reading on the origins of hip-hop, which was essentially a performance art -- it couldn't be recorded and still be the same, because the interaction with the audience was part of the music; the act of recording changed it. And this led to thinking about the jam sessions I've sat in on (I'm not a musician, amateur or otherwise, but some of my friends and family are) and how live music is almost invariably different from recorded music -- to the point that it might conceivably be seen as a different art form. And hence from there to the weird, paradoxical relationship that we Westerners have with our music: we love it, consume it in mass quantities, but don't really interact with it.

... and pardon my rambling. :D I think the comparison to filking is very apt. Actually, fanfic might be a textual analogy, too, because a lot of people involved in fic will never publish books or contribute scripts to TV shows, but this is how we participate in the creation process.
Oh, this is wonderful. Great job with Teyla's POV here, and you really captured how alien the Atlantis team is to her. Loved the little glimpses of Ford here, too, and the ease of their relationship.
Thank you! I do miss Ford ... I haven't written him very often, having gotten into the fandom at the end of season 2, but one of the reasons why I like occasionally going back to season 1 when I write fic is because I really enjoy the different things he brings to the group dynamic.
I really liked this. I love fics that look at things from different POVs and I love fics that explore cultural issues. I also love the character of Teyla, so you delivered three for the price of one here! :)
Thank you very much! I really love using fic as a vehicle to explore differences between cultures, and I'm very happy that you liked it.
Oh! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment; I'm delighted that you enjoyed it. :)
Fic: Songs of Athos
This is beautiful.
Teyla's point of view on the expedition, not disgusted, or even really disappointed with them (distain! that's the word), but very much that sense that they are coming from the wrong perspective. a world should be named by those who lived there, not by people from another galaxy. Dude, yes!

And the conflicting perspectives on her "how clever". And, thinking that Rodney's world had no music really squeezed my heart, because he so does, and at the same time really does not have music.

We used to do that, have singing circles and new songs every day. The only ones I know are "Drunken Sailor" and "She'll be coming 'round the mountain". We've lost so much to technology. But nice to see the gain in that as well, in the strangeness Teyla finds in the recording, and the understanding of how we lost that connection to our own songs, how the special music making caste arose.

I also particular love the word liaha for the made-up-at-the-time songs. My dad (who can't carry a tune in a bucket) and my brother (who really can) both do it.
Re: Fic: Songs of Athos
Thank you so much for this wonderful comment!

It was reading an article on hip-hop music that got me thinking about the way we construct music in our society; I am not musical myself, but my father was a folk musician and I was thinking about how different the experience of music is when it's live and interactive, with people singing or extemporizing their own songs and musical arrangements. What I really wanted to do in this story was bring out my own "ah-ha!" moment, about our world being steeped in music and, yet, a world where most of us have very little music that's ours and ours alone. (I think you could make a similar argument for storytelling, but that's a different story. :D) And, of course, the Athosian perspective is rarely given much credence on the show itself; I like to depict it otherwise in my stories.

Anyway, I'm very glad that you liked it!