is reduced to low relief tableau

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chopin7, Jul 15, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. chopin7 Senior Member


    It's a documentary about Krakatau's volcano.
    After describing the tsunami that followed the volcano,
    the narrator says while referring to a low relieve tableau,
    "An event that consumed countless lives is reduced to a few ghostly figures haunting a low relief tableau."
    I don't understand why he use the word "reduce" here.
    I mean, what did they have to do? An enormous relieve tableau for that event?

    Thank you

  2. Copyright

    Copyright Mod Cat

    American English
    The event may have been cataclysmic, enormous, but it is "reduced" in scale once the eruption is over to something milder and flatter. (A bomb is explosive, but a bomb site is simply flat.)

    I imagine the "low-relief tableau" refers the topography of the surroundings. Not only did the volcano cone collapse, but the eruption spread an enormous amount of debris around -- those two events together would have had the effect of leveling things out (producing a low relief on a topographic map).

    From Sunda Strait:
    The islands in the strait and the nearby surrounding regions of Java and Sumatra were devastated by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, primarily due to intense pumice fall and huge tsunamis caused by the collapse of the volcano. The eruption drastically altered the topography of the strait, with as much as 18-21 km³ of ignimbrite being deposited over an area of 1.1 million km² around the volcano. (Wikipedia)

    I've answered two questions here because I see some tenuous connection between "reduced" and "low-relief."
  3. chopin7 Senior Member

    Thank you, Copyright.
    But I am not sure. I think I have to say something more.
    The team in the movie is at a monument commemorating this event.
    It's the buoy of a ship that was drowned during the tsunami.
    And at the base of the buoy there's this low relieve tableau,
    which I take is carved from the hand of the man.
  4. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Ah, the importance of context! :)

    In this case, chopin, it is referring to a type of art work: a carving that is not standing free on its own like a statue, but is slightly raised from the background.
  5. Copyright

    Copyright Mod Cat

    American English
    Then it sounds like this literally world-shaking event has been reduced in size and stature to a small tableau commemorating it.

    Edit: Cross-posted with the equally surprised Nunty. But the research reminded me of details of an event which even I am not old enough to have witnessed.
  6. chopin7 Senior Member

    Yes, Copyright, but why the word "reduced"?
    That's what I find a little weird.
  7. chopin7 Senior Member

    Thank you, Nunty, but I didn't ask about that.
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    No, but if you'd given us that fairly vital information in your opening post, it would have made answering your question about 97% easier.
  9. chopin7 Senior Member

    Well, Nunty wrote after I gave that information.
  10. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    "An event that consumed countless lives is reduced to a few ghostly figures haunting a low relief tableau."

    The low-relief tableau is a representation of a horrible disaster. It is only a small thing. Metaphorically, the disaster has been scaled down (reduced) to this representation.
  11. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Ships don't have "buoys." A "buoy" is a floating device, usually tethered to the bottom of a body of water, and used to mark a location. "Life buoys" are free-floating devices used to support people in the water until they can be pulled out. The "front end" of a ship is its bow. Do you mean that?

    Ships don't "drown" but they can sink or be sunk.

    Was the "front end" of a ship salvaged and placed on shore with a "low-relief tableau" attached to commemorate the gneeral loss of life, or the loss of ships at sea in the vicinity, when Krakatoa exploded ?
  12. jmichaelm Senior Member

    NJ, USA
    English - US
    In this context "reduced" is used to dramatically contrast the enormity of the tsunami with all that remains of it, an unremarkable monument.
  13. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    What is "weird" about it?

    I would find it "weird" if someone thought that the few figures shown in a small monument were of the same size, of the same number, and at the same scale as all the people affected by the actual eruption of Krakatau.

    Do you really think that the actual eruption was no bigger than the monument?
  14. chopin7 Senior Member

    Hello, Fabulist.
    This is the passage from the script.
    "First stop is one of the eeriest monuments in South Asia. It’s the mooring buoy of the gunboat sitting on a hill just where the tsunami left it that fateful day."

    From the image it seems like a big church bell.
    GreenWhite, read the last sentence in my first post.
    I mean, what did they have to do? An enormous relieve tableau for that event?"
  15. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I read your first post. You might do well to read it yourself, if you still cannot understand why the monument must be 'reduced' in scale from the actual event.
  16. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I wonder whether the problem is the word 'reduce'. There was a giant tsunami that killed a lot of people. Someone made a piece of art of it, as Nunty explains above. The artwork ~ the relief tableau ~ is small and only shows a few people. When you make something smaller you reduce it. The giant tsunami that killed so many people has been reduced to a small artwork on with a few people.
  17. chopin7 Senior Member

    Green, I have to say you are totally out.
    I think that it is stupid to use the word "reduce" for something
    so obvious.
    It's so normal that artwork must be "reduced" in scale.
  18. Copyright

    Copyright Mod Cat

    American English
    And speaking as a moderator, I think you should be more collegial in your responses. Please watch your tone.

    The original author used "reduced" as a way to dramatize the difference in scale between the actual event and our memorial of it. While it may be normal and expected that we would not create a memorial the size of the event, it is not weird or stupid to point this out for dramatic or emotional effect.
  19. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    One of our problems in answering your question was that we couldn't understand what you found weird about the statement.

    One of the reasons for our difficulty understanding what you found weird is that it seems perfectly reasonable to us. The speaker was commenting on how impossible it was to accurately represent so terrible event. He was doing it by comparing the size of the relief to the size of the actual itself. The comment does not seem weird or stupid to me.

    Added: Cross-posted with Copyright.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  20. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Chopin, is your question about whatever you think is "stupid" or about trying to understand English the way English-speakers use it?

    I find many things stupid. Among them is being rude to people who are trying to help you.
  21. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Although you think the phrase sounds stupid, Chopin, many writers and speakers use "reduced to" when they talk about representing some large thing in a work of art, etc. It emphasizes the idea that a thing that was very large in nature has been represented in a small, human work. Here are a few examples from COCA* that use the phrase:

    Although the combination of thoughts might fiercely resist being reduced to a prose equivalent - think of almost any striking stanza by, say,...

    It surprises me that all the goings-on in my mind can be reduced to a bunch of geometric shapes.

    The environment is reduced to the bike paths, outdoor amenities, coffee bars, and loft apartments of...

    *Corpus of Contemporary American English
  22. chopin7 Senior Member

    I didn't use the word "stupid"
    to refer to anyone here.
    So Nunty, to who am I being rude?
    To the scriptwriter of that movie? Don't worry? He doesn't care.
    Thank you, Owlman, for the examples.
    Specially the first two. I get it now.
    An Albanian poet calls his verses "alive" in his head and "dead" when written.
    So, reduction....
  23. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    To whom were you being rude, Chopin? You were rude to me when you said I was "totally out" -- whatever that phrase is supposed to signify, because it means nothing in English.

    I am so glad to learn that after that unacknowledged rudeness, and through repeated explanations by others, you were finally able to grasp that what you had insisted was "stupid" was actually a simple, direct, and normal way of describing the object in question.
  24. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    AHA! I don't think the gunboat would have been carrying its own mooring buoy—that's what anchors are for. A mooring buoy would be a more or less permanent (except in the case of a tsunami, obviously) floating structure provided by the port to which vessels could tie up; it would also mark a place where the water was deep enough for ships to do that. A gunboat was moored to the buoy on the day of the tsunami. I wonder what happened to the gunboat; the tsunami that carried the buoy inland must have carried the gunboat, too, although the boat probably had a deeper draft and could have been deposited farther down the slope of the hill.
  25. chopin7 Senior Member

    Yes, Green, but Nunty said I was rude using the word "stupid".
    With "totally out" I meant simply that you were not understanding
    what I was saying since you were making wild guesses.
    "Do you really think that the actual eruption was no bigger than the monument?"
    Very rude of you, by the way. But it's not such a big deal after all.
    Nothing to grasp here. It's just the difference in concept.
    In my language, we would never say this using the word "reduced".

    Thank you, Fabulist. And here's what happened to the gunboat according to the script
    "The vessel is snapped from her mooring. 28 souls now embark on a voyage to oblivion."
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page